Acts 1-7New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Taken Up Into Heaven
1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. 4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.”
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas
12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk[c] from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
15 In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers and sisters,[d] the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.”
18 (With the payment he received for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. 19 Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.)
20 “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms:
“‘May his place be deserted;
“‘May another take his place of leadership.’[f]
21 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”
23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.
The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost
2 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[g] as the Spirit enabled them.
5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,[h] 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
Peter Addresses the Crowd
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says,
22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[j] put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25 David said about him:
“‘I saw the Lord always before me.
29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
The Fellowship of the Believers
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Peter Heals a Lame Beggar
3 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
Peter Speaks to the Onlookers
11 While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. 12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.
17 “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’[m]
24 “Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. 25 And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’[n] 26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”
Peter and John Before the Sanhedrin
4 The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.
5 The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is
“‘the stone you builders rejected,
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”
18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
21 After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old.
The Believers Pray
23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heavens and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
The Believers Share Their Possessions
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
Ananias and Sapphira
5 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.
3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”
5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”
“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”
9 Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”
10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
The Apostles Heal Many
12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.
The Apostles Persecuted
17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”
21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.
When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. 22 But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, 23 “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24 On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to.
25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.
27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.
The Choosing of the Seven
6 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews[r] among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.
11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”
12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
Stephen’s Speech to the Sanhedrin
7 Then the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these charges true?”
2 To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran. 3 ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’[s]
4 “So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Harran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living. 5 He gave him no inheritance here, not even enough ground to set his foot on. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child. 6 God spoke to him in this way: ‘For four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated. 7 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,’ God said, ‘and afterward they will come out of that country and worship me in this place.’[t] 8 Then he gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision. And Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him eight days after his birth. Later Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs.
9 “Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him 10 and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt. So Pharaoh made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace.
11 “Then a famine struck all Egypt and Canaan, bringing great suffering, and our ancestors could not find food. 12 When Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our forefathers on their first visit. 13 On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph’s family. 14 After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy-five in all. 15 Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our ancestors died. 16 Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money.
17 “As the time drew near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt had greatly increased. 18 Then ‘a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt.’[u] 19 He dealt treacherously with our people and oppressed our ancestors by forcing them to throw out their newborn babies so that they would die.
20 “At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child.[v] For three months he was cared for by his family. 21 When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son. 22 Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.
23 “When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites. 24 He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. 25 Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. 26 The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?’
27 “But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? 28 Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’[w] 29 When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons.
30 “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. 31 When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to get a closer look, he heard the Lord say: 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’[x] Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look.
33 “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.’[y]
35 “This is the same Moses they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 He led them out of Egypt and performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the wilderness.
37 “This is the Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your own people.’[z] 38 He was in the assembly in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living words to pass on to us.
39 “But our ancestors refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. 40 They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!’[aa] 41 That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and reveled in what their own hands had made. 42 But God turned away from them and gave them over to the worship of the sun, moon and stars. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets:
“‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings
44 “Our ancestors had the tabernacle of the covenant law with them in the wilderness. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. 45 After receiving the tabernacle, our ancestors under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David, 46 who enjoyed God’s favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.[ac] 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him.
48 “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says:
49 “‘Heaven is my throne,
51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”
The Stoning of Stephen
54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him,
Acts 1-28The Message (MSG)
To the Ends of the World
1 1-5 Dear Theophilus, in the first volume of this book I wrote on everything that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he said good-bye to the apostles, the ones he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. After his death, he presented himself alive to them in many different settings over a period of forty days. In face-to-face meetings, he talked to them about things concerning the kingdom of God. As they met and ate meals together, he told them that they were on no account to leave Jerusalem but “must wait for what the Father promised: the promise you heard from me. John baptized in water; you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit. And soon.”
6 When they were together for the last time they asked, “Master, are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel now? Is this the time?”
7-8 He told them, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business. What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit. And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.”
9-11 These were his last words. As they watched, he was taken up and disappeared in a cloud. They stood there, staring into the empty sky. Suddenly two men appeared—in white robes! They said, “You Galileans!—why do you just stand here looking up at an empty sky? This very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly—and mysteriously—as he left.”
Returning to Jerusalem
12-13 So they left the mountain called Olives and returned to Jerusalem. It was a little over half a mile. They went to the upper room they had been using as a meeting place:
James, son of Alphaeus,
Simon the Zealot,
Judas, son of James.
14 They agreed they were in this for good, completely together in prayer, the women included. Also Jesus’ mother, Mary, and his brothers.
15-17 During this time, Peter stood up in the company—there were about 120 of them in the room at the time—and said, “Friends, long ago the Holy Spirit spoke through David regarding Judas, who became the guide to those who arrested Jesus. That Scripture had to be fulfilled, and now has been. Judas was one of us and had his assigned place in this ministry.
18-20 “As you know, he took the evil bribe money and bought a small farm. There he came to a bad end, rupturing his belly and spilling his guts. Everybody in Jerusalem knows this by now; they call the place Murder Meadow. It’s exactly what we find written in the Psalms:
Let his farm become haunted
“And also what was written later:
Let someone else take over his post.
21-22 “Judas must now be replaced. The replacement must come from the company of men who stayed together with us from the time Jesus was baptized by John up to the day of his ascension, designated along with us as a witness to his resurrection.”
23-26 They nominated two: Joseph Barsabbas, nicknamed Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed, “You, O God, know every one of us inside and out. Make plain which of these two men you choose to take the place in this ministry and leadership that Judas threw away in order to go his own way.” They then drew straws. Matthias won and was counted in with the eleven apostles.
A Sound Like a Strong Wind
2 1-4 When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Without warning there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force—no one could tell where it came from. It filled the whole building. Then, like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.
5-11 There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world. When they heard the sound, they came on the run. Then when they heard, one after another, their own mother tongues being spoken, they were thunderstruck. They couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on, and kept saying, “Aren’t these all Galileans? How come we’re hearing them talk in our various mother tongues?
Parthians, Medes, and Elamites;
“They’re speaking our languages, describing God’s mighty works!”
12 Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of any of it. They talked back and forth, confused: “What’s going on here?”
13 Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”
Peter Speaks Up
14-21 That’s when Peter stood up and, backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency: “Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight. These people aren’t drunk as some of you suspect. They haven’t had time to get drunk—it’s only nine o’clock in the morning. This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen:
“In the Last Days,” God says,
22-28 “Fellow Israelites, listen carefully to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man thoroughly accredited by God to you—the miracles and wonders and signs that God did through him are common knowledge—this Jesus, following the deliberate and well-thought-out plan of God, was betrayed by men who took the law into their own hands, and was handed over to you. And you pinned him to a cross and killed him. But God untied the death ropes and raised him up. Death was no match for him. David said it all:
I saw God before me for all time.
29-36 “Dear friends, let me be completely frank with you. Our ancestor David is dead and buried—his tomb is in plain sight today. But being also a prophet and knowing that God had solemnly sworn that a descendant of his would rule his kingdom, seeing far ahead, he talked of the resurrection of the Messiah—‘no trip to Hades, no stench of death.’ This Jesus, God raised up. And every one of us here is a witness to it. Then, raised to the heights at the right hand of God and receiving the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, he poured out the Spirit he had just received. That is what you see and hear. For David himself did not ascend to heaven, but he did say,
God said to my Master, “Sit at my right hand
“All Israel, then, know this: There’s no longer room for doubt—God made him Master and Messiah, this Jesus whom you killed on a cross.”
37 Cut to the quick, those who were there listening asked Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers! Brothers! So now what do we do?”
38-39 Peter said, “Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is targeted to you and your children, but also to all who are far away—whomever, in fact, our Master God invites.”
40 He went on in this vein for a long time, urging them over and over, “Get out while you can; get out of this sick and stupid culture!”
41-42 That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.
43-45 Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.
46-47 They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.
3 1-5 One day at three o’clock in the afternoon, Peter and John were on their way into the Temple for prayer meeting. At the same time there was a man crippled from birth being carried up. Every day he was set down at the Temple gate, the one named Beautiful, to beg from those going into the Temple. When he saw Peter and John about to enter the Temple, he asked for a handout. Peter, with John at his side, looked him straight in the eye and said, “Look here.” He looked up, expecting to get something from them.
6-8 Peter said, “I don’t have a nickel to my name, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!” He grabbed him by the right hand and pulled him up. In an instant his feet and ankles became firm. He jumped to his feet and walked.
8-10 The man went into the Temple with them, walking back and forth, dancing and praising God. Everybody there saw him walking around and praising God. They recognized him as the one who sat begging at the Temple’s Gate Beautiful and rubbed their eyes, astonished, scarcely believing what they were seeing.
11 The man threw his arms around Peter and John, ecstatic. All the people ran up to where they were at Solomon’s Porch to see it for themselves.
Turn to Face God
12-16 When Peter saw he had a congregation, he addressed the people:
“Oh, Israelites, why does this take you by such complete surprise, and why stare at us as if our power or piety made him walk? The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has glorified his Son Jesus. The very One that Pilate called innocent, you repudiated. You repudiated the Holy One, the Just One, and asked for a murderer in his place. You no sooner killed the Author of Life than God raised him from the dead—and we’re the witnesses. Faith in Jesus’ name put this man, whose condition you know so well, on his feet—yes, faith and nothing but faith put this man healed and whole right before your eyes.
17-18 “And now, friends, I know you had no idea what you were doing when you killed Jesus, and neither did your leaders. But God, who through the preaching of all the prophets had said all along that his Messiah would be killed, knew exactly what you were doing and used it to fulfill his plans.
19-23 “Now it’s time to change your ways! Turn to face God so he can wipe away your sins, pour out showers of blessing to refresh you, and send you the Messiah he prepared for you, namely, Jesus. For the time being he must remain out of sight in heaven until everything is restored to order again just the way God, through the preaching of his holy prophets of old, said it would be. Moses, for instance, said, ‘Your God will raise up for you a prophet just like me from your family. Listen to every word he speaks to you. Every last living soul who refuses to listen to that prophet will be wiped out from the people.’
24-26 “All the prophets from Samuel on down said the same thing, said most emphatically that these days would come. These prophets, along with the covenant God made with your ancestors, are your family tree. God’s covenant-word to Abraham provides the text: ‘By your offspring all the families of the earth will be blessed.’ But you are first in line: God, having raised up his Son, sent him to bless you as you turn, one by one, from your evil ways.”
Nothing to Hide
4 1-4 While Peter and John were addressing the people, the priests, the chief of the Temple police, and some Sadducees came up, indignant that these upstart apostles were instructing the people and proclaiming that the resurrection from the dead had taken place in Jesus. They arrested them and threw them in jail until morning, for by now it was late in the evening. But many of those who listened had already believed the Message—in round numbers about five thousand!
5-7 The next day a meeting was called in Jerusalem. The rulers, religious leaders, religion scholars, Annas the Chief Priest, Caiaphas, John, Alexander—everybody who was anybody was there. They stood Peter and John in the middle of the room and grilled them: “Who put you in charge here? What business do you have doing this?”
8-12 With that, Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, let loose: “Rulers and leaders of the people, if we have been brought to trial today for helping a sick man, put under investigation regarding this healing, I’ll be completely frank with you—we have nothing to hide. By the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the One you killed on a cross, the One God raised from the dead, by means of his name this man stands before you healthy and whole. Jesus is ‘the stone you masons threw out, which is now the cornerstone.’ Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one.”
13-14 They couldn’t take their eyes off them—Peter and John standing there so confident, so sure of themselves! Their fascination deepened when they realized these two were laymen with no training in Scripture or formal education. They recognized them as companions of Jesus, but with the man right before them, seeing him standing there so upright—so healed!—what could they say against that?
15-17 They sent them out of the room so they could work out a plan. They talked it over: “What can we do with these men? By now it’s known all over town that a miracle has occurred, and that they are behind it. There is no way we can refute that. But so that it doesn’t go any further, let’s silence them with threats so they won’t dare to use Jesus’ name ever again with anyone.”
18-20 They called them back and warned them that they were on no account ever again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John spoke right back, “Whether it’s right in God’s eyes to listen to you rather than to God, you decide. As for us, there’s no question—we can’t keep quiet about what we’ve seen and heard.”
21-22 The religious leaders renewed their threats, but then released them. They couldn’t come up with a charge that would stick, that would keep them in jail. The people wouldn’t have stood for it—they were all praising God over what had happened. The man who had been miraculously healed was over forty years old.
One Heart, One Mind
23-26 As soon as Peter and John were let go, they went to their friends and told them what the high priests and religious leaders had said. Hearing the report, they lifted their voices in a wonderful harmony in prayer: “Strong God, you made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. By the Holy Spirit you spoke through the mouth of your servant and our father, David:
Why the big noise, nations?
27-28 “For in fact they did meet—Herod and Pontius Pilate with nations and peoples, even Israel itself!—met in this very city to plot against your holy Son Jesus, the One you made Messiah, to carry out the plans you long ago set in motion.
29-30 “And now they’re at it again! Take care of their threats and give your servants fearless confidence in preaching your Message, as you stretch out your hand to us in healings and miracles and wonders done in the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
31 While they were praying, the place where they were meeting trembled and shook. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak God’s Word with fearless confidence.
32-33 The whole congregation of believers was united as one—one heart, one mind! They didn’t even claim ownership of their own possessions. No one said, “That’s mine; you can’t have it.” They shared everything. The apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Master Jesus, and grace was on all of them.
34-35 And so it turned out that not a person among them was needy. Those who owned fields or houses sold them and brought the price of the sale to the apostles and made an offering of it. The apostles then distributed it according to each person’s need.
36-37 Joseph, called by the apostles “Barnabas” (which means “Son of Comfort”), a Levite born in Cyprus, sold a field that he owned, brought the money, and made an offering of it to the apostles.
Ananias and Sapphira
5 1-2 But a man named Ananias—his wife, Sapphira, conniving in this with him—sold a piece of land, secretly kept part of the price for himself, and then brought the rest to the apostles and made an offering of it.
3-4 Peter said, “Ananias, how did Satan get you to lie to the Holy Spirit and secretly keep back part of the price of the field? Before you sold it, it was all yours, and after you sold it, the money was yours to do with as you wished. So what got into you to pull a trick like this? You didn’t lie to men but to God.”
5-6 Ananias, when he heard those words, fell down dead. That put the fear of God into everyone who heard of it. The younger men went right to work and wrapped him up, then carried him out and buried him.
7-8 Not more than three hours later, his wife, knowing nothing of what had happened, came in. Peter said, “Tell me, were you given this price for your field?”
“Yes,” she said, “that price.”
9-10 Peter responded, “What’s going on here that you connived to conspire against the Spirit of the Master? The men who buried your husband are at the door, and you’re next.” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than she also fell down, dead. When the young men returned they found her body. They carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
11 By this time the whole church and, in fact, everyone who heard of these things had a healthy respect for God. They knew God was not to be trifled with.
They All Met Regularly
12-16 Through the work of the apostles, many God-signs were set up among the people, many wonderful things done. They all met regularly and in remarkable harmony on the Temple porch named after Solomon. But even though people admired them a lot, outsiders were wary about joining them. On the other hand, those who put their trust in the Master were added right and left, men and women both. They even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on stretchers and bedrolls, hoping they would be touched by Peter’s shadow when he walked by. They came from the villages surrounding Jerusalem, throngs of them, bringing the sick and bedeviled. And they all were healed.
To Obey God Rather than Men
17-20 Provoked mightily by all this, the Chief Priest and those on his side, mainly the sect of Sadducees, went into action, arrested the apostles and put them in the town jail. But during the night an angel of God opened the jailhouse door and led them out. He said, “Go to the Temple and take your stand. Tell the people everything there is to say about this Life.”
Promptly obedient, they entered the Temple at daybreak and went on with their teaching.
21-23 Meanwhile, the Chief Priest and his cronies convened the High Council, Israel’s senate, and sent to the jail to have the prisoners brought in. When the police got there, they couldn’t find them anywhere in the jail. They went back and reported, “We found the jail locked tight as a drum and the guards posted at the doors, but when we went inside we didn’t find a soul.”
24 The chief of the Temple police and the high priests were puzzled. “What’s going on here anyway?”
25-26 Just then someone showed up and said, “Did you know that the men you put in jail are back in the Temple teaching the people?” The chief and his police went and got them, but they handled them gently, fearful that the people would riot and turn on them.
27-28 Bringing them back, they stood them before the High Council. The Chief Priest said, “Didn’t we give you strict orders not to teach in Jesus’ name? And here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are trying your best to blame us for the death of this man.”
29-32 Peter and the apostles answered, “It’s necessary to obey God rather than men. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, the One you killed by hanging him on a cross. God set him on high at his side, Prince and Savior, to give Israel the gift of a changed life and sins forgiven. And we are witnesses to these things. The Holy Spirit, whom God gives to those who obey him, corroborates every detail.”
33-37 When they heard that, they were furious and wanted to kill them on the spot. But one of the council members stood up, a Pharisee by the name of Gamaliel, a teacher of God’s Law who was honored by everyone. He ordered the men taken out of the room for a short time, then said, “Fellow Israelites, be careful what you do to these men. Not long ago Theudas made something of a splash, claiming to be somebody, and got about four hundred men to join him. He was killed, his followers dispersed, and nothing came of it. A little later, at the time of the census, Judas the Galilean appeared and acquired a following. He also fizzled out and the people following him were scattered to the four winds.
38-39 “So I am telling you: Hands off these men! Let them alone. If this program or this work is merely human, it will fall apart, but if it is of God, there is nothing you can do about it—and you better not be found fighting against God!”
40-42 That convinced them. They called the apostles back in. After giving them a thorough whipping, they warned them not to speak in Jesus’ name and sent them off. The apostles went out of the High Council overjoyed because they had been given the honor of being dishonored on account of the Name. Every day they were in the Temple and homes, teaching and preaching Christ Jesus, not letting up for a minute.
The Word of God Prospered
6 1-4 During this time, as the disciples were increasing in numbers by leaps and bounds, hard feelings developed among the Greek-speaking believers—“Hellenists”—toward the Hebrew-speaking believers because their widows were being discriminated against in the daily food lines. So the Twelve called a meeting of the disciples. They said, “It wouldn’t be right for us to abandon our responsibilities for preaching and teaching the Word of God to help with the care of the poor. So, friends, choose seven men from among you whom everyone trusts, men full of the Holy Spirit and good sense, and we’ll assign them this task. Meanwhile, we’ll stick to our assigned tasks of prayer and speaking God’s Word.”
5-6 The congregation thought this was a great idea. They went ahead and chose—
Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit,
Then they presented them to the apostles. Praying, the apostles laid on hands and commissioned them for their task.
7 The Word of God prospered. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased dramatically. Not least, a great many priests submitted themselves to the faith.
8-10 Stephen, brimming with God’s grace and energy, was doing wonderful things among the people, unmistakable signs that God was among them. But then some men from the meeting place whose membership was made up of freed slaves, Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and some others from Cilicia and Asia, went up against him trying to argue him down. But they were no match for his wisdom and spirit when he spoke.
11 So in secret they bribed men to lie: “We heard him cursing Moses and God.”
12-14 That stirred up the people, the religious leaders, and religion scholars. They grabbed Stephen and took him before the High Council. They put forward their bribed witnesses to testify: “This man talks nonstop against this Holy Place and God’s Law. We even heard him say that Jesus of Nazareth would tear this place down and throw out all the customs Moses gave us.”
15 As all those who sat on the High Council looked at Stephen, they found they couldn’t take their eyes off him—his face was like the face of an angel!
Stephen, Full of the Holy Spirit
7 Then the Chief Priest said, “What do you have to say for yourself?”
2-3 Stephen replied, “Friends, fathers, and brothers, the God of glory
appeared to our father Abraham when he was still in Mesopotamia, before the move to Haran, and told him, ‘Leave your country and family and go to the land I’ll show you.’
4-7 “So he left the country of the Chaldees and moved to Haran. After the death of his father, he immigrated to this country where you now live, but God gave him nothing, not so much as a foothold. He did promise to give the country to him and his son later on, even though Abraham had no son at the time. God let him know that his offspring would move to an alien country where they would be enslaved and brutalized for four hundred years. ‘But,’ God said, ‘I will step in and take care of those slaveholders and bring my people out so they can worship me in this place.’
8 “Then he made a covenant with him and signed it in Abraham’s flesh by circumcision. When Abraham had his son Isaac, within eight days he reproduced the sign of circumcision in him. Isaac became father of Jacob, and Jacob father of twelve ‘fathers,’ each faithfully passing on the covenant sign.
