Category: The Apostles

Human Responsibility in Adversity—Example from Paul

Perseverance and Diligence through Faith of God

Having received God’s promise of a positive end to his persecution, Paul persevered through subsequent trials and presented his case diligently while showing respect for others, authority, and due process. His interactions during the period reinforce our understanding that faith of God’s intervention motivates human effort and should encourage us to have patience and work diligently while relating to others in accordance with our commitment to worship and serve God in every situation.

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Transferred to Caesarea under high security
Transferred to Caesarea under high security
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Our study series on Responding to Adversity continues with a discussion of Paul’s response to events in Jerusalem and Caesarea following Christ’s promise that the persecution will take him to a positive end in Rome. The events began with a conspiracy in Jerusalem against Paul’s life, his transfer to the governor’s custody in Caesarea, and subsequent trials before the governor. Paul persevered through the events with patience and showed respect for authority and due process through his interactions with Roman commander Claudius Lysias, Governor Felix, and Jewish representatives constituted to make a case against him in Caesarea. He responded to relentless persecution by defending himself diligently while respectful of other persons, authority, and due process (i.e., in a way to uphold the meaning of his commitment to worship and serve God in every situation).

Paul’s interactions in these events convey a special meaning because he had received a promise from God that the persecution will take him to a positive end in Rome: “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome” [Acts 23:11]. His interactions following the promise show a motivation to do what he could to defend himself against his accusers, convince relevant authority that he did nothing wrong, and do these while showing respect for authority and due process. His actions provide a message that faith of God’s intervention motivates perseverance and diligence. That is, the promise of God’s intervention should make a person evaluate every situation to determine what needs to be done and apply best effort toward doing it, because God may often fulfill his promise through what we do.

Angel releases Peter from prison
Angel releases Peter from prison but leaves him to flee from Harod by himself
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As we discuss in a previous bible study under Peter Escapes from Herod’s Prison, God provides input to solving our problems but expects us to apply human effort in order to be prepared and positioned to accept his input. Because the nature and timing of his intervention are generally not known a priori, we have to seek solutions by doing what we can with faith of God intervening at his chosen time and in his chosen way.

Paul received God’s promise that his persecution will take him to a positive end in Rome, but did not know how or when he would go to Rome. However, he knew he had a promise from God and will get to its fulfillment by applying his human effort and relating to people with humility and respect.

In jail despite postponed judgment
In jail despite postponed judgment
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Therefore, he persevered through the crisis, worked diligently through the trials, and did so while respectful of others in a way to uphold the meaning of his commitment to worship and serve God in every situation. Also, we have encountered similar response in adversity through previous bible studies such as under Living to Receive God’s Intervention and Mordecai Triumphs Over Adversity. Each of the examples illustrate a person persevering through adversity by working diligently to resolve problems, relating to others in accordance with the principles of living in the image of God, and arriving at a glorious fulfillment of God’s promise.

We discuss the relentless persecution of Paul and his interactions with the authorities and his accusers during the period following his encounter with Christ while in detention in Jerusalem.

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Comfort in Adversity—Jesus Appears to Paul in Jerusalem Jail

Message of Comfort through Courage in Adversity

The Lord Jesus appeared to Paul with a message of comfort during persecution in Jerusalem. He encouraged Paul to proceed through the persecution in good spirit knowing that God was with him and will guide him to extend his gospel mission to Rome. The encounter provides a message to all through Paul to recognize a “Rome” at the end of every adversity and proceed through with courage and faith based on living in the image of God.

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We continue the study series on Responding to Adversity with a discussion of Paul’s interaction with Christ in Jerusalem following a day that showed him potentially vulnerable to the on-going persecution. During the day, Paul faced a council of chief priests and the Sanhedrin in a judicial hearing to determine why he was being accused. The hearing showed him as maybe anxious to end the persecution as he engaged in an angry altercation with the high priest and apparently sought to exploit doctrinal differences between Pharisees and Sadducees.

Be of good cheer, Paul
Be of good cheer, Paul
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God appeared to Paul that night, physically as the Lord Jesus. He encouraged Paul and revealed to him a purpose of the persecution [Acts 23:11]: “… Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.” This was a message of comfort through courage in adversity, not only to Paul, but also through Paul to every Christian. God is aware and with you as you confront adversity. Look beyond the circumstantial details of the adversity and focus on believing that God has a purpose for your experience and will intervene as he chooses to lift you beyond the current bitterness and onto greater and pleasant fulfillment. Jesus did not discuss the persecution with Paul except that he should respond with “good cheer” knowing he will go to Rome on his mission of testifying to the gospel. The message was an assurance that the persecution will not get the better of him: he should focus on the ultimate purpose as he confronts the day to day occurrences of the persecution. He gives the same message to every Christian today.

