New Testament Week 13: Acts 10:1–18:22

1) [SLIDE 1] Introduction. a) Last week we began our study of Acts by discussing how the gospel of Jesus Christ began to spread outward from Jerusalem. This is going to lead directly into our first section tonight: The taking of the gospel to the Gentiles. b) We also read how a zealous Jew named Saul was persecuting the Christians in and around Jerusalem, and how the Lord appeared to him in a vision, after which he became a powerful witness of the resurrection. This week we’ll see how his ministry spread Christianity throughout the Roman Empire. c) [SLIDE 2] Outline of tonight’s reading. 2) [SLIDE 3] 10:1–11:18. The revelation approving the taking of the gospel to the Gentiles (A.D. 37).1 a) As the message of the resurrected Christ went forth, it brought in many people, including Jews, Samaritans (8:5–25), and proselytes (Gentiles who had previously converted to Judaism—2:10; 6:5). i) It appears that even Gentiles who believed in the God of Israel were starting to believe and be baptized.2 b) 10:1–8. Cornelius the Roman centurion has a vision from God directing him to find the apostle Peter. i) A centurion was a noncommissioned officer in the Roman army or one of the auxiliary territorial armies, commanding a centuria of around 100 men. They would normally be rewarded with Roman citizenship after 25 years of service. ii) The description of him as “a devout man, and one that feared God” probably means that he belonged to the category called God-fearers: Gentiles who worshiped the God of Israel and in many cases kept the Law of Moses, but did not take the final step of circumcision and become a proselyte. iii) Certainly there were other God-fearers who could have been the subject of a revelation, so why was Cornelius chosen? The text doesn’t say, but it seems possible that the Lord wanted to send a message that the entire Roman Empire was now open for missionary work, and no one represents the Empire better than a centurion. c) 10:9–16. The revelation to Peter. i) It’s noontime, and Peter is praying on the roof of the home in Joppa3 where he’s staying.4 He sees a vision of a large sheet laid out with all types of animals, some of
The dates given in this lesson are estimates. Among these were possibly the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26–39), but also Gentiles from Cyprus and Cyrene (11:19–21; the context of this passage indicates that these conversions were taking place before Peter’s revelation in 10:9–16, or at least before it was known by the Christians in Antioch). 3 Peter had previously come to Joppa in Acts 9:36–43. He was preaching in the area of Lydda, and was summoned to Joppa to raise Tabitha from the dead. Afterward he stayed at the house of Simon the tanner, which is where the revelation in Acts 10 was received. 4 This was not an unusual thing to do. Palestinian homes to this day have flat roofs with railings where people can sit and enjoy the cool evening breeze.
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New Testament: Acts 10:1–18:22

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which are unclean according to the Law of Moses.5 A voice commands him to kill and eat, but Peter protests that he’s never eaten anything unclean.6 ii) The vision repeats three times—probably for emphasis7—and then Peter is left wondering what it could mean (10:17a). d) 10:17–43. Peter correctly interprets the dream. i) 10:17–24. Peter goes with Cornelius’ servant to Caesarea and meets with Cornelius and other Gentiles who had gathered with him. ii) This is an interesting statement: KJV Acts 10:28
Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.
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NRSV Acts 10:28
“You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.”
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(1) There is no commandment in the Law of Moses that prohibits Jews from associating with or being in the same room as Gentiles. This appears to be a later tradition that was built up to prevent Jews from doing something that might make them ceremoniously unclean (for example, they may accidentally eat something offered to them that had forbidden animal flesh).8 iii) 10:30–33. Cornelius tells Peter of the dream he had. iv) 10:34–43. Peter realizes the meaning of his dream and preaches Christ to Cornelius and his household: KJV Acts 10:34–35, 44–48
Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. *** 44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. 45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,
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NRSV Acts 10: 34–35, 44–48
Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” *** 44 While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word.
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The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles,
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for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said,
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See Leviticus 11. Peter seems to be unaware of the account in Mark’s gospel where Jesus declares all foods clean (Mark 7:14–23; verse 19b is obscure in the KJV—it’s better translated “Thus he declared all foods clean” [NRSV]). This passage in Mark is not found in Luke’s gospel. 7 Compare Moroni’s first visit to Joseph Smith, in which he appeared four times, each time repeating the same message (Joseph Smith—History 1:43–49). 8 This prohibition comes up in the gospels, for example in John 18:28. In Luke 7:6–7 the Roman centurion seems sensitive to the prohibition.
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New Testament: Acts 10:1–18:22
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Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.

“Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.

v) The coming of the Holy Ghost upon the Gentiles and the speaking in tongues recalls the events of the Day of Pentecost; this, then, becomes the “Gentile Pentecost,” where the stage is set for the gospel to go to all people. e) 11:1–18. Peter returns to Jerusalem, where he’s confronted by Jewish Christians about how he has been associating with Gentiles. He rehearses his vision and the conversion of Cornelius to them, concluding: KJV Acts 11:17–18
Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? 18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
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NRSV Acts 11:17–18
“If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” 18 When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”
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3) [SLIDE 4] 11:19–30. The mission to Antioch (A.D. 40). a) 11:19–21. Meanwhile the gospel is spreading rapidly throughout the region: i) Jewish Christians who have left Jerusalem in the wake of Stephen’s death are preaching the gospel to other Jews. ii) But other Christians from the island of Cyprus and the North African city of Cyrene have come to Antioch, the third-largest city in the Roman Empire, and are preaching to and converting Greek Gentiles. “The hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number became believers and turned to the Lord” (NRSV 11:21). b) 11:22–30. Barnabas is sent from Jerusalem to Antioch to see what was going on. When he sees the gospel moving in great power there, he fetches Saul from Tarsus, and the two of them spend a year teaching and building up the Church. i) 11:26b. It’s at this point that believers are first called “Christians.” c) 11:27–30. When a prophet named Agabus predicts a severe famine, the Christians in Antioch send aid to those in Jerusalem. 4) 12:1–24. Persecution intensifies (A.D. 42–43). a) 12:1–2. Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great and nephew of Herod Antipas (the Herod of Luke’s Gospel9), persecutes the Christians in Judea. He imprisons James, the apostle and brother of John, and has him put to death. b) 12:3–19. Herod has Peter arrested, and—possibly aware of his miraculous escape back in Acts 5—puts him under the guard of four squads of soldiers and bound with two chains. But Peter is freed once again by an angel.

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New Testament: Acts 10:1–18:22

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c) 12:20–23. Herod then dies a nasty death because he claims to be divine.10 5) 12:24–14:28. Paul’s first missionary journey (A.D. 46–48). a) [SLIDE 5] 13:1–3. The Holy Ghost reveals to leaders in Antioch that Barnabas and Saul should be set apart for missionary service. They lay their hands on them and send them off. Following the promptings of the Spirit, they travel to the island of Cyprus and the southern portion of Asia Minor, covering about 1,400 miles by sea and land. b) 13:5. The note that Barnabas and Saul “preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews” is important, because it becomes the “standard operating procedure” for Paul’s ministry: When he entered into a new town, he would first go to the Jewish synagogue and preach to the Jews, then, if they rejected his message, he’d turn to the Gentiles. c) 13:9. It’s during this missionary journey that Luke starts referring to Saul by his Greek name, Paul (παυλος / paulos). Why did he use this name? i) Many Hellenist Jews had Greek or Latin names that they used alongside their Hebrew names, so Paul’s change of name is appropriate as he starts interacting with Greeks. It made it easier for him to ministering among Gentiles and Hellenized Jews. d) 13:6–12. In Paphos, a city of Crete, Paul miraculously blinds the sorcerer and false prophet Bar-Jesus,11 and Sergius Paulus, the Roman proconsul (KJV “deputy of the country”), is converted to Christ. e) 13:13–50. Coming to the mainland of Asia Minor, Paul and his companions go inland to Antioch of Pisidia (this is a different city than the one in 13:1). Paul delivers his first recorded sermon in Acts (13:16–41), a sermon to the Jews in the synagogue about Israelite history leading to the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. But when the Jews see Paul preaching also the Gentiles, they become jealous and reject his message. Many Gentiles are baptized, but the Jews stir up the city officials and have Paul run out of town. i) 13:39. The idea that men and women are justified—declared “not guilty”—through Jesus Christ and not by the Law of Moses is a major theme of Paul’s, one that we’ll revisit when we examine his epistles. f) 13:51–14:5. The come to Iconium and have the same results: Many Jewish and Gentile converts, but unbelieving Jews turn the city officials against them. g) 14:6–20. In Lystra, Paul heals a man unable to walk. The crowds believe that they are gods—Barnabas is called Zeus (KJV uses the Roman “Jupiter”) and Paul is called Hermes (KJV “Mercurius”, or Mercury). They protest that they are mortals and preach the gospel to them, but Jews from Antioch and Iconium come to the city and turn it against them. h) 14:21–28. They return through the cities they had already visited, strengthening the new converts, and then sail to Antioch to report their success.