9-10 “But then those ‘fathers,’ burning up with jealousy, sent Joseph off to Egypt as a slave. God was right there with him, though—he not only rescued him from all his troubles but brought him to the attention of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. He was so impressed with Joseph that he put him in charge of the whole country, including his own personal affairs.
11-15 “Later a famine descended on that entire region, stretching from Egypt to Canaan, bringing terrific hardship. Our hungry fathers looked high and low for food, but the cupboard was bare. Jacob heard there was food in Egypt and sent our fathers to scout it out. Having confirmed the report, they went back to Egypt a second time to get food. On that visit, Joseph revealed his true identity to his brothers and introduced the Jacob family to Pharaoh. Then Joseph sent for his father, Jacob, and everyone else in the family, seventy-five in all. That’s how the Jacob family got to Egypt.
15-16 “Jacob died, and our fathers after him. They were taken to Shechem and buried in the tomb for which Abraham paid a good price to the sons of Hamor.
17-19 “When the four hundred years were nearly up, the time God promised Abraham for deliverance, the population of our people in Egypt had become very large. And there was now a king over Egypt who had never heard of Joseph. He exploited our race mercilessly. He went so far as forcing us to abandon our newborn infants, exposing them to the elements to die a cruel death.
20-22 “In just such a time Moses was born, a most beautiful baby. He was hidden at home for three months. When he could be hidden no longer, he was put outside—and immediately rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter, who mothered him as her own son. Moses was educated in the best schools in Egypt. He was equally impressive as a thinker and an athlete.
23-26 “When he was forty years old, he wondered how everything was going with his Hebrew kin and went out to look things over. He saw an Egyptian abusing one of them and stepped in, avenging his underdog brother by knocking the Egyptian flat. He thought his brothers would be glad that he was on their side, and even see him as an instrument of God to deliver them. But they didn’t see it that way. The next day two of them were fighting and he tried to break it up, told them to shake hands and get along with each other: ‘Friends, you are brothers, why are you beating up on each other?’
27-29 “The one who had started the fight said, ‘Who put you in charge of us? Are you going to kill me like you killed that Egyptian yesterday?’ When Moses heard that, realizing that the word was out, he ran for his life and lived in exile over in Midian. During the years of exile, two sons were born to him.
30-32 “Forty years later, in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, an angel appeared to him in the guise of flames of a burning bush. Moses, not believing his eyes, went up to take a closer look. He heard God’s voice: ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ Frightened nearly out of his skin, Moses shut his eyes and turned away.
33-34 “God said, ‘Kneel and pray. You are in a holy place, on holy ground. I’ve seen the agony of my people in Egypt. I’ve heard their groans. I’ve come to help them. So get yourself ready; I’m sending you back to Egypt.’
35-39 “This is the same Moses whom they earlier rejected, saying, ‘Who put you in charge of us?’ This is the Moses that God, using the angel flaming in the burning bush, sent back as ruler and redeemer. He led them out of their slavery. He did wonderful things, setting up God-signs all through Egypt, down at the Red Sea, and out in the wilderness for forty years. This is the Moses who said to his congregation, ‘God will raise up a prophet just like me from your descendants.’ This is the Moses who stood between the angel speaking at Sinai and your fathers assembled in the wilderness and took the life-giving words given to him and handed them over to us, words our fathers would have nothing to do with.
39-41 “They craved the old Egyptian ways, whining to Aaron, ‘Make us gods we can see and follow. This Moses who got us out here miles from nowhere—who knows what’s happened to him!’ That was the time when they made a calf-idol, brought sacrifices to it, and congratulated each other on the wonderful religious program they had put together.
42-43 “God wasn’t at all pleased; but he let them do it their way, worship every new god that came down the pike—and live with the consequences, consequences described by the prophet Amos:
Did you bring me offerings of animals and grains
44-47 “And all this time our ancestors had a tent shrine for true worship, made to the exact specifications God provided Moses. They had it with them as they followed Joshua, when God cleared the land of pagans, and still had it right down to the time of David. David asked God for a permanent place for worship. But Solomon built it.
48-50 “Yet that doesn’t mean that Most High God lives in a building made by carpenters and masons. The prophet Isaiah put it well when he wrote,
“Heaven is my throne room;
51-53 “And you continue, so bullheaded! Calluses on your hearts, flaps on your ears! Deliberately ignoring the Holy Spirit, you’re just like your ancestors. Was there ever a prophet who didn’t get the same treatment? Your ancestors killed anyone who dared talk about the coming of the Just One. And you’ve kept up the family tradition—traitors and murderers, all of you. You had God’s Law handed to you by angels—gift-wrapped!—and you squandered it!”
54-56 At that point they went wild, a rioting mob of catcalls and whistles and invective. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, hardly noticed—he only had eyes for God, whom he saw in all his glory with Jesus standing at his side. He said, “Oh! I see heaven wide open and the Son of Man standing at God’s side!”
57-58 Yelling and hissing, the mob drowned him out. Now in full stampede, they dragged him out of town and pelted him with rocks. The ringleaders took off their coats and asked a young man named Saul to watch them.
59-60 As the rocks rained down, Stephen prayed, “Master Jesus, take my life.” Then he knelt down, praying loud enough for everyone to hear, “Master, don’t blame them for this sin”—his last words. Then he died.
1 Saul was right there, congratulating the killers.
Simon the Wizard
8 1-2 That set off a terrific persecution of the church in Jerusalem. The believers were all scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. All, that is, but the apostles. Good and brave men buried Stephen, giving him a solemn funeral—not many dry eyes that day!
3-8 And Saul just went wild, devastating the church, entering house after house after house, dragging men and women off to jail. Forced to leave home base, the followers of Jesus all became missionaries. Wherever they were scattered, they preached the Message about Jesus. Going down to a Samaritan city, Philip proclaimed the Message of the Messiah. When the people heard what he had to say and saw the miracles, the clear signs of God’s action, they hung on his every word. Many who could neither stand nor walk were healed that day. The evil spirits protested loudly as they were sent on their way. And what joy in the city!
9-11 Previous to Philip’s arrival, a certain Simon had practiced magic in the city, posing as a famous man and dazzling all the Samaritans with his wizardry. He had them all, from little children to old men, eating out of his hand. They all thought he had supernatural powers, and called him “the Great Wizard.” He had been around a long time and everyone was more or less in awe of him.
12-13 But when Philip came to town announcing the news of God’s kingdom and proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ, they forgot Simon and were baptized, becoming believers right and left! Even Simon himself believed and was baptized. From that moment he was like Philip’s shadow, so fascinated with all the God-signs and miracles that he wouldn’t leave Philip’s side.
14-17 When the apostles in Jerusalem received the report that Samaria had accepted God’s Message, they sent Peter and John down to pray for them to receive the Holy Spirit. Up to this point they had only been baptized in the name of the Master Jesus; the Holy Spirit hadn’t yet fallen on them. Then the apostles laid their hands on them and they did receive the Holy Spirit.
18-19 When Simon saw that the apostles by merely laying on hands conferred the Spirit, he pulled out his money, excited, and said, “Sell me your secret! Show me how you did that! How much do you want? Name your price!”
20-23 Peter said, “To hell with your money! And you along with it. Why, that’s unthinkable—trying to buy God’s gift! You’ll never be part of what God is doing by striking bargains and offering bribes. Change your ways—and now! Ask the Master to forgive you for trying to use God to make money. I can see this is an old habit with you; you reek with money-lust.”
24 “Oh!” said Simon, “pray for me! Pray to the Master that nothing like that will ever happen to me!”
25 And with that, the apostles were on their way, continuing to witness and spread the Message of God’s salvation, preaching in every Samaritan town they passed through on their return to Jerusalem.
The Ethiopian Eunuch
26-28 Later God’s angel spoke to Philip: “At noon today I want you to walk over to that desolate road that goes from Jerusalem down to Gaza.” He got up and went. He met an Ethiopian eunuch coming down the road. The eunuch had been on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and was returning to Ethiopia, where he was minister in charge of all the finances of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. He was riding in a chariot and reading the prophet Isaiah.
29-30 The Spirit told Philip, “Climb into the chariot.” Running up alongside, Philip heard the eunuch reading Isaiah and asked, “Do you understand what you’re reading?”
31-33 He answered, “How can I without some help?” and invited Philip into the chariot with him. The passage he was reading was this:
As a sheep led to slaughter,
34-35 The eunuch said, “Tell me, who is the prophet talking about: himself or some other?” Philip grabbed his chance. Using this passage as his text, he preached Jesus to him.
36-39 As they continued down the road, they came to a stream of water. The eunuch said, “Here’s water. Why can’t I be baptized?” He ordered the chariot to stop. They both went down to the water, and Philip baptized him on the spot. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of God suddenly took Philip off, and that was the last the eunuch saw of him. But he didn’t mind. He had what he’d come for and went on down the road as happy as he could be.
40 Philip showed up in Azotus and continued north, preaching the Message in all the villages along that route until he arrived at Caesarea.
The Blinding of Saul
9 1-2 All this time Saul was breathing down the necks of the Master’s disciples, out for the kill. He went to the Chief Priest and got arrest warrants to take to the meeting places in Damascus so that if he found anyone there belonging to the Way, whether men or women, he could arrest them and bring them to Jerusalem.
3-4 He set off. When he got to the outskirts of Damascus, he was suddenly dazed by a blinding flash of light. As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice: “Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?”
5-6 He said, “Who are you, Master?”
“I am Jesus, the One you’re hunting down. I want you to get up and enter the city. In the city you’ll be told what to do next.”
7-9 His companions stood there dumbstruck—they could hear the sound, but couldn’t see anyone—while Saul, picking himself up off the ground, found himself stone-blind. They had to take him by the hand and lead him into Damascus. He continued blind for three days. He ate nothing, drank nothing.
10 There was a disciple in Damascus by the name of Ananias. The Master spoke to him in a vision: “Ananias.”
“Yes, Master?” he answered.
11-12 “Get up and go over to Straight Avenue. Ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus. His name is Saul. He’s there praying. He has just had a dream in which he saw a man named Ananias enter the house and lay hands on him so he could see again.”
13-14 Ananias protested, “Master, you can’t be serious. Everybody’s talking about this man and the terrible things he’s been doing, his reign of terror against your people in Jerusalem! And now he’s shown up here with papers from the Chief Priest that give him license to do the same to us.”
15-16 But the Master said, “Don’t argue. Go! I have picked him as my personal representative to non-Jews and kings and Jews. And now I’m about to show him what he’s in for—the hard suffering that goes with this job.”
17-19 So Ananias went and found the house, placed his hands on blind Saul, and said, “Brother Saul, the Master sent me, the same Jesus you saw on your way here. He sent me so you could see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes—he could see again! He got to his feet, was baptized, and sat down with them to a hearty meal.
Plots Against Saul
19-21 Saul spent a few days getting acquainted with the Damascus disciples, but then went right to work, wasting no time, preaching in the meeting places that this Jesus was the Son of God. They were caught off guard by this and, not at all sure they could trust him, they kept saying, “Isn’t this the man who wreaked havoc in Jerusalem among the believers? And didn’t he come here to do the same thing—arrest us and drag us off to jail in Jerusalem for sentencing by the high priests?”
22 But their suspicions didn’t slow Saul down for even a minute. His momentum was up now and he plowed straight into the opposition, disarming the Damascus Jews and trying to show them that this Jesus was the Messiah.
23-25 After this had gone on quite a long time, some Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul got wind of it. They were watching the city gates around the clock so they could kill him. Then one night the disciples engineered his escape by lowering him over the wall in a basket.
26-27 Back in Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him. They didn’t trust him one bit. Then Barnabas took him under his wing. He introduced him to the apostles and stood up for him, told them how Saul had seen and spoken to the Master on the Damascus Road and how in Damascus itself he had laid his life on the line with his bold preaching in Jesus’ name.
28-30 After that he was accepted as one of them, going in and out of Jerusalem with no questions asked, uninhibited as he preached in the Master’s name. But then he ran afoul of a group called Hellenists—he had been engaged in a running argument with them—who plotted his murder. When his friends learned of the plot, they got him out of town, took him to Caesarea, and then shipped him off to Tarsus.
31 Things calmed down after that and the church had smooth sailing for a while. All over the country—Judea, Samaria, Galilee—the church grew. They were permeated with a deep sense of reverence for God. The Holy Spirit was with them, strengthening them. They prospered wonderfully.
32-35 Peter went off on a mission to visit all the churches. In the course of his travels he arrived in Lydda and met with the believers there. He came across a man—his name was Aeneas—who had been in bed eight years paralyzed. Peter said, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and make your bed!” And he did it—jumped right out of bed. Everybody who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him walking around and woke up to the fact that God was alive and active among them.
36-37 Down the road a way in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha, “Gazelle” in our language. She was well-known for doing good and helping out. During the time Peter was in the area she became sick and died. Her friends prepared her body for burial and put her in a cool room.
38-40 Some of the disciples had heard that Peter was visiting in nearby Lydda and sent two men to ask if he would be so kind as to come over. Peter got right up and went with them. They took him into the room where Tabitha’s body was laid out. Her old friends, most of them widows, were in the room mourning. They showed Peter pieces of clothing the Gazelle had made while she was with them. Peter put the widows all out of the room. He knelt and prayed. Then he spoke directly to the body: “Tabitha, get up.”
40-41 She opened her eyes. When she saw Peter, she sat up. He took her hand and helped her up. Then he called in the believers and widows, and presented her to them alive.
42-43 When this became known all over Joppa, many put their trust in the Master. Peter stayed on a long time in Joppa as a guest of Simon the Tanner.
10 1-3 There was a man named Cornelius who lived in Caesarea, captain of the Italian Guard stationed there. He was a thoroughly good man. He had led everyone in his house to live worshipfully before God, was always helping people in need, and had the habit of prayer. One day about three o’clock in the afternoon he had a vision. An angel of God, as real as his next-door neighbor, came in and said, “Cornelius.”
4-6 Cornelius stared hard, wondering if he was seeing things. Then he said, “What do you want, sir?”
The angel said, “Your prayers and neighborly acts have brought you to God’s attention. Here’s what you are to do. Send men to Joppa to get Simon, the one everyone calls Peter. He is staying with Simon the Tanner, whose house is down by the sea.”
7-8 As soon as the angel was gone, Cornelius called two servants and one particularly devout soldier from the guard. He went over with them in great detail everything that had just happened, and then sent them off to Joppa.
9-13 The next day as the three travelers were approaching the town, Peter went out on the balcony to pray. It was about noon. Peter got hungry and started thinking about lunch. While lunch was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the skies open up. Something that looked like a huge blanket lowered by ropes at its four corners settled on the ground. Every kind of animal and reptile and bird you could think of was on it. Then a voice came: “Go to it, Peter—kill and eat.”
14 Peter said, “Oh, no, Lord. I’ve never so much as tasted food that was not kosher.”
15 The voice came a second time: “If God says it’s okay, it’s okay.”
16 This happened three times, and then the blanket was pulled back up into the skies.
17-20 As Peter, puzzled, sat there trying to figure out what it all meant, the men sent by Cornelius showed up at Simon’s front door. They called in, asking if there was a Simon, also called Peter, staying there. Peter, lost in thought, didn’t hear them, so the Spirit whispered to him, “Three men are knocking at the door looking for you. Get down there and go with them. Don’t ask any questions. I sent them to get you.”
21 Peter went down and said to the men, “I think I’m the man you’re looking for. What’s up?”
22-23 They said, “Captain Cornelius, a God-fearing man well-known for his fair play—ask any Jew in this part of the country—was commanded by a holy angel to get you and bring you to his house so he could hear what you had to say.” Peter invited them in and made them feel at home.
God Plays No Favorites
23-26 The next morning he got up and went with them. Some of his friends from Joppa went along. A day later they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had his relatives and close friends waiting with him. The minute Peter came through the door, Cornelius was up on his feet greeting him—and then down on his face worshiping him! Peter pulled him up and said, “None of that—I’m a man and only a man, no different from you.”
27-29 Talking things over, they went on into the house, where Cornelius introduced Peter to everyone who had come. Peter addressed them, “You know, I’m sure that this is highly irregular. Jews just don’t do this—visit and relax with people of another race. But God has just shown me that no race is better than any other. So the minute I was sent for, I came, no questions asked. But now I’d like to know why you sent for me.”
30-32 Cornelius said, “Four days ago at about this time, midafternoon, I was home praying. Suddenly there was a man right in front of me, flooding the room with light. He said, ‘Cornelius, your daily prayers and neighborly acts have brought you to God’s attention. I want you to send to Joppa to get Simon, the one they call Peter. He’s staying with Simon the Tanner down by the sea.’
33 “So I did it—I sent for you. And you’ve been good enough to come. And now we’re all here in God’s presence, ready to listen to whatever the Master put in your heart to tell us.”
34-36 Peter fairly exploded with his good news: “It’s God’s own truth, nothing could be plainer: God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from—if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open. The Message he sent to the children of Israel—that through Jesus Christ everything is being put together again—well, he’s doing it everywhere, among everyone.
37-38 “You know the story of what happened in Judea. It began in Galilee after John preached a total life-change. Then Jesus arrived from Nazareth, anointed by God with the Holy Spirit, ready for action. He went through the country helping people and healing everyone who was beaten down by the Devil. He was able to do all this because God was with him.
39-43 “And we saw it, saw it all, everything he did in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem where they killed him, hung him from a cross. But in three days God had him up, alive, and out where he could be seen. Not everyone saw him—he wasn’t put on public display. Witnesses had been carefully handpicked by God beforehand—us! We were the ones, there to eat and drink with him after he came back from the dead. He commissioned us to announce this in public, to bear solemn witness that he is in fact the One whom God destined as Judge of the living and dead. But we’re not alone in this. Our witness that he is the means to forgiveness of sins is backed up by the witness of all the prophets.”
44-46 No sooner were these words out of Peter’s mouth than the Holy Spirit came on the listeners. The believing Jews who had come with Peter couldn’t believe it, couldn’t believe that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on “outsider” non-Jews, but there it was—they heard them speaking in tongues, heard them praising God.
46-48 Then Peter said, “Do I hear any objections to baptizing these friends with water? They’ve received the Holy Spirit exactly as we did.” Hearing no objections, he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
Then they asked Peter to stay on for a few days.
God Has Broken Through
11 1-3 The news traveled fast and in no time the leaders and friends back in Jerusalem heard about it—heard that the non-Jewish “outsiders” were now “in.” When Peter got back to Jerusalem, some of his old associates, concerned about circumcision, called him on the carpet: “What do you think you’re doing rubbing shoulders with that crowd, eating what is prohibited and ruining our good name?”
4-6 So Peter, starting from the beginning, laid it out for them step-by-step: “Recently I was in the town of Joppa praying. I fell into a trance and saw a vision: Something like a huge blanket, lowered by ropes at its four corners, came down out of heaven and settled on the ground in front of me. Milling around on the blanket were farm animals, wild animals, reptiles, birds—you name it, it was there. Fascinated, I took it all in.
7-10 “Then I heard a voice: ‘Go to it, Peter—kill and eat.’ I said, ‘Oh, no, Master. I’ve never so much as tasted food that wasn’t kosher.’ The voice spoke again: ‘If God says it’s okay, it’s okay.’ This happened three times, and then the blanket was pulled back up into the sky.
11-14 “Just then three men showed up at the house where I was staying, sent from Caesarea to get me. The Spirit told me to go with them, no questions asked. So I went with them, I and six friends, to the man who had sent for me. He told us how he had seen an angel right in his own house, real as his next-door neighbor, saying, ‘Send to Joppa and get Simon, the one they call Peter. He’ll tell you something that will save your life—in fact, you and everyone you care for.’
15-17 “So I started in, talking. Before I’d spoken half a dozen sentences, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as he did on us the first time. I remembered Jesus’ words: ‘John baptized with water; you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So I ask you: If God gave the same exact gift to them as to us when we believed in the Master Jesus Christ, how could I object to God?”
18 Hearing it all laid out like that, they quieted down. And then, as it sank in, they started praising God. “It’s really happened! God has broken through to the other nations, opened them up to Life!”
19-21 Those who had been scattered by the persecution triggered by Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, but they were still only speaking and dealing with their fellow Jews. Then some of the men from Cyprus and Cyrene who had come to Antioch started talking to Greeks, giving them the Message of the Master Jesus. God was pleased with what they were doing and put his stamp of approval on it—quite a number of the Greeks believed and turned to the Master.
22-24 When the church in Jerusalem got wind of this, they sent Barnabas to Antioch to check on things. As soon as he arrived, he saw that God was behind and in it all. He threw himself in with them, got behind them, urging them to stay with it the rest of their lives. He was a good man that way, enthusiastic and confident in the Holy Spirit’s ways. The community grew large and strong in the Master.
