I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel…

This letter from the apostle Paul to the churches in the province of Galatia addresses a grave problem. The persistent tendency to legalism!

Legalism is a religious term used to describe an attempt to be right with God based on how well one keeps His rules.

Of course, students of Jesus desire to refrain from conduct the Teacher has warned against. And they desire to do everything Jesus has taught them to do. But this effort to keep the rules is best understood as a grateful response to God's grace!

Being obedient to the teaching of Jesus sounds like a good thing to do, and it is! However, a person becomes legalistic when they begin to think their attempt to be obedient is what gives them good standing with God.

The problem with this system of religion is that nobody can be perfectly obedient. Everyone sins. And since everyone sins, nobody can claim a relationship with God because of their perfect obedience.

And more importantly, legalism destroys the Good News of Jesus. In fact, legalism is no good news at all. It replaces the free gift of God’s grace with faulty human effort. If our obedience could save us, why did Jesus come to die for us?

The only basis for a peaceful relationship with God is trust in Jesus. For Jesus is the Good News. And it is our faith in His perfect obedience to God and His death on the cross in our place that makes us right before God.

Paul is fighting legalism in this letter, because some false teachers were trying to enforce certain legal requirements of the Law of Moses on the Christians in Galatia.

Legalism is such a serious perversion of the Good News of Jesus Paul writes - …Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!



The Apostle Paul wrote this letter to address a serious problem troubling the churches in the province of Galatia. The teaching of legalism!

Legalism implies one can only be in a right relationship with God based on human effort. Legalism stands in contradiction to the Good News Jesus brings to the world...

That only through Jesus can one come into relationship with God!

Paul worked very diligently to take the Good News of Jesus to the Gentiles. He was very successful in establishing many congregations.

However, there were some legalistic teachers who followed behind him upsetting the peace of these Christians.

These false teachers were Jewish Christians who tried to convince the Gentile Christians they needed to keep certain traditions of the Law of Moses.

One of the main ideas they taught was the necessity of circumcision. They went so far as to say that if the Gentiles weren’t circumcised they could not be saved.

Paul saw this for what it was. An attack on the sufficiency of Jesus!

For it is only by through the life and death of Jesus that anyone can be right before God. It is trust in the work of Jesus on our behalf that makes the story of Jesus such good news for us. Because our obedience will always fall far short of the perfection required to be in fellowship with God.

The entire letter of Galatians is Paul’s argument that Jesus is not only all we need to be saved, but any attempt to add other requirements is a repudiation of Jesus.

Galatians is a letter upholding salvation as the free gift of God. Our works cannot possibly justify us before God. Our sins outweigh our obedience on the scales of God's justice! Sins can only be forgiven by the grace God provides through Jesus' sacrifice for us.

Paul knows if these churches fall into the trap of legalism they will fall from this grace of God. But this letter is for students of Jesus in every age, for it is a basic tendency to try to be worthy of God’s gift by human effort. If this was sufficient, why then did Jesus come to die for us?



The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

This raises a question. Who is righteous?

Other passages of Scripture make it clear that nobody is righteous, for all make mistakes and sin. On the other hand, everyone who comes to Jesus is made righteous on the basis of faith in Jesus’ perfect life and sacrificial death on the cross.

Students of Jesus are not righteous by themselves. God continuously declares them to be so based on their trust in what Jesus has done!

James is saying that every faithful student of Jesus is a person whose prayers are powerful and effective!
This true because every student of Jesus remains in a constant state of righteousness by the forgiveness Jesus provides. And because they are in a right relationship with God, their prayers are heard and answered!

James says that students of Jesus should pray when they are in trouble. This is good news because every day difficulties arise in life. Problems in marriage and family, job stresses, financial troubles, accidents and even death of loved ones.

It is of great comfort to know in every situation our prayers make a real difference, especially when we are in the middle of a life-sized problem!

James also says prayers are effective in times of illness - Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.

Prayer is also powerful to help us overcome sin in our lives - Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

Prayer is perhaps the most under-appreciated and under-utilized privilege available to us.

Jesus was a person of prayer. Good students of this Teacher take note.



You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near.

James closes his letter with words of encouragement every student of Jesus can appreciate. Be faithful because Jesus is near!

Every student of Jesus senses His presence. In every moment of life our Teacher has promised to be with us. To never leave or forsake us!

However, when circumstances of life bring trials, difficulties, tensions and troubles, we may be tempted to ask – Why is this happening to me? Is Jesus really near right now?

James reminds us that Jesus is near and that His coming is near – Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming.

