This chapter deals with the ascension of Jesus to heaven as witnessed by his apostles. Shortly after the ascension, the eleven apostles set forth to Jerusalem where they discussed the need to replace Judas. They proposed Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and a man named Matthias. They gave lots to them and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he became the replacement for Judas.
The coming of the Holy Spirit appears in the form of tongues of fire and descends on thousands of Jews, and as a result, they begin to speak in their native tongues. Paul gives a sermon to repent, and those who follow his message are baptized and added to the church. As these new Christians devote themselves to the teachings of the apostles, the Lord would also guarantee their salvation. On their way to the temple, Peter and John come upon a crippled beggar asking for alms.
They do not have silver to offer, but instead, they give this man the ability to walk again. The people are amazed and look at the miracle with ignorance. However, Peter preaches about the works of God and again, asks the people to repent and be saved. After healing the crippled man, Peter and John are arrested for teaching the people about the resurrection of Jesus. They are put on custody and presented before the leaders of Jerusalem. When asked by what power do they have the right to preach, they answer that it is in the name of Jesus Christ that all their work is based upon.
Seeing that Peter and John are being praised for what they had done, they are released because no form of punishment can be found. Ananias and Sapphira lie to Peter and to God as well about a piece of land that is being sold, and as a result, they fall to the ground and meet their death. The apostles, on the other hand, continue to preach, and once again, are brought before the Sanhedrin. From jail, they are released by an angel, and they continue to proclaim the message of the Lord, even after they have been flogged and told never to speak of Jesus again.
Stephen is chosen, along with six other men, to proclaim the message of God. The wisdom of Stephen is very much questioned by the people to the point where they would instigate someone to accuse him of blasphemy and provide false witnesses to give false testimonies. He is presented before the Sanhedrin, but all they see is this angel-faced man. Stephen delivers a rather forceful sermon , calling the members of the Sanhedrin “betrayers” and “murderers.” Enraged with Stephen’s words, they throw him out of the city and begin to stone him to death.
However, with the Holy Spirit still within him, he falls asleep even before feeling the pain of the stones being cast upon him. This chapter focuses on several incidents in the lives of the apostles. It shows Saul trying to destroy the church and imprisoning, even persecuting, Christians. Simon, the sorcerer, is saved from his divination acts. Philip baptizes an Ethiopian on the road to Gaza. Peter and John go to preach in Samaria.
Saul has a change of heart on his way to Damascus. He is blinded by a flash from heaven and is told by a voice (God) to stop persecuting Christians. In Damascus, he regains his sight and begins preaching. Many Jews conspire to kill him, but he is saved from their evil intentions when the disciples lower him in a basket through an opening on the wall. Cornelius sees a vision of an angel, delivering a message that his almsgiving has been honored and his prayers have been answered.
Meanwhile, Peter is ordered by God to slaughter and eat, telling him that nothing he created is considered profane. Cornelius and Peter meet in Caesarea, and Cornelius is baptized in the presence of the Holy Spirit. God appoints Peter to baptize with Holy Spirit just as John the Baptist baptized with water. Meanwhile, the persecuted Christians during the time of Saul are scattered throughout, and Barnabas is sent to gather them to bring to Antioch.
He then proceeds to tarsus in search of Saul. He finds him and brings him to Antioch where for a whole year, they meet with the church to preach the Good News. It is in Antioch that the disciples are first called Christians. Herod has been persecuting Christians for some time now, including James, the brother of John. At this point, he wants Peter arrested and executed before the people.
While in prison, the angel of the Lord comes to release him without the knowledge of the guards. He goes to the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark to proclaim that the Lord has released him. Upon hearing what has happened to Peter, Herod is enraged and orders the guards on duty to be executed. The Holy Spirit has chosen Paul and Barnabas to spread God’s ministry.
The first city is Cyprus where Paul passed judgment on Elymas, the sorcerer, and turns him blind for a while. In Antioch, Paul delivers a sermon in the synagogue where they are very much welcomed by the Gentiles, but not by the Jews who fabricate rumors about Paul and Barnabas. This does not stop them from proceeding to Iconium, still filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. At Iconium, a great deal of Jews and Greeks believe their word, but the cynical Jews try to poison the mind of some Gentiles. At Lystra, Paul heals a lame man, crippled from birth.
Upon seeing the miracle, the Greeks honor them to be gods in human form, but some Jews from Antioch raise insurrection among the crowd, and Paul is stoned and dragged from the city, assuming that he is dead. However, he is revived as the disciples gather round him. The trip back to Antioch, where Paul and Barnabas speak of their accomplishment, ends the first mission. The Holy Spirit directs the apostles not to accept the practice of circumcision as a requirement for salvation. However, James emphasizes that the Gentiles who turn to God should avoid unlawful marriages, idolatry, meat from strangled animals, and blood. In this chapter, Paul proceeds to Syria and is separated from Barnabas who travels to Cyprus.