25-26 Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. He found him and brought him back to Antioch. They were there a whole year, meeting with the church and teaching a lot of people. It was in Antioch that the disciples were for the first time called Christians.
27-30 It was about this same time that some prophets came to Antioch from Jerusalem. One of them named Agabus stood up one day and, prompted by the Spirit, warned that a severe famine was about to devastate the country. (The famine eventually came during the rule of Claudius.) So the disciples decided that each of them would send whatever they could to their fellow Christians in Judea to help out. They sent Barnabas and Saul to deliver the collection to the leaders in Jerusalem.
Peter Under Heavy Guard
12 1-4 That’s when King Herod got it into his head to go after some of the church members. He murdered James, John’s brother. When he saw how much it raised his popularity ratings with the Jews, he arrested Peter—all this during Passover Week, mind you—and had him thrown in jail, putting four squads of four soldiers each to guard him. He was planning a public lynching after Passover.
5 All the time that Peter was under heavy guard in the jailhouse, the church prayed for him most strenuously.
6 Then the time came for Herod to bring him out for the kill. That night, even though shackled to two soldiers, one on either side, Peter slept like a baby. And there were guards at the door keeping their eyes on the place. Herod was taking no chances!
7-9 Suddenly there was an angel at his side and light flooding the room. The angel shook Peter and got him up: “Hurry!” The handcuffs fell off his wrists. The angel said, “Get dressed. Put on your shoes.” Peter did it. Then, “Grab your coat and let’s get out of here.” Peter followed him, but didn’t believe it was really an angel—he thought he was dreaming.
10-11 Past the first guard and then the second, they came to the iron gate that led into the city. It swung open before them on its own, and they were out on the street, free as the breeze. At the first intersection the angel left him, going his own way. That’s when Peter realized it was no dream. “I can’t believe it—this really happened! The Master sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s vicious little production and the spectacle the Jewish mob was looking forward to.”
12-14 Still shaking his head, amazed, he went to Mary’s house, the Mary who was John Mark’s mother. The house was packed with praying friends. When he knocked on the door to the courtyard, a young woman named Rhoda came to see who it was. But when she recognized his voice—Peter’s voice!—she was so excited and eager to tell everyone Peter was there that she forgot to open the door and left him standing in the street.
15-16 But they wouldn’t believe her, dismissing her, dismissing her report. “You’re crazy,” they said. She stuck by her story, insisting. They still wouldn’t believe her and said, “It must be his angel.” All this time poor Peter was standing out in the street, knocking away.
16-17 Finally they opened up and saw him—and went wild! Peter put his hands up and calmed them down. He described how the Master had gotten him out of jail, then said, “Tell James and the brothers what’s happened.” He left them and went off to another place.
18-19 At daybreak the jail was in an uproar. “Where is Peter? What’s happened to Peter?” When Herod sent for him and they could neither produce him nor explain why not, he ordered their execution: “Off with their heads!” Fed up with Judea and Jews, he went for a vacation to Caesarea.
The Death of Herod
20-22 But things went from bad to worse for Herod. Now people from Tyre and Sidon put him on the warpath. But they got Blastus, King Herod’s right-hand man, to put in a good word for them and got a delegation together to iron things out. Because they were dependent on Judea for food supplies, they couldn’t afford to let this go on too long. On the day set for their meeting, Herod, robed in pomposity, took his place on the throne and regaled them with a lot of hot air. The people played their part to the hilt and shouted flatteries: “The voice of God! The voice of God!”
23 That was the last straw. God had had enough of Herod’s arrogance and sent an angel to strike him down. Herod had given God no credit for anything. Down he went. Rotten to the core, a maggoty old man if there ever was one, he died.
24 Meanwhile, the ministry of God’s Word grew by leaps and bounds.
25 Barnabas and Saul, once they had delivered the relief offering to the church in Jerusalem, went back to Antioch. This time they took John with them, the one they called Mark.
Barnabas, Saul, and Doctor Know-It-All
13 1-2 The congregation in Antioch was blessed with a number of prophet-preachers and teachers:
One day as they were worshiping God—they were also fasting as they waited for guidance—the Holy Spirit spoke: “Take Barnabas and Saul and commission them for the work I have called them to do.”
3 So they commissioned them. In that circle of intensity and obedience, of fasting and praying, they laid hands on their heads and sent them off.
4-5 Sent off on their new assignment by the Holy Spirit, Barnabas and Saul went down to Seleucia and caught a ship for Cyprus. The first thing they did when they put in at Salamis was preach God’s Word in the Jewish meeting places. They had John along to help out as needed.
6-7 They traveled the length of the island, and at Paphos came upon a Jewish wizard who had worked himself into the confidence of the governor, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man not easily taken in by charlatans. The wizard’s name was Bar-Jesus. He was as crooked as a corkscrew.
7-11 The governor invited Barnabas and Saul in, wanting to hear God’s Word firsthand from them. But Dr. Know-It-All (that’s the wizard’s name in plain English) stirred up a ruckus, trying to divert the governor from becoming a believer. But Saul (or Paul), full of the Holy Spirit and looking him straight in the eye, said, “You bag of wind, you parody of a devil—why, you stay up nights inventing schemes to cheat people out of God. But now you’ve come up against God himself, and your game is up. You’re about to go blind—no sunlight for you for a good long stretch.” He was plunged immediately into a shadowy mist and stumbled around, begging people to take his hand and show him the way.
12 When the governor saw what happened, he became a believer, full of enthusiasm over what they were saying about the Master.
Don’t Take This Lightly
13-14 From Paphos, Paul and company put out to sea, sailing on to Perga in Pamphylia. That’s where John called it quits and went back to Jerusalem. From Perga the rest of them traveled on to Antioch in Pisidia.
14-15 On the Sabbath they went to the meeting place and took their places. After the reading of the Scriptures—God’s Law and the Prophets—the president of the meeting asked them, “Friends, do you have anything you want to say? A word of encouragement, perhaps?”
16-20 Paul stood up, paused and took a deep breath, then said, “Fellow Israelites and friends of God, listen. God took a special interest in our ancestors, pulled our people who were beaten down in Egyptian exile to their feet, and led them out of there in grand style. He took good care of them for nearly forty years in that godforsaken wilderness and then, having wiped out seven enemies who stood in the way, gave them the land of Canaan for their very own—a span in all of about 450 years.
20-22 “Up to the time of Samuel the prophet, God provided judges to lead them. But then they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul, son of Kish, out of the tribe of Benjamin. After Saul had ruled forty years, God removed him from office and put King David in his place, with this commendation: ‘I’ve searched the land and found this David, son of Jesse. He’s a man whose heart beats to my heart, a man who will do what I tell him.’
23-25 “From out of David’s descendants God produced a Savior for Israel, Jesus, exactly as he promised—but only after John had thoroughly alerted the people to his arrival by preparing them for a total life-change. As John was finishing up his work, he said, ‘Did you think I was the One? No, I’m not the One. But the One you’ve been waiting for all these years is just around the corner, about to appear. And I’m about to disappear.’
26-29 “Dear brothers and sisters, children of Abraham, and friends of God, this message of salvation has been precisely targeted to you. The citizens and rulers in Jerusalem didn’t recognize who he was and condemned him to death. They couldn’t find a good reason, but demanded that Pilate execute him anyway. They did just what the prophets said they would do, but had no idea they were following to the letter the script of the prophets, even though those same prophets are read every Sabbath in their meeting places.
29-31 “After they had done everything the prophets said they would do, they took him down from the cross and buried him. And then God raised him from death. There is no disputing that—he appeared over and over again many times and places to those who had known him well in the Galilean years, and these same people continue to give witness that he is alive.
32-35 “And we’re here today bringing you good news: the Message that what God promised the fathers has come true for the children—for us! He raised Jesus, exactly as described in the second Psalm:
My Son! My very own Son!
“When he raised him from the dead, he did it for good—no going back to that rot and decay for him. That’s why Isaiah said, ‘I’ll give to all of you David’s guaranteed blessings.’ So also the psalmist’s prayer: ‘You’ll never let your Holy One see death’s rot and decay.’
36-39 “David, of course, having completed the work God set out for him, has been in the grave, dust and ashes, a long time now. But the One God raised up—no dust and ashes for him! I want you to know, my very dear friends, that it is on account of this resurrected Jesus that the forgiveness of your sins can be promised. He accomplishes, in those who believe, everything that the Law of Moses could never make good on. But everyone who believes in this raised-up Jesus is declared good and right and whole before God.
40-41 “Don’t take this lightly. You don’t want the prophet’s sermon to describe you:
Watch out, cynics;
42-43 When the service was over, Paul and Barnabas were invited back to preach again the next Sabbath. As the meeting broke up, a good many Jews and converts to Judaism went along with Paul and Barnabas, who urged them in long conversations to stick with what they’d started, this living in and by God’s grace.
44-45 When the next Sabbath came around, practically the whole city showed up to hear the Word of God. Some of the Jews, seeing the crowds, went wild with jealousy and tore into Paul, contradicting everything he was saying, making an ugly scene.
46-47 But Paul and Barnabas didn’t back down. Standing their ground they said, “It was required that God’s Word be spoken first of all to you, the Jews. But seeing that you want no part of it—you’ve made it quite clear that you have no taste or inclination for eternal life—the door is open to all the outsiders. And we’re on our way through it, following orders, doing what God commanded when he said,
I’ve set you up
48-49 When the non-Jewish outsiders heard this, they could hardly believe their good fortune. All who were marked out for real life put their trust in God—they honored God’s Word by receiving that life. And this Message of salvation spread like wildfire all through the region.
50-52 Some of the Jews convinced the most respected women and leading men of the town that their precious way of life was about to be destroyed. Alarmed, they turned on Paul and Barnabas and forced them to leave. Paul and Barnabas shrugged their shoulders and went on to the next town, Iconium, brimming with joy and the Holy Spirit, two happy disciples.
14 1-3 When they got to Iconium they went, as they always did, to the meeting place of the Jews and gave their message. The Message convinced both Jews and non-Jews—and not just a few, either. But the unbelieving Jews worked up a whispering campaign against Paul and Barnabas, sowing mistrust and suspicion in the minds of the people in the street. The two apostles were there a long time, speaking freely, openly, and confidently as they presented the clear evidence of God’s gifts, God corroborating their work with miracles and wonders.
4-7 But then there was a split in public opinion, some siding with the Jews, some with the apostles. One day, learning that both the Jews and non-Jews had been organized by their leaders to beat them up, they escaped as best they could to the next towns—Lyconia, Lystra, Derbe, and that neighborhood—but then were right back at it again, getting out the Message.
Gods or Men?
8-10 There was a man in Lystra who couldn’t walk. He sat there, crippled since the day of his birth. He heard Paul talking, and Paul, looking him in the eye, saw that he was ripe for God’s work, ready to believe. So he said, loud enough for everyone to hear, “Up on your feet!” The man was up in a flash—jumped up and walked around as if he’d been walking all his life.
11-13 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they went wild, calling out in their Lyconian dialect, “The gods have come down! These men are gods!” They called Barnabas “Zeus” and Paul “Hermes” (since Paul did most of the speaking). The priest of the local Zeus shrine got up a parade—bulls and banners and people lined right up to the gates, ready for the ritual of sacrifice.
14-15 When Barnabas and Paul finally realized what was going on, they stopped them. Waving their arms, they interrupted the parade, calling out, “What do you think you’re doing! We’re not gods! We are men just like you, and we’re here to bring you the Message, to persuade you to abandon these silly god-superstitions and embrace God himself, the living God. We don’t make God; he makes us, and all of this—sky, earth, sea, and everything in them.
16-18 “In the generations before us, God let all the different nations go their own way. But even then he didn’t leave them without a clue, for he made a good creation, poured down rain and gave bumper crops. When your bellies were full and your hearts happy, there was evidence of good beyond your doing.” Talking fast and hard like this, they prevented them from carrying out the sacrifice that would have honored them as gods—but just barely.
19-20 Then some Jews from Antioch and Iconium caught up with them and turned the fickle crowd against them. They beat Paul unconscious, dragged him outside the town and left him for dead. But as the disciples gathered around him, he came to and got up. He went back into town and the next day left with Barnabas for Derbe.
Plenty of Hard Times
21-22 After proclaiming the Message in Derbe and establishing a strong core of disciples, they retraced their steps to Lystra, then Iconium, and then Antioch, putting muscle and sinew in the lives of the disciples, urging them to stick with what they had begun to believe and not quit, making it clear to them that it wouldn’t be easy: “Anyone signing up for the kingdom of God has to go through plenty of hard times.”
23-26 Paul and Barnabas handpicked leaders in each church. After praying—their prayers intensified by fasting—they presented these new leaders to the Master to whom they had entrusted their lives. Working their way back through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia and preached in Perga. Finally, they made it to Attalia and caught a ship back to Antioch, where it had all started—launched by God’s grace and now safely home by God’s grace. A good piece of work.
27-28 On arrival, they got the church together and reported on their trip, telling in detail how God had used them to throw the door of faith wide open so people of all nations could come streaming in. Then they settled down for a long, leisurely visit with the disciples.
To Let Outsiders Inside
15 1-2 It wasn’t long before some Jews showed up from Judea insisting that everyone be circumcised: “If you’re not circumcised in the Mosaic fashion, you can’t be saved.” Paul and Barnabas were up on their feet at once in fierce protest. The church decided to resolve the matter by sending Paul, Barnabas, and a few others to put it before the apostles and leaders in Jerusalem.
3 After they were sent off and on their way, they told everyone they met as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria about the breakthrough to the non-Jewish outsiders. Everyone who heard the news cheered—it was terrific news!
4-5 When they got to Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas were graciously received by the whole church, including the apostles and leaders. They reported on their recent journey and how God had used them to open things up to the outsiders. Some Pharisees stood up to say their piece. They had become believers, but continued to hold to the hard party line of the Pharisees. “You have to circumcise the pagan converts,” they said. “You must make them keep the Law of Moses.”
6-9 The apostles and leaders called a special meeting to consider the matter. The arguments went on and on, back and forth, getting more and more heated. Then Peter took the floor: “Friends, you well know that from early on God made it quite plain that he wanted the pagans to hear the Message of this good news and embrace it—and not in any secondhand or roundabout way, but firsthand, straight from my mouth. And God, who can’t be fooled by any pretense on our part but always knows a person’s thoughts, gave them the Holy Spirit exactly as he gave him to us. He treated the outsiders exactly as he treated us, beginning at the very center of who they were and working from that center outward, cleaning up their lives as they trusted and believed him.
10-11 “So why are you now trying to out-god God, loading these new believers down with rules that crushed our ancestors and crushed us, too? Don’t we believe that we are saved because the Master Jesus amazingly and out of sheer generosity moved to save us just as he did those from beyond our nation? So what are we arguing about?”
12-13 There was dead silence. No one said a word. With the room quiet, Barnabas and Paul reported matter-of-factly on the miracles and wonders God had done among the other nations through their ministry. The silence deepened; you could hear a pin drop.
13-18 James broke the silence. “Friends, listen. Simeon has told us the story of how God at the very outset made sure that racial outsiders were included. This is in perfect agreement with the words of the prophets:
After this, I’m coming back;
“God said it and now he’s doing it. It’s no afterthought; he’s always known he would do this.
19-21 “So here is my decision: We’re not going to unnecessarily burden non-Jewish people who turn to the Master. We’ll write them a letter and tell them, ‘Be careful to not get involved in activities connected with idols, to guard the morality of sex and marriage, to not serve food offensive to Jewish Christians—blood, for instance.’ This is basic wisdom from Moses, preached and honored for centuries now in city after city as we have met and kept the Sabbath.”
22-23 Everyone agreed: apostles, leaders, all the people. They picked Judas (nicknamed Barsabbas) and Silas—they both carried considerable weight in the church—and sent them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas with this letter:
From the apostles and leaders, your friends, to our friends in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia:
24-27 We heard that some men from our church went to you and said things that confused and upset you. Mind you, they had no authority from us; we didn’t send them. We have agreed unanimously to pick representatives and send them to you with our good friends Barnabas and Paul. We picked men we knew you could trust, Judas and Silas—they’ve looked death in the face time and again for the sake of our Master Jesus Christ. We’ve sent them to confirm in a face-to-face meeting with you what we’ve written.
28-29 It seemed to the Holy Spirit and to us that you should not be saddled with any crushing burden, but be responsible only for these bare necessities: Be careful not to get involved in activities connected with idols; avoid serving food offensive to Jewish Christians (blood, for instance); and guard the morality of sex and marriage.
These guidelines are sufficient to keep relations congenial between us. And God be with you!
Barnabas and Paul Go Their Separate Ways
30-33 And so off they went to Antioch. On arrival, they gathered the church and read the letter. The people were greatly relieved and pleased. Judas and Silas, good preachers both of them, strengthened their new friends with many words of courage and hope. Then it was time to go home. They were sent off by their new friends with laughter and embraces all around to report back to those who had sent them.
35 Paul and Barnabas stayed on in Antioch, teaching and preaching the Word of God. But they weren’t alone. There were a number of teachers and preachers at that time in Antioch.
36 After a few days of this, Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit all our friends in each of the towns where we preached the Word of God. Let’s see how they’re doing.”
37-41 Barnabas wanted to take John along, the John nicknamed Mark. But Paul wouldn’t have him; he wasn’t about to take along a quitter who, as soon as the going got tough, had jumped ship on them in Pamphylia. Tempers flared, and they ended up going their separate ways: Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus; Paul chose Silas and, offered up by their friends to the grace of the Master, went to Syria and Cilicia to build up muscle and sinew in those congregations.
A Dream Gave Paul His Map
16 1-3 Paul came first to Derbe, then Lystra. He found a disciple there by the name of Timothy, son of a devout Jewish mother and Greek father. Friends in Lystra and Iconium all said what a fine young man he was. Paul wanted to recruit him for their mission, but first took him aside and circumcised him so he wouldn’t offend the Jews who lived in those parts. They all knew that his father was Greek.
4-5 As they traveled from town to town, they presented the simple guidelines the Jerusalem apostles and leaders had come up with. That turned out to be most helpful. Day after day the congregations became stronger in faith and larger in size.
6-8 They went to Phrygia, and then on through the region of Galatia. Their plan was to turn west into Asia province, but the Holy Spirit blocked that route. So they went to Mysia and tried to go north to Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus wouldn’t let them go there either. Proceeding on through Mysia, they went down to the seaport Troas.
9-10 That night Paul had a dream: A Macedonian stood on the far shore and called across the sea, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” The dream gave Paul his map. We went to work at once getting things ready to cross over to Macedonia. All the pieces had come together. We knew now for sure that God had called us to preach the good news to the Europeans.
11-12 Putting out from the harbor at Troas, we made a straight run for Samothrace. The next day we tied up at New City and walked from there to Philippi, the main city in that part of Macedonia and, even more importantly, a Roman colony. We lingered there several days.
13-14 On the Sabbath, we left the city and went down along the river where we had heard there was to be a prayer meeting. We took our place with the women who had gathered there and talked with them. One woman, Lydia, was from Thyatira and a dealer in expensive textiles, known to be a God-fearing woman. As she listened with intensity to what was being said, the Master gave her a trusting heart—and she believed!
15 After she was baptized, along with everyone in her household, she said in a surge of hospitality, “If you’re confident that I’m in this with you and believe in the Master truly, come home with me and be my guests.” We hesitated, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Beat Up and Thrown in Jail
16-18 One day, on our way to the place of prayer, a slave girl ran into us. She was a psychic and, with her fortunetelling, made a lot of money for the people who owned her. She started following Paul around, calling everyone’s attention to us by yelling out, “These men are working for the Most High God. They’re laying out the road of salvation for you!” She did this for a number of days until Paul, finally fed up with her, turned and commanded the spirit that possessed her, “Out! In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of her!” And it was gone, just like that.
19-22 When her owners saw that their lucrative little business was suddenly bankrupt, they went after Paul and Silas, roughed them up and dragged them into the market square. Then the police arrested them and pulled them into a court with the accusation, “These men are disturbing the peace—dangerous Jewish agitators subverting our Roman law and order.” By this time the crowd had turned into a restless mob out for blood.
22-24 The judges went along with the mob, had Paul and Silas’s clothes ripped off and ordered a public beating. After beating them black-and-blue, they threw them into jail, telling the jailkeeper to put them under heavy guard so there would be no chance of escape. He did just that—threw them into the maximum security cell in the jail and clamped leg irons on them.