Don’t give up. It won’t be long until the trial is past. It won’t be long until Jesus returns!

James counsels patience in our trials.

Having patience, as James uses the word, is more than remaining calm when things irritate us. The word literally means to stand up under the strain of a heavy load!

It is strength under pressure. The power to be faithful when it isn’t easy to do so!

It is also waiting, as a farmer waits for the rain. Not giving up, but trusting Jesus will stay ever near.

James also warns us not to grumble against one another. Isn’t that the tendency when things aren’t going well? We look for a scapegoat, someone to blame.

The One who is near, the One who is coming is also the judge of such behaviors - The Judge is standing at the door!

So persevere because the Lord is full of compassion and mercy. He knows our trials and will intervene on our behalf! Jesus is near!



Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you.

Here James sounds like Amos or another of the Old Testament prophets railing against social injustice.

Some things never change - The rich get richer and the poor get poorer!

What troubles God – and should disturb students of Jesus everywhere - is how the rich get richer and why the poor get poorer!

James says very often people enrich themselves at the expense of the poor.

Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.

Isn’t it amazing that nothing escapes the watchful eye of the God of heaven? He sees the smallest details of our lives. He observes and judges!

He dislikes the inequity that exists in the world. A world where some live in opulent luxury while others starve to death!

A day of reckoning is coming. A day when the scales of justice will tip in favor of the oppressed!

A day of punishment is coming to the oppressor. They will receive the disapproval of God. On that day, their ill-gotten gains will do them no good.

You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.

Students of Jesus take note. God cares about fairness in all our dealings, especially when we occupy a position of power over others. God would have us become more like Jesus. Remember how He was a special friend to the poor.



You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

James is talking about the brevity of life.

Visit with those who have lived to be a hundred years old. They will not speak of long life. Instead, they seem surprised at how fast the time flew by.

We aren’t promised a tomorrow. Physical bodies all come with a lifetime warranty, but the problem is some lifetimes are not very long!

Life is fragile, uncertain. Anything may happen.

Yesterday is gone, tomorrow may never come. Today is all we can be sure of in this life.

That’s why the Lord’s will is so important!

Because at the end of life, we pass through the door of death to behold the face of God! Then we will fully realize the importance of our relationship with Him.

Gone will be the false ideas that we are in charge of our own destiny. We make our plans and will have what we will have!

There is a limit to the power of man to determine his own fate. That’s why James counsels us to begin to include Jesus in all our daily plans now - If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.

Someday soon for all of us it will be very clear just how dependent we are upon the Lord for everything. But whether we understand this fact or not, it remains the everyday truth nonetheless.

That’s life!

And that’s why James reminds students of Jesus to be busy doing the good they can do – while they can!

Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.



Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Here James shares the secret of a powerful life. Submit to God!

When Jesus asks those of us who become His students to follow Him – submit to His will – we should understand this is something He has already done.

He submitted to the will of His heavenly Father in all things. And because He humbled Himself – even to death on a cross – the Father lifted Him to the highest place. He rose from the dead and rules from heaven!

Submission is the secret to Jesus’ powerful life and James would have us know submitting to God is also our path to an exalted life!

James mentions three areas where submission is vital and shows how failing to submit leads to frustration of purpose.

Our relationships
Our prayers
Our choices

Think about how our pride can work against us in each of these areas of life. Also, Consider how humility can create greater harmony and happiness.

A humble and submissive attitude creates peace in all our relationships at work and at home. Pride causes contention. And frustration because ultimately we need the cooperation of others to accomplish almost anything.

James indicates our prayers will be answered when we stop asking for what we selfishly desire and humbly seek God’s will for our lives.

Finally, submitting to God’s will leads us away from the destructive power of sin to the better will of God for our lives – God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Students of Jesus will make great progress in becoming more like Jesus when they learn the power in submission. It leads to the highest and the best!



Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

James warns of a kind of worldly wisdom. Not from heaven but of earth. Not spiritual but evil!

It is the wisdom of envy and selfish ambition, terms James mentions twice here. It is self-centered, not others-minded. The ability, position and possessions of others spark jealousy, pride and a competitive spirit.

Given free reign, this way of looking at the world leads to conflicts and evil behaviors! In the cut-throat, dog-eat-dog race to the top, anything goes. Fights, aggression, dishonesty, favoritism and self-promotion!

In short it is a selfish life. Lived with little or no regard for the welfare of others! It is me, myself and I!