To understand the message better, we examine Paul’s interactions at the judicial hearing, first with the high priest and second, the Sanhedrin.

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Diffusing Crisis to Manage Adversity

Paul’s Crisis Management in Jerusalem

Paul was arrested in Jerusalem by a mob that tried to kill him but were forced to surrender him to the custody of Roman authorities. He tried to diffuse the crisis by showing respect to Jewish law, custom, and heritage; the Roman commander; and his rights as a Roman citizen. Although his attempt at crisis management did not end the persecution, the attempt was successful because the persecution changed from beating and torture to detention and a series of public trials and hearings. Also, the trials and hearings became an opportunity for Paul to preach the gospel among his people in Jerusalem and Caesarea as he had in parts of Europe and Asia.

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In this installment of our study on Responding to Adversity, we discuss Paul’s interactions at his arrest in Jerusalem to learn about managing adversity by taking deliberate actions to reduce the intensity of a developing crisis. Paul was attacked in Jerusalem by a mob of Jews stirred up through public accusations against his teaching and religious allegiance. The local Roman commander rescued him from the mob by arresting and taking custody of him. We discuss his interactions with the Roman commander and with the mob to understand his attempt at diffusing the crisis.

Mob against Paul at the temple
Mob against Paul at the temple
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He showed himself respectful of the commander when he ignored the commander’s obvious but irrelevant mistake and focused instead on providing information to introduce himself. Regarding the mob, he almost won them over by presenting himself as a “son of the soil:” sharing with them the same language; laws, custom, and traditions; and respect for the same heroes and heritage. However, his peace with the mob was short-lived as he re-ignited their ire by reminding them of his long sojourn among Gentiles and his claim of common destiny with the Gentiles. Thus, the persecution continued despite his attempt at diffusing the crisis. Although he was not able to free himself from persecution, his effort at crisis management was partially successful as he asserted his Roman citizenship to win protection against torture or any punishment without trial. He would be tried publicly to determine if he did anything deserving punishment.

Preaching gospel in chains
Preaching gospel in chains
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Additionally, he used the opportunity of addressing the mob to preach the gospel in Jerusalem for the first time, as he had during missionary journeys through parts of Europe and Asia. He would go on to also preach to other predominantly Jewish audience during trials in Caesarea. Therefore, although his attempt at diffusing the crisis did not end the persecution, the attempt was successful in that it transformed the persecution into a series of trials and public hearings and, thus, an opportunity for him to preach the gospel among his people in Jerusalem and Caesarea as he had in parts of Europe and Asia.

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On Mission Despite Threat of Impending Adversity

Paul Returns to Jerusalem

Paul returned to Jerusalem despite warnings of impending persecution. He believed returning to Jerusalem was important to completing his mission. Instead of giving in to the threat of persecution, he relied on his faith of God’s purpose, declaring he was ready “not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” He stayed on mission despite the threat of severe adversity, subsequently endured through the adversity, but expanded his ministry as a result, more than he could have imagined.

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To Jerusalem via Tyre and Caesarea
To Jerusalem via Tyre and Caesarea
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We continue our study series on Responding to Adversity with a discussion of Paul’s return to Jerusalem after missionary journeys to parts of Europe and Asia. He was determined to return to Jerusalem despite a premonition of impending adversity. Also, during the trip from Ephesus through Tyre and Caesarea, he was warned of persecution awaiting him. First, disciples that hosted his team in Tyre counseled him against proceeding to Jerusalem. Second, Prophet Agabus met him and companions in Caesarea and warned him through unusual but emphatic drama that he will be arrested and persecuted. Third, his companions and other well wishers in Caesarea tried to dissuade him from returning to Jerusalem.

Despite the warnings, Paul was determined to return to Jerusalem even if it meant walking into his own grave [Acts 21:13]: “Then Paul answered, ‘What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’” Later events and Paul’s interactions with other people through the events lead us to an understanding of his determination to return to Jerusalem despite the threat of severe adversity through persecution.