25-26 Along about midnight, Paul and Silas were at prayer and singing a robust hymn to God. The other prisoners couldn’t believe their ears. Then, without warning, a huge earthquake! The jailhouse tottered, every door flew open, all the prisoners were loose.
27-28 Startled from sleep, the jailer saw all the doors swinging loose on their hinges. Assuming that all the prisoners had escaped, he pulled out his sword and was about to do himself in, figuring he was as good as dead anyway, when Paul stopped him: “Don’t do that! We’re all still here! Nobody’s run away!”
29-31 The jailer got a torch and ran inside. Badly shaken, he collapsed in front of Paul and Silas. He led them out of the jail and asked, “Sirs, what do I have to do to be saved, to really live?” They said, “Put your entire trust in the Master Jesus. Then you’ll live as you were meant to live—and everyone in your house included!”
32-34 They went on to spell out in detail the story of the Master—the entire family got in on this part. They never did get to bed that night. The jailer made them feel at home, dressed their wounds, and then—he couldn’t wait till morning!—was baptized, he and everyone in his family. There in his home, he had food set out for a festive meal. It was a night to remember: He and his entire family had put their trust in God; everyone in the house was in on the celebration.
35-36 At daybreak, the court judges sent officers with the instructions, “Release these men.” The jailer gave Paul the message, “The judges sent word that you’re free to go on your way. Congratulations! Go in peace!”
37 But Paul wouldn’t budge. He told the officers, “They beat us up in public and threw us in jail, Roman citizens in good standing! And now they want to get us out of the way on the sly without anyone knowing? Nothing doing! If they want us out of here, let them come themselves and lead us out in broad daylight.”
38-40 When the officers reported this, the judges panicked. They had no idea that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. They hurried over and apologized, personally escorted them from the jail, and then asked them if they wouldn’t please leave the city. Walking out of the jail, Paul and Silas went straight to Lydia’s house, saw their friends again, encouraged them in the faith, and only then went on their way.
17 1-3 They took the road south through Amphipolis and Apollonia to Thessalonica, where there was a community of Jews. Paul went to their meeting place, as he usually did when he came to a town, and for three Sabbaths running he preached to them from the Scriptures. He opened up the texts so they understood what they’d been reading all their lives: that the Messiah absolutely had to be put to death and raised from the dead—there were no other options—and that “this Jesus I’m introducing you to is that Messiah.”
4-5 Some of them were won over and joined ranks with Paul and Silas, among them a great many God-fearing Greeks and a considerable number of women from the aristocracy. But the hard-line Jews became furious over the conversions. Mad with jealousy, they rounded up a bunch of brawlers off the streets and soon had an ugly mob terrorizing the city as they hunted down Paul and Silas.
5-7 They broke into Jason’s house, thinking that Paul and Silas were there. When they couldn’t find them, they collared Jason and his friends instead and dragged them before the city fathers, yelling hysterically, “These people are out to destroy the world, and now they’ve shown up on our doorstep, attacking everything we hold dear! And Jason is hiding them, these traitors and turncoats who say Jesus is king and Caesar is nothing!”
8-9 The city fathers and the crowd of people were totally alarmed by what they heard. They made Jason and his friends post heavy bail and let them go while they investigated the charges.
10-12 That night, under cover of darkness, their friends got Paul and Silas out of town as fast as they could. They sent them to Berea, where they again met with the Jewish community. They were treated a lot better there than in Thessalonica. The Jews received Paul’s message with enthusiasm and met with him daily, examining the Scriptures to see if they supported what he said. A lot of them became believers, including many Greeks who were prominent in the community, women and men of influence.
13-15 But it wasn’t long before reports got back to the Thessalonian hard-line Jews that Paul was at it again, preaching the Word of God, this time in Berea. They lost no time responding, and created a mob scene there, too. With the help of his friends, Paul gave them the slip—caught a boat and put out to sea. Silas and Timothy stayed behind. The men who helped Paul escape got him as far as Athens and left him there. Paul sent word back with them to Silas and Timothy: “Come as quickly as you can!”
16 The longer Paul waited in Athens for Silas and Timothy, the angrier he got—all those idols! The city was a junkyard of idols.
17-18 He discussed it with the Jews and other like-minded people at their meeting place. And every day he went out on the streets and talked with anyone who happened along. He got to know some of the Epicurean and Stoic intellectuals pretty well through these conversations. Some of them dismissed him with sarcasm: “What an airhead!” But others, listening to him go on about Jesus and the resurrection, were intrigued: “That’s a new slant on the gods. Tell us more.”
19-21 These people got together and asked him to make a public presentation over at the Areopagus, where things were a little quieter. They said, “This is a new one on us. We’ve never heard anything quite like it. Where did you come up with this anyway? Explain it so we can understand.” Downtown Athens was a great place for gossip. There were always people hanging around, natives and tourists alike, waiting for the latest tidbit on most anything.
22-23 So Paul took his stand in the open space at the Areopagus and laid it out for them. “It is plain to see that you Athenians take your religion seriously. When I arrived here the other day, I was fascinated with all the shrines I came across. And then I found one inscribed, to the god nobody knows. I’m here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, know who you’re dealing with.
24-29 “The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn’t live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn’t take care of himself. He makes the creatures; the creatures don’t make him. Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us. He’s not remote; he’s near. We live and move in him, can’t get away from him! One of your poets said it well: ‘We’re the God-created.’ Well, if we are the God-created, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to think we could hire a sculptor to chisel a god out of stone for us, does it?
30-31 “God overlooks it as long as you don’t know any better—but that time is past. The unknown is now known, and he’s calling for a radical life-change. He has set a day when the entire human race will be judged and everything set right. And he has already appointed the judge, confirming him before everyone by raising him from the dead.”
32-34 At the phrase “raising him from the dead,” the listeners split: Some laughed at him and walked off making jokes; others said, “Let’s do this again. We want to hear more.” But that was it for the day, and Paul left. There were still others, it turned out, who were convinced then and there, and stuck with Paul—among them Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris.
18 1-4 After Athens, Paul went to Corinth. That is where he discovered Aquila, a Jew born in Pontus, and his wife, Priscilla. They had just arrived from Italy, part of the general expulsion of Jews from Rome ordered by Claudius. Paul moved in with them, and they worked together at their common trade of tentmaking. But every Sabbath he was at the meeting place, doing his best to convince both Jews and Greeks about Jesus.
5-6 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was able to give all his time to preaching and teaching, doing everything he could to persuade the Jews that Jesus was in fact God’s Messiah. But no such luck. All they did was argue contentiously and contradict him at every turn. Totally exasperated, Paul had finally had it with them and gave it up as a bad job. “Have it your way, then,” he said. “You’ve made your bed; now lie in it. From now on I’m spending my time with the other nations.”
7-8 He walked out and went to the home of Titius Justus, a God-fearing man who lived right next to the Jews’ meeting place. But Paul’s efforts with the Jews weren’t a total loss, for Crispus, the meeting-place president, put his trust in the Master. His entire family believed with him.
8-11 In the course of listening to Paul, a great many Corinthians believed and were baptized. One night the Master spoke to Paul in a dream: “Keep it up, and don’t let anyone intimidate or silence you. No matter what happens, I’m with you and no one is going to be able to hurt you. You have no idea how many people I have on my side in this city.” That was all he needed to stick it out. He stayed another year and a half, faithfully teaching the Word of God to the Corinthians.
12-13 But when Gallio was governor of Achaia province, the Jews got up a campaign against Paul, hauled him into court, and filed charges: “This man is seducing people into acts of worship that are illegal.”
14-16 Just as Paul was about to defend himself, Gallio interrupted and said to the Jews, “If this was a matter of criminal conduct, I would gladly hear you out. But it sounds to me like one more Jewish squabble, another of your endless hairsplitting quarrels over religion. Take care of it on your own time. I can’t be bothered with this nonsense,” and he cleared them out of the courtroom.
17 Now the street rabble turned on Sosthenes, the new meeting-place president, and beat him up in plain sight of the court. Gallio didn’t raise a finger. He could not have cared less.
18 Paul stayed a while longer in Corinth, but then it was time to take leave of his friends. Saying his good-byes, he sailed for Syria, Priscilla and Aquila with him. Before boarding the ship in the harbor town of Cenchrea, he had his head shaved as part of a vow he had taken.
19-21 They landed in Ephesus, where Priscilla and Aquila got off and stayed. Paul left the ship briefly to go to the meeting place and preach to the Jews. They wanted him to stay longer, but he said he couldn’t. But after saying good-bye, he promised, “I’ll be back, God willing.”
21-22 From Ephesus he sailed to Caesarea. He greeted the church there, and then went on to Antioch, completing the journey.
23 After spending a considerable time with the Antioch Christians, Paul set off again for Galatia and Phrygia, retracing his old tracks, one town after another, putting fresh heart into the disciples.
24-26 A man named Apollos came to Ephesus. He was a Jew, born in Alexandria, Egypt, and a terrific speaker, eloquent and powerful in his preaching of the Scriptures. He was well-educated in the way of the Master and fiery in his enthusiasm. Apollos was accurate in everything he taught about Jesus up to a point, but he only went as far as the baptism of John. He preached with power in the meeting place. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and told him the rest of the story.
27-28 When Apollos decided to go on to Achaia province, his Ephesian friends gave their blessing and wrote a letter of recommendation for him, urging the disciples there to welcome him with open arms. The welcome paid off: Apollos turned out to be a great help to those who had become believers through God’s immense generosity. He was particularly effective in public debate with the Jews as he brought out proof after convincing proof from the Scriptures that Jesus was in fact God’s Messiah.
19 1-2 Now, it happened that while Apollos was away in Corinth, Paul made his way down through the mountains, came to Ephesus, and happened on some disciples there. The first thing he said was, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? Did you take God into your mind only, or did you also embrace him with your heart? Did he get inside you?”
“We’ve never even heard of that—a Holy Spirit? God within us?”
3 “How were you baptized, then?” asked Paul.
“In John’s baptism.”
4 “That explains it,” said Paul. “John preached a baptism of radical life-change so that people would be ready to receive the One coming after him, who turned out to be Jesus. If you’ve been baptized in John’s baptism, you’re ready now for the real thing, for Jesus.”
5-7 And they were. As soon as they heard of it, they were baptized in the name of the Master Jesus. Paul put his hands on their heads and the Holy Spirit entered them. From that moment on, they were praising God in tongues and talking about God’s actions. Altogether there were about twelve people there that day.
8-10 Paul then went straight to the meeting place. He had the run of the place for three months, doing his best to make the things of the kingdom of God real and convincing to them. But then resistance began to form as some of them began spreading evil rumors through the congregation about the Christian way of life. So Paul left, taking the disciples with him, and set up shop in the school of Tyrannus, holding class there daily. He did this for two years, giving everyone in the province of Asia, Jews as well as Greeks, ample opportunity to hear the Message of the Master.
Witches Came out of the Woodwork
11-12 God did powerful things through Paul, things quite out of the ordinary. The word got around and people started taking pieces of clothing—handkerchiefs and scarves and the like—that had touched Paul’s skin and then touching the sick with them. The touch did it—they were healed and whole.
13-16 Some itinerant Jewish exorcists who happened to be in town at the time tried their hand at what they assumed to be Paul’s “game.” They pronounced the name of the Master Jesus over victims of evil spirits, saying, “I command you by the Jesus preached by Paul!” The seven sons of a certain Sceva, a Jewish high priest, were trying to do this on a man when the evil spirit talked back: “I know Jesus and I’ve heard of Paul, but who are you?” Then the possessed man went berserk—jumped the exorcists, beat them up, and tore off their clothes. Naked and bloody, they got away as best they could.
17-20 It was soon news all over Ephesus among both Jews and Greeks. The realization spread that God was in and behind this. Curiosity about Paul developed into reverence for the Master Jesus. Many of those who thus believed came out of the closet and made a clean break with their secret sorceries. All kinds of witches and warlocks came out of the woodwork with their books of spells and incantations and made a huge bonfire of them. Someone estimated their worth at fifty thousand silver coins. In such ways it became evident that the Word of the Master was now sovereign and prevailed in Ephesus.
The Goddess Artemis
21-22 After all this had come to a head, Paul decided it was time to move on to Macedonia and Achaia provinces, and from there to Jerusalem. “Then,” he said, “I’m off to Rome. I’ve got to see Rome!” He sent two of his assistants, Timothy and Erastus, on to Macedonia and then stayed for a while and wrapped things up in Asia.
23-26 But before he got away, a huge ruckus occurred over what was now being referred to as “the Way.” A certain silversmith, Demetrius, conducted a brisk trade in the manufacture of shrines to the goddess Artemis, employing a number of artisans in his business. He rounded up his workers and others similarly employed and said, “Men, you well know that we have a good thing going here—and you’ve seen how Paul has barged in and discredited what we’re doing by telling people that there’s no such thing as a god made with hands. A lot of people are going along with him, not only here in Ephesus but all through Asia province.
27 “Not only is our little business in danger of falling apart, but the temple of our famous goddess Artemis will certainly end up a pile of rubble as her glorious reputation fades to nothing. And this is no mere local matter—the whole world worships our Artemis!”
28-31 That set them off in a frenzy. They ran into the street yelling, “Great Artemis of the Ephesians! Great Artemis of the Ephesians!” They put the whole city in an uproar, stampeding into the stadium, and grabbing two of Paul’s associates on the way, the Macedonians Gaius and Aristarchus. Paul wanted to go in, too, but the disciples wouldn’t let him. Prominent religious leaders in the city who had become friendly to Paul concurred: “By no means go near that mob!”
32-34 Some were yelling one thing, some another. Most of them had no idea what was going on or why they were there. As the Jews pushed Alexander to the front to try to gain control, different factions clamored to get him on their side. But he brushed them off and quieted the mob with an impressive sweep of his arms. But the moment he opened his mouth and they knew he was a Jew, they shouted him down: “Great Artemis of the Ephesians! Great Artemis of the Ephesians!”—on and on and on, for over two hours.
35-37 Finally, the town clerk got the mob quieted down and said, “Fellow citizens, is there anyone anywhere who doesn’t know that our dear city Ephesus is protector of glorious Artemis and her sacred stone image that fell straight out of heaven? Since this is beyond contradiction, you had better get hold of yourselves. This is conduct unworthy of Artemis. These men you’ve dragged in here have done nothing to harm either our temple or our goddess.
38-41 “So if Demetrius and his guild of artisans have a complaint, they can take it to court and make all the accusations they want. If anything else is bothering you, bring it to the regularly scheduled town meeting and let it be settled there. There is no excuse for what’s happened today. We’re putting our city in serious danger. Rome, remember, does not look kindly on rioters.” With that, he sent them home.
Macedonia and Greece
20 1-2 With things back to normal, Paul called the disciples together and encouraged them to keep up the good work in Ephesus. Then, saying his good-byes, he left for Macedonia. Traveling through the country, passing from one gathering to another, he gave constant encouragement, lifting their spirits and charging them with fresh hope.
2-4 Then he came to Greece and stayed on for three months. Just as he was about to sail for Syria, the Jews cooked up a plot against him. So he went the other way, by land back through Macedonia, and gave them the slip. His companions for the journey were Sopater, son of Pyrrhus, from Berea; Aristarchus and Secundus, both Thessalonians; Gaius from Derbe; Timothy; and the two from western Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus.
5-6 They went on ahead and waited for us in Troas. Meanwhile, we stayed in Philippi for Passover Week, and then set sail. Within five days we were again in Troas and stayed a week.
7-9 We met on Sunday to worship and celebrate the Master’s Supper. Paul addressed the congregation. Our plan was to leave first thing in the morning, but Paul talked on, way past midnight. We were meeting in a well-lighted upper room. A young man named Eutychus was sitting in an open window. As Paul went on and on, Eutychus fell sound asleep and toppled out the third-story window. When they picked him up, he was dead.
10-12 Paul went down, stretched himself on him, and hugged him hard. “No more crying,” he said. “There’s life in him yet.” Then Paul got up and served the Master’s Supper. And went on telling stories of the faith until dawn! On that note, they left—Paul going one way, the congregation another, leading the boy off alive, and full of life themselves.
13-16 In the meantime, the rest of us had gone on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, where we planned to pick up Paul. Paul wanted to walk there, and so had made these arrangements earlier. Things went according to plan: We met him in Assos, took him on board, and sailed to Mitylene. The next day we put in opposite Chios, Samos a day later, and then Miletus. Paul had decided to bypass Ephesus so that he wouldn’t be held up in Asia province. He was in a hurry to get to Jerusalem in time for the Feast of Pentecost, if at all possible.
On to Jerusalem
17-21 From Miletus he sent to Ephesus for the leaders of the congregation. When they arrived, he said, “You know that from day one of my arrival in Asia I was with you totally—laying my life on the line, serving the Master no matter what, putting up with no end of scheming by Jews who wanted to do me in. I didn’t skimp or trim in any way. Every truth and encouragement that could have made a difference to you, you got. I taught you out in public and I taught you in your homes, urging Jews and Greeks alike to a radical life-change before God and an equally radical trust in our Master Jesus.
22-24 “But there is another urgency before me now. I feel compelled to go to Jerusalem. I’m completely in the dark about what will happen when I get there. I do know that it won’t be any picnic, for the Holy Spirit has let me know repeatedly and clearly that there are hard times and imprisonment ahead. But that matters little. What matters most to me is to finish what God started: the job the Master Jesus gave me of letting everyone I meet know all about this incredibly extravagant generosity of God.
25-27 “And so this is good-bye. You’re not going to see me again, nor I you, you whom I have gone among for so long proclaiming the news of God’s inaugurated kingdom. I’ve done my best for you, given you my all, held back nothing of God’s will for you.
28 “Now it’s up to you. Be on your toes—both for yourselves and your congregation of sheep. The Holy Spirit has put you in charge of these people—God’s people they are—to guard and protect them. God himself thought they were worth dying for.
29-31 “I know that as soon as I’m gone, vicious wolves are going to show up and rip into this flock, men from your very own ranks twisting words so as to seduce disciples into following them instead of Jesus. So stay awake and keep up your guard. Remember those three years I kept at it with you, never letting up, pouring my heart out with you, one after another.
32 “Now I’m turning you over to God, our marvelous God whose gracious Word can make you into what he wants you to be and give you everything you could possibly need in this community of holy friends.
33-35 “I’ve never, as you so well know, had any taste for wealth or fashion. With these bare hands I took care of my own basic needs and those who worked with me. In everything I’ve done, I have demonstrated to you how necessary it is to work on behalf of the weak and not exploit them. You’ll not likely go wrong here if you keep remembering that our Master said, ‘You’re far happier giving than getting.’”
36-38 Then Paul went down on his knees, all of them kneeling with him, and prayed. And then a river of tears. Much clinging to Paul, not wanting to let him go. They knew they would never see him again—he had told them quite plainly. The pain cut deep. Then, bravely, they walked him down to the ship.
Tyre and Caesarea
21 1-4 And so, with the tearful good-byes behind us, we were on our way. We made a straight run to Cos, the next day reached Rhodes, and then Patara. There we found a ship going direct to Phoenicia, got on board, and set sail. Cyprus came into view on our left, but was soon out of sight as we kept on course for Syria, and eventually docked in the port of Tyre. While the cargo was being unloaded, we looked up the local disciples and stayed with them seven days. Their message to Paul, from insight given by the Spirit, was “Don’t go to Jerusalem.”
5-6 When our time was up, they escorted us out of the city to the docks. Everyone came along—men, women, children. They made a farewell party of the occasion! We all kneeled together on the beach and prayed. Then, after another round of saying good-bye, we climbed on board the ship while they drifted back to their homes.
7-9 A short run from Tyre to Ptolemais completed the voyage. We greeted our Christian friends there and stayed with them a day. In the morning we went on to Caesarea and stayed with Philip the Evangelist, one of “the Seven.” Philip had four virgin daughters who prophesied.
10-11 After several days of visiting, a prophet from Judea by the name of Agabus came down to see us. He went right up to Paul, took Paul’s belt, and, in a dramatic gesture, tied himself up, hands and feet. He said, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: The Jews in Jerusalem are going to tie up the man who owns this belt just like this and hand him over to godless unbelievers.”
12-13 When we heard that, we and everyone there that day begged Paul not to be stubborn and persist in going to Jerusalem. But Paul wouldn’t budge: “Why all this hysteria? Why do you insist on making a scene and making it even harder for me? You’re looking at this backward. The issue in Jerusalem is not what they do to me, whether arrest or murder, but what the Master Jesus does through my obedience. Can’t you see that?”
14 We saw that we weren’t making even a dent in his resolve, and gave up. “It’s in God’s hands now,” we said. “Master, you handle it.”
15-16 It wasn’t long before we had our luggage together and were on our way to Jerusalem. Some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us and took us to the home of Mnason, who received us warmly as his guests. A native of Cyprus, he had been among the earliest disciples.
17-19 In Jerusalem, our friends, glad to see us, received us with open arms. The first thing next morning, we took Paul to see James. All the church leaders were there. After a time of greeting and small talk, Paul told the story, detail by detail, of what God had done among the non-Jewish people through his ministry. They listened with delight and gave God the glory.
20-21 They had a story to tell, too: “And just look at what’s been happening here—thousands upon thousands of God-fearing Jews have become believers in Jesus! But there’s also a problem because they are more zealous than ever in observing the laws of Moses. They’ve been told that you advise believing Jews who live surrounded by unbelieving outsiders to go light on Moses, telling them that they don’t need to circumcise their children or keep up the old traditions. This isn’t sitting at all well with them.
22-24 “We’re worried about what will happen when they discover you’re in town. There’s bound to be trouble. So here is what we want you to do: There are four men from our company who have taken a vow involving ritual purification, but have no money to pay the expenses. Join these men in their vows and pay their expenses. Then it will become obvious to everyone that there is nothing to the rumors going around about you and that you are in fact scrupulous in your reverence for the laws of Moses.
25 “In asking you to do this, we’re not going back on our agreement regarding non-Jews who have become believers. We continue to hold fast to what we wrote in that letter, namely, to be careful not to get involved in activities connected with idols; to avoid serving food offensive to Jewish Christians; to guard the morality of sex and marriage.”
26 So Paul did it—took the men, joined them in their vows, and paid their way. The next day he went to the Temple to make it official and stay there until the proper sacrifices had been offered and completed for each of them.
Paul Under Arrest
27-29 When the seven days of their purification were nearly up, some Jews from around Ephesus spotted him in the Temple. At once they turned the place upside-down. They grabbed Paul and started yelling at the top of their lungs, “Help! You Israelites, help! This is the man who is going all over the world telling lies against us and our religion and this place. He’s even brought Greeks in here and defiled this holy place.” (What had happened was that they had seen Paul and Trophimus, the Ephesian Greek, walking together in the city and had just assumed that he had also taken him to the Temple and shown him around.)
30 Soon the whole city was in an uproar, people running from everywhere to the Temple to get in on the action. They grabbed Paul, dragged him outside, and locked the Temple gates so he couldn’t get back in and gain sanctuary.
31-32 As they were trying to kill him, word came to the captain of the guard, “A riot! The whole city’s boiling over!” He acted swiftly. His soldiers and centurions ran to the scene at once. As soon as the mob saw the captain and his soldiers, they quit beating Paul.
33-36 The captain came up and put Paul under arrest. He first ordered him handcuffed, and then asked who he was and what he had done. All he got from the crowd were shouts, one yelling this, another that. It was impossible to tell one word from another in the mob hysteria, so the captain ordered Paul taken to the military barracks. But when they got to the Temple steps, the mob became so violent that the soldiers had to carry Paul. As they carried him away, the crowd followed, shouting, “Kill him! Kill him!”
37-38 When they got to the barracks and were about to go in, Paul said to the captain, “Can I say something to you?”
He answered, “Oh, I didn’t know you spoke Greek. I thought you were the Egyptian who not long ago started a riot here, and then hid out in the desert with his four thousand thugs.”
39 Paul said, “No, I’m a Jew, born in Tarsus. And I’m a citizen still of that influential city. I have a simple request: Let me speak to the crowd.”
Paul Tells His Story
40 Standing on the barracks steps, Paul turned and held his arms up. A hush fell over the crowd as Paul began to speak. He spoke in Hebrew.
22 1-2 “My dear brothers and fathers, listen carefully to what I have to say before you jump to conclusions about me.” When they heard him speaking Hebrew, they grew even quieter. No one wanted to miss a word of this.
2-3 He continued, “I am a good Jew, born in Tarsus in the province of Cilicia, but educated here in Jerusalem under the exacting eye of Rabbi Gamaliel, thoroughly instructed in our religious traditions. And I’ve always been passionately on God’s side, just as you are right now.
4-5 “I went after anyone connected with this ‘Way,’ went at them hammer and tongs, ready to kill for God. I rounded up men and women right and left and had them thrown in prison. You can ask the Chief Priest or anyone in the High Council to verify this; they all knew me well. Then I went off to our brothers in Damascus, armed with official documents authorizing me to hunt down the followers of Jesus there, arrest them, and bring them back to Jerusalem for sentencing.
6-7 “As I arrived on the outskirts of Damascus about noon, a blinding light blazed out of the skies and I fell to the ground, dazed. I heard a voice: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?’
8-9 “‘Who are you, Master?’ I asked.
“He said, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, the One you’re hunting down.’ My companions saw the light, but they didn’t hear the conversation.
10-11 “Then I said, ‘What do I do now, Master?’
“He said, ‘Get to your feet and enter Damascus. There you’ll be told everything that’s been set out for you to do.’ And so we entered Damascus, but nothing like the entrance I had planned—I was blind as a bat and my companions had to lead me in by the hand.
12-13 “And that’s when I met Ananias, a man with a sterling reputation in observing our laws—the Jewish community in Damascus is unanimous on that score. He came and put his arm on my shoulder. ‘Look up,’ he said. I looked, and found myself looking right into his eyes—I could see again!
14-16 “Then he said, ‘The God of our ancestors has handpicked you to be briefed on his plan of action. You’ve actually seen the Righteous Innocent and heard him speak. You are to be a key witness to everyone you meet of what you’ve seen and heard. So what are you waiting for? Get up and get yourself baptized, scrubbed clean of those sins and personally acquainted with God.’
17-18 “Well, it happened just as Ananias said. After I was back in Jerusalem and praying one day in the Temple, lost in the presence of God, I saw him, saw God’s Righteous Innocent, and heard him say to me, ‘Hurry up! Get out of here as quickly as you can. None of the Jews here in Jerusalem are going to accept what you say about me.’
19-20 “At first I objected: ‘Who has better credentials? They all know how obsessed I was with hunting out those who believed in you, beating them up in the meeting places and throwing them in jail. And when your witness Stephen was murdered, I was right there, holding the coats of the murderers and cheering them on. And now they see me totally converted. What better qualification could I have?’
21 “But he said, ‘Don’t argue. Go. I’m sending you on a long journey to outsider non-Jews.’”
A Roman Citizen
22-25 The people in the crowd had listened attentively up to this point, but now they broke loose, shouting out, “Kill him! He’s an insect! Stomp on him!” They shook their fists. They filled the air with curses. That’s when the captain intervened and ordered Paul taken into the barracks. By now the captain was thoroughly exasperated. He decided to interrogate Paul under torture in order to get to the bottom of this, to find out what he had done that provoked this outraged violence. As they spread-eagled him with thongs, getting him ready for the whip, Paul said to the centurion standing there, “Is this legal: torturing a Roman citizen without a fair trial?”
26 When the centurion heard that, he went directly to the captain. “Do you realize what you’ve done? This man is a Roman citizen!”
27 The captain came back and took charge. “Is what I hear right? You’re a Roman citizen?”
Paul said, “I certainly am.”
28 The captain was impressed. “I paid a huge sum for my citizenship. How much did it cost you?”
“Nothing,” said Paul. “It cost me nothing. I was free from the day of my birth.”
29 That put a stop to the interrogation. And it put the fear of God into the captain. He had put a Roman citizen in chains and come within a whisker of putting him under torture!
30 The next day, determined to get to the root of the trouble and know for sure what was behind the Jewish accusation, the captain released Paul and ordered a meeting of the high priests and the High Council to see what they could make of it. Paul was led in and took his place before them.
Before the High Council
23 1-3 Paul surveyed the members of the council with a steady gaze, and then said his piece: “Friends, I’ve lived with a clear conscience before God all my life, up to this very moment.” That set the Chief Priest Ananias off. He ordered his aides to slap Paul in the face. Paul shot back, “God will slap you down! What a fake you are! You sit there and judge me by the Law and then break the Law by ordering me slapped around!”
4 The aides were scandalized: “How dare you talk to God’s Chief Priest like that!”
5 Paul acted surprised. “How was I to know he was Chief Priest? He doesn’t act like a Chief Priest. You’re right, the Scripture does say, ‘Don’t speak abusively to a ruler of the people.’ Sorry.”
6 Paul, knowing some of the council was made up of Sadducees and others of Pharisees and how they hated each other, decided to exploit their antagonism: “Friends, I am a stalwart Pharisee from a long line of Pharisees. It’s because of my Pharisee convictions—the hope and resurrection of the dead—that I’ve been hauled into this court.”
7-9 The moment he said this, the council split right down the middle, Pharisees and Sadducees going at each other in heated argument. Sadducees have nothing to do with a resurrection or angels or even a spirit. If they can’t see it, they don’t believe it. Pharisees believe it all. And so a huge and noisy quarrel broke out. Then some of the religion scholars on the Pharisee side shouted down the others: “We don’t find anything wrong with this man! And what if a spirit has spoken to him? Or maybe an angel? What if it turns out we’re fighting against God?”
10 That was fuel on the fire. The quarrel flamed up and became so violent the captain was afraid they would tear Paul apart, limb from limb. He ordered the soldiers to get him out of there and escort him back to the safety of the barracks.
A Plot Against Paul
11 That night the Master appeared to Paul: “It’s going to be all right. Everything is going to turn out for the best. You’ve been a good witness for me here in Jerusalem. Now you’re going to be my witness in Rome!”
12-15 Next day the Jews worked up a plot against Paul. They took a solemn oath that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed him. Over forty of them ritually bound themselves to this murder pact and presented themselves to the high priests and religious leaders. “We’ve bound ourselves by a solemn oath to eat nothing until we have killed Paul. But we need your help. Send a request from the council to the captain to bring Paul back so that you can investigate the charges in more detail. We’ll do the rest. Before he gets anywhere near you, we’ll have killed him. You won’t be involved.”
16-17 Paul’s nephew, his sister’s son, overheard them plotting the ambush. He went immediately to the barracks and told Paul. Paul called over one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the captain. He has something important to tell him.”
18 The centurion brought him to the captain and said, “The prisoner Paul asked me to bring this young man to you. He said he has something urgent to tell you.”
19 The captain took him by the arm and led him aside privately. “What is it? What do you have to tell me?”
20-21 Paul’s nephew said, “The Jews have worked up a plot against Paul. They’re going to ask you to bring Paul to the council first thing in the morning on the pretext that they want to investigate the charges against him in more detail. But it’s a trick to get him out of your safekeeping so they can murder him. Right now there are more than forty men lying in ambush for him. They’ve all taken a vow to neither eat nor drink until they’ve killed him. The ambush is set—all they’re waiting for is for you to send him over.”
22 The captain dismissed the nephew with a warning: “Don’t breathe a word of this to a soul.”
23-24 The captain called up two centurions. “Get two hundred soldiers ready to go immediately to Caesarea. Also seventy cavalry and two hundred light infantry. I want them ready to march by nine o’clock tonight. And you’ll need a couple of mules for Paul and his gear. We’re going to present this man safe and sound to Governor Felix.”
25-30 Then he wrote this letter:
From Claudius Lysias, to the Most Honorable Governor Felix:
I rescued this man from a Jewish mob. They had seized him and were about to kill him when I learned that he was a Roman citizen. So I sent in my soldiers. Wanting to know what he had done wrong, I had him brought before their council. It turned out to be a squabble turned vicious over some of their religious differences, but nothing remotely criminal.
The next thing I knew, they had cooked up a plot to murder him. I decided that for his own safety I’d better get him out of here in a hurry. So I’m sending him to you. I’m informing his accusers that he’s now under your jurisdiction.
31-33 The soldiers, following orders, took Paul that same night to safety in Antipatris. In the morning the soldiers returned to their barracks in Jerusalem, sending Paul on to Caesarea under guard of the cavalry. The cavalry entered Caesarea and handed Paul and the letter over to the governor.
34-35 After reading the letter, the governor asked Paul what province he came from and was told “Cilicia.” Then he said, “I’ll take up your case when your accusers show up.” He ordered him locked up for the meantime in King Herod’s official quarters.
Paul States His Defense
24 1-4 Within five days, the Chief Priest Ananias arrived with a contingent of leaders, along with Tertullus, a trial lawyer. They presented the governor with their case against Paul. When Paul was called before the court, Tertullus spoke for the prosecution: “Most Honorable Felix, we are most grateful in all times and places for your wise and gentle rule. We are much aware that it is because of you and you alone that we enjoy all this peace and gain daily profit from your reforms. I’m not going to tire you out with a long speech. I beg your kind indulgence in listening to me. I’ll be quite brief.
5-8 “We’ve found this man time and again disturbing the peace, stirring up riots against Jews all over the world, the ringleader of a seditious sect called Nazarenes. He’s a real bad apple, I must say. We caught him trying to defile our holy Temple and arrested him. You’ll be able to verify all these accusations when you examine him yourself.”
9 The Jews joined in: “Hear, hear! That’s right!”
10-13 The governor motioned to Paul that it was now his turn. Paul said, “I count myself fortunate to be defending myself before you, Governor, knowing how fair-minded you’ve been in judging us all these years. I’ve been back in the country only twelve days—you can check out these dates easily enough. I came with the express purpose of worshiping in Jerusalem on Pentecost, and I’ve been minding my own business the whole time. Nobody can say they saw me arguing in the Temple or working up a crowd in the streets. Not one of their charges can be backed up with evidence or witnesses.
14-15 “But I do freely admit this: In regard to the Way, which they malign as a dead-end street, I serve and worship the very same God served and worshiped by all our ancestors and embrace everything written in all our Scriptures. And I admit to living in hopeful anticipation that God will raise the dead, both the good and the bad. If that’s my crime, my accusers are just as guilty as I am.
16-19 “Believe me, I do my level best to keep a clear conscience before God and my neighbors in everything I do. I’ve been out of the country for a number of years and now I’m back. While I was away, I took up a collection for the poor and brought that with me, along with offerings for the Temple. It was while making those offerings that they found me quietly at my prayers in the Temple. There was no crowd, there was no disturbance. It was some Jews from around Ephesus who started all this trouble. And you’ll notice they’re not here today. They’re cowards, too cowardly to accuse me in front of you.
20-21 “So ask these others what crime they’ve caught me in. Don’t let them hide behind this smooth-talking Tertullus. The only thing they have on me is that one sentence I shouted out in the council: ‘It’s because I believe in the resurrection that I’ve been hauled into this court!’ Does that sound to you like grounds for a criminal case?”
22-23 Felix shilly-shallied. He knew far more about the Way than he let on, and could have settled the case then and there. But uncertain of his best move politically, he played for time. “When Captain Lysias comes down, I’ll decide your case.” He gave orders to the centurion to keep Paul in custody, but to more or less give him the run of the place and not prevent his friends from helping him.
24-26 A few days later Felix and his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish, sent for Paul and listened to him talk about a life of believing in Jesus Christ. As Paul continued to insist on right relations with God and his people, about a life of moral discipline and the coming Judgment, Felix felt things getting a little too close for comfort and dismissed him. “That’s enough for today. I’ll call you back when it’s convenient.” At the same time he was secretly hoping that Paul would offer him a substantial bribe. These conversations were repeated frequently.
27 After two years of this, Felix was replaced by Porcius Festus. Still playing up to the Jews and ignoring justice, Felix left Paul in prison.
An Appeal to Caesar
25 1-3 Three days after Festus arrived in Caesarea to take up his duties as governor, he went up to Jerusalem. The high priests and top leaders renewed their vendetta against Paul. They asked Festus if he wouldn’t please do them a favor by sending Paul to Jerusalem to respond to their charges. A lie, of course—they had revived their old plot to set an ambush and kill him along the way.
4-5 Festus answered that Caesarea was the proper jurisdiction for Paul, and that he himself was going back there in a few days. “You’re perfectly welcome,” he said, “to go back with me then and accuse him of whatever you think he’s done wrong.”
6-7 About eight or ten days later, Festus returned to Caesarea. The next morning he took his place in the courtroom and had Paul brought in. The minute he walked in, the Jews who had come down from Jerusalem were all over him, hurling the most extreme accusations, none of which they could prove.
8 Then Paul took the stand and said simply, “I’ve done nothing wrong against the Jewish religion, or the Temple, or Caesar. Period.”
9 Festus, though, wanted to get on the good side of the Jews and so said, “How would you like to go up to Jerusalem, and let me conduct your trial there?”
10-11 Paul answered, “I’m standing at this moment before Caesar’s bar of justice, where I have a perfect right to stand. And I’m going to keep standing here. I’ve done nothing wrong to the Jews, and you know it as well as I do. If I’ve committed a crime and deserve death, name the day. I can face it. But if there’s nothing to their accusations—and you know there isn’t—nobody can force me to go along with their nonsense. We’ve fooled around here long enough. I appeal to Caesar.”
12 Festus huddled with his advisors briefly and then gave his verdict: “You’ve appealed to Caesar; you’ll go to Caesar!”
13-17 A few days later King Agrippa and his wife, Bernice, visited Caesarea to welcome Festus to his new post. After several days, Festus brought up Paul’s case to the king. “I have a man on my hands here, a prisoner left by Felix. When I was in Jerusalem, the high priests and Jewish leaders brought a bunch of accusations against him and wanted me to sentence him to death. I told them that wasn’t the way we Romans did things. Just because a man is accused, we don’t throw him out to the dogs. We make sure the accused has a chance to face his accusers and defend himself of the charges. So when they came down here I got right on the case. I took my place in the courtroom and put the man on the stand.
18-21 “The accusers came at him from all sides, but their accusations turned out to be nothing more than arguments about their religion and a dead man named Jesus, who the prisoner claimed was alive. Since I’m a newcomer here and don’t understand everything involved in cases like this, I asked if he’d be willing to go to Jerusalem and be tried there. Paul refused and demanded a hearing before His Majesty in our highest court. So I ordered him returned to custody until I could send him to Caesar in Rome.”
22 Agrippa said, “I’d like to see this man and hear his story.”
“Good,” said Festus. “We’ll bring him in first thing in the morning and you’ll hear it for yourself.”
23 The next day everybody who was anybody in Caesarea found his way to the Great Hall, along with the top military brass. Agrippa and Bernice made a flourishing grand entrance and took their places. Festus then ordered Paul brought in.
24-26 Festus said, “King Agrippa and distinguished guests, take a good look at this man. A bunch of Jews petitioned me first in Jerusalem, and later here, to do away with him. They have been most vehement in demanding his execution. I looked into it and decided that he had committed no crime. He requested a trial before Caesar and I agreed to send him to Rome. But what am I going to write to my master, Caesar? All the charges made by the Jews were fabrications, and I’ve uncovered nothing else.
26-27 “That’s why I’ve brought him before this company, and especially you, King Agrippa: so we can come up with something in the nature of a charge that will hold water. For it seems to me silly to send a prisoner all that way for a trial and not be able to document what he did wrong.”
“I Couldn’t Just Walk Away”
26 1-3 Agrippa spoke directly to Paul: “Go ahead—tell us about yourself.”
Paul took the stand and told his story. “I can’t think of anyone, King Agrippa, before whom I’d rather be answering all these Jewish accusations than you, knowing how well you are acquainted with Jewish ways and all our family quarrels.
4-8 “From the time of my youth, my life has been lived among my own people in Jerusalem. Practically every Jew in town who watched me grow up—and if they were willing to stick their necks out they’d tell you in person—knows that I lived as a strict Pharisee, the most demanding branch of our religion. It’s because I believed it and took it seriously, committed myself heart and soul to what God promised my ancestors—the identical hope, mind you, that the twelve tribes have lived for night and day all these centuries—it’s because I have held on to this tested and tried hope that I’m being called on the carpet by the Jews. They should be the ones standing trial here, not me! For the life of me, I can’t see why it’s a criminal offense to believe that God raises the dead.
9-11 “I admit that I didn’t always hold to this position. For a time I thought it was my duty to oppose this Jesus of Nazareth with all my might. Backed with the full authority of the high priests, I threw these believers—I had no idea they were God’s people!—into the Jerusalem jail right and left, and whenever it came to a vote, I voted for their execution. I stormed through their meeting places, bullying them into cursing Jesus, a one-man terror obsessed with obliterating these people. And then I started on the towns outside Jerusalem.
12-14 “One day on my way to Damascus, armed as always with papers from the high priests authorizing my action, right in the middle of the day a blaze of light, light outshining the sun, poured out of the sky on me and my companions. Oh, King, it was so bright! We fell flat on our faces. Then I heard a voice in Hebrew: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me? Why do you insist on going against the grain?’
15-16 “I said, ‘Who are you, Master?’
“The voice answered, ‘I am Jesus, the One you’re hunting down like an animal. But now, up on your feet—I have a job for you. I’ve handpicked you to be a servant and witness to what’s happened today, and to what I am going to show you.
17-18 “‘I’m sending you off to open the eyes of the outsiders so they can see the difference between dark and light, and choose light, see the difference between Satan and God, and choose God. I’m sending you off to present my offer of sins forgiven, and a place in the family, inviting them into the company of those who begin real living by believing in me.’
19-20 “What could I do, King Agrippa? I couldn’t just walk away from a vision like that! I became an obedient believer on the spot. I started preaching this life-change—this radical turn to God and everything it meant in everyday life—right there in Damascus, went on to Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside, and from there to the whole world.
21-23 “It’s because of this ‘whole world’ dimension that the Jews grabbed me in the Temple that day and tried to kill me. They want to keep God for themselves. But God has stood by me, just as he promised, and I’m standing here saying what I’ve been saying to anyone, whether king or child, who will listen. And everything I’m saying is completely in line with what the prophets and Moses said would happen: One, the Messiah must die; two, raised from the dead, he would be the first rays of God’s daylight shining on people far and near, people both godless and God-fearing.”
24 That was too much for Festus. He interrupted with a shout: “Paul, you’re crazy! You’ve read too many books, spent too much time staring off into space! Get a grip on yourself, get back in the real world!”
25-27 But Paul stood his ground. “With all respect, Festus, Your Honor, I’m not crazy. I’m both accurate and sane in what I’m saying. The king knows what I’m talking about. I’m sure that nothing of what I’ve said sounds crazy to him. He’s known all about it for a long time. You must realize that this wasn’t done behind the scenes. You believe the prophets, don’t you, King Agrippa? Don’t answer that—I know you believe.”
28 But Agrippa did answer: “Keep this up much longer and you’ll make a Christian out of me!”
29 Paul, still in chains, said, “That’s what I’m praying for, whether now or later, and not only you but everyone listening today, to become like me—except, of course, for this prison jewelry!”
30-31 The king and the governor, along with Bernice and their advisors, got up and went into the next room to talk over what they had heard. They quickly agreed on Paul’s innocence, saying, “There’s nothing in this man deserving prison, let alone death.”
32 Agrippa told Festus, “He could be set free right now if he hadn’t requested the hearing before Caesar.”
A Storm at Sea
27 1-2 As soon as arrangements were complete for our sailing to Italy, Paul and a few other prisoners were placed under the supervision of a centurion named Julius, a member of an elite guard. We boarded a ship from Adramyttium that was bound for Ephesus and ports west. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, went with us.
3 The next day we put in at Sidon. Julius treated Paul most decently—let him get off the ship and enjoy the hospitality of his friends there.
4-8 Out to sea again, we sailed north under the protection of the northeast shore of Cyprus because winds out of the west were against us, and then along the coast westward to the port of Myra. There the centurion found an Egyptian ship headed for Italy and transferred us on board. We ran into bad weather and found it impossible to stay on course. After much difficulty, we finally made it to the southern coast of the island of Crete and docked at Good Harbor (appropriate name!).
9-10 By this time we had lost a lot of time. We had passed the autumn equinox, so it would be stormy weather from now on through the winter, too dangerous for sailing. Paul warned, “I see only disaster ahead for cargo and ship—to say nothing of our lives!—if we put out to sea now.”
12,11 But it was not the best harbor for staying the winter. Phoenix, a few miles further on, was more suitable. The centurion set Paul’s warning aside and let the ship captain and the shipowner talk him into trying for the next harbor.
13-15 When a gentle southerly breeze came up, they weighed anchor, thinking it would be smooth sailing. But they were no sooner out to sea than a gale-force wind, the infamous nor’easter, struck. They lost all control of the ship. It was a cork in the storm.
16-17 We came under the lee of the small island named Clauda, and managed to get a lifeboat ready and reef the sails. But rocky shoals prevented us from getting close. We only managed to avoid them by throwing out drift anchors.
18-20 Next day, out on the high seas again and badly damaged now by the storm, we dumped the cargo overboard. The third day the sailors lightened the ship further by throwing off all the tackle and provisions. It had been many days since we had seen either sun or stars. Wind and waves were battering us unmercifully, and we lost all hope of rescue.
21-22 With our appetite for both food and life long gone, Paul took his place in our midst and said, “Friends, you really should have listened to me back in Crete. We could have avoided all this trouble and trial. But there’s no need to dwell on that now. From now on, things are looking up! I can assure you that there’ll not be a single drowning among us, although I can’t say as much for the ship—the ship itself is doomed.
23-26 “Last night God’s angel stood at my side, an angel of this God I serve, saying to me, ‘Don’t give up, Paul. You’re going to stand before Caesar yet—and everyone sailing with you is also going to make it.’ So, dear friends, take heart. I believe God will do exactly what he told me. But we’re going to shipwreck on some island or other.”
27-29 On the fourteenth night, adrift somewhere on the Adriatic Sea, at about midnight the sailors sensed that we were approaching land. Sounding, they measured a depth of 120 feet, and shortly after that ninety feet. Afraid that we were about to run aground, they threw out four anchors and prayed for daylight.
30-32 Some of the sailors tried to jump ship. They let down the lifeboat, pretending they were going to set out more anchors from the bow. Paul saw through their guise and told the centurion and his soldiers, “If these sailors don’t stay with the ship, we’re all going down.” So the soldiers cut the lines to the lifeboat and let it drift off.
33-34 With dawn about to break, Paul called everyone together and proposed breakfast: “This is the fourteenth day we’ve gone without food. None of us has felt like eating! But I urge you to eat something now. You’ll need strength for the rescue ahead. You’re going to come out of this without even a scratch!”
35-38 He broke the bread, gave thanks to God, passed it around, and they all ate heartily—276 of us, all told! With the meal finished and everyone full, the ship was further lightened by dumping the grain overboard.
39-41 At daybreak, no one recognized the land—but then they did notice a bay with a nice beach. They decided to try to run the ship up on the beach. They cut the anchors, loosed the tiller, raised the sail, and ran before the wind toward the beach. But we didn’t make it. Still far from shore, we hit a reef and the ship began to break up.
42-44 The soldiers decided to kill the prisoners so none could escape by swimming, but the centurion, determined to save Paul, stopped them. He gave orders for anyone who could swim to dive in and go for it, and for the rest to grab a plank. Everyone made it to shore safely.
28 1-2 Once everyone was accounted for and we realized we had all made it, we learned that we were on the island of Malta. The natives went out of their way to be friendly to us. The day was rainy and cold and we were already soaked to the bone, but they built a huge bonfire and gathered us around it.
3-6 Paul pitched in and helped. He had gathered up a bundle of sticks, but when he put it on the fire, a venomous snake, roused from its torpor by the heat, struck his hand and held on. Seeing the snake hanging from Paul’s hand like that, the natives jumped to the conclusion that he was a murderer getting his just deserts. Paul shook the snake off into the fire, none the worse for wear. They kept expecting him to drop dead, but when it was obvious he wasn’t going to, they jumped to the conclusion that he was a god!
7-9 The head man in that part of the island was Publius. He took us into his home as his guests, drying us out and putting us up in fine style for the next three days. Publius’s father was sick at the time, down with a high fever and dysentery. Paul went to the old man’s room, and when he laid hands on him and prayed, the man was healed. Word of the healing got around fast, and soon everyone on the island who was sick came and got healed.
10-11 We spent a wonderful three months on Malta. They treated us royally, took care of all our needs and outfitted us for the rest of the journey. When an Egyptian ship that had wintered there in the harbor prepared to leave for Italy, we got on board. The ship had a carved Gemini for its figurehead: “the Heavenly Twins.”
12-14 We put in at Syracuse for three days and then went up the coast to Rhegium. Two days later, with the wind out of the south, we sailed into the Bay of Naples. We found Christian friends there and stayed with them for a week.
14-16 And then we came to Rome. Friends in Rome heard we were on the way and came out to meet us. One group got as far as Appian Court; another group met us at Three Taverns—emotion-packed meetings, as you can well imagine. Paul, brimming over with praise, led us in prayers of thanksgiving. When we actually entered Rome, they let Paul live in his own private quarters with a soldier who had been assigned to guard him.
17-20 Three days later, Paul called the Jewish leaders together for a meeting at his house. He said, “The Jews in Jerusalem arrested me on trumped-up charges, and I was taken into custody by the Romans. I assure you that I did absolutely nothing against Jewish laws or Jewish customs. After the Romans investigated the charges and found there was nothing to them, they wanted to set me free, but the Jews objected so fiercely that I was forced to appeal to Caesar. I did this not to accuse them of any wrongdoing or to get our people in trouble with Rome. We’ve had enough trouble through the years that way. I did it for Israel. I asked you to come and listen to me today to make it clear that I’m on Israel’s side, not against her. I’m a hostage here for hope, not doom.”
21-22 They said, “Nobody wrote warning us about you. And no one has shown up saying anything bad about you. But we would like very much to hear more. The only thing we know about this Christian sect is that nobody seems to have anything good to say about it.”
23 They agreed on a time. When the day arrived, they came back to his home with a number of their friends. Paul talked to them all day, from morning to evening, explaining everything involved in the kingdom of God, and trying to persuade them all about Jesus by pointing out what Moses and the prophets had written about him.
24-27 Some of them were persuaded by what he said, but others refused to believe a word of it. When the unbelievers got cantankerous and started bickering with each other, Paul interrupted: “I have just one more thing to say to you. The Holy Spirit sure knew what he was talking about when he addressed our ancestors through Isaiah the prophet:
Go to this people and tell them this:
28 “You’ve had your chance. The non-Jewish outsiders are next on the list. And believe me, they’re going to receive it with open arms!”
30-31 Paul lived for two years in his rented house. He welcomed everyone who came to visit. He urgently presented all matters of the kingdom of God. He explained everything about Jesus Christ. His door was always open.
Acts 1-28Good News Translation (GNT)
1 Dear Theophilus:
In my first book I wrote about all the things that Jesus did and taught from the time he began his work 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven. Before he was taken up, he gave instructions by the power of the Holy Spirit to the men he had chosen as his apostles. 3 For forty days after his death he appeared to them many times in ways that proved beyond doubt that he was alive. They saw him, and he talked with them about the Kingdom of God. 4 And when they came together,[a] he gave them this order: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift I told you about, the gift my Father promised. 5 John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus Is Taken Up to Heaven
6 When the apostles met together with Jesus, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time give the Kingdom back to Israel?”
7 Jesus said to them, “The times and occasions are set by my Father's own authority, and it is not for you to know when they will be. 8 But when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After saying this, he was taken up to heaven as they watched him, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They still had their eyes fixed on the sky as he went away, when two men dressed in white suddenly stood beside them 11 and said, “Galileans, why are you standing there looking up at the sky? This Jesus, who was taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way that you saw him go to heaven.”
12 Then the apostles went back to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, which is about half a mile away from the city. 13 They entered the city and went up to the room where they were staying: Peter, John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Patriot, and Judas son of James. 14 They gathered frequently to pray as a group, together with the women and with Mary the mother of Jesus and with his brothers.
15 A few days later there was a meeting of the believers, about a hundred and twenty in all, and Peter stood up to speak. 16 “My friends,” he said, “the scripture had to come true in which the Holy Spirit, speaking through David, made a prediction about Judas, who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 Judas was a member of our group, for he had been chosen to have a part in our work.”
(18 With the money that Judas got for his evil act he bought a field, where he fell to his death; he burst open and all his insides spilled out. 19 All the people living in Jerusalem heard about it, and so in their own language they call that field Akeldama, which means “Field of Blood.”)
20 “For it is written in the book of Psalms,
‘May his house become empty;
21-22 “So then, someone must join us as a witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. He must be one of the men who were in our group during the whole time that the Lord Jesus traveled about with us, beginning from the time John preached his message of baptism[b] until the day Jesus was taken up from us to heaven.”
23 So they proposed two men: Joseph, who was called Barsabbas (also known as Justus), and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know the thoughts of everyone, so show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to serve as an apostle in the place of Judas, who left to go to the place where he belongs.” 26 Then they drew lots to choose between the two men, and the one chosen was Matthias, who was added to the group of eleven apostles.
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
2 When the day of Pentecost came, all the believers were gathered together in one place. 2 Suddenly there was a noise from the sky which sounded like a strong wind blowing, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire which spread out and touched each person there. 4 They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.
5 There were Jews living in Jerusalem, religious people who had come from every country in the world. 6 When they heard this noise, a large crowd gathered. They were all excited, because all of them heard the believers talking in their own languages. 7 In amazement and wonder they exclaimed, “These people who are talking like this are Galileans! 8 How is it, then, that all of us hear them speaking in our own native languages? 9 We are from Parthia, Media, and Elam; from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia; from Pontus and Asia, 10 from Phrygia and Pamphylia, from Egypt and the regions of Libya near Cyrene. Some of us are from Rome, 11 both Jews and Gentiles converted to Judaism, and some of us are from Crete and Arabia—yet all of us hear them speaking in our own languages about the great things that God has done!” 12 Amazed and confused, they kept asking each other, “What does this mean?”
13 But others made fun of the believers, saying, “These people are drunk!”
14 Then Peter stood up with the other eleven apostles and in a loud voice began to speak to the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, listen to me and let me tell you what this means. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose; it is only nine o'clock in the morning. 16 Instead, this is what the prophet Joel spoke about:
17 ‘This is what I will do in the last days, God says:
22 “Listen to these words, fellow Israelites! Jesus of Nazareth was a man whose divine authority was clearly proven to you by all the miracles and wonders which God performed through him. You yourselves know this, for it happened here among you. 23 In accordance with his own plan God had already decided that Jesus would be handed over to you; and you killed him by letting sinful men crucify him. 24 But God raised him from death, setting him free from its power, because it was impossible that death should hold him prisoner. 25 For David said about him,
‘I saw the Lord before me at all times;
29 “My friends, I must speak to you plainly about our famous ancestor King David. He died and was buried, and his grave is here with us to this very day. 30 He was a prophet, and he knew what God had promised him: God had made a vow that he would make one of David's descendants a king, just as David was. 31 David saw what God was going to do in the future, and so he spoke about the resurrection of the Messiah when he said,
‘He was not abandoned in the world of the dead;
36 “All the people of Israel, then, are to know for sure that this Jesus, whom you crucified, is the one that God has made Lord and Messiah!”
37 When the people heard this, they were deeply troubled and said to Peter and the other apostles, “What shall we do, brothers?”
38 Peter said to them, “Each one of you must turn away from your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins will be forgiven; and you will receive God's gift, the Holy Spirit. 39 For God's promise was made to you and your children, and to all who are far away—all whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
40 Peter made his appeal to them and with many other words he urged them, saying, “Save yourselves from the punishment coming on this wicked people!” 41 Many of them believed his message and were baptized, and about three thousand people were added to the group that day. 42 They spent their time in learning from the apostles, taking part in the fellowship, and sharing in the fellowship meals and the prayers.
Life among the Believers
43 Many miracles and wonders were being done through the apostles, and everyone was filled with awe. 44 All the believers continued together in close fellowship and shared their belongings with one another. 45 They would sell their property and possessions, and distribute the money among all, according to what each one needed. 46 Day after day they met as a group in the Temple, and they had their meals together in their homes, eating with glad and humble hearts, 47 praising God, and enjoying the good will of all the people. And every day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.
A Lame Beggar Is Healed
3 One day Peter and John went to the Temple at three o'clock in the afternoon, the hour for prayer. 2 There at the Beautiful Gate, as it was called, was a man who had been lame all his life. Every day he was carried to the gate to beg for money from the people who were going into the Temple. 3 When he saw Peter and John going in, he begged them to give him something. 4 They looked straight at him, and Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So he looked at them, expecting to get something from them. 6 But Peter said to him, “I have no money at all, but I give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth I order you to get up and walk!” 7 Then he took him by his right hand and helped him up. At once the man's feet and ankles became strong; 8 he jumped up, stood on his feet, and started walking around. Then he went into the Temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God. 9 The people there saw him walking and praising God, 10 and when they recognized him as the beggar who had sat at the Beautiful Gate, they were all surprised and amazed at what had happened to him.
Peter's Message in the Temple
11 As the man held on to Peter and John in Solomon's Porch, as it was called, the people were amazed and ran to them. 12 When Peter saw the people, he said to them, “Fellow Israelites, why are you surprised at this, and why do you stare at us? Do you think that it was by means of our own power or godliness that we made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has given divine glory to his Servant Jesus. But you handed him over to the authorities, and you rejected him in Pilate's presence, even after Pilate had decided to set him free. 14 He was holy and good, but you rejected him, and instead you asked Pilate to do you the favor of turning loose a murderer. 15 You killed the one who leads to life, but God raised him from death—and we are witnesses to this. 16 It was the power of his name that gave strength to this lame man. What you see and know was done by faith in his name; it was faith in Jesus that has made him well, as you can all see.
17 “And now, my friends, I know that what you and your leaders did to Jesus was due to your ignorance. 18 God announced long ago through all the prophets that his Messiah had to suffer; and he made it come true in this way. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that he will forgive your sins. If you do, 20 times of spiritual strength will come from the Lord, and he will send Jesus, who is the Messiah he has already chosen for you. 21 He must remain in heaven until the time comes for all things to be made new, as God announced through his holy prophets of long ago. 22 For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will send you a prophet, just as he sent me,[c] and he will be one of your own people. You are to obey everything that he tells you to do. 23 Anyone who does not obey that prophet shall be separated from God's people and destroyed.’ 24 And all the prophets who had a message, including Samuel and those who came after him, also announced what has been happening these days. 25 The promises of God through his prophets are for you, and you share in the covenant which God made with your ancestors. As he said to Abraham, ‘Through your descendants I will bless all the people on earth.’ 26 And so God chose his Servant and sent him to you first, to bless you by making every one of you turn away from your wicked ways.”
Peter and John before the Council
4 Peter and John were still speaking to the people when some priests,[d] the officer in charge of the Temple guards, and some Sadducees arrived. 2 They were annoyed because the two apostles were teaching the people that Jesus had risen from death, which proved that the dead will rise to life. 3 So they arrested them and put them in jail until the next day, since it was already late. 4 But many who heard the message believed; and the number grew to about five thousand.
5 The next day the Jewish leaders, the elders, and the teachers of the Law gathered in Jerusalem. 6 They met with the High Priest Annas and with Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and the others who belonged to the High Priest's family. 7 They made the apostles stand before them and asked them, “How did you do this? What power do you have or whose name did you use?”
8 Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, answered them, “Leaders of the people and elders: 9 if we are being questioned today about the good deed done to the lame man and how he was healed, 10 then you should all know, and all the people of Israel should know, that this man stands here before you completely well through the power of the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth—whom you crucified and whom God raised from death. 11 Jesus is the one of whom the scripture says,
‘The stone that you the builders despised
12 Salvation is to be found through him alone; in all the world there is no one else whom God has given who can save us.”
13 The members of the Council were amazed to see how bold Peter and John were and to learn that they were ordinary men of no education. They realized then that they had been companions of Jesus. 14 But there was nothing that they could say, because they saw the man who had been healed standing there with Peter and John. 15 So they told them to leave the Council room, and then they started discussing among themselves. 16 “What shall we do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone in Jerusalem knows that this extraordinary miracle has been performed by them, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to keep this matter from spreading any further among the people, let us warn these men never again to speak to anyone in the name of Jesus.”
18 So they called them back in and told them that under no condition were they to speak or to teach in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “You yourselves judge which is right in God's sight—to obey you or to obey God. 20 For we cannot stop speaking of what we ourselves have seen and heard.” 21 So the Council warned them even more strongly and then set them free. They saw that it was impossible to punish them, because the people were all praising God for what had happened. 22 The man on whom this miracle of healing had been performed was over forty years old.
The Believers Pray for Boldness
23 As soon as Peter and John were set free, they returned to their group and told them what the chief priests and the elders had said. 24 When the believers heard it, they all joined together in prayer to God: “Master and Creator of heaven, earth, and sea, and all that is in them! 25 By means of the Holy Spirit you spoke through our ancestor David, your servant, when he said,
‘Why were the Gentiles furious;
27 For indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together in this city with the Gentiles and the people of Israel against Jesus, your holy Servant, whom you made Messiah. 28 They gathered to do everything that you by your power and will had already decided would happen. 29 And now, Lord, take notice of the threats they have made, and allow us, your servants, to speak your message with all boldness. 30 Reach out your hand to heal, and grant that wonders and miracles may be performed through the name of your holy Servant Jesus.”
31 When they finished praying, the place where they were meeting was shaken. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to proclaim God's message with boldness.
The Believers Share Their Possessions
32 The group of believers was one in mind and heart. None of them said that any of their belongings were their own, but they all shared with one another everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God poured rich blessings on them all. 34 There was no one in the group who was in need. Those who owned fields or houses would sell them, bring the money received from the sale, 35 and turn it over to the apostles; and the money was distributed according to the needs of the people.
36 And so it was that Joseph, a Levite born in Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “One who Encourages”), 37 sold a field he owned, brought the money, and turned it over to the apostles.
Ananias and Sapphira
5 But there was a man named Ananias, who with his wife Sapphira sold some property that belonged to them. 2 But with his wife's agreement he kept part of the money for himself and turned the rest over to the apostles. 3 Peter said to him, “Ananias, why did you let Satan take control of you and make you lie to the Holy Spirit by keeping part of the money you received for the property? 4 Before you sold the property, it belonged to you; and after you sold it, the money was yours. Why, then, did you decide to do such a thing? You have not lied to people—you have lied to God!” 5 As soon as Ananias heard this, he fell down dead; and all who heard about it were terrified. 6 The young men came in, wrapped up his body, carried him out, and buried him.
7 About three hours later his wife, not knowing what had happened, came in. 8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, was this the full amount you and your husband received for your property?”
“Yes,” she answered, “the full amount.”
9 So Peter said to her, “Why did you and your husband decide to put the Lord's Spirit to the test? The men who buried your husband are at the door right now, and they will carry you out too!” 10 At once she fell down at his feet and died. The young men came in and saw that she was dead, so they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 The whole church and all the others who heard of this were terrified.
Miracles and Wonders
12 Many miracles and wonders were being performed among the people by the apostles. All the believers met together in Solomon's Porch. 13 Nobody outside the group dared join them, even though the people spoke highly of them. 14 But more and more people were added to the group—a crowd of men and women who believed in the Lord. 15 As a result of what the apostles were doing, sick people were carried out into the streets and placed on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 And crowds of people came in from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing those who were sick or who had evil spirits in them; and they were all healed.
The Apostles Are Persecuted
17 Then the High Priest and all his companions, members of the local party of the Sadducees, became extremely jealous of the apostles; so they decided to take action. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But that night an angel of the Lord opened the prison gates, led the apostles out, and said to them, 20 “Go and stand in the Temple, and tell the people all about this new life.” 21 The apostles obeyed, and at dawn they entered the Temple and started teaching.
The High Priest and his companions called together all the Jewish elders for a full meeting of the Council; then they sent orders to the prison to have the apostles brought before them. 22 But when the officials arrived, they did not find the apostles in prison, so they returned to the Council and reported, 23 “When we arrived at the jail, we found it locked up tight and all the guards on watch at the gates; but when we opened the gates, we found no one inside!” 24 When the chief priests and the officer in charge of the Temple guards heard this, they wondered what had happened to the apostles. 25 Then a man came in and said to them, “Listen! The men you put in prison are in the Temple teaching the people!” 26 So the officer went off with his men and brought the apostles back. They did not use force, however, because they were afraid that the people might stone them.
27 They brought the apostles in, made them stand before the Council, and the High Priest questioned them. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in the name of this man,” he said; “but see what you have done! You have spread your teaching all over Jerusalem, and you want to make us responsible for his death!”
29 Peter and the other apostles answered, “We must obey God, not men. 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from death, after you had killed him by nailing him to a cross. 31 God raised him to his right side as Leader and Savior, to give the people of Israel the opportunity to repent and have their sins forgiven. 32 We are witnesses to these things—we and the Holy Spirit, who is God's gift to those who obey him.”
33 When the members of the Council heard this, they were so furious that they wanted to have the apostles put to death. 34 But one of them, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who was a teacher of the Law and was highly respected by all the people, stood up in the Council. He ordered the apostles to be taken out for a while, 35 and then he said to the Council, “Fellow Israelites, be careful what you do to these men. 36 You remember that Theudas appeared some time ago, claiming to be somebody great, and about four hundred men joined him. But he was killed, all his followers were scattered, and his movement died out. 37 After that, Judas the Galilean appeared during the time of the census; he drew a crowd after him, but he also was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 And so in this case, I tell you, do not take any action against these men. Leave them alone! If what they have planned and done is of human origin, it will disappear, 39 but if it comes from God, you cannot possibly defeat them. You could find yourselves fighting against God!”
The Council followed Gamaliel's advice. 40 They called the apostles in, had them whipped, and ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus; and then they set them free. 41 As the apostles left the Council, they were happy, because God had considered them worthy to suffer disgrace for the sake of Jesus. 42 And every day in the Temple and in people's homes they continued to teach and preach the Good News about Jesus the Messiah.
The Seven Helpers
6 Some time later, as the number of disciples kept growing, there was a quarrel between the Greek-speaking Jews and the native Jews. The Greek-speaking Jews claimed that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of funds. 2 So the twelve apostles called the whole group of believers together and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the preaching of God's word in order to handle finances. 3 So then, friends, choose seven men among you who are known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, and we will put them in charge of this matter. 4 We ourselves, then, will give our full time to prayer and the work of preaching.”
5 The whole group was pleased with the apostles' proposal, so they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a Gentile from Antioch who had earlier been converted to Judaism. 6 The group presented them to the apostles, who prayed and placed their hands on them.
7 And so the word of God continued to spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem grew larger and larger, and a great number of priests accepted the faith.
The Arrest of Stephen
8 Stephen, a man richly blessed by God and full of power, performed great miracles and wonders among the people. 9 But he was opposed by some men who were members of the synagogue of the Freedmen[e] (as it was called), which had Jews from Cyrene and Alexandria. They and other Jews from the provinces of Cilicia and Asia started arguing with Stephen. 10 But the Spirit gave Stephen such wisdom that when he spoke, they could not refute him. 11 So they bribed some men to say, “We heard him speaking against Moses and against God!” 12 In this way they stirred up the people, the elders, and the teachers of the Law. They seized Stephen and took him before the Council. 13 Then they brought in some men to tell lies about him. “This man,” they said, “is always talking against our sacred Temple and the Law of Moses. 14 We heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will tear down the Temple and change all the customs which have come down to us from Moses!” 15 All those sitting in the Council fixed their eyes on Stephen and saw that his face looked like the face of an angel.
7 The High Priest asked Stephen, “Is this true?”
2 Stephen answered, “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! Before our ancestor Abraham had gone to live in Haran, the God of glory appeared to him in Mesopotamia 3 and said to him, ‘Leave your family and country and go to the land that I will show you.’ 4 And so he left his country and went to live in Haran. After Abraham's father died, God made him move to this land where you now live. 5 God did not then give Abraham any part of it as his own, not even a square foot of ground, but God promised to give it to him, and that it would belong to him and to his descendants. At the time God made this promise, Abraham had no children. 6 This is what God said to him: ‘Your descendants will live in a foreign country, where they will be slaves and will be badly treated for four hundred years. 7 But I will pass judgment on the people that they will serve, and afterward your descendants will come out of that country and will worship me in this place.’ 8 Then God gave to Abraham the ceremony of circumcision as a sign of the covenant. So Abraham circumcised Isaac a week after he was born; Isaac circumcised his son Jacob, and Jacob circumcised his twelve sons, the famous ancestors of our race.
9 “Jacob's sons became jealous of their brother Joseph and sold him to be a slave in Egypt. But God was with him 10 and brought him safely through all his troubles. When Joseph appeared before the king of Egypt, God gave him a pleasing manner and wisdom, and the king made Joseph governor over the country and the royal household. 11 Then there was a famine all over Egypt and Canaan, which caused much suffering. Our ancestors could not find any food, 12 and when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent his sons, our ancestors, on their first visit there. 13 On the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and the king of Egypt came to know about Joseph's family. 14 So Joseph sent a message to his father Jacob, telling him and the whole family, seventy-five people in all, to come to Egypt. 15 Then Jacob went to Egypt, where he and his sons died. 16 Their bodies were taken to Shechem, where they were buried in the grave which Abraham had bought from the clan of Hamor for a sum of money.
17 “When the time drew near for God to keep the promise he had made to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt had grown much larger. 18 At last a king who did not know about Joseph began to rule in Egypt. 19 He tricked our ancestors and was cruel to them, forcing them to put their babies out of their homes, so that they would die. 20 It was at this time that Moses was born, a very beautiful child. He was cared for at home for three months, 21 and when he was put out of his home, the king's daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. 22 He was taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians and became a great man in words and deeds.
23 “When Moses was forty years old, he decided to find out how his fellow Israelites were being treated. 24 He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his help and took revenge on the Egyptian by killing him. (25 He thought that his own people would understand that God was going to use him to set them free, but they did not understand.) 26 The next day he saw two Israelites fighting, and he tried to make peace between them. ‘Listen, men,’ he said, ‘you are fellow Israelites; why are you fighting like this?’ 27 But the one who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside. ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us?’ he asked. 28 ‘Do you want to kill me, just as you killed that Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 When Moses heard this, he fled from Egypt and went to live in the land of Midian. There he had two sons.
30 “After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. 31 Moses was amazed by what he saw, and went near the bush to get a better look. But he heard the Lord's voice: 32 ‘I am the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ Moses trembled with fear and dared not look. 33 The Lord said to him, ‘Take your sandals off, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have seen the cruel suffering of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groans, and I have come down to set them free. Come now; I will send you to Egypt.’
35 “Moses is the one who was rejected by the people of Israel. ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us?’ they asked. He is the one whom God sent to rule the people and set them free with the help of the angel who appeared to him in the burning bush. 36 He led the people out of Egypt, performing miracles and wonders in Egypt and at the Red Sea and for forty years in the desert. 37 Moses is the one who said to the people of Israel, ‘God will send you a prophet, just as he sent me,[f] and he will be one of your own people.’ 38 He is the one who was with the people of Israel assembled in the desert; he was there with our ancestors and with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and he received God's living messages to pass on to us.
39 “But our ancestors refused to obey him; they pushed him aside and wished that they could go back to Egypt. 40 So they said to Aaron, ‘Make us some gods who will lead us. We do not know what has happened to that man Moses, who brought us out of Egypt.’ 41 It was then that they made an idol in the shape of a bull, offered sacrifice to it, and had a feast in honor of what they themselves had made. 42 So God turned away from them and gave them over to worship the stars of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets:
‘People of Israel! It was not to me
44 “Our ancestors had the Tent of God's presence with them in the desert. It had been made as God had told Moses to make it, according to the pattern that Moses had been shown. 45 Later on, our ancestors who received the tent from their fathers carried it with them when they went with Joshua and took over the land from the nations that God drove out as they advanced. And it stayed there until the time of David. 46 He won God's favor and asked God to allow him to provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.[g] 47 But it was Solomon who built him a house.
48 “But the Most High God does not live in houses built by human hands; as the prophet says,
49 ‘Heaven is my throne, says the Lord,
51 “How stubborn you are!” Stephen went on to say. “How heathen your hearts, how deaf you are to God's message! You are just like your ancestors: you too have always resisted the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there any prophet that your ancestors did not persecute? They killed God's messengers, who long ago announced the coming of his righteous Servant. And now you have betrayed and murdered him. 53 You are the ones who received God's law, that was handed down by angels—yet you have not obeyed it!”
The Stoning of Stephen
54 As the members of the Council listened to Stephen, they became furious and ground their teeth at him in anger. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw God's glory and Jesus standing at the right side of God. 56 “Look!” he said. “I see heaven opened and the Son of Man standing at the right side of God!”
57 With a loud cry the Council members covered their ears with their hands. Then they all rushed at him at once, 58 threw him out of the city, and stoned him. The witnesses left their cloaks in the care of a young man named Saul. 59 They kept on stoning Stephen as he called out to the Lord, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 He knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord! Do not remember this sin against them!” He said this and died.
8 And Saul approved of his murder.
Saul Persecutes the Church
That very day the church in Jerusalem began to suffer cruel persecution. All the believers, except the apostles, were scattered throughout the provinces of Judea and Samaria. 2 Some devout men buried Stephen, mourning for him with loud cries.
3 But Saul tried to destroy the church; going from house to house, he dragged out the believers, both men and women, and threw them into jail.
The Gospel Is Preached in Samaria
4 The believers who were scattered went everywhere, preaching the message. 5 Philip went to the principal city[h] in Samaria and preached the Messiah to the people there. 6 The crowds paid close attention to what Philip said, as they listened to him and saw the miracles that he performed. 7 Evil spirits came out from many people with a loud cry, and many paralyzed and lame people were healed. 8 So there was great joy in that city.
9 A man named Simon lived there, who for some time had astounded the Samaritans with his magic. He claimed that he was someone great, 10 and everyone in the city, from all classes of society, paid close attention to him. “He is that power of God known as ‘The Great Power,’” they said. 11 They paid this attention to him because for such a long time he had astonished them with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip's message about the good news of the Kingdom of God and about Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Simon himself also believed; and after being baptized, he stayed close to Philip and was astounded when he saw the great wonders and miracles that were being performed.
14 The apostles in Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria had received the word of God, so they sent Peter and John to them. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for the believers that they might receive the Holy Spirit. 16 For the Holy Spirit had not yet come down on any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
18 Simon saw that the Spirit had been given to the believers when the apostles placed their hands on them. So he offered money to Peter and John, 19 and said, “Give this power to me too, so that anyone I place my hands on will receive the Holy Spirit.”
20 But Peter answered him, “May you and your money go to hell, for thinking that you can buy God's gift with money! 21 You have no part or share in our work, because your heart is not right in God's sight. 22 Repent, then, of this evil plan of yours, and pray to the Lord that he will forgive you for thinking such a thing as this. 23 For I see that you are full of bitter envy and are a prisoner of sin.”
24 Simon said to Peter and John, “Please pray to the Lord for me, so that none of these things you spoke of will happen to me.”
25 After they had given their testimony and proclaimed the Lord's message, Peter and John went back to Jerusalem. On their way they preached the Good News in many villages of Samaria.
Philip and the Ethiopian Official
26 An angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get ready and go south[i] to the road that goes from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This road is not used nowadays.)[j] 27-28 So Philip got ready and went. Now an Ethiopian eunuch, who was an important official in charge of the treasury of the queen of Ethiopia, was on his way home. He had been to Jerusalem to worship God and was going back home in his carriage. As he rode along, he was reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah. 29 The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to that carriage and stay close to it.” 30 Philip ran over and heard him reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah. He asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
31 The official replied, “How can I understand unless someone explains it to me?” And he invited Philip to climb up and sit in the carriage with him. 32 The passage of scripture which he was reading was this:
“He was like a sheep that is taken to be slaughtered,
34 The official asked Philip, “Tell me, of whom is the prophet saying this? Of himself or of someone else?” 35 Then Philip began to speak; starting from this passage of scripture, he told him the Good News about Jesus. 36 As they traveled down the road, they came to a place where there was some water, and the official said, “Here is some water. What is to keep me from being baptized?” 37 [k]
38 The official ordered the carriage to stop, and both Philip and the official went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord took Philip away. The official did not see him again, but continued on his way, full of joy. 40 Philip found himself in Azotus; he went on to Caesarea, and on the way he preached the Good News in every town.
The Conversion of Saul
9 In the meantime Saul kept up his violent threats of murder against the followers of the Lord. He went to the High Priest 2 and asked for letters of introduction to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he should find there any followers of the Way of the Lord, he would be able to arrest them, both men and women, and bring them back to Jerusalem.
3 As Saul was coming near the city of Damascus, suddenly a light from the sky flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” he asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you persecute,” the voice said. 6 “But get up and go into the city, where you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men who were traveling with Saul had stopped, not saying a word; they heard the voice but could not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground and opened his eyes, but could not see a thing. So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus. 9 For three days he was not able to see, and during that time he did not eat or drink anything.
10 There was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. He had a vision, in which the Lord said to him, “Ananias!”
“Here I am, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord said to him, “Get ready and go to Straight Street, and at the house of Judas ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying, 12 and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come in and place his hands on him so that he might see again.”
13 Ananias answered, “Lord, many people have told me about this man and about all the terrible things he has done to your people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come to Damascus with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who worship you.”
15 The Lord said to him, “Go, because I have chosen him to serve me, to make my name known to Gentiles and kings and to the people of Israel. 16 And I myself will show him all that he must suffer for my sake.”
17 So Ananias went, entered the house where Saul was, and placed his hands on him. “Brother Saul,” he said, “the Lord has sent me—Jesus himself, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here. He sent me so that you might see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 At once something like fish scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he was able to see again. He stood up and was baptized; 19 and after he had eaten, his strength came back.
Saul Preaches in Damascus
Saul stayed for a few days with the believers in Damascus. 20 He went straight to the synagogues and began to preach that Jesus was the Son of God.
21 All who heard him were amazed and asked, “Isn't he the one who in Jerusalem was killing those who worship that man Jesus? And didn't he come here for the very purpose of arresting those people and taking them back to the chief priests?”
22 But Saul's preaching became even more powerful, and his proofs that Jesus was the Messiah were so convincing that the Jews who lived in Damascus could not answer him.
23 After many days had gone by, the Jews met together and made plans to kill Saul, 24 but he was told of their plan. Day and night they watched the city gates in order to kill him. 25 But one night Saul's followers took him and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.
Saul in Jerusalem
26 Saul went to Jerusalem and tried to join the disciples. But they would not believe that he was a disciple, and they were all afraid of him. 27 Then Barnabas came to his help and took him to the apostles. He explained to them how Saul had seen the Lord on the road and that the Lord had spoken to him. He also told them how boldly Saul had preached in the name of Jesus in Damascus. 28 And so Saul stayed with them and went all over Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He also talked and disputed with the Greek-speaking Jews, but they tried to kill him. 30 When the believers found out about this, they took Saul to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus.
31 And so it was that the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had a time of peace. Through the help of the Holy Spirit it was strengthened and grew in numbers, as it lived in reverence for the Lord.
Peter in Lydda and Joppa
32 Peter traveled everywhere, and on one occasion he went to visit God's people who lived in Lydda. 33 There he met a man named Aeneas, who was paralyzed and had not been able to get out of bed for eight years. 34 “Aeneas,” Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ makes you well. Get up and make your bed.” At once Aeneas got up. 35 All the people living in Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.
36 In Joppa there was a woman named Tabitha, who was a believer. (Her name in Greek is Dorcas, meaning “a deer.”) She spent all her time doing good and helping the poor. 37 At that time she got sick and died. Her body was washed and laid in a room upstairs. 38 Joppa was not very far from Lydda, and when the believers in Joppa heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him with the message, “Please hurry and come to us.” 39 So Peter got ready and went with them. When he arrived, he was taken to the room upstairs, where all the widows crowded around him, crying and showing him all the shirts and coats that Dorcas had made while she was alive. 40 Peter put them all out of the room, and knelt down and prayed; then he turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up!” She opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. 41 Peter reached over and helped her get up. Then he called all the believers, including the widows, and presented her alive to them. 42 The news about this spread all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. 43 Peter stayed on in Joppa for many days with a tanner of leather named Simon.
Peter and Cornelius
10 There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, who was a captain in the Roman army regiment called “The Italian Regiment.” 2 He was a religious man; he and his whole family worshiped God. He also did much to help the Jewish poor people and was constantly praying to God. 3 It was about three o'clock one afternoon when he had a vision, in which he clearly saw an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius!”
4 He stared at the angel in fear and said, “What is it, sir?”
The angel answered, “God is pleased with your prayers and works of charity, and is ready to answer you. 5 And now send some men to Joppa for a certain man whose full name is Simon Peter. 6 He is a guest in the home of a tanner of leather named Simon, who lives by the sea.” 7 Then the angel went away, and Cornelius called two of his house servants and a soldier, a religious man who was one of his personal attendants. 8 He told them what had happened and sent them off to Joppa.
9 The next day, as they were on their way and coming near Joppa, Peter went up on the roof of the house about noon in order to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat; while the food was being prepared, he had a vision. 11 He saw heaven opened and something coming down that looked like a large sheet being lowered by its four corners to the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals, reptiles, and wild birds. 13 A voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat!”
14 But Peter said, “Certainly not, Lord! I have never eaten anything ritually unclean or defiled.”
15 The voice spoke to him again, “Do not consider anything unclean that God has declared clean.” 16 This happened three times, and then the thing was taken back up into heaven.
