The Spirit Explodes
Part 22 of 22 -
The journey to Rome – at last.
Acts 27:1 – 28:31

by Roger Kirby

It really is rather puzzling that Luke spent so much space on his precious scroll describing this sea journey from which we, like everybody else, are not going to be able to get much spiritual nourishment.

~~ There are at least 3 possible reasons:

  1. this sort of exciting sea voyage complete with shipwreck was commonplace in Greek literature and Luke wanted his work to fit the normal pattern to make it as acceptable a read as possible;
  2. this is a ‘we’ passage, indicating that Luke himself was on this voyage and so was complying with the expectation of those days that historical writers should have had some involvement in the events they described;
  3. Luke wanted to set Paul’s journey to Rome and his death there in parallel to Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and his death, thus showing how the life of a Christian should imitate that of Jesus.

Question 1: What was Paul’s attitude to his fellow travellers and the ship’s crew?

Read Acts 28:1–10.
Question 2: What, therefore, is Luke suggesting by the way he described this voyage?
Question 3: What picture of the relationships between Christians and non-Christians do the events on Malta place before us?
Read Acts 28:11–31~~

Question 4: Triumph or tragedy? What do you think of what Luke says happened in Rome to summarize his long and vivid account of the acts of the apostles? ~~

Question 5: What does that imply for the work of the gospel today? ~~

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The Spirit Explodes
Part 21 of 22 -
Roman Justice.
Acts 23:12 – 26:32

by Roger Kirby

This lengthy section, though important in showing to Theophilus that Paul was innocent of any crime against Roman law and providing the opportunity for Luke to recount the story of Paul’s conversion for the third time, is of no great interest to us. So we will take it at the gallop.

First there is the rather amusing account of how Paul started out on his much desired journey to Rome.

Read Acts 23:12 – 35.

What is interesting here is that the young man, Paul’s nephew, is able to gain access to the commander of the garrison. This suggests that he, and therefore Paul’s family, were of some considerable status and rank. Their society was exceedingly status conscious. Everyone knew where they stood in the hierarchy and acted accordingly. We have already seen this in the way that the commander reacted to the information that Paul was born a Roman citizen while he had to purchase his. That this comparatively young man is able to speak to the senior authority suggests he was from a well known and respected family. So late in the evening Paul set off for Rome escorted by 470 Roman soldiers.

Question 1: What would Paul’s reaction to this have been likely to be?

Read Acts 24:1 –26.

Question 2: In countries where bribes are expected even for things like justice, should Christians be prepared to pay them?

Read Acts 24:27 – 25:27

Read Acts 26:1 – 23.

Question 3: What is the crux of what Paul said?

One again it is the resurrection of Jesus as the first to rise from the dead. Should this not still be the focal point of all evangelism?

Read Acts 26:24 – 32.

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The Spirit Explodes
Part 20 of 22 - 
Jewish justice.
Acts 21:1 – 23:11

by Roger Kirby

From this point on Luke tells his story with big incidents, difficult to ask questions about. These first two and a half chapters are about how Paul was tried before the Jewish authorities and found innocent; the next two and a half are about how the Romans found him innocent; the last two tell the story about his voyage to Rome. We will have to take them in those big chunks with more explanation and less questioning than we have been used to.  But first Paul still has to get to Jerusalem. Luke is still with him on this journey and so we get a vivid account of where they went.

Read Acts 21: 1–16.
Luke must have been aware that he was leaving a great puzzle behind for all this readers. In the last chapter he records Paul saying: ‘compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem’. Here he tells us the Christians in Tyre ‘through the Spirit urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem’.

Question 1: How can the Spirit have said these two apparently contradictory things? How can we resolve the conflict and what should we learn from it?
Question 2: Would they be able to do carry out those or equivalent ministries in your church? If, why not?
Read Acts 21:17–22:22.
Question 3: What particular aspects of human nature does this teach us about?
Read Acts 22:23–23:11.
Question 4: Why did he not do so? What should we learn from his experience?

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The Spirit Explodes
Part 19 of 22
~Goodbye and Encouragement to the Ephesians
~Acts 20:1-38

by Roger Kirby


There is a very end of term feel to this chapter. Things do not go according to plan. One student falls asleep in the middle of a lesson. Then Paul exhorts everyone to a vigorous future just like a headmaster at an end of term assembly. 

Question 1: What more does Paul do than the work of an evangelist?
Question 2: What was Paul’s attitude to danger, as when the Jews, perhaps Jews planning to sail on the same boat as him, plotted against him?

Question 3: In what particular things is he telling them, and therefore us, to follow his example?

Question 4: An image from slavery is a poor one to relate to Paul’s description of how the elders in Ephesus were to operate. What better image of where overlooking occurs can you think of than that?
Question 5: How do we know what is the truth to which we are to firmly adhere?

Right Mouse click to download episode 19 as an audio mp3 file


The Spirit Explodes
Part 18 of 22
~Success and trouble in Ephesus.

by Roger Kirby

Some time has passed since the main events we read about in the last study. Since Paul left Corinth he has been to Jerusalem and Antioch, travelled through the area he has already been to in the south of what is now Turkey and then travelled over land to Ephesus in west Turkey. As already noted Ephesus was a large city, third largest in the Empire, and correspondingly important both to Rome and the developing churches. Though it is interesting to note that in the book of Revelation the church in Ephesus is warned that ‘if you do not repent I will remove your lamp stand from its place’ and they did not repent and the city no longer exists today except as ruins.

This episode has clearly been put next to that about Apollos not knowing the baptism of Jesus. This time the situation is much clearer: although they are called disciples they did not have the gift of the Holy Spirit. When asked whether they had received the Holy Spirit their reply was literally ‘we have not heard that the spirit is’ probably meaning something like ‘we have not heard that the Spirit is available to the likes of us’. John had spoken about the Spirit so they must have known of his existence.

Question 1: - They answered ‘no’. What can we conclude from that?

Read Acts 19:8–16.

Question 2: - Why do we find it so much more difficult to get everyone to hear the word of the Lord than they did?

Question 3: - What is the essential difference between magic and miracle?

Question 4: - Where in this passage do we hear of the direct challenge of miracles to magic?

Question 5: - Where, in your culture, can you see similar things happening?

Read Acts 19:17 – 22.

Question 6: - Is there anything you should be burning or dumping?

Read Acts 19:23 – 31.

Question 7: - For the second time in this chapter Christian faith is called ‘the Way’. What does this title emphasise?

 Read Acts 19: 32 – 41.


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