The irony of this self-preoccupation is the almost total neglect of self in all the ways that ultimately matter. The final result is a lack of personal spiritual growth in the attributes that make one more fully human. The soul shrivels even as the material accomplishments and possessions pile up.

By contrast, the wisdom of Jesus brings the best kind of life, good deeds done for the benefit of others in a spirit of humility.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

Being a good student of Jesus produces a peaceful life. Peace within and peace with others!

James says that it is in this atmosphere of peace the fruit of righteousness grows into a bountiful harvest.

A person is living wisely who focuses on becoming more like Jesus. Developing in heart the characteristics of the best person who ever lived. This is the wisdom of being a student of Jesus.



Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.

Look at Jesus life! You will find perfection. Not only in what He did but in everything He said.

Students of Jesus, who seek to be like their Teacher, soon discover how difficult it is to control their tongues. In fact, as James says, if we could fully control our tongues, we would be perfect.

Here James uses six images that speak of the power, influence and danger of the tongue.

A bit, a rudder, a raging fire, a wild animal, a spring of either sweet or bitter water, and fruit of one kind or another!

A Bit – Small but Controlling
A Rudder – Extremely Influential
A Raging Fire – Dangerously Destructive
A Wild Animal - Uncontrollable
A Spring – either Sweet or Bitter
A Fruit – either One Kind or Another

Obviously, how well one controls the tongue is critical to spiritual health and well-being. Everyone would do well to become more like Jesus and seek to tame the tongue!

One who allows free reign to their speech, saying whatever comes to mind – good or bad - destroys their life.

It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire.

The tongue is also a powerful force for good. Our words can speak health, comfort, encouragement, truth, peace, mercy, joy and love.

This is the challenge for every student of Jesus. Tame the tongue! Restrain its destructive potential! Release its life-giving power into the lives of those around us.

This is the way Jesus has shown us.



In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Students of Jesus have puzzled over the relationship between faith and works. The problem arises over the perceived difference between what James says here – faith without deeds is dead – and Paul’s statement in the Book of Ephesians that our salvation does not come through our works.

There is no contradiction between James and Paul, only a difference in emphasis.

By emphasizing works, James isn’t saying faith is unimportant. Nor is he arguing that as long as we obey God’s commands it doesn’t matter whether we have faith or not! He is saying, true faith will reveal itself in action.

By emphasizing faith, Paul isn’t saying works are unimportant. Nor is he arguing that as long as we have faith it doesn’t matter whether we obey God’s commands or not. He is saying that all the works in the world apart from the grace of faith cannot save anyone.

True faith always produces the action or work of obedience.

You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless.

James recalls the faith of Abraham that moved him to act in obedience to God’s command to sacrifice his son Isaac. - You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.

You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

We understand. Both faith and works are important. They complement each other, with works completing our faith.

James is simply calling those who have faith to get busy doing what God requires.



Mercy triumphs over judgment!

Jesus will one day judge everyone. The thought of our own personal accountability before God should make us merciful in our judgments of others.

James wants us to understand that showing favoritism to some means that we are being unmerciful to others - If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right!

This is the problem with favoritism. It leaves some people outside of our love. And James says that when we do this it is a sin and we are convicted as lawbreakers! Not only because we broke the command to love everyone, but also because of our reason for failing to do so.

What causes us to show favoritism? Isn’t it because of our prejudice? Perhaps against the poor or the uneducated! Maybe that someone’s sin is particularly odious to us!

Whatever the reason, we must have forgotten that we also are sinners - For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

When we fail to show mercy to anyone, we destroy the bridge over which we ourselves must pass. For we too are sinners and must necessarily hope to receive mercy from the Righteous Judge!

The Teacher said, Judge not that you be not judged! Being merciful and loving to all - without favoritism - makes perfect sense when we understand our need for God’s love and mercy.

The tendency to judge some as unworthy of our time, fellowship or respect means we are being unmerciful and unloving. It really means we are failing to be good students of our Teacher. This is the evil of favoritism!

For Jesus loves everyone in the world, died for everyone in the world and invites everyone in the world to become His student and friend.



My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism.

By definition a friend is someone for whom you have a special affection. A relationship that is more open and preferential than others. James isn’t saying students of Jesus cannot have friends.

Even Jesus had special friends like this. Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Peter, James and especially John!

But having favorites is the natural result of getting to know them and therefore having admiration and affection for who they are.

Favoritism, on the other hand, stems from malignant prejudice against a person before we even get to know anything about who they really are.