10 The Jewish historian Josephus has a similar account in which Herod was stricken by a fatal disease after flatterers addressed him as a god. He died after five days of pain, acknowledging the false acclamation and accepting his fate. This took place in A.D. 44. Antiquities of the Jews 19:8:2; http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/josephus/ant-19.htm 11 Bar-Jesus is the Greek version of Hebrew name “son of Joshua.” He was also known as Elymas (13:8).

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New Testament: Acts 10:1–18:22

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6) [SLIDE 6] 15:1–35. The Jerusalem Council decides how to deal with convert Gentiles (A.D. 49). a) The growth of the Church in Antioch and the success of Paul’s mission have raised fundamental questions that have to be resolved before things can proceed any further: i) Can Gentiles be allowed to join the Church directly, or do they have to first convert to Judaism and be circumcised (like the Jewish proselytes), and then become Christians? And once Gentiles are converted to Christ, do they have to live the dietary and other restrictions in the Law of Moses? ii) The answers to these questions seem obvious to us, almost two thousand years later, but they were far from obvious to the Christians at the time. Up to this point, virtually all Christians were Jews. Jesus himself was a Jew who practiced the Law of Moses, and was accepted as the Jewish Messiah and the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy and scripture. Christianity was not yet a distinct religion from Judaism, but was seen (and continued to be seen for several more decades,) as a Jewish sect. b) 15:1–4. So it’s under this presupposition that Jewish Christians came to Antioch and began teaching that the Gentile converts had to be circumcised to be considered authentic Christians. Paul and Barnabas debated with them over the matter, and eventually the two were appointed to take the matter to the apostles in Jerusalem.12 c) 15:5–11. The apostles discuss the matter, and Peter gives a stirring appeal not to place the Gentile converts under a “yoke” (15:10). d) 15:12–21. James, the brother Jesus and leader of the Church in Jerusalem,13 gives a passionate speech in which he quotes from the Jewish scripture14 and asks that the Gentiles not be forced to submit to circumcision, but that they abstain from foods offered to idols, and from fornication, and from eating animals that have been strangled, or eating blood. i) Why these restrictions? Probably because the prohibition against blood was given to Noah (Genesis 9:4–6), and therefore applies to all people, and the other items are listed as restrictions that Gentiles who live among Jews should follow (Leviticus 17– 18). In other words, it’s a compromise—“we won’t require them to be circumcised, as long as they respect Jewish custom.” e) 15:22–35. The apostles accept James’ counsel, draft a letter laying down their decision, and send it to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. i) 15:31. When the Gentile converts heard the letter read, (unsurprisingly) “they rejoiced at the exhortation” (NRSV). 7) [SLIDE 7] 15:36–18:22. Paul’s second missionary journey (A.D. 49–52). a) 15:36–41. Paul and Barnabas decide to revisit the converts they had made in Asia Minor. Immediately there is a disagreement: Barnabas wants to take John Mark with them, but Paul doesn’t want John Mark to go because had deserted them during their first
Paul gives his recount of the matter in Galatians 2. Just as there are differences between Acts 9 and Galatians 1 over Paul’s post-conversion activities, there are differences between Acts 15 and Galatians 2 over who said what at the Jerusalem Council. We’ll cover these differences more in lesson 22. 13 This is (obviously) not James the apostle, the brother John, who was martyred back in Acts 12:2. This James was the leader (some call him “bishop”) of the Christians in Jerusalem, and is traditionally considered to the author of the Epistle of James. 14 Acts 15:16–17 = Amos 9:11–12; Jeremiah 12:15; Isaiah 45:21. © 2011, Mike Parker http://bit.ly/ldsarc For personal use only. Not a Church publication.
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New Testament: Acts 10:1–18:22