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Civil Rights and Responsibilities Part 2 of 2

Examples from Paul’s Trial and Defense

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During trials in Jerusalem and Caesarea after his return from Ephesus, Paul demonstrated respect for Jewish laws and custom and for constituted authority. Also, he invoked his civil rights several times to win protection under the law.

2016-05-15_WhiteHouseNorth_1024px-1122-WAS-The_White_HouseBASIS FOR RESPECT FOR AUTHORITY As Paul explained in his letter to the Romans several years later [Romans 13:1–7], and Peter in his epistle [1 Peter 2:13-18], respect for authority is part of God’s mandate and a key aspect of Christian responsibilities to society. People in authority positions (such as president or prime minister, king or queen, governor, clergy, teacher, supervisor, parents, or any person in a position of leadership) help to preserve and propagate natural order and are God’s channels for protecting the good elements of society from the bad. Therefore, we honor God when we respect human authorities.

TWO-PART BIBLE STUDY In this two-part bible study, we discuss Paul’s trial in Jerusalem and Caesarea and subsequent transfer to Rome, to highlight interactions with his Jewish accusers and the Roman authorities and his invoking his rights of citizenship as part of his defense. The current discussion builds on the discussion of his Jerusalem trials in Part 1. Here, we discuss the trials in Caesarea and his transfer to Rome, where he preached the gospel as he did previously in Jerusalem, thereby fulfilling God’s promise to him regarding the trials.

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Civil Rights and Responsibilities Part 1 of 2

Examples from Paul’s Trial and Defense

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RESPECT FOR AUTHORITY Respect for human authority is part of God’s mandate and a key aspect of the civil responsibilities of a Christian. As Apostles Peter [1 Peter 2:13–18] and Paul [Romans 13:1–7] explain, people in authority position; such as president or prime minister, king or queen, governor, clergy, teacher, supervisor, parents, or any person in a leadership position; have been assigned rights and responsibilities to preserve and propagate one or more aspects of natural order and to protect the good elements of society from the bad. Every authority has been established by God to serve one or more such purpose. Therefore, respect and honor for authority and for laws and customs that define or establish the authority is part of our responsibilities to society.

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© Artistashmita | Dreamstime.com

TWO-PART BIBLE STUDY This is a two-part study of Paul’s civil trials and defense after his return to Jerusalem from sojourn in Ephesus. The trials started in Jerusalem, continued in Caesarea, and eventually took him to Rome. During the trials, Paul demonstrated his respect for authority and invoked civil rights when necessary to support his defense. In Part 1 of the study, we look at his interactions with the authority and his accusers in Jerusalem. Part 2 discusses the trials in Caesarea and Paul’s transfer to Rome thereafter.

 

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© Olegdudko | Dreamstime.com

INVOCATION OF CIVIL RIGHTS At several points in the trial, Paul invoked his civil rights while respecting the authority and due process to influence the trial proceedings. In one remarkable example, his invocation of civil rights and respect for due process and the authority of Emperor Caesar triggered a chain of events that led to fulfilling God’s promise to him that he will proclaim the gospel in Rome as he did in Jerusalem. Going to Rome not only provided him an opportunity to extend his ministry there but also ended the trial that started in Jerusalem. Therefore, one can say that his respect for civil rights and responsibilities placed him in position to work in alliance with God.

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Self Assessment Part 2 of 2

Seeking Closer Approach to God’s Purpose

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TWO-PART STUDY This is the second of a two-part study on seeking closer approach to God’s purpose through periodic self-assessment. In the first part, we discussed the self-assessments of Paul and Joshua, in which each looked back at his performance at the end of a specific and well-known assignment. Part 2 of the study focuses on improving personal performance through periodic self assessment.

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© Embe2006 | Dreamstime.com

GOD’S PURPOSE FOR HUMANKIND First, we discuss a generalized understanding of God’s purpose for humankind: he creates each person to represent him (i.e., conveyor of his image) as his provider assistant (i.e., channel for his compassion) among people and in interactions between people and other earth inhabitants.

PERSONAL PERFORMANCE GOALS Second, we discuss how a person could develop personal performance goals and modify the goals periodically as necessary based on the generalized understanding of God’s purpose for humankind and the person’s belief regarding God’s specific assignments for him/her.

PERIODIC SELF ASSESSMENT Third, we discuss periodic self assessment, whereby a person evaluates his/her performance periodically relative to the personal performance goals and modifies the goals as necessary, to seek closer approach to God’s purpose.

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