We quickly judge them and accept or reject them based on their appearance, education or status - have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

What James seeks to curb is this human tendency that instinctively works in our hearts to pre-judge people based on externals. Then automatically open our hearts to some and close them to others.

James uses the example of showing favoritism to a rich person and disrespecting a poor person. Perhaps this prejudice is pervasive because of our selfishness and insecurity. After all, a rich person may benefit us economically while a poor person cannot and may in fact have the opposite effect.

Students of Jesus follow the Teacher who had favorites but did not show favoritism. He did not seek to curry the favors of the rich, the religious intelligentsia or the political power brokers.

Jesus taught and healed and cared for the poor and the rich alike. He associated with the uneducated masses and was at home in the meanest place and He died for all and anyone can become His student!



Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…

A student of Jesus is one who practices Pure Religion. Providing for the needs of orphans and widows!
And this truth is as relevant today as when James wrote this nearly 2,000 years ago. For God does not change!

In fact, long ago in the Old Testament Scriptures, God repeatedly voiced His concern for the most helpless in society. Fatherless and widows!

In ancient times and in many countries today, to be an orphan or widow is to be among the poorest of the poor. Often in desperate need of daily necessities!

However, in modern times the more prosperous nations provide for their own citizens in the form of government subsidies for food, housing and even medical care. And not coincidentally, nations with a significant Christian population are relatively affluent.

Consequently, students of Jesus in such cultures do not often see orphans or widows in need.

How then should students of Jesus’ respond to the orphans and widows suffering throughout the world?

A recent United Nation’s study revealed that over 50% of the families throughout the world have a total net worth of under $1,100. This includes the total value of all possessions and savings.

This means that orphans and widows in such societies are virtually penniless!

This also means that anyone who has more than $1,100 dollars is richer than 50% of the people in the world.

Fortunately, the world is a smaller place today. Students of Jesus can easily reach out with significant help to the helpless who live in far-away countries and practice what James calls Pure Religion!



He chose to give us birth through the word of truth…

James is talking about the spiritual life, but he uses the comparison of physical birth and growth.
Just as we all are physically born and grow up, students of Jesus are born again. Then with Jesus as Teacher and the Holy Spirit as tutor, students of Jesus spend the rest of their lives growing up into the likeness of Jesus.

Unlike our physical existence, which eventually ends in death, our new birth and life in Jesus never ends. Our life becomes everlasting. A gift from God!

In contrast with God’s good and perfect gift of life, stands another way of living. This life does not seek to become more like Jesus. It seeks to fulfill the flesh and satisfy the cravings of human nature instead.

James also uses the metaphor of conception and birth to describe this way of living that ends, not in eternal life, but in death.

This is how the life given over to sin is described. It is a life dominated by human passions and desires which are the source of temptations.

But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

What James is asking us to do is to pause a moment and think about what is going on inside of every human being. To get above ourselves and be sensitive to inclinations of heart that have the power to lead us away from the good life God gave us.

James is not suggesting students of Jesus can live without sin. He is reminding them not to embrace a way of living that leads to death - Do not err, my beloved brethren...
Rather to focus on the gift of life God gives through Jesus!



Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…

James is writing to Christians who suffer persecution. How should a student of Jesus react in such trials?

James has a surprising answer – Consider it pure joy!

We might understand if he advised us to endure the trials or even muddle through them the best we can. But be happy about it!

Is he joking?

Now James isn’t saying we will ever enjoy suffering. Nor did he say trials should be joyful experiences. He said we should consider it so. He is asking us to view suffering for Jesus from a different perspective.

Trials can cause us to grow, become stronger and therefore more mature in our faith. These results of trials should be viewed as a source of joy.

…the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete…

Following Jesus involves a degree of suffering. It’s unavoidable! Becoming like Jesus, doing what Jesus did leads to trials because a life lived like His leads to confrontation with the values of the world.

And Jesus suffered, but the result was a resurrection from the dead and glory with the Father in heaven.

James wants students of Jesus who suffer for their faith to know they too will have a reward. This should be a source of joy in the trial.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.



James 1:1
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.

The author of this book is thought to be the physical brother of Jesus. One who did not believe in Jesus in the beginning, but eventually came to faith and even prominence in the church at Jerusalem.

James is one of the first books of the New Testament, probably written to Jewish Christians who were scattered from Jerusalem during the persecution of Saul.

The writer moves quickly from discussing the value of suffering to practical day-to-day Christianity. Faith in action is the general theme.

It is not enough to be a Christian if this is not shown in one’s conduct.

