Posted in Gospel Doctrine 2015, New Testament

Gospel Doctrine 2015 – Lesson 38 – “Thou Hast Testified of Me”

  1. Paul reports on his journeys and faces an angry mob in Jerusalem.

Acts 21:10 And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judæa a certain prophet, named Agabus.

 11 And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.

‘Paul told the Ephesians that the church of Jesus Christ was built upon a foundation of apostles and prophets, with the Savior himself as the chief cornerstone. Who were the prophets of that day? The Twelve were included, of course. But were there others? The New Testament tells us that there were. Silas and Barnabas were two of them, and both were great missionaries of that time. Others were Simeon and Lucius; also a man named Judas—he was not Iscariot. Likewise mentioned are Manaen and Agabus, who predicted the arrest of Paul. ‘ (Mark E Peterson, General Conference, October 1972)

 Acts 21:12 And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.

‘For the first time the courage even of the Apostle’s companions began to fail, and St. Luke admits that he himself had joined in the entreaty. Could not they, who were less known, and therefore in less danger, go up without him, pay over the fund that had been collected among the Gentiles to St. James and the elders, and return to him at Cæsarea?’ (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)

Acts 21:17 And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.

 18 And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.

 19 And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.

‘James, the Lord’s brother, was the presiding authority in Jerusalem at the time. Likely, Peter and John were on missions preaching the gospel. James, the son of Zebedee had already been martyred (Acts 12:2). The context of events in Acts indicates that James, the Lord’s brother, took his spot in the First Presidency of the early church. He apparently played a prominent role in the church at Jerusalem. Although the record does not give us many details, “all ancient ecclesiastical writers agree on this fact, that James, the Lord’s brother, was the first bishop of Jerusalem.” ‘(A. A. Ramseyer, Improvement Era, 1915, Vol. Xviii. No. 12. Oct. 1915)

Acts 21: 20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:

‘The number of converts at this time must have been very great. Twenty-five years before this, 3,000 had been converted at one time, and afterward the number had swelled to some more thousands. The assertion that there were then “many thousands,” implies that the work so signally begun on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem had not ceased, and that many more had been converted to the Christian faith.’ (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)

 Acts 21:21 And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.

 22 What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come.

 23 Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them;

 24 Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law.

“At least from the days of Moses, both men and women in Israel were privileged to take vows setting themselves apart to serve the Lord in some special way for an appointed period. Such persons, while subject to their vows, were called Nazarites. Frequently the period of penance and pondering and worship and devotion was for thirty days. In the case of Samson it was for life, and John the Baptist is considered by some to have had the same lifetime obligation. As set out in Numbers 6:1-21, those so separating themselves unto the Lord, for whatever period was involved, must abstain from wine and strong drink and the eating of grapes or anything coming from the vine tree. They must let their hair grow and avoid any Levitical uncleanness. At the end of their period of separation, they shaved their heads and offered burnt offerings, sin offerings, peace offerings, and meat and drink offerings, with all their attendant formalities. Even Paul, as a temporizing gesture to the partially converted Jewish-Christians in Jerusalem-and after the law of Moses, including the law of sacrifice and the law of the Nazarite, had been done away-participated in these vows and the offerings made incident thereto. (Acts 21:23-26.)” (Bruce R McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, 1: 261.)

 Acts 21:25 As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.

26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.

 27 And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him,

 28 Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place.

 29 (For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)

 30 And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut.

“Acts and Romans highlight Paul’s inspired worries about returning to Jerusalem…In Jerusalem Paul met with James, the only apostle then there, and James counseled Paul to soften Jewish prejudice by accompanying some men in purification rituals in the temple. The principled Paul saw in this no basic conflict with his Christianity. As a Christian, he believed in the reality of God’s past revelations to Israel, though he considered temple sacrifices not essential to salvation. Since Jews from Ephesus had seen Paul with a Gentile from their city, they angrily accused Paul in the temple of bringing a Gentile there. The inscription has been found that stood at the gates within the broad court of the Gentiles. Just as Josephus says, it forbids any Gentile to proceed past the separating wall of the inner enclosure: ‘Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his death, which will follow.’

“The shouts went up that Paul had ‘brought Greeks’ into the temple and had ‘polluted this holy place’ (Acts 21:28). In the menacing mob, whatever Paul said was unheard as he was pushed through the outer gate and given the first blows of an intended deadly beating. But the Roman garrison was trained to stop such riots before they spread, and they moved fast enough to save the apostle’s life. Fortunately for Paul, he had been assaulted in the temple, for the Roman fortress Antonia loomed above the temple on the north with watchtowers high enough to see the first disturbance.” (Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul, 230 – 231.)

 Acts 21:36 For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him.

‘It was a rule among the Jews, that any uncircumcised person who came within the separating wall, mentioned above, might be stoned to death without any further process. And they seemed to think Paul, who, as they supposed, had brought such in thither, deserved no better treatment. ‘(Benson Commentary)

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  1. Paul is taken before the Sanhedrin.

Acts 22:22 And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live.

“…the multitude ‘were cut to the heart’ when Stephen accused them of rejecting what had been brought ‘by the disposition of angels’ (Acts 7:53-54). But the last straw was when he had the effrontery to say, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him’ (Acts 7:56-58). If Stephen had spent his life, as innumerable philosophers have, denouncing the vices and follies of the age, he might have died peacefully in bed. But those fatal words, ‘I see,’ were his death warrant. And what did Paul say to make the Jews cry out in utter horror: ‘Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live,’ as ‘they . . . cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air?’ (Acts 22:22-23.) What indeed? These were the unforgivable words that made him unfit to live: ‘Suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest’ (Acts 22:6-8). Paul could have won his audience over by speaking as a scholar, but when he bore witness to what he had seen and heard, he was asking for trouble.” (Hugh Nibley, The World and the Prophets,3rd ed., 14 – 15.)

Acts 22:24 The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him.

‘The matter-of-course way in which this is narrated illustrates the ordinary process of Roman provincial administration. The chiliarch had probably only partially understood St. Paul’s Aramaic speech, and his first impulse was to have him scourged, so as to elicit from his own lips that which he could not gather from the confused and contradictory clamours of the crowd.’ (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)

Acts 22:25 And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?

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 26 When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman.

“How Paul’s family acquired citizenship interests biographers, but there are no firm answers to this secondary issue. Likely someone had given Rome needed support in influence or money, which focuses on what citizenship tells about Paul and what it did for him. Like education, citizenship was a social distinction reaching down to the upper middle class in the first century. Citizenship protected Paul in his ministry, as we have just seen when Paul successfully demanded a fair hearing before punishment. Earlier in northern Greece he was beaten under protest but successfully demanded an official apology (Acts 16:37-39). Such confrontations suggest that Paul’s effectiveness in any city stemmed partly from his confidence in fair protection of the law. Another feature of Roman citizenship is known to a generation that has seen the U.S. Supreme Court overturn local courts to uphold civil and criminal rights. Provincial governors could be brought to account for unfairness, and thus Paul was allowed an appeal to Rome after his Jerusalem arrest.” (Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul, 20 – 21.)

Acts 23:1 And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.

‘I have conducted myself so as to maintain a good conscience. I have done what I believed to be right. This was a bold declaration, after the tumult, and charges, and accusations of the previous day.’ (Barnes Notes on the Bible)

Acts 23:11 And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.

“When Paul was in jail after having borne his testimony before a powerful political group in Jerusalem, Jesus stood by and counseled him to ‘be of good cheer.’ Why? Had not Paul been struck on the mouth at Ananias’s order? Were not forty Jews plotting his death? Did not his trial for sedition lie just ahead? And also Paul’s shipwreck? Cheerfulness was possible because Paul had done well in his ministry in Jerusalem and now was ready for Rome, where he would also testify with great power and persuasive authority. Let the intervening, tactical tribulation come!

“This lesson about justifiable cheerfulness even amid perilous passages apparently had been driven home to Paul, for during his voyage to Rome, he assured his fearful shipmates that not one of them would lose their lives, though their ship would be lost. Therefore, He encouraged them to ‘be of good cheer’ in the midst of their anxieties, and his prophecy was fulfilled. (Acts 27:22)

“It remains for us, therefore, to be of good cheer even when…current circumstances seem hopeless…

“It may seem to some of us so very hard to cling to…reassuring and renewing realities when tribulations and difficulties press in upon us from all sides. But these are the realities to which we will-and should-finally cling in the moments of truth. Why not, therefore, said Jesus, profit from good cheer at the outset and throughout each day, rather than finally relying upon it anyway-but only after unneeded anxiety?” (Neal A Maxwell, Even As I Am, 100-101)

  1. Paul testifies to Agrippa, but his testimony is rejected.

 Acts 26:4 My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews;

 5 Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.

