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Acts of the Apostles

The opening makes it clear that this book is a continuation from the Gospel of Luke. There is so much emphasis in this book on the influence of the Holy Spirit on the early church that the book has been nick-named Acts of the Holy Spirit by some.[1 p.393]

It has been suggested that Acts seeks to make Christianity look harmless to the Roman authorities. It emphasizes occasions when Christians obey the law, use the legal process appropriately, and are protected from lawless rioters by law enforcement agencies.



See Luke 24:52–53 concerning the post-resurrection sequence of events.


It is amazing that after being with Jesus in his ministry, then witnessing his death and resurrection, the disciples are still focussed on military victory for Israel over her enemies. Jesus gently points them toward a different kind of power and a larger vision (verse 8) which he had previously explained in Luke 17:21.


This is a promise of Acts 2, fulfilling the Great Commandment in Matthew 28:19. See comment on Acts 2:5. Jesus's statement is interesting because he had already breathed on them and said "receive the Holy Spirit" (John 20:22) yet they were still without power. Acts 2 turned the Disciples into Apostles.


cf. Luke 24:51. The fact that the disciples saw Jesus go was a sign that they would inherit his spirit and take over the work, as Elisha had done (2 Kings 2:9–11); cf. John 20:21. Also Jesus "going away" was like a Jewish bridegroom leaving his betrothed to prepare a place for her, before returning for the wedding proper.

Since Jesus was seen to ascend into heaven we know that he is not rotting in some grave in Israel (Acts 2:27) but sitting at the right hand of God, with our names in his "book of life", and with all God's resources at his disposal. He is no longer limited to being in one place at once, but is equally available to everyone. When Satan accuses us of sin, Jesus justifies us before the Father.


The church's mission is not to stand looking into the sky waiting for Jesus's return but to get on with continuing his work on earth.


The Twelve: see 12. Philip: see Appendix 1. Comparison with Mark 3:16–19 shows that two disciples, Thaddaeus and Judas Iscariot, are missing. Judas was probably already dead, but it is not clear why Thaddaeus was absent. Perhaps list is included because it shows that all of the Apostles of the New Testament (except of course the "untimely born" Paul) were present. See also comment on Mark 3:18.


The disciples set us an excellent example of what to do when faced with an overwhelming task: get together in familiar surroundings and pray continually. And just as Ezekiel was commanded to prophesy but could no do so in his own strength (Ezekiel 36:1f) but was promised the Holy Spirit in Ezekiel 36:26–27 and then saw results only when he spoke out in faith (Ezekiel 37—​the valley of dry bones comes to life) so also the prayers in Acts 1 lead to the beginning of church growth in Acts 2.

The text implies that only one room was available and men and women prayed together in it. Their circumstances led naturally to a significant departure from Synagogue tradition, which accommodated men and women in different sections of the building.


cf.) a different account of Judas's death in Matthew 27:3–8. I speculate that the authorities bought the field with the silver coins, Judas went there and hanged himself, and then wild animals tore his dead body leading to the version quoted by St Peter here.


The first quotation is from Psalm 69:25 and the second quotation is from Psalm 109:8.


The first quotation is from Psalm 69:25. It has been claimed that the use of lots (some random process like dice) here is not a precedent for us; the full provision of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 should make God's direct guidance available to us.


There is interesting significance in the details of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Jews celebrate the giving of the Law at Passover. Rabbinical tradition has it that Moses spoke the Law in seventy languages, implying that it applies to all nations. Likewise the apostles on the Day of Pentecost spoke in the tongues of all their hearers.

But why was it necessary for Jesus to go to the Father before the Holy Spirit could come to us? It seems that in old testament times the Holy Spirit acted selectively through a few people. During Christ's ministry he acted through Jesus and indirectly through his disciples when he sent them on missions. Christians are now (collectively) Jesus's body, and (collectively) have his Holy Spirit as our seal of redemption (2 Corinthians 1:22).

There is interesting significance in the details of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Jews celebrate the giving of the See Luke 24:52–53 concerning the post-resurrection sequence of events.