This is what becoming a student of Jesus is all about. Changed behavior that springs from a changed heart! A heart transformed by a faith that cooperates with the Spirit in becoming more like Jesus.

The writer provides several tests of faith.

1. How responsive am I to God’s Word?
2. Does my faith lead me to be impartial to everyone?
3. Is my faith moving me to improved behavior?
4. Is my faith producing greater self-control?
5. Does faith lead me to repudiate worldliness in favor of God’s values?
6. Is my trust in God evidenced by my prayers to Him?

Someone has said that the Book of James is the Good News is shoe leather. Like Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, this book leaves little room for theoretical maneuvers. Perhaps this is why Biblical scholars have generally denigrated it.

However, for groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, who seek to modify human behavior, the Book of James, the Sermon on the Mount and First Corinthians chapter thirteen are frequently quoted and relied upon.

Brothers, my brothers or my beloved brothers frequently appear in James. Because of his Elder Brother, James now has many brothers and sisters. This is a book for those who want to be better students of Jesus!



I was thinking to follow the order of the Books as they appear in the New Testament. However, I have decided to study the books in the order they are thought to have been written. Here is the proposed order, beginning with the Book of James tomorrow, March 16, 2010. Thank you for following this blog. Denny

1 and 2 Thessalonians
1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
1 Timothy
1 Peter
2 Timothy
2 Peter
1,2,3 John



Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.

When Paul finally arrives in Rome, the first thing he wants to do is explain his innocence to the Jewish community - My brothers…I have done nothing against our people or against the customs of our ancestors.

Much more than defending himself, Paul wants to share what God is doing through Jesus.

From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.

Some were convinced, others not so much. Paul reminds them of a prophecy of Isaiah - Go to this people and say, "You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”

Why can’t some people receive the will of God for their lives? Is it because God always does the unexpected? Many times exactly the opposite of what we were looking for!

This is the problem even with religion. No especially with religion, because religious people get comfortable with the idea they know what to expect from God. Then when God does the unexpected, they miss out.

Remember how few were expecting Jesus to show up in a manger, grow up in Nazareth and die on a cross?

Pondering the unlimited intelligence and power of God should remind us how impossible it is for human beings to anticipate what He will do.

And so the Book of Acts ends much as it began. Although a different city, Rome instead of Jerusalem! Another preacher, Paul not Peter! But the same scenarios of unexpected Good News!

Unexpected God! Some are able to open their hearts…



Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta.

How fortunate for his sailing companions Paul was onboard. Sometimes one student of Jesus can make all the difference in the world!

Now just as God promised – and Paul relayed to them – none of the ship’s passengers or crew lost their lives.

They are thrust onto the Island of Malta. There they are received warmly by its inhabitants.

Publius, the chief official of the island… welcomed us to his home and for three days entertained us…

They wintered on the island for three months. Finally, they were able to board an Egyptian ship to Syracuse in Sicily. And from there to Italy!

There we found some brothers who invited us to spend a week with them. And so we came to Rome.

It has been nearly three years since Paul was arrested in Jerusalem. Now after numerous trials, waiting in prison and an incredible sea voyage, Paul reaches his destination.

It will be two more years before Paul’s case is heard and he is released. But his situation has changed for the better - When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.

Paul is granted greater freedom to live more normally. He will be able to receive company and share the Good News freely.

Paul’s life as a student of Jesus is every student’s narrative. Perhaps, his life seems more exciting and adventurous than most, but the theme is the same. God provides everything needed in every circumstance!

No situation arises in which we cannot fulfill our destiny to become more like Jesus and minster health and healing to those around us.



Altogether there were 276 of us on board.

Being a serious student of Jesus has risks. That’s because the Teacher we follow did not choose the path of safety. Not for Himself and so not for those who seek to become more like Him!

Paul is a prisoner on his way to Rome. It is his fourteenth night in a horrifying sea storm.

Did Paul long for the comforts of his home? Was there a moment when he regretted the day he went on his first missionary journey? Probably not!

This isn't Paul’s first experience with suffering. Deprivations, death threats, discomforts, dangers and even stoning have happened to him already. He has experienced God’s faithfulness in many other desperate situations.

Paul seems calm in the midst of the shipwreck. He’s actually giving the orders now. He’s keeping his head when all around others are losing theirs!

He tells them to take some food, not because it is their last meal, but because they will need their strength. They will survive!

The ship will break apart, but not before Paul and the other 275 persons reach the safety of an island.

Students of Jesus, like their Teacher before them, take risks. They move out of their comfort zones. Get involved in helping solve the problems of those suffering around them and they suffer too!