In Lycaonia, Paul, Silas, and Timothy travel from city to city to preach, and day after day, the Church grows stronger in faith and increases in number. Following Lycaonia, they proceed to Asia Minor and into Europe, and in Philippi where the Roman Empire imprisons them. Paul states that he is a Roman citizen and they are released immediately. In Thessalonica, the gentiles receive Paul, but the Jews act hostile to the point where Jewish leaders charge Paul with treason. Under the possibility of severe punishment, Paul sails to Athens where some Athenians accept the Way, but there are not enough followers to establish a church.
After leaving Athens, Paul goes to the city of Corinth where he stays with the Jew, Aquila and his wife, Priscilla. Again, Paul encounters troubles during his preaching, including being accused of teaching about God contrary to the law. Although Corinth is known to be a vice-ridden city, Paul turns to the Gentiles, especially the poorer community and is rather successful in increasing the number of Christians. In Ephesus, Paul continues to preach in the synagogues, but later on turns to Gentiles for better cooperation. During his stay in Ephesus, Paul encounters Jewish exorcist and silversmiths who make miniature shrines of Artemis.
Paul, seeing the falseness in these acts, performs a real miracle by driving an evil spirit out of people. The people, realizing that Paul works on God’s behalf, begin to hold the name of Jesus Christ in great esteem. This chapter talks about the other journeys Paul has made: to Macedonia and Greece, return to Troas, and the journey to Miletus. While in Troas, Paul revives Eutychus, a man who, while listening to Paul’s stories, falls from the third story to the ground. All the while, he provides words of encouragement for the people to establish and keep their faith in God.
After he bids the people farewell, they weep at the thought that they would never see Paul again. The Holy Spirit has warned Paul not to go to Jerusalem, but he is determined and willing to die in the name of the Lord. In Jerusalem, he is accused of teaching against the beliefs and laws of the land, and a mob demand for him to be arrested. Paul asks for permission to speak to the people, and when given, he introduces himself to be Jewish and addresses the people in Hebrew.
Upon hearing the Hebrew words coming out of Paul’s mouth, the people become quiet and start paying attention to his words. He explains his change of heart on his way to Damascus and that he, himself, used to be a Christian persecutor. Despite this call for defense, Paul is imprisoned, but again, is released due to his Roman citizenship. The next day, he is brought before the Sanhedrin. Paul speaks forcefully against the Sanhedrin, causing uproar. Some Jews conspire to kill Paul, vowing never to eat or drink anything until he is dead.
The son of Paul’s sister hears the conspiracy and reports to Paul. Eventually, the vicious plan reaches the Sanhedrin, and in an effort to save Paul and give him a fair trial, he is transferred to Caesarea where he would await his trial. During the trial before Felix, the high priest Ananias testifies on Paul’s unlawful preaching. However, Felix, who is informed of the Way, postpones the trial. He gives orders for Paul to be kept in custody, but to let him have enough freedom. Also, his friends should not be stopped from attending to his needs.
While Paul is still in jail, Felix is succeeded by Festus. This time, Paul explains that he has not committed any crime against the Jews and that he wishes not to go to Jerusalem for future trial, but stand before Caesar instead. After days have passed, King Agrippa arrives in Caesarea, and Felix tells him about Paul’s case. Agrippa wishes to see the trial as well.
Felix states that he has seen not a single crime deserving death in Paul’s past deeds. In this chapter, King Agrippa hears Paul. Again, Paul tells them the story of his conversion. He points out that there is nothing wrong with obeying heavenly visions and that all his deeds are performed out of love for God. Furthermore, he emphasizes the suffering of the Messiah as being equal to his present suffering that he, too, must bear. Again, the authorities see no crime in Paul’s actions and believe that he could have been set free if he had appealed before Caesar.
During the sail to Italy, a storm rises and makes sailing rather difficult. The prisoners on the ship as well as the crew lose hope of surviving and refuse to eat. Paul urges them, telling them that God had appeared to him saying that all those on the voyage with him will be safe and saved. Upon reaching land, the ship ran aground and begins to collapse. The prisoners are ordered to swim to the shore or gather debris to stay afloat. In the end, all reach shore safely just as God had promised.
The island on which they land is called Malta. There, the natives show great hospitality, Paul returns the favor by healing Publius, the chief of the island. When the crew is once again ready to set sail, the natives bring them provisions. In Rome, Paul is allowed to live with a soldier. He calls the leaders of Jews residing in Rome and explains to them that he has done nothing wrong.
He remains in his lodgings for two years, accepting those who come to him as he continues to proclaim the Kingdom of God and the reign of Jesus Christ. Bibliography: roman catholic bible, king james version