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Acts 13-28 Chapter Summaries

Introduction and Timeline

From Acts 16 forward, Luke's account focuses exclusively on the ministry of Paul, giving no more information about the activities of other Apostles. Acts 16-20 contains a record of Paul's second and third missions. Being led by the Spirit, Paul journeyed for the first time into what we know today as Europe, where he found many individuals prepared to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. He established churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, and Corinth. Of particular prominence in these chapters is Paul's sermon on Mars Hill in Athens (see Acts 17). There Paul taught gospel truths that stood in contrast to the philosophies prevalent in Athens. In Ephesus, local merchants and worshippers of the goddess Diana, threatened by Paul's successful labors, created a citywide uproar against him (see Acts 19; 20:1). As Paul left Asia for Jerusalem near the completion of his third mission, he warned Ephesian Church leaders about impending dangers and apostasy (see Acts 20:29-30).

13: The Holy Spirit calls Barnabas and Saul (they are 'separated' to the Holy Spirit). Accompanied by John Mark, they minister in the cities of Seleucia, Salamis and Paphos. In Paphos, a sorcerer and false prophet called Bar-Jesus is rendered blind by Saul (aka Paul). John Mark departs home before Paul and Barnabas proceed to Perga, thence to Antioch, where Paul delivers a sermon in the synagogue. Paul gives a potted history of Israel, and stresses Jesus' Davidic lineage; he preaches the risen Christ, and alludes to psalm 2: you are my Son, today I have begotten you. When the Jews see the popularity of Paul's message, they become envious. Paul quotes Isaiah, saying that Christ is a light to the gentiles. The Jews expel Paul and Barnabas from the region, they shake the dust from their shoes, and come to Iconium.

14: There is a mixed reaction in Iconium, so Paul and Barnabas are forced to flee to Lystra and Derbe. In Lystra, Paul cures a lame man. Excited crowds declare that Paul and Barnabas are Greek gods visiting the earth. Jews from Iconium and Antioch follow Paul, and persecute him. Churches are established. They return to Antioch.

15: Jews from Judea teach that circumcision is necessary for Christians. Paul and Barnabas dispute this. A council in Jerusalem debates the issue, and letters are sent to the churches of Antioch, Syria and Cilicia, saying that circumcision is not necessary, but only abstinence from idolatry, blood, things strangled, and sexual immorality. Judas and Silas serve as visiting ministers in Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. Paul and Barnabas make plans to visit all the churches they have established, but they quarrel about whether to take John Mark with them, so in the end, Barnabas and John Mark go to Cyprus, while Paul takes Silas with him to Syria and Cilicia.

16: Paul comes to Derbe and Lystra. Paul circumcises Timothy, a Christian with a Jewish mother but a Greek father, so there would be less to hinder his ministry among the Jews. They travel through Phrygia and Galatia, but the Holy Spirit forbids them to travel to Asia. Paul has a night vision of a man inviting him to Macedonia. Paul and his team travel to Phillipi (the foremost city of Macedonia) and stay with a devout women called Lydia. A possessed slavegirl proclaims Paul and his team to be the servants of the Most High God. Paul casts the demon out. Paul and Silas are arrested, beaten, and imprisoned for delivering the slave-girl from her demonic possession. At night, the chains fall from them. The jailer is about to kill himself, thinking his prisoners have escaped, but Paul and Silas reveal themselves to him. The jailer and his family are then baptized. The next day, Paul and Silas are freed by magistrates. The magistrates are anxious when Paul reveals his Roman identity.

17: Paul converts Jews in Thessalonica. Some envious Jews instigate a riot. There is more evangelistic success in Berea. Jews from Thessalonica follow Paul to Berea and force him to depart, however. Paul preaches in the synagogues of Athens. Paul also preaches to Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. Paul mentions an altar in Athens to 'the unknown god', and preaches the god that he knows. The response is mixed.

18: Paul arrives in Corinth and stays with the tentmakers Aquila and Priscilla. Paul preaches to both Jews and Greeks. Paul receives encouragement in a vision to stay, and remains in Corinth for one and a half years. The Jews of Corinth attempt unsuccessfully to convict Paul before the civil authorities. Paul cuts his hair in order to make a Nazirite vow. Paul travels to Ephesus, Antioch, Galatia and Phrygia. Aquila and Priscilla instruct a fervent Jew called Apollos about Christ.