Look at the life of our Teacher! One so radically different from the norm! The principle difference was his relationships to hurting and even dangerous people around him.

Paul suffers shipwreck because he chose to live the same kind of risky life. It is also the most interesting and rewarding way to live!

Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it!



Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the "northeaster," swept down from the island.

Paul’s prediction of disaster is beginning to come true. Out on the sea in a violent storm!

Desperate times call for desperate measures. They pass ropes under the ship, in an attempt to keep the wooden ship from breaking into pieces. As lowered anchor provided a very poor brake. The next day they threw the cargo overboard. Three days later, the ship’s tackle!

When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.

Like Paul, students of Jesus sometimes find themselves in the midst of a storm. Circumstances beyond their control! Situations not of their making!

Maybe not a weather-related storm, but as fearsome and battering nonetheless. Job loss, family problems, life-threatening sickness, and even death of loved ones!

But Paul saw this storm coming and tried to warn them. Now he has an, I told you so, moment.

Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss.

Some storms can be avoided if we follow good advice or even our own conscience. But not always. And here Paul gives them encouragement in the midst of the storm, much like Jesus who calmed His disciples in a storm on the Sea of Galilee.

So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.

Paul is unafraid, for God has told him he must appear before Caesar. He has long ago learned to trust God in the storms of life.



When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius…

Paul is placed in the custody of a centurion of Caesar’s Regiment. Probably because Paul’s case will now be heard by the Emperor himself!

After a fairly normal beginning in their voyage to Italy, the journey very quickly resembles a cruise itinerary gone terribly awry!

Due to the season of the year and the prevailing winds were against them.

By the time they changed ships in Myra, the wind was against them, impeding their progress.

We made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus.

Then the wind changed direction such that they were unable to continue on a direct course - We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens.

Paul understands it will be dangerous sailing now at this late time in the year. His advice? Spend the winter in this safe harbor.

Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.

The centurion, however, listens to the advice of the pilot and the owner of the ship, so they press on hoping to reach a more comfortable harbor on the island of Crete.

Of course, in a short time Paul’s advice will be proven correct. Over the course of this ill-fated voyage, all of the men on this ship turn to Paul for leadership.

This is the way it often happens. God leads students of Jesus to gradually gain the respect of those around them and thus gain a hearing for the Message of Jesus.



That the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles!

Paul’s defense is simple. He informs them his troubles are simply the result of his testimony about the resurrection of Jesus.

Paul doesn't expect them to believe Jesus rose from the dead simply because he claims to have seen Jesus one fateful day on the road to Damascus. This was true of course, but Paul reminds them of a verifiable truth...Moses and the Old Testament prophets long ago foretold the coming of the Christ!

At this point Festus interrupts Paul with an accusation – “You are out of your mind, Paul!" he shouted. "Your great learning is driving you insane."

Apparently, Paul’s defense – his words and manner of presentation – revealed a man of great education. But the idea of a resurrection is too incredible for the governor.

However, Agrippa is a man who is very well acquainted with the Jewish religion. He knows the prophecies. Therefore, Paul makes a direct appeal to him.

King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.

What happens next is reminiscent of the time Herod ordered the death of John the Baptist because of peer pressure. Like his great-grandfather before him, Agrippa is overly influenced by the presence of prominent military leaders and important people present with him.

Then Agrippa said to Paul, "Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?"

Certainly Paul is on trial for his life, but he is not the only one in the room who feels indicted. That’s because the claims of Jesus always demand a response in every heart. No doubt at this point in the proceedings, even in chains, Paul is more comfortable with his position than anyone else in the hall. Including the king!

So is everyone who trusts Jesus and believes in a future resurrection.



To open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins…

These are the words Paul uses to describe the mission Jesus gave him to do. It is a graphic description of the condition of everyone who does not believe in Jesus.

In darkness and under the power of Satan!

The truth is all unbelievers are blind to reality. The sphere in which they live is darkness. There sins remain unforgiven!

Surely his audience understood he was talking about them also. But Paul does not fear for his life as much as he fears for their spiritual condition! He wants to share with them the way to forgiveness of sins and entrance into the kingdom of God.

Paul is very bold to talk this frankly before such an august body of people. King Agrippa, Festus, high ranking military officers and all the leading men of the city who are themselves unbelievers. Those who have power over his life!

The text records how Agrippa and Bernice entered the assembly with great pomp. The Greek word used here is phantasia. They are all living in a fantasy, something that is unreal, temporary and will not endure!