Most of our church festivals come from the writings of Luke. "Pentecost" is from the Greek word for fiftieth. Seven weeks after the Passover (which we would reckon as 49 days, plus one day due to Jewish "inclusive" counting, making fifty days) was the Feast of [seven] Weeks Shavuot or Shevnoth. It was established in Leviticus 23:10f as an agricultural festival when the first-fruits (Exodus 34:22–26) of the grain harvest was offered to God. Deuteronomy 16:9 indicates that the harvesting of the corn had actually started at Passover; presumably during the intervening seven weeks the grain was being threshed and dried. However, Pentecost had by the time of Jesus become a celebration of the giving of the Law (a surprising tradition, given that the event actually took place 3 months after the first Passover according to Exodus 19:1).

In mentioning Pentecost Luke seems to be drawing two parallels: firstly between the start of the annual grain harvest and the start of the growth of the church (the harvest of souls—​Matthew 9:37 and Luke 10:2), and secondly between the giving of the Law which established the Old Covenant and the Holy Spirit empowering the Apostles to invite everybody into the New Covenant.

It is not clear how many people spoke in tongues. "They" might mean the 120 believers (Acts 1:15) or the eleven (Acts 2:14). The miracle makes it clear that all peoples and languages should hear the Gospel and be welcomed into the church.

The events of Acts 2 took place ten days after the Ascension, which in turn was forty days after Passover. See Luke 24:52–53 concerning the post-resurrection sequence of events.


A key word here is "cloven" (verse 3, KJV) or "divided" in newer translations. For some reason, unclear to me, the Holy Spirit could not come powerfuly on all people until Jesus was fully glorified. But once that was complete, the action of the Holy Spirit occurred in several places at once.

The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus after his baptism (Luke 3:22), and empowered him for his ministry; likewise the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples in John 20:22 but only baptised them with power after Jesus's death and ascension, empowering the church for its ministry (Luke 24:39). Acts 1:8, when this outpouring was promised, indicates that this event turned the Disciples into Apostles—​meaning Sent Ones.

The disciples might have remembered that the combination of wind and fire was associated in Psalm 50:3 with the coming of God, as well as Exodus 2:3 which was the setting for the call of Moses. See also Numbers 9:15.


cf. Matthew 3:11.

Hebrews 1:7 draws attention to Psalm 104:4 which says that winds are his messengers and his angels (servants in some translations) are tongues of fire. Then Hebrews 1:14 says that angels are spirits that minister to God's people. Thus the observation of the sound of wind and sight of flames recalls Psalm 29, especially :7, and Psalm 104:4, and Hebrews reinforces the suggestion that not only the Son and the Holy Spirit but also angels were active at the birth of the church. Fire from heaven was also Jeremiah's perception of his appointment as God's spokesman (Lamentations 1:13); Pope Innocent III used the similarity of these passages to support his argument for the use of red vestments at Pentecost.

The burning bush in Exodus 3:1–6 drew attention to the fact that something special was happening. Later in Exodus 19:16 a trumpet blast, thunder and lightning did the same, and in Acts 2:2–3 the sound of wind and tongues of fire again drew attention to what God was doing. In Exodus 3 Moses was warned not to approach closely; in Exodus 19 Moses could approach but the people could not; and in Acts it all happened in the same room!

This event was apparently prophesied in Luke 3:16.

Dr Ian Ramsey, when he was Bishop of Durham, gave a sermon on Whitsunday 1971 in which he pointed out that in verse 1 the Apostles were all together in one place with one accord, but the action of the Holy Spirit was to increase their diversity, cf. 1 Corinthians 12:11. Soon they were setting off in different directions on missions throughout the known world. It seems therefore that the sort of Christian unity that the Holy Spirit wants is not the sort of cosy huddle that we might expect.


The apostles had been commanded to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19, Acts 1:8) and God brought representatives of the nations to them in Jerusalem. This parallels the experience of Noah, who was commanded to save examples of all types of creature, which God brought to him (Genesis 6:19–20).