19: In Ephesus, Paul finds disciples of John the Baptist who have not yet received the Holy Spirit. When baptised in the name of Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes upon them and they prophesy. Paul has a mixed response in Ephesus. Paul performs miraculous healings. The seven sons of Sceva, Jewish exorcists, try to exorcise by the name of the Lord Jesus, but the evil spirits do not recognise them, and beat them. Many in Ephesus renounce occult objects. Demetrius, a maker of idols, opposes Paul because his business has suffered. A riot starts, which is finally calmed by a city clerk.

20: Paul travels through Greece and Macedonia to arrive at Troas. Paul raises Eutychus from the dead. Paul comes to Miletus and sends for the elders of the church in Ephesus to meet him there. Paul says he will face chains and tribulations in Jerusalem, but the prospect of testifying to the gospel fills him with joy. Paul warns against the savage wolves who will preach perverse things. Paul tearfully departs Ephesus.

21: Paul sails to Syria, and is warned by disciples in Tyre not to go to Jerusalem. In Caesarea, the prophet Agabus binds his hands and feet with Paul's belt and tells him the Jews in Jerusalem will bind Paul in the same way. Paul says he is willing to die for the Lord Jesus. Paul goes to Jerusalem, and as a show of goodwill to the Jewish community there, sponsors four Jews who are taking the Nazirite vow. Jews from Asia stir a mob against Paul. Roman soldiers rescue Paul, who asks to be allowed to speak to the crowd. Paul addresses the crowd in Hebrew.

22: Paul's sermon; he delivers an autobiography, telling of his persecution of Christians and subsequent conversion. The crowd riots in response to Paul's message. The commander orders that Paul be interrogated under scourging, but revokes the order when Paul reveals his Roman citizenship. The Roman commander arranges a hearing of the charges against Paul before the Sanhedrin.

23: Paul rebukes the high priest for ordering him to be struck on the mouth. The Sanhedrin's reaction to Paul is split between Pharisees (who do believe in the resurrection of the dead) and the Saducees (who do not). Paul is rescued by the Roman commander. Paul is told in a dream that he will go to Rome and testify there. Forty Jews vow not to eat or drink until they have set an ambush to kill Paul. Paul's nephew learns of the plot, and Paul is warned. Paul escapes to Caesarea, with a full military escort and a letter referring his case to the provincial governor. The letter says that Paul is not worthy of death. Paul awaits trial in Caesarea.

24: Ananias the high priest and an orator named Tertullus give evidence against Paul. Paul is accused of profaning the temple. Paul declares that there are no witnesses to back up such an accusation in all his frequent appearances at the temple. Felix (the governor of Judea) defers a decision, later taking his Jewish wife Drusilla to hear Paul speak of Christ. Felix hopes that Paul will bribe him to be released.

25: When Felix is replaced by festus, Paul's Jewish accusers decide to re-try the case against Paul. Paul appeals to Caesar. Festus explains the case involving Paul to the visiting King Agrippa. The trial begins, and Festus makes an opening speech explaining the situation of the Jews desiring his death and Festus seeing nothing to warrant that.

26: Paul gives an autobiographical speech. Against his Jewish accusers, Paul stresses that Moses and the prophets predicted the coming of Christ. Paul dismisses Festus' claim that he is mad. Agrippa says he is almost tempted to become a Christian, and comments that Paul would have been set free had he not appealed to Caesar.

27: Paul is taken by ship to the island of Crete. The decision is made to sail on, instead of wintering at the city of Fair Havens on the island of Crete. A good start is made from Crete, but the ship quickly encounters great difficulty in a storm. Paul reveals to the crew that they will not perish, because an angel appeared to him and told him it was God's intention that he appear before Caesar. On the fourteenth night of the storm, Paul ministers to the passengers and crew. The ship runs aground and all are safe, in fulfillment of God's promise through Paul. The centurion, wanting to save Paul, prevents the soldiers killing prisoners to stop them escaping.

28: Paul arrives on Malta. When he is bitten by a viper, the islanders think it is divine justice for a crime he has evaded punishment for, but when he appears unharmed, they take him for a god. Paul heals the father of Publius, a famous citizen, and many others. Paul finally arrives at Rome. Paul meets the Jewish leaders, and again stresses that Moses and the prophets prophesied the coming of Christ. Paul quotes Isaiah's 'hearing you will hear, and not understand'. The Jews dispute amongst themselves. Paul spends two years in rented accommodation in Rome before his trial in Caesar's court, freely preaching the gospel.