‘Paul was a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee and he was educated by Gamaliel, a Pharisee. On three different occasions he declared himself to be a member of the sect. The first was at the time he was on trial, then in his plea before Agrippa, and later in writing to the Philippians. This training as a Pharisee made him an extremist in his devotion to the Jewish law, which answers the question as to why he was such a zealous persecutor of the Christians prior to his experience on Damascus Road.’ (Howard W Hunter, General Conference, April 1984)

Acts 26: 8 Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?

“…as Paul testified of the resurrection, Festus interrupted him and ‘said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad’ (Acts 26:24).

“As the above passages illustrate, the doctrine of the resurrection, concerning which the prophets have taught and testified, is simply not congruent with the learning and the philosophies of the world. The resurrection is something to which the world cannot relate empirically; it has to be understood by faith and by the Holy Ghost. Consequently it is not readily accepted or believed in the world. Paul’s magnificent statement about the resurrection recorded in 1 Cor. 15 apparently was written to convince the intellectuals of his day, those who trusted in reason, that the resurrection was logical, scriptural, and necessary. He said that his knowledge of the resurrection came by revelation but that the doctrine was reasonable even so. The testimony of the scriptures and of the Holy Spirit is that the resurrection of Jesus, and eventually of all mankind, is literal, historical, and factual truth. It really did happen to Jesus, it has already happened to many, and it will yet happen to many more.” (Robert J. Matthews, A Bible! A Bible!, 199.)

Acts 26: 9 I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

‘”I thought that I owed it to my country, to my religion, and to my God, to oppose in every manner the claims of Jesus of Nazareth to be the Messiah.” We here see that Paul was conscientious, and that a man may be conscientious even when engaged in enormous wickedness. It is no evidence that one is right because he is conscientious. No small part of the crimes against human laws, and almost all the cruel persecutions against Christians, have been carried on under the plea of conscience. Paul here refers to his conscientiousness in persecution to show that it was no slight matter which could have changed his course. As he was governed in persecution by conscience, it could have been only by a force of demonstration, and by the urgency of conscience equally clear and strong, that he could ever have been induced to abandon this course and to become a friend of that Saviour whom he had thus persecuted.’ (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)

 Acts 26:10 Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.

 11 And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.

 12 Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests,

 13 At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.

 14 And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

“Critics love to dwell on supposed inconsistencies in Joseph Smith’s spontaneous accounts of his first vision. But people normally give shorter and longer accounts of their own vivid experiences when retelling them more than once. Joseph Smith was cautious about public explanations of his sacred experiences until the Church grew strong and could properly publicize what God had given him. Thus, his most detailed first vision account came after several others-when he began his formal history.

“This, too, parallels Paul’s experience. His most detailed account of the vision on the road to Damascus is the last of several recorded. (See Acts 26:9-20.) And this is the only known instance in which he related the detail about the glorified Savior prophesying Paul’s work among the Gentiles. (See Acts 26:16-18.) Why would Paul include this previously unmentioned detail only on that occasion? Probably because he was speaking to a Gentile audience, rather than to a group of Jewish Christians. Both Paul and Joseph Smith had reasons for delaying full details of their visions until the proper time and place.” (Richard Lloyd Anderson, “Parallel Prophets: Paul and Joseph Smith,” Ensign, Apr. 1985, 12)

Acts 26: 20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judæa, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

 21 For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me.

 22 Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come:

 23 That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.

 24 And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad.

“Prophets can be dismissed or discounted in many ways. If their faults can be focused upon, their message can be dismissed. Or, if they can be labeled, they need not be listened to (winebibber, Sabbath breaker, unlearned, ignorant, and so forth). Or, if they can be denigrated in some other way, their message can be discounted.” (Neal A Maxwell, Sermons Not Spoken, 46.)

Acts 26: 25 But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.

 26 For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.

‘Was not done in a corner – Did not occur secretly and obscurely, but was public, and was of such a character as to attract attention. The conversion of a leading persecutor, such as Paul had been, and in the manner in which that conversion had taken place, could not but attract attention and remark; and although the Jews would endeavor as much as possible to conceal it, yet Paul might presume that it could not be entirely unknown to Agrippa.’ (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)

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 Acts 26:27 King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.

 28 Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuades me to be a Christian.

“We were back East a short time ago and a good bishop made an interesting comment about what he called the saddest words that he knows of a man in high station. He read from the words in the days of the Apostle Paul when Paul before King Agrippa had borne his powerful testimony of his conversion. King Agrippa’s reply was, ‘Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.’ (Acts 26:28.) Then the bishop said, ‘The king knew the truth but he lacked the courage to do that which would be required; and he could only say then, ‘Almost thou persuadest,’ almost persuaded under certain circumstances to do the thing the Lord would want him to do.’

“And then he characterized some things that he discovered in his own ward in a short but powerful sermon. ‘In response to the Master, `Come . . . follow me’ (Mark 10:21), some members almost,’ he said, ‘but not quite, say, `thou persuadest me almost to be honest but I need extra help to pass a test.’ You young people in the choir might think of that.

“‘Almost thou persuadest me to keep the Sabbath day holy, but it’s fun to play ball on Sunday.

“Almost thou persuadest me to love my neighbor, but he is a rascal; to be tolerant of others’ views, but they are dead wrong; to be kind to sister, but she hit me first; to go home teaching but it’s so cold and damp outside tonight; to pay tithes and offerings, but we do need a new color TV set; to find the owner of a lost watch, but no one returned the watch I lost; to pass the Sacrament, but I’ve graduated from the deacons now, almost thou persuadest me to be reverent, but I had to tell my pal about my date last night; almost thou persuadest me to attend stake leadership meeting, but I know more than the leader on that subject, so why should I go. Thou persuadest me almost to go to Sacrament meeting but there is going to be such an uninteresting speaker tonight. Almost! Almost! Almost! but not quite, not able quite to reach.” (Harold B Lee, Conference Report, April 1964, Afternoon Meeting 24.)

  1. Paul is shipwrecked on his way to Rome.

Acts 26:32 Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Cæsar.

‘The decision to which Agrippa came showed the wisdom of the line which St. Paul had taken. The matter could not be hushed up nor got rid of. The authorities could not now free themselves from responsibility for the safe custody of the prisoner, and, by releasing him, expose his life to the conspiracies of the Jews; and thus the Apostle at last gained that safe journey to the imperial city which had for many years been the great desire of his heart.’ (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)

Acts 27: 13 And when the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, loosing thence, they sailed close by Crete.

 14 But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon.

 15 And when the ship was caught, and could not bear up into the wind, we let her drive.

Fearing that fierce winds would overturn the ship, the crew takes down the sails, allowing the ship to be driven before the tempest. Later (v. 17), they would raise the sails attempting to avoid getting stuck in shallow water by the island of Clauda. “Historians of Rome have long noted that Luke’s description of this exciting journey is one of the most important primary sources available on ancient seamanship. Students of Paul’s life cannot help but be impressed with his spiritual leadership and unfailing trust in the Lord under the most trying circumstances.” (C. Wilfred Griggs, “Paul: The Long Road from Damascus,” Ensign, Sept. 1975, 57)

 Acts 27:16 And running under a certain island which is called Clauda, we had much work to come by the boat:

 17 Which when they had taken up, they used helps, undergirding the ship; and, fearing lest they should fall into the quicksands, strake sail, and so were driven.

‘undergirding the ship—that is, passing four or five turns of a cable-laid rope round the hull or frame of the ship, to enable her to resist the violence of the seas’ (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary)

 Acts 27: 18 And we being exceedingly tossed with a tempest, the next day they lightened the ship;

‘The next day they lightened the ship.—St. Luke uses the technical term for throwing the bulk of the cargo overboard.’ (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)

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 Acts 27:19 And the third day we cast out with our own hands the tackling of the ship.

 20 And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.

‘As they could see neither sun nor stars, they could make no observations; and as they had no compass, they would be totally ignorant of their situation, and they gave up all as lost.’ (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)

Acts 27:21 But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss.

 22 And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship.

“This lesson about justifiable cheerfulness even amid perilous passages apparently had been driven home to Paul, for during his voyage to Rome, he assured his fearful shipmates that not one of them would lose their lives, though their ship would be lost. Therefore, He encouraged them to ‘be of good cheer’ in the midst of their anxieties, and his prophecy was fulfilled.

“It remains for us, therefore, to be of good cheer even when…current circumstances seem hopeless.” (Neal A Maxwell, Even As I Am, 101.)

Acts 27: 23 For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,

 24 Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Cæsar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.

‘Even in times of great danger, moral or physical, when, like the Apostle Paul, you may be in danger of “shipwreck” either to your body or your soul, there can be standing by you, as there was by him, after fasting and prayer, an angel of God who whispered peace to his soul’ (Harold B Lee, General Conference, October 1966)

 25 Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.

 26 Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island.

‘This had clearly formed part of the special revelation that had been granted to the Apostle. It was more than a conjecture, and the “must” was emphasised as by a prophetic insight into the future.’ (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)

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