At least twelve languages are listed, so perhaps at least twelve people spoke in strange tongues. Acts 1:14 and Acts 2:1 indicate that others including Mary the mother of Jesus were there too. The proliferation of languages led to understanding, a reversal of the curse following the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:7) where proliferation of languages led to confusion. This fits in with Paul's insistence that tongues have no place in public worship without a translation (1 Corinthians 14:26–28).

The Rabbis had developed an idea that the Law was given in 70 languages, representing all 70 nations in their numerology. The "Lord of Hosts" was in their mind attended by a host of 70 lesser gods, each of whom ruled a nation, and who sometimes rebelled against God's rule. An example of the use of this imagery appears in Daniel 10:20–21 where the Prince of Israel is named Michael (meaning "presence of God"—​a privilege unique to Israel) and he is at war with princes of other nations.

The twelve regions whose languages were being spoken covered practically the entire known world. Curiously the regions align with an ancient numerology taken up by the Greeks, which regarded the world as divided into twelve regions, each ruled by one of the twelve constellations of the zodiac.


cf. 1 Samuel 1:14.


The mention of eleven is odd, because the twelfth place was filled in Acts 1:26.


Peter quotes Joel 2:28–23. David Winter suggests that Jesus's death and resurrection have somehow set the Holy Spirit "free to work anywhere and everywhere".[13]


Peter is addressing his words to Jews, not Gentiles. It was not until Acts 10 that he recognised the place of the gentiles in God's kingdom.


This verse quotes Psalm 16:8–9.


Peter has apparently been considering that the ascension signified that Jesus is not decaying, fulfilling Psalm 16:10–11. See comment on Luke 24:25–27.


See comment on Luke 20:39–44.


The church today is not known for miracles, and the question is asked, why not, in that God's power is unabated? This verse tells us that the most dramatic miracles of the early church were done by the apostles who had walked with Jesus for several years, and whom Jesus had trained and authorised (Matthew 10:5f). For an example of how God did miracles through more ordinary Christians, see 9:17.


See comment on Acts 4:32–35.

Common ownership of goods was not a new idea. Josephus wrote concerning the Jewish War:

These men are despisers of riches, and so very communicative as raises our admiration. Nor is any one to be found among them who hath more tnan another; for it is a law among them, that those who come to them must let what they have be common to the whole order — insomuch, that among them there is no appearance of poverty or excess of riches, but every one's possessions are intermingled with each other's possessions: and so there is, as it were, a patrimony among all the brethren.[18 p.187 citing Josephus Jewish War 2.122]


Peter was bold in tackling the man's lameness, and then bold in answering the questions of the crowd (verse 12f and later the same council that condemned Jesus (chapter 4). This boldness shows the effect of meeting the risen Jesus.

There was a similar healing miracle in Acts 9:33–34.


This was the first time that Peter and some others (we are not told how many) were arrested. They were released in 4:23, arrested again in 5:17–18, released by an angel in 5:19, only to be arrested a third time in 5:26, and released again in 5:40. The Sadducees (who did not believe in resurrection) played a key role in the arrests because the Apostles were preaching that a resurrection had happened in their midst. Their demand for violence was opposed in 5:34 by a leading Pharisee, Gamaliel, illustrating the tension between the Sadducees and Pharisees.


In verse 11 Peter quotes Jesus in Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10, and Luke 20:17. Jesus was in turn quoting Psalm 118:22 and Isaiah 8:14–15. Peter draws attention to the link between Jesus's words and salvation in Psalm 118:12 and perhaps 22. So the message is that salvation was available but many rejected it.


cf. Daniel 6:7f, Acts 5:29, 1 Peter 2:13. The disciples are putting into practice Matthew 22:17 "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's" which implies not giving to Caesar what Caesar asks for but is outside his authority.


The first release; see comment on 4:1–3.


The quotation is from Psalm 2:1–2.


This verse illustrates what Dietrich Bonhoeffer says in the book Ethics: "The church is a community with a mandate for proclamation. It must adapt its organisation for the effective proclamation of Christ. It only becomes the focus of God's action in the world when it offers itself as his instrument".[9]

God got his people moving literally, perhaps as a tangible sign of what he was doing unseen.


The Christians did not sell absolutely all their possessions on joining the church, as might be inferred from Acts 2:44–45, but regarded them as available for sale should any need arise. Barnabas donated the price of a field that he had owned for some time, because he now saw a need for the money that its sale would raise.


This incident shows the severe consequences when we fail to give God the glory—​cf. Moses striking the rock (Numbers 20:1–13) and Achan's sin (Joshua 7). If we fail to acknowledge God's work the Spirit is quenched, and we fail to witness as we should.

This could be seen as a step towards the "unforgivable sin" of ascribing God's power to Satan (Matthew 12:31). Compare with 1 John 5:16 (but Deuteronomy 29:19–20 is probably something different).

But the Old Testament should teach us that we get more than one chance; the Jews were exiled first to Egypt, and brought back again, and then to Babylon, and brought back again, before the covenants were superseded by the coming of Jesus Christ.


Faith in Peter's shadow sounds like superstition but Luke does not denounce it; instead he uses the word "overshadow" as he did in Luke 1:35 [11].


The second arrest; see comment on 4:1–3.


The second release; see comment on 4:1–3.


The third arrest; see comment on 4:1–3.


See Acts 4:18–20. Endurance is one of three responses to persecution that can be considered biblical; the other two are to go somewhere else (Matthew 10:14) and to use the law to protect us (Acts 25:11). See also 2 Timothy 3:12 and 1 Peter 4:13–19, and comment on Matthew 5:10.


Tree: see Deuteronomy 21:22–23.


Gamaliel is also named in 22:3 where his fame lends credibility to Paul's defence.


Tax: cf. Luke 2:2[17 p.1035].


The third release; see comment on 4:1–3.


The fact that the apostles did not think it right for them to be involved in some ministries that threatened to distract them from their core ministry is an example of Jesus's teaching about pruning (John 15:2) put into practice. There was nothing wrong with looking after widows, but it was not what the apostles were supposed to be concentrating on.


Philip: see Appendix 1. The note about Nicolas (or Nicolaus) being a proselyte, that is, a person born as a gentile, indicates that part of the solution to the problem in verse 1 was the appointment of a mixed group containing Christians from both Hebrew and Greek backgrounds.


This fulfilled Luke 21:12–19.


Charged with perverting Moses (Acts 6:14), Stephen reminded his accusers that there were much more fundamental aspects to their relationship with God, established long before Moses' time. He focusses on courageous actions prompted by faith.


Stephen continued by pointing out that their history was full of jealousy and violence, which recurred leading to the death of Jesus, and now threatened Stephen.


Comparison of Genesis 50:13 and Joshua 24:32 shows uncertainty about where Joseph was re-buried in Israel; perhaps his bones were moved more than once.


Since the Jews made much of Moses, Stephen discusses him at length, showing firstly that the Hebrews disobeyed him, and secondly that Moses himself pointed forward to "another" who Stephen identifies as Jesus.


See Exodus 2.


This appears to refer to the giving of the Law, cf. Jude 1:9.


Stephen's last words follow the example of Jesus; it is unusual that they are addressed to Jesus too. Perhaps Stephen saw that it was Jesus they were persecuting, cf. Acts 9:5.


The words Stephen used are ones that only a person who is being sanctified by the work of the Holy Spirit could honestly say; cf. Luke 23:34, 2 Timothy 4:16.


cf. Psalm 122:5, Matthew 19:28. The Twelve will judge the tribes of Israel; they will do it in Jerusalem; so it is fitting that they stayed there when all other Christians fled.


Philip: see Appendix 1.


See comment on Genesis 6:9.


Philip: see Appendix 1.


This passage has been regarded since quite ancient times as the prototype for Confirmation, and the fact that the it was the Apostles who were sent to lay their hands on the new believers is used to support the idea that a Bishop should officiate at Confirmation, because the Bishop's role is a continuation of that of the Apostles.

The Gospel brought peace between former enemies, Jews and Samaritans, which had been evident not long before on both sides in Luke 9:52–54.


Philip: see Appendix 1.