Through birth, by education and skill or even by political maneuvering, each of those assembled have created a comfortable place for themselves in the world. Their place in society must have been a source of both pride and security to them.

But Paul understands they do not have a place among the saved. They are in great danger and don't realize it. He would bring them into the light of God’s reality. The truth of Jesus!

This is Paul’s Mission and the work of every student of the Teacher.



When his accusers got up to speak, they did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected...

In private conference, Festus informs King Agrippa about Paul’s case. He shares his surprise at the charges leveled against Paul. They were not crimes a judge normally expects to hear.

Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion…

It is a sad state of affairs when people who claim to believe in the same God do not respect one another. Sadder still, when the discord rises to the level of hate and even persecution! Obviously the case with Paul's accusers!

If the God who created mankind gives freedom of choice and conscience to every person in the world, by what right do men appoint themselves guardians of the truth as they see it, and then actively seek to harm those who disagree with them?

It must break God’s heart to see anyone doing such things in the name of religion. In the name of God!

Worse yet is the effect such discord among believers has on those who do not yet believe in God! It must be very confusing!

Is it coincidental that not one of the judges before whom Paul has defended himself responded favorably to his message about Jesus? Not Felix, not Festus,! Nor will King Agrippa when he hears the message!

Paul is not able preach the message under the best conditions. And his judges are not able to hear the Good News about Jesus without prejudice. A prejudice all persons naturally feel when religious people are at each other’s throats.

Paul was respectful and did his best to defend himself in a kind manner. He presented the case for faith in Jesus in a most loving manner. But the context of discord was simply too much to overcome.

In such a situation, Festus says it best - I was at a loss how to investigate such matters.



You have appealed to Caesar. To Caesar you will go!

Here Paul exercises his right as a Roman citizen. He appeals to Caesar’s judgment of his case.

He has no choice really.

The system is rigged against him because of a secret deal the Jewish leaders made with his new judge, Festus, who had replaced Felix as the governor.

During a prolonged meeting in Jerusalem, the religious leaders who oppose Paul, made an arrangement with Festus to have Paul transferred back to Jerusalem for judgment.

Unknown to Festus is their secret plan to assassinate him in route to the city.

…they were preparing an ambush to kill him along the way.

At this final trial in Caesarea, many charges were made against Paul without sufficient proof to establish his guilt in the case. But when Paul understood that Festus had in mind to send him back to Jerusalem, he appealed to Caesar.

I am now standing before Caesar's court, where I ought to be tried…no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!

Festus and the council of judges conferred about the matter and agreed there was no choice but to send Paul to Rome.

Once again, God protects Paul from a plot against his life. A scheme that, if successful, would prevent him from continuing the work God has planned for him. To testify of Jesus in Rome and beyond!

For Paul will go to Rome. He will teach about Jesus for two years as he waits for trial. Ultimately, he will be released to continue his missionary work, before finding himself once again in Rome for another trial which tradition says resulted in his death.



Felix wanted to grant a favor to the Jews, he left Paul in prison.

So much for a speedy trial! Political prisoners often languish for years in prisons. Paul will remain in custody for two more years as the case against him drags on.

Felix…sent for Paul and listened to him as he spoke about faith in Christ Jesus.

Paul has an opportunity to defend himself before the ruler, but he does much more. He tells his judge about Jesus. Surely Paul would like to be free, but he also wants Felix and his wife to become followers of Jesus.

Paul even has the audacity to talk to his judge about changing his life. The need to do right and exercise self-control!

He even warns them about the coming judgment. The impact on Felix was dramatic - Felix was afraid and said, "That's enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you."

For those who do not have faith in Jesus, judgment is a fearful thing. So frightening in fact, some people simply refuse to think about it. Especially when they don’t want to change their behavior, give up their harmful ways.

Felix reaction? Don’t call me, I’ll call you! Maybe later…when I have a more convenient time!

As far as we know from the historical record, Felix never found it convenient to repent and follow Jesus.

It’s understandable. Change is never easy, even positive change can be painful. And becoming more like Jesus is a commitment to an entirely different way of relating to the world, a brand new way of living.

But as students of Jesus know, following Him leads to the best kind of life, both now and forever!



I was ceremonially clean when they found me in the temple courts…

The Law of Moses and the traditions surrounding it required many types of ritual cleansings. Jesus clashed with the religious authorities about some of the traditions. Hand washing before meals, for example.

However, there were special requirements of cleanliness before one could enter the temple and the presence of God. Failure to do so was a form of desecration of the temple.