Week 13, Page 6

missionary journey.15 So Barnabas takes John Mark and sails to Cyprus, while Paul chooses Silas, one of the leaders of the church in Antioch,16 and goes by land to Cilicia. b) 16:1–5. In Lystra Paul meets a young man named Timothy, who is the son of a Greek Gentile and a Jewish Christian mother. Paul takes him as a missionary companion after circumcising him so that he can teach to the Jews they meet.17 c) 16:6–10. They travel across Asia Minor, reaching Troas, a city on the Aegean Sea. There Paul has a night vision where he sees a Macedonian man pleading for Paul to come help him. So, being led by the Lord, Paul and his companions cross over to Macedonia. i) 16:10. It’s at this point that the first of the “we-passages” begins. The use of “we” from here through 16:16 seems to indicate that the author of Acts (traditionally Luke) was part of Paul’s missionary party from Troas until Philippi. d) 16:11–40. The missionaries come to Philippi,18 where they convert a woman named Lydia. Paul casts a demon out of young slave girl who had brought much money to her masters by fortune-telling, and Paul and Silas are dragged before the authorities. They are stripped, beaten, and thrown into prison. An earthquake opens the prison doors, but Paul and Silas don’t try to escape, but instead use the moment to convert the jailer and his family. The city authorities try to have Paul released quietly, but he insists they make a public apology; they get one, and they continue their journey.19 e) 17:1–9. The come next to Thessalonica.20 Paul, “as was his custom” (NRSV 17:2) preached first in the synagogue, and many Jews and Gentiles convert to the gospel of Christ. Unbelieving Jews form a mob and drag Jason, a convert and resident of the city, before the authorities, falsely claiming that they are teaching the Jesus is the king and not the Emperor of Rome.21 f) 17:10–15. They have more success in Berea, until Jews from Thessalonica stir up trouble. Paul goes on ahead to Athens.22 i) 17:11. In Thessalonica Paul had used the Jewish scriptures (what we today call the Old Testament) to show that Jesus was the promised Messiah; in Berea the Jewish converts searched those same scriptures daily to see if “those things”—Paul’s teachings about Jesus—were true. g) 17:16–34. While waiting in Athens for Silas and Timothy, Paul is greatly upset because the entire city was full of idols and idol-worship. He preaches the gospel, and is eventually heard before the Areopagus, the ruling council in philosophical and religious matters.23 He uses their sanctuary dedicated “to an unknown god” as the basis for a masterful sermon wherein he proclaims to them a single God whose offspring is all
See Acts 13:13. See Acts 15:22. 17 And today’s young men think it’s difficult to give up television and computers to serve a mission. 18 The saints in Philippi were the recipients of Paul’s later epistle to the Philippians. 19 The Philippian officials feared when they learned that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens (16:38). Citizenship was a highly prized status within the Roman Empire. It guaranteed certain rights not held by non-citizens, including the right to a fair trail, protection from flogging and other physical punishments, and the right to appeal one’s case to Caesar. The Philippians were (rightly) afraid that they had acted rashly against citizens of the Empire. This is the first recorded instance of Paul’s citizenship giving him special protection and allowing him to continue preaching the gospel. 20 The saints in Thessalonica were the recipients of Paul’s later epistles to the Thessalonians. 21 The reason the mob attacked Jason’s house was because Paul either lodged there, or worshiped with the saints there, or both. 22 Athens, named for the Greek goddess Athena, had been the western world’s center for art, philosophy, and political thought for hundreds of years. At this time (about A.D. 51) regional political power resided in Corinth, but Athens continued to flourish as a center of culture. Athens was home to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, and also to the Areopagus, the council responsible for educational, philosophical, religious, and legal matters in the city.
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© 2011, Mike Parker

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Hurricane West Stake Adult Religion Class

New Testament: Acts 10:1–18:22

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mankind, and who commands everyone to repent because he will judge the world by Jesus Christ, whom he raised from the dead. Most of the philosophers scoff at his message, but some believe and become Christians.24 i) 17:28–29: Note that the Greek word translated “offspring” is γενος (genos), from which we derive our English word “genus” (as in “species”). This same word is elsewhere translated “kindred,” “kind,” and “nation.” Paul here confirms the Greek poet Aratus’ philosophical statement that we are God’s offspring.25 (1) The brilliance of Paul’s teaching is that he doesn’t disparage the Athenians’ beliefs; rather, he finds the elements in them that are true and builds on them.26 h) 18:1–17. Paul leaves Athens for Corinth,27 the regional capital. He makes a living as a tentmaker while preaching in the synagogue there. i) When Silas and Timothy arrive he becomes wholly absorbed in the work, and when the Jews reject his message he turns to the Gentiles. The Lord tells him in a vision not to hold back, but to share the gospel, giving Paul a promise he will protect him. ii) Paul remains in Corinth for eighteen months, teaching and baptizing.28 iii) Jews at Corinth drag Paul before Gallio, the Roman proconsul of Greece. They accuse him of teaching things against the Law of Moses, but because their charge is one of doctrine, and not an actual crime, Gallio refuses to get involved.29 He suggests the Jews take care of it themselves, so they do—by publicly beating Sosthenes, the former president of the synagogue and a Christian convert. i) 18:18–22. Paul sails east to Ephesus, then from there to Caesarea. He goes to Jerusalem30 to greet the Church leaders, then returns to Antioch. i) 18:18. It’s unclear exactly what vow Paul had made that required him to shave his head. It’s possible that he had taken the vow of a Nazarite (Numbers 6:1–21) at the beginning of his mission, and, having concluded it, shaved his head; this would normally be done at the temple in Jerusalem (Numbers 6:13, 18), but some extenuating circumstance may be at work here.
The Areopagus traditionally met at Mars Hill, near the Acropolis. (Areo = Ares [Mars], the god of war; pagus = hill.) The phrase “Mars’ hill” in Acts 17:22 is simply the King James translators’ choice to render Areopagus as a location rather than a body of men. It’s likely that the council actually met at the marketplace at the foot of the hill or at the Royal Stoa. 24 The Athenian philosophers were Epicureans and Stoics. The Epicureans were followers of the philosophy of Epicurus, who founded a school in Athens about 300 B.C. They saw the aim of life as pleasure, and desired the avoidance of trouble and freedom from annoyances. They believed organized religion was evil, especially the belief that the gods punished evildoers in an afterlife, and therefore were unable to accept Paul’s teaching about the resurrection. The Stoics were followers of the philosophy founded by Zeno (342–270 B.C.). They rejected the Epicurean ideal of pleasure, stressing virtue instead. They emphasized responsibility for voluntary actions and believed risks were worth taking, but thought the actual attainment of virtue was difficult. They also believed in divine providence. 25 “From Zeus let us begin; him do we mortals never leave unnamed; full of Zeus are all the streets and all the marketplaces of men; full is the sea and the havens thereof; always we all have need of Zeus. For we are also his offspring; and he in his kindness unto men giveth favourable signs and wakeneth the people to work, reminding them of livelihood.” Aratus, Phaenomena 5 (emphasis added). 26 This is similar to Ammon’s dialogue with the Lamanite king, in which he affirms that the “Great Spirit” in which the king believes is the God whom Ammon is preaching (Alma 18:24–35). 27 The saints in Corinth were the recipients of Paul’s later epistles to the Corinthians. 28 It was during Paul’s stay in Corinth that he wrote his first epistle to the Thessalonians, and possibly the second epistle also. In 1 Thessalonians 3:1–8 Paul mentions that Timothy has recently returned from Thessalonica with good news of the saints’ enduring faith and love. 29 The Romans were typically unwilling to get involved in internal religious affairs, hence Gallio’s refusal to charge Paul or stop the beating of Sosthenes. This is similar to the way Pilate dealt with Jesus. 30 The expression “gone up” (18:22) refers almost exclusively to the direction of Jerusalem, while the corresponding “went down” refers to directions away from Jerusalem. Both expressions are based on a Hebrew idiom. Paul was trying to honor a vow, which also implies a visit to Jerusalem. © 2011, Mike Parker http://bit.ly/ldsarc For personal use only. Not a Church publication.
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New Testament: Acts 10:1–18:22

Week 13, Page 8

ii) 18:21. The feast referred to in 18:21 is also not identified. Most New Testament manuscripts omit the phrase “I must by all means keep this feast that cometh in Jerusalem,” so it may be an insertion by a later scribe. j) Paul’s second mission is critical to the story of Acts because it shows how Christianity was spread outside of the southeastern Mediterranean and started to become a religion that was not just a Jewish sect, but a world religion in its own right. 8) [SLIDE 7] Next week we’ll conclude our study of Acts by discussing Paul’s third missionary journey, his arrest in Jerusalem, his trials, and his voyage to Rome. a) Reading: Acts 18:23–28:31.

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