See comment on Luke 24:25–27.


See comment on Isaiah 53:7. Philip interpreted the passage as being a prophecy about Jesus.


This verse is omitted by many modern translations; see Wikipedia.


Paul's own acccount of his conversion is given in Acts 22:4–16 and Acts 26:9–18 and he reflects on it in Galatians 1:11–24.

Saul's mission to Damascus indicated that he was a keen and mobile zealot; God turned these strengths to serve the Christian Gospel.


This was the first of Paul's three visions of Jesus, the others being recorded in Acts 22:17f and Acts 23:11. The reactions of Saul and his companions are very similar to those when Daniel saw a vision in Daniel 10:5–6.


Paul the highly educated Pharisee was completely out of his depth. Recognition of who Jesus is would lead him to a very different life, cf. Peter in Matthew 16:16.


Unable to see: cf. Psalm 69:22–23.


God gave Ananias the information that he needed to complete the task but did not tell him that Saul had changed or that he would be safe in carrying out the task.


The apostles did many amazing miracles, as recorded in 2:43, but this is an example of a more ordinary Christian undertaking prayer ministry, an example that can be followed today.


The period of "several days" is described in Galatians 1:18.


There was a similar healing miracle in Acts 3.


Peter copied the way Jesus healed in Matthew 9:18, Mark 7:32f. Perhaps he was prompted by the similarity between the lady's name Tabitha and the Talitha who Jesus healed in Mark 5:41.


Peter copied what Jesus did in Mark 5:40–41.


The fact that Peter was the guest of Simon the Tanner indicates that he was already letting go of his Jewish scruples before receiving the vision of the sheet containing unclean animals; tanners were ruled continuously unclean and therefore despised by the Rabbis, because they constantly handled the skins of dead animals.


See Acts 9:43.

10:9 f

Given that Peter was staying with Simon the Tanner who handled unclean animals (Acts 9:43), the dream about unclean animals seems particularly apt. Peter's vision seems to me to be similar to Jacob's dream at Peniel (Genesis 28:10f) because both had their eyes opened to see the surprising things that God was doing around them.

Cornelius's messengers arrived at around noon. The fact that they were travelling in the heat of the day is a sign that their journey was regarded as urgent.

Simon was given a Greek name in Matthew 16:18.


The vision urged Peter to fulfil the international scope of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19.


cf. Matthew 15:27 concerning the availability of God's grace to gentiles.


"God-fearers" were gentiles who associated themselves with a synagogue but did not fully adopt the Law of Moses.[2 p.3]


Peter must have reflected from time to time on what Jesus meant by John 21:18. He might have been asked himself whether going to Caesarea with the strangers in order to meet gentiles was the fulfilment. But in fact there was no escaping the fact that it meant the awful prospect of crucifixion.


Tree: see Deuteronomy 21:22–23.


See comment on Luke 24:31.


The huge size and importance of Antioch made what happened there influential.


This was the first gift to the needy church in Jerusalem. It is intriguing that Barnabas is listed before Saul; perhaps it reflects the fact that he initiated their partnership.


"King Herod" refers to Herod Agrippa 1 of Palestine, grandson of Herod the Great who murdered the babies at Bethlehem.


cf. Luke 21:12–19.


Like his predecessors, Herod Agrippa 1 had a problem ruling the Jews because they hated him as a gentile and a collaborator with the Romans. He desperately needed to improve his relationship with his subjects. During the Feast of Unleavened Bread the population of Jerusalem would be increased by Jews coming to the Passover; this was the ideal time for a public-relations exercise[14 p.211].

The significance of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (which culminated at the Passover Meal) seems to be God's joke; not only does it parallel the timing of the arrest of Jesus, but the feast itself was about commemorating God's ability to set his people free from bondage (Exodus 12:15–17). The Jews were commanded to commemorate the Exodus, and similarly Jesus commanded us in Luke 22:19 to commemorate our rescue from sin and destruction.


After Peter's escape from prison in Acts 5, and Jesus's resurrection from a guarded tomb, everything possible was done to avoid an embarrassing recurrence. Verses 6 and 10 suggest that the squads of four divided themselves into two men manacled to Peter and one man on each of the inner and outer doors.


Peter would have been conscious of Jesus's words to him at his "restoration" (see John 21:18–19). Probably the church was praying late into the night, because the condemned man had got to sleep while they were still praying.


The rescue was at the last minute as usual, when human efforts have proved useless, as in Matthew 14:30. Peter presents a model of trust because despite his desperate situation he had sufficient peace to be asleep.

The rescue of Peter has similarities with the rescue of all of us from the consequences of our sins, through Jesus's sacrifice at a Passover time a few years before the events described in this passage. But it might also represent other aspects of our lives where God wants to give us more freedom than we have at present, where we are constrained by sickness, poverty, relationships, memories, or reluctance to venture from the familiar into the new and unfamiliar.


With God all things are possible (Matthew 19:24), even a camel passing through the eye of a needle; Peter's hands passed through the manacles. Peter's liberation fulfilled part of Psalm 146:7.


Neither Peter nor the church believed the miracle that God was doing. Maybe God is doing such wonderful things among us (or will if we are courageous in witness and faithful in prayer) that we sometimes fail to take advantage of them through sheer disbelief of his power and love.


In the Bible, open doors are for going through—​see Appendix 2 Door. Peter went down seven steps on leaving the prison.[7] "A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes, does various unessential things, and is completely dependent on the fact that the door to freedom has to be opened from the outside is not a bad picture of why Jesus came".[3]


The embarrassing failure to let Peter in when he knocked is honestly recorded for us so that we may learn from it. Peter's experience was comparable to that in Revelation 3:20.


John Mark: see comment on the origin of Mark's Gospel.


James is probably mentioned separately because he was the leader of the church at this time.


It seems that Peter went into hiding at a secret address. He does not reappear until Acts 15:7.


James was probably the leader of the church at this time. Meanwhile, it seems that Herod Agrippa's plan to try and execute Peter publicly was sufficiently well-known that the failure to produce Peter embarrassed all concerned—​just what they had all been keen to avoid (12:3) to the extent that Herod could not remain in Jerusalem for the feast, but left town.


These verses, building on Peter's experience in chapter 10:9f, usher in a complete change of focus in the book. Peter fades into the background to be replaced by Saul (renamed Paul in verse 9) and the mission to the gentiles.


Saul is named Paul from here on, replacing the Hebrew form of his name with the Greek form for the mission to gentile areas. However, he generally went to the synagogue first on arriving in a new town, as in verse 14 for example.


Acts 15:38 shows that Paul saw John Mark's departure as desertion.


This has been described as "the only complete sermon of Paul that we have"[15] but surely it is only a brief summary.


See People in the Bible: David.


Tree: see Deuteronomy 21:22–23.


This verse quotes Psalm 2:7.


This verse quotes Psalm 16:10.


See Galatians and cf. Galatians 2:1–10. This incident demonstrates the principle that when a question arises as the Gospel encounters new situations, Christian leaders should meet and seek the mind of God about it. This puts into practice Jesus's comment about binding and loosing in Matthew 18:18.


Paul made other visits to Jerusalem in Acts 12:25 and Acts 21:17. cf. Galatians 2:1–10.


cf. Galatians 2:1–10.


This is the last recorded occasion (ignoring the introduction to 2 Peter) when St Peter was called Simon. Perhaps James the Just, half-brother of Jesus, had known Simon before Jesus surnamed him Peter.


cf. Galatians 2:1f.


cf. Galatians 2:9 & Galatians 2:11. Following the meeting with St Paul the leaders of the church in Jerusalem categorically denied that the false teachers had acted with their authority.


Gentile Christians are not under the Law. The Law was specifically addressed to those who had been rescued from Egypt, and any proselytes, and their offspring (Exodus 20:2). Nevertheless we can still learn from it—​see Appendix 2 Law. The ban on eating meat sacrificed to idols (as almost all meat was, before it appeared in the shops, in those days) over-ruled St Paul's flexibility in 1 Corinthians 8:8.