Desecration of a temple of any kind was a serious offense, not only to the adherents of the particular religion, but also to Roman authority.

Part of the success of Roman governance was a respect for different religions within the Empire. With Paul standing before the governor, a charge of temple desecration, if proven, will prove most damning to Paul.

This is the angle the prosecutor, Tertullus, presses against him. And the reason he gives to justify seizing Paul in the first place.

But Paul was ceremonially clean, according to the Jewish customs, when he entered the temple and he says so. And offers in his defense - They cannot prove to you the charges they are now making against me.

But Paul knows that ceremonial cleansing of the body does not make a person truly clean. Washing the outside cannot remove the guilt of sin on the inside. Only trust in Jesus and His sacrifice can make a person clean before God.

This is the message Paul has been preaching. And his success in turning people to faith in Jesus is really why he is in trouble here.

Paul deftly turns the trial away from his personal behavior to the real issue - It is concerning the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today. Even on trial for his life, Paul stays on message!



Get ready a detachment of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen…

God provides 470 soldiers, cavalry and spearmen for Paul’s safe escort out of the city of Jerusalem. Away from the reach of the 40 assassins who have conspired to kill him!

The Bible is replete with stories of God’s rescue of his people. Noah from the flood, Moses from Pharaoh, David from Goliath, and Daniel from the lions!

Here Paul is saved from death. However, God’s protection has many forms. Sometimes even death is a kind of protection.

For those who believe in the resurrection, there are things worse than death. Jesus was not saved from death, though He prayed fervently to avoid the cross if it could be God’s Will.

But God’s protection is on the other side of death as well. Jesus found this to be true in His resurrection. A greater glory and blessedness for Him because of His cross!

And protection and rescue for every man, woman, boy and girl who believes in Jesus. God’s protection from the guilt of sin through the forgiveness made possible by Jesus’ death. And rescue from death by a promised resurrection.

We pray for God’s protection to spare our lives and it may be granted. Other times, God who knows our futures, allows our lives to end here on earth in order that we might be with Him. Doubtless all who die in faith awake to a state of bliss from which they would not wish to return.

God safeguards Paul’s life because he has important work to do. He must testify of Jesus before kings and rulers. Paul will spend the next few years in prison, but because of this he will have opportunities to speak of Jesus.

Students of Jesus believe in God’s protection!



We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul.

Jesus said, The student when fully trained will be like his Teacher!

We rightly interpret this to mean following in the steps of Jesus leads us to become more like Him. More loving, peaceful, joyful, merciful and kind, gentle, even powerful!

With Jesus as our Teacher and the Holy Spirit producing His fruit in our lives, we develop and mature in the traits of Jesus. It is very positive and satisfying to become a better person!

But it is equally true, the more students become like the Teacher, the more their life resembles His in ways that are not pleasant. The steps of Jesus lead in ways of struggle and danger. Even death!

This is why Jesus counsels those who prepare to follow Him to count the cost.

Now Paul knows from personal experience, both the joys and the struggles in walking in the footsteps of Jesus.

The Book of Acts not only records Paul’s wonderful successes in creating students for Jesus, but also many troubles he endured in the process. From the moment of his baptism in Damascus, Paul as been in danger of personal harm!

Here is yet another plot to kill him. Forty men vow not to eat until Paul is dead by their hands. One wonders whether they broke their vows or all died of hunger! For once again, God protects him through a warning from his nephew.

It is not one way for the Teacher and another way for students who follow Him. The steps of Jesus also lead to a cross. The cross of personal suffering!

Daily we suffer the death of selfishness and the cravings of human passions as we put them to death in order to live the life Jesus gives.

And like Paul, sometimes we suffer from the unkind words and actions of those who oppose us. But always the steps of Jesus led upward.



My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead.

Paul gets off to a bad start in his defense. When he mentions living in good conscience, the High Priest orders him to be slapped. Things are not going well.

Paul realizes he must do something drastic to save himself. His strategy?

Divide and conquer.

He quickly sizes up his jury. They are two divergent groups, Sadducees and Pharisees - The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.

Paul sides with the truth and proclaims it. After all, this is what he has been preaching about Jesus all along. There is a resurrection!

The result?

The council immediately devolved into contentious debate among themselves. Pharisees siding with Paul and Sadducees arguing vigorously against him!

The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks.

Who can fault Paul for this shrewd ploy? He has been wise in his tactic and done no harm. He lives to teach another day and the Lord approves.

The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, "Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome."