Tuesday 26 May 2009

Bible Book:

"And now, as a captive to the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me." (v.22-23)

Acts 20:17-27 Tuesday 26 May 2009


This is the only time in the book of Acts that we read anextended address by the apostle Paul to Christians, rather than tothe 'unpersuaded'. Many of his ideas and expressions here arecorrespondingly similar to those in his letters to the churches(which form a significant part of the New Testament).

From verse 23 onwards, and especially in verse 25, this address hassome of the characteristics of a typical 'deathbed' speech, eventhough the subsequent chapters will portray Paul as spendingseveral years as a prisoner and his actual death may have come someyears after the point at which Acts ends. This address to theleaders of the church at Ephesus is designed to encourage them totake full responsibility for the work that Paul has begun.

You can read the account of Paul's time in Ephesus in chapter 19.Ephesus was the main city of the Roman province of Asia, which isnow the western part of Turkey, and Paul spent a longer periodthere (three years) than anywhere else in his travels. In thispassage he emphasises the diligence with which he worked even whenit was tough.

In terms of such trials he particularly refers to "the plots of theJews". Whilst there is no evidence of particular Jewish oppositionin Ephesus, doubtless the Christians there had heard from him ofthe violence he suffered and his hasty departure from a number ofcities, when Jewish opponents had stirred up the rabble. Indeed, itis such a plot in verse 3 of this chapter that leads to Paul beinghere in Miletus, a port about 30 miles from Ephesus as the crowflies, rather than on a ship heading towards Syria.

The striking phrase in verse 22, "captive to the Spirit", promptsthe overall theme of this week's readings. Paul is particularlythinking of his present dangerous journey to Jerusalem (the Jews'centre of power) as a voyage which the Holy Spirit gives him noreal choice about making. Nevertheless, the sense of forebodingPaul has leads not only to his regarding this as a final farewell,but sharpens his desire to make it clear to them that he has keptnothing back of the gospel (good news about Jesus) and that theirresponse is now on their own heads.

To Ponder

Have you ever felt God wanted you to follow aparticular course of action that you felt was risky for you? If so,what made you sure it was what God wanted?

If you knew that today was the last time in yourlife you would see your family, or your workmates, or your group ofbest friends, what would you be keen to say? Are there ways andtimes you should say these things anyway?

How do you feel about Paul's statement to theChurch leaders - "I am not responsible for the blood of any ofyou"? Are there better ways that people might be motivated to actresponsibly?

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