The statement that Paul and Silas were prophets indicates that not all Christians were.


This verse is omitted by many modern translations; see Wikipedia.


Barnabas thought John Mark should be given a second chance after leaving the mission in Acts 13:13, but Paul did not.


Paul made another visit to Galatia in Acts 18:23. cf. Galatians 1:2.


Troas is also known as Troy.


The fruits of the mission to Macedonia can be glimpsed in 1 Thessalonians 4:10.


The mission to Philippi was successful, as the letter to the Philippians bears out. However, Lydia is not mentioned in Paul's letter to the church at Philippi[16], and is only mentioned one more time in the Bible, in 16:40. Perhaps she returned to Thyatira, her home town. Thyatira is one of the Seven Churches that received letters in Revelation 2:18.


The early church was ground-breaking in the way it enabled women to hold responsible positions. Lydia was not unique in this; see also Joel "sons and daughters will prophesy"; Acts 21:9 the four daughters of Philip the evangelist'; Priscilla (Acts 18:26); Junia the Apostle (Romans 16:7); Phoebe and the lady deacons (Romans 16:1, 1 Timothy 3:11). The early church operated in a society that was divided by class, race, sex and age, and it broke down all these barriers. We have slid back!


Jesus also faced financially motivated opposition in Mark 16:16–17.

The slave girl's words fulfil Joel 2:29.


Psalm 107:16 was fulfilled.


The phrase "believe on" (also in Acts 19:4, Romans 4:24) raises the question of whether it means something different from "believe in" (Romans 10:14). Perhaps the Philippian jailer had already heard of Jesus and his crucifixion; he believed in Jesus as a historical figure, but had not come to rely on him.


Lydia: see comment on 16:11–14.


Tony Horsfall[10] points out that while Acts gives the impression that the mission to Thessalonica was brief, the two letters to the Thessalonians suggest a mission of several months.


The three main points Paul uses here are the same as the ones he uses in 1 Thessalonians 1:9f: turn from idols to the true God; Christ will return in judgment; and the resurrection proved this.[4 p.21]


Greek histories[5][6] show that in the sixth century before Christ the Athenians suffered a plague; their Oracle said that the city was under judgement for its war crimes, yet sacrifices to their gods did not alleviate the trouble. They sought the help of an eminent Cretan called Epimenides, who suggested that an unknown god might be displeased, so they sacrificed to the unknown god and the plague ended.


Aquila and Priscilla: see Appendix 1 People: Prisca.


See comment on Romans 11:1.


Crispus: see comment on verse 17. He is apparently mentioned also in 1 Corinthians 1:14.


Comparison with 1 Corinthians 1:1 suggests that Sosthenes of Corinth might have been sympathetic to Christianity. It is puzzling that this verse identifies him as chief ruler of the synagogue, while verse 8 gives Crispus that title.


Priscilla and Aquila: see Appendix 1 People: Prisca.


Paul had made an earlier visit to Galatia in Acts 16:6. cf. Galatians 1:2.


The account has counter-intuitive twists: Alexandria has connotations of learning but Apollos needed to be taught more accurately! cf. 1 Corinthians 1:26–28.[19]


Aquila and Priscilla: see Appendix 1 People: Prisca.


See comment on Acts 16:31.


Paul was in the lecture hall from the fifth to the tenth hour.[7]


Perhaps these were the "greater miracles" promised by Jesus in John 14:12.


The value of the scrolls equates to £2–3 million at 2000 C.E. prices.


Demetrius ran out into the street during this riot.[7]


Aristarchus: see Appendix 1: Aristarchus.


Aristarchus: see Appendix 1: Aristarchus.


This was the start of a journey to Jerusalem the features of which paralleled that of Jesus, though not in exactly the same sequence. It featured:


See comment on 20:13 regarding parallels with Jesus's experiences.


St Paul seems to be applying Ezekiel 33:1–9 to his own calling.


cf. Matthew 6:4. We should be willing to receive in order that others may have the blessing of giving to us.[8 p.17]


See comment on 20:13 regarding parallels with Jesus's experiences.


Philip: see Appendix 1.


See comment on 20:13 regarding parallels with Jesus's experiences.


Paul had made previous visits to Jerusalem in Acts 12:25 and Acts 15:4. cf. Galatians 2:1–10.


Gamaliel is also named in 5:34 where he opposes the argument of the Sadducees.


Paul's conversion is described in Acts 9:1–18 and a comparable account is given in 26:9–18.


This was the second of Paul's three visions of Jesus, the others being recorded in Acts 9:3f and Acts 23:11.


See comment on 20:13 regarding parallels with Jesus's experiences.


See comment on 20:13 regarding parallels with Jesus's experiences.


This was the third of Paul's three visions of Jesus, the others being recorded in Acts 9:3f and Acts 22:17f.


This verse is omitted by many modern translations; see Wikipedia.


Using the law to protect us is one of three responses to persecution that can be considered biblical; the other two are to go somewhere else (Matthew 10:14) or to stay and endure it (Acts 5:29). See also 2 Timothy 3:12 and 1 Peter 4:13–19, and comment on Matthew 5:10.


Agrippa: see Appendix 1 Herod.


Agrippa: see Appendix 1 Herod.


Paul adopted the posture of a Roman orator. Agrippa: see Appendix 1 Herod.


Paul's conversion is described in Acts 9:1–18 and a comparable account is given in 22:4–16. This version adds that the language of the voice that Saul heard was Aramaic, the mother tongue of Jesus.


It is hard to guide, and still harder to carry, someone who is struggling.


It might seem from this verse that Paul's appeal to Caesar was a mistake, preventing his freedom, but Acts 25:3 shows that he needed to remain in custody for his own protection.


Roman law allowed a prisoner going to trial before the Emperor to be accompanied by two servants. It appears that Paul took Luke and Aristarchus.


Aristarchus: see Appendix 1: Aristarchus.


Ancient sailors relied on the sun and stars for navigation. Without having seen either for several days, during which a storm raged, they were lost.


Jesus is likely to have used the traditional words "Blessed are you, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth".


Puteoli is near Naples and is now called Puzzuoli[12 p.298].


Some of the visitors travelled 40 miles to meet Paul.


This verse is omitted by many modern translations; see Wikipedia.


  1. Drane, David Introduction to the New Testament Oxford: Lion, 1986 & 1999
  2. Jervis, L. Ann Galatians, New International Biblical Commentary series, Carlisle: Paternonster 1999
  3. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Letters and Papers from Prison quoted in Scripture Union's "Closer to God" Bible reading notes for 5 August 2004
  4. Morris, L. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Luke Leicester: IVP, 1988 edn
  5. Diogenes The lives of Eminent Philosophers
  6. Plato Laws
  7. The "western text" group of ancient codices, including the 5th century Codex Bezae
  8. Nouwen, H. Creative Ministry New York: Doubleday, 1991 edn
  9. Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Ethics Ed: Eberhard Bethge 1949; Trans: Neville Horton Smith 1963; London & Glasgow: Collins "Fontana Library" 1964
  10. Horsfall, Tony writing in New Daylight 17 April 2016 p.123
  11. Mitton, Michael writing in New Daylight 24 May 2018 p.32
  12. Paula Gooder Phoebe London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2018
  13. Winter, David writing in New Daylight 18 December 2019 p.123
  14. Williams, David Acts in the New International Biblical Commentary series (W Ward Gasque, series ed.) Carlisle: Paternoster, 1995
  15. Lowson, Geoff writing in New Daylight 26 August 2021 p.133
  16. Paula Gooder And a certain woman... in Church Times 21 October 2022 p.17
  17. Alexander, L Chapter 62: Acts in Barton, J. and Muddiman, J. (eds) The Oxford Bible Commentary Oxford: OUP, 2001
  18. Dr Paula Gooder The Parables Canterbury, 2020
  19. Matthijs den Dulk "Aquila and Apollos: Acts 16 in the Light of Ancient Ethnic Stereotypes", in Journal of Biblical Literature Vol 139 no 1 2020 (Atlanta, USA) pp.177–189

© David Billin 2002–2024