17 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of this vision, the men sent by Cornelius had learned where Simon's house was, and they were now standing in front of the gate. 18 They called out and asked, “Is there a guest here by the name of Simon Peter?”
19 Peter was still trying to understand what the vision meant, when the Spirit said, “Listen! Three[l] men are here looking for you. 20 So get ready and go down, and do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.” 21 So Peter went down and said to the men, “I am the man you are looking for. Why have you come?”
22 “Captain Cornelius sent us,” they answered. “He is a good man who worships God and is highly respected by all the Jewish people. An angel of God told him to invite you to his house, so that he could hear what you have to say.” 23 Peter invited the men in and had them spend the night there.
The next day he got ready and went with them; and some of the believers from Joppa went along with him. 24 The following day he arrived in Caesarea, where Cornelius was waiting for him, together with relatives and close friends that he had invited. 25 As Peter was about to go in, Cornelius met him, fell at his feet, and bowed down before him. 26 But Peter made him rise. “Stand up,” he said, “I myself am only a man.” 27 Peter kept on talking to Cornelius as he went into the house, where he found many people gathered. 28 He said to them, “You yourselves know very well that a Jew is not allowed by his religion to visit or associate with Gentiles. But God has shown me that I must not consider any person ritually unclean or defiled. 29 And so when you sent for me, I came without any objection. I ask you, then, why did you send for me?”
30 Cornelius said, “It was about this time three days ago that I was praying[m] in my house at three o'clock in the afternoon. Suddenly a man dressed in shining clothes stood in front of me 31 and said: ‘Cornelius! God has heard your prayer and has taken notice of your works of charity. 32 Send someone to Joppa for a man whose full name is Simon Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner of leather, who lives by the sea.’ 33 And so I sent for you at once, and you have been good enough to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God, waiting to hear anything that the Lord has instructed you to say.”
34 Peter began to speak: “I now realize that it is true that God treats everyone on the same basis. 35 Those who fear him and do what is right are acceptable to him, no matter what race they belong to. 36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, proclaiming the Good News of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know of the great event that took place throughout the land of Israel, beginning in Galilee after John preached his message of baptism. 38 You know about Jesus of Nazareth and how God poured out on him the Holy Spirit and power. He went everywhere, doing good and healing all who were under the power of the Devil, for God was with him. 39 We are witnesses of everything that he did in the land of Israel and in Jerusalem. Then they put him to death by nailing him to a cross. 40 But God raised him from death three days later and caused him to appear, 41 not to everyone, but only to the witnesses that God had already chosen, that is, to us who ate and drank with him after he rose from death. 42 And he commanded us to preach the gospel to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God has appointed judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets spoke about him, saying that all who believe in him will have their sins forgiven through the power of his name.”
The Gentiles Receive the Holy Spirit
44 While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit came down on all those who were listening to his message. 45 The Jewish believers who had come from Joppa with Peter were amazed that God had poured out his gift of the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles also. 46 For they heard them speaking in strange tongues and praising God's greatness. Peter spoke up: 47 “These people have received the Holy Spirit, just as we also did. Can anyone, then, stop them from being baptized with water?” 48 So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay with them for a few days.
Peter's Report to the Church at Jerusalem
11 The apostles and the other believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 When Peter went to Jerusalem, those who were in favor of circumcising Gentiles criticized him, saying, 3 “You were a guest in the home of uncircumcised Gentiles, and you even ate with them!” 4 So Peter gave them a complete account of what had happened from the very beginning:
5 “While I was praying in the city of Joppa, I had a vision. I saw something coming down that looked like a large sheet being lowered by its four corners from heaven, and it stopped next to me. 6 I looked closely inside and saw domesticated and wild animals, reptiles, and wild birds. 7 Then I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat!’ 8 But I said, ‘Certainly not, Lord! No ritually unclean or defiled food has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 The voice spoke again from heaven, ‘Do not consider anything unclean that God has declared clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and finally the whole thing was drawn back up into heaven. 11 At that very moment three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea arrived at the house where I was[n] staying. 12 The Spirit told me to go with them without hesitation. These six fellow believers from Joppa accompanied me to Caesarea, and we all went into the house of Cornelius. 13 He told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, ‘Send someone to Joppa for a man whose full name is Simon Peter. 14 He will speak words to you by which you and all your family will be saved.’ 15 And when I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came down on them just as on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 It is clear that God gave those Gentiles the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ; who was I, then, to try to stop God!”
18 When they heard this, they stopped their criticism and praised God, saying, “Then God has given to the Gentiles also the opportunity to repent and live!”
The Church at Antioch
19 Some of the believers who were scattered by the persecution which took place when Stephen was killed went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, telling the message to Jews only. 20 But other believers, who were from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and proclaimed the message to Gentiles[o] also, telling them the Good News about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord's power was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
22 The news about this reached the church in Jerusalem, so they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw how God had blessed the people, he was glad and urged them all to be faithful and true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and many people were brought to the Lord.
25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul. 26 When he found him, he took him to Antioch, and for a whole year the two met with the people of the church and taught a large group. It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.
27 About that time some prophets went from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and by the power of the Spirit predicted that a severe famine was about to come over all the earth. (It came when Claudius was emperor.) 29 The disciples decided that they each would send as much as they could to help their fellow believers who lived in Judea. 30 They did this, then, and sent the money to the church elders by Barnabas and Saul.
12 About this time King Herod[p] began to persecute some members of the church. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death by the sword. 3 When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he went ahead and had Peter arrested. (This happened during the time of the Festival of Unleavened Bread.) 4 After his arrest Peter was put in jail, where he was handed over to be guarded by four groups of four soldiers each. Herod planned to put him on trial in public after Passover. 5 So Peter was kept in jail, but the people of the church were praying earnestly to God for him.
Peter Is Set Free from Prison
6 The night before Herod was going to bring him out to the people, Peter was sleeping between two guards. He was tied with two chains, and there were guards on duty at the prison gate. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord stood there, and a light shone in the cell. The angel shook Peter by the shoulder, woke him up, and said, “Hurry! Get up!” At once the chains fell off Peter's hands. 8 Then the angel said, “Tighten your belt and put on your sandals.” Peter did so, and the angel said, “Put your cloak around you and come with me.” 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, not knowing, however, if what the angel was doing was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed by the first guard station and then the second, and came at last to the iron gate that opens into the city. The gate opened for them by itself, and they went out. They walked down a street, and suddenly the angel left Peter.
11 Then Peter realized what had happened to him, and said, “Now I know that it is really true! The Lord sent his angel to rescue me from Herod's power and from everything the Jewish people expected to happen.”
12 Aware of his situation, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13 Peter knocked at the outside door, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer it. 14 She recognized Peter's voice and was so happy that she ran back in without opening the door, and announced that Peter was standing outside. 15 “You are crazy!” they told her. But she insisted that it was true. So they answered, “It is his angel.”
16 Meanwhile Peter kept on knocking. At last they opened the door, and when they saw him, they were amazed. 17 He motioned with his hand for them to be quiet, and he explained to them how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell this to James and the rest of the believers,” he said; then he left and went somewhere else.
18 When morning came, there was a tremendous confusion among the guards—what had happened to Peter? 19 Herod gave orders to search for him, but they could not find him. So he had the guards questioned and ordered them put to death.
After this, Herod left Judea and spent some time in Caesarea.
The Death of Herod
20 Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, so they went in a group to see him. First they convinced Blastus, the man in charge of the palace, that he should help them. Then they went to Herod and asked him for peace, because their country got its food supplies from the king's country.
21 On a chosen day Herod put on his royal robes, sat on his throne, and made a speech to the people. 22 “It isn't a man speaking, but a god!” they shouted. 23 At once the angel of the Lord struck Herod down, because he did not give honor to God. He was eaten by worms and died.
24 Meanwhile the word of God continued to spread and grow.
25 Barnabas and Saul finished their mission and returned from[q] Jerusalem, taking John Mark with them.
Barnabas and Saul Are Chosen and Sent
13 In the church at Antioch there were some prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon (called the Black), Lucius (from Cyrene), Manaen (who had been brought up with Governor Herod[r]), and Saul. 2 While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said to them, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul, to do the work to which I have called them.”
3 They fasted and prayed, placed their hands on them, and sent them off.
4 Having been sent by the Holy Spirit, Barnabas and Saul went to Seleucia and sailed from there to the island of Cyprus. 5 When they arrived at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues. They had John Mark with them to help in the work.
6 They went all the way across the island to Paphos, where they met a certain magician named Bar-Jesus, a Jew who claimed to be a prophet. 7 He was a friend of the governor of the island, Sergius Paulus, who was an intelligent man. The governor called Barnabas and Saul before him because he wanted to hear the word of God. 8 But they were opposed by the magician Elymas (that is his name in Greek), who tried to turn the governor away from the faith. 9 Then Saul—also known as Paul—was filled with the Holy Spirit; he looked straight at the magician 10 and said, “You son of the Devil! You are the enemy of everything that is good. You are full of all kinds of evil tricks, and you always keep trying to turn the Lord's truths into lies! 11 The Lord's hand will come down on you now; you will be blind and will not see the light of day for a time.”
At once Elymas felt a dark mist cover his eyes, and he walked around trying to find someone to lead him by the hand. 12 When the governor saw what had happened, he believed; for he was greatly amazed at the teaching about the Lord.
In Antioch in Pisidia
13 Paul and his companions sailed from Paphos and came to Perga, a city in Pamphylia, where John Mark left them and went back to Jerusalem. 14 They went on from Perga and arrived in Antioch in Pisidia, and on the Sabbath they went into the synagogue and sat down. 15 After the reading from the Law of Moses and from the writings of the prophets, the officials of the synagogue sent them a message: “Friends, we want you to speak to the people if you have a message of encouragement for them.” 16 Paul stood up, motioned with his hand, and began to speak:
“Fellow Israelites and all Gentiles here who worship God: hear me! 17 The God of the people of Israel chose our ancestors and made the people a great nation during the time they lived as foreigners in Egypt. God brought them out of Egypt by his great power, 18 and for forty years he endured[s] them in the desert. 19 He destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan and made his people the owners of the land. 20 All of this took about 450 years.
“After this[t] he gave them judges until the time of the prophet Samuel. 21 And when they asked for a king, God gave them Saul son of Kish from the tribe of Benjamin, to be their king for forty years. 22 After removing him, God made David their king. This is what God said about him: ‘I have found that David son of Jesse is the kind of man I like, a man who will do all I want him to do.’ 23 It was Jesus, a descendant of David, whom God made the Savior of the people of Israel, as he had promised. 24 Before Jesus began his work, John preached to all the people of Israel that they should turn from their sins and be baptized. 25 And as John was about to finish his mission, he said to the people, ‘Who do you think I am? I am not the one you are waiting for. But listen! He is coming after me, and I am not good enough to take his sandals off his feet.’
26 “My fellow Israelites, descendants of Abraham, and all Gentiles here who worship God: it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent! 27 For the people who live in Jerusalem and their leaders did not know that he is the Savior, nor did they understand the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. Yet they made the prophets' words come true by condemning Jesus. 28 And even though they could find no reason to pass the death sentence on him, they asked Pilate to have him put to death. 29 And after they had done everything that the Scriptures say about him, they took him down from the cross and placed him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from death, 31 and for many days he appeared to those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now witnesses for him to the people of Israel. 32-33 And we are here to bring the Good News to you: what God promised our ancestors he would do, he has now done for us, who are their descendants, by raising Jesus to life. As it is written in the second Psalm,
‘You are my Son;
36 For David served God's purposes in his own time, and then he died, was buried with his ancestors, and his body rotted in the grave. 37 But this did not happen to the one whom God raised from death. 38-39 All of you, my fellow Israelites, are to know for sure that it is through Jesus that the message about forgiveness of sins is preached to you; you are to know that everyone who believes in him is set free from all the sins from which the Law of Moses could not set you free. 40 Take care, then, so that what the prophets said may not happen to you:[u]
41 ‘Look, you scoffers! Be astonished and die!
42 As Paul and Barnabas were leaving the synagogue, the people invited them to come back the next Sabbath and tell them more about these things. 43 After the people had left the meeting, Paul and Barnabas were followed by many Jews and by many Gentiles who had been converted to Judaism. The apostles spoke to them and encouraged them to keep on living in the grace of God.
44 The next Sabbath nearly everyone in the town came to hear the word of the Lord. 45 When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy; they disputed what Paul was saying and insulted him. 46 But Paul and Barnabas spoke out even more boldly: “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken first to you. But since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we will leave you and go to the Gentiles. 47 For this is the commandment that the Lord has given us:
‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and praised the Lord's message; and those who had been chosen for eternal life became believers.
49 The word of the Lord spread everywhere in that region. 50 But the Jews stirred up the leading men of the city and the Gentile women of high social standing who worshiped God. They started a persecution against Paul and Barnabas and threw them out of their region. 51 The apostles shook the dust off their feet in protest against them and went on to Iconium. 52 The believers in Antioch were full of joy and the Holy Spirit.
14 The same thing happened in Iconium: Paul and Barnabas went to the synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of Jews and Gentiles became believers. 2 But the Jews who would not believe stirred up the Gentiles and turned them against the believers. 3 The apostles stayed there for a long time, speaking boldly about the Lord, who proved that their message about his grace was true by giving them the power to perform miracles and wonders. 4 The people of the city were divided: some were for the Jews, others for the apostles.
5 Then some Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, decided to mistreat the apostles and stone them. 6 When the apostles learned about it, they fled to the cities of Lystra and Derbe in Lycaonia and to the surrounding territory. 7 There they preached the Good News.
In Lystra and Derbe
8 In Lystra there was a crippled man who had been lame from birth and had never been able to walk. 9 He sat there and listened to Paul's words. Paul saw that he believed and could be healed, so he looked straight at him 10 and said in a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet!” The man jumped up and started walking around. 11 When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they started shouting in their own Lycaonian language, “The gods have become like men and have come down to us!” 12 They gave Barnabas the name Zeus, and Paul the name Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of the god Zeus, whose temple stood just outside the town, brought bulls and flowers to the gate, for he and the crowds wanted to offer sacrifice to the apostles.
14 When Barnabas and Paul heard what they were about to do, they tore their clothes and ran into the middle of the crowd, shouting, 15 “Why are you doing this? We ourselves are only human beings like you! We are here to announce the Good News, to turn you away from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven, earth, sea, and all that is in them. 16 In the past he allowed all people to go their own way. 17 But he has always given evidence of his existence by the good things he does: he gives you rain from heaven and crops at the right times; he gives you food and fills your hearts with happiness.” 18 Even with these words the apostles could hardly keep the crowd from offering a sacrifice to them.
19 Some Jews came from Antioch in Pisidia and from Iconium; they won the crowds over to their side, stoned Paul and dragged him out of the town, thinking that he was dead. 20 But when the believers gathered around him, he got up and went back into the town. The next day he and Barnabas went to Derbe.
The Return to Antioch in Syria
21 Paul and Barnabas preached the Good News in Derbe and won many disciples. Then they went back to Lystra, to Iconium, and on to Antioch in Pisidia. 22 They strengthened the believers and encouraged them to remain true to the faith. “We must pass through many troubles to enter the Kingdom of God,” they taught. 23 In each church they appointed elders, and with prayers and fasting they commended them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.
24 After going through the territory of Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. 25 There they preached the message in Perga and then went to Attalia, 26 and from there they sailed back to Antioch, the place where they had been commended to the care of God's grace for the work they had now completed.
27 When they arrived in Antioch, they gathered the people of the church together and told them about all that God had done with them and how he had opened the way for the Gentiles to believe. 28 And they stayed a long time there with the believers.
The Meeting at Jerusalem
15 Some men came from Judea to Antioch and started teaching the believers, “You cannot be saved unless you are circumcised as the Law of Moses requires.” 2 Paul and Barnabas got into a fierce argument with them about this, so it was decided that Paul and Barnabas and some of the others in Antioch should go to Jerusalem and see the apostles and elders about this matter.
3 They were sent on their way by the church; and as they went through Phoenicia and Samaria, they reported how the Gentiles had turned to God; this news brought great joy to all the believers. 4 When they arrived in Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church, the apostles, and the elders, to whom they told all that God had done through them. 5 But some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and told to obey the Law of Moses.”
6 The apostles and the elders met together to consider this question. 7 After a long debate Peter stood up and said, “My friends, you know that a long time ago God chose me from among you to preach the Good News to the Gentiles, so that they could hear and believe. 8 And God, who knows the thoughts of everyone, showed his approval of the Gentiles by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he had to us. 9 He made no difference between us and them; he forgave their sins because they believed. 10 So then, why do you now want to put God to the test by laying a load on the backs of the believers which neither our ancestors nor we ourselves were able to carry? 11 No! We believe and are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are.”
12 The whole group was silent as they heard Barnabas and Paul report all the miracles and wonders that God had performed through them among the Gentiles. 13 When they had finished speaking, James spoke up: “Listen to me, my friends! 14 Simon has just explained how God first showed his care for the Gentiles by taking from among them a people to belong to him. 15 The words of the prophets agree completely with this. As the scripture says,
16 ‘After this I will return, says the Lord,
19 “It is my opinion,” James went on, “that we should not trouble the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead, we should write a letter telling them not to eat any food that is ritually unclean because it has been offered to idols; to keep themselves from sexual immorality; and not to eat any animal that has been strangled, or any blood. 21 For the Law of Moses has been read for a very long time in the synagogues every Sabbath, and his words are preached in every town.”
The Letter to the Gentile Believers
22 Then the apostles and the elders, together with the whole church, decided to choose some men from the group and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose two men who were highly respected by the believers, Judas, called Barsabbas, and Silas, 23 and they sent the following letter by them:
“We, the apostles and the elders, your brothers, send greetings to all our brothers of Gentile birth who live in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia. 24 We have heard that some who went from our group have troubled and upset you by what they said; they had not, however, received any instruction from us. 25 And so we have met together and have all agreed to choose some messengers and send them to you. They will go with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul, 26 who have risked their lives in the service of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We send you, then, Judas and Silas, who will tell you in person the same things we are writing. 28 The Holy Spirit and we have agreed not to put any other burden on you besides these necessary rules: 29 eat no food that has been offered to idols; eat no blood; eat no animal that has been strangled; and keep yourselves from sexual immorality. You will do well if you take care not to do these things. With our best wishes.”
30 The messengers were sent off and went to Antioch, where they gathered the whole group of believers and gave them the letter. 31 When the people read it, they were filled with joy by the message of encouragement. 32 Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, spoke a long time with them, giving them courage and strength. 33 After spending some time there, they were sent off in peace by the believers and went back to those who had sent them. 34 [v]
35 Paul and Barnabas spent some time in Antioch, and together with many others they taught and preached the word of the Lord.
Paul and Barnabas Separate
36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in every town where we preached the word of the Lord, and let us find out how they are getting along.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them, 38 but Paul did not think it was right to take him, because he had not stayed with them to the end of their mission, but had turned back and left them in Pamphylia. 39 There was a sharp argument, and they separated: Barnabas took Mark and sailed off for Cyprus, 40 while Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the care of the Lord's grace. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Timothy Goes with Paul and Silas
16 Paul traveled on to Derbe and Lystra, where a Christian named Timothy lived. His mother, who was also a Christian, was Jewish, but his father was a Greek. 2 All the believers in Lystra and Iconium spoke well of Timothy. 3 Paul wanted to take Timothy along with him, so he circumcised him. He did so because all the Jews who lived in those places knew that Timothy's father was Greek. 4 As they went through the towns, they delivered to the believers the rules decided upon by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, and they told them to obey those rules. 5 So the churches were made stronger in the faith and grew in numbers every day.
In Troas: Paul's Vision
6 They traveled through the region of Phrygia and Galatia because the Holy Spirit did not let them preach the message in the province of Asia. 7 When they reached the border of Mysia, they tried to go into the province of Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So they traveled right on through[w] Mysia and went to Troas. 9 That night Paul had a vision in which he saw a Macedonian standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” 10 As soon as Paul had this vision, we got ready to leave for Macedonia, because we decided that God had called us to preach the Good News to the people there.
In Philippi: the Conversion of Lydia
11 We left by ship from Troas and sailed straight across to Samothrace, and the next day to Neapolis. 12 From there we went inland to Philippi, a city of the first district of Macedonia;[x] it is also a Roman colony. We spent several days there. 13 On the Sabbath we went out of the city to the riverside, where we thought there would be a place where Jews gathered for prayer. We sat down and talked to the women who gathered there. 14 One of those who heard us was Lydia from Thyatira, who was a dealer in purple cloth. She was a woman who worshiped God, and the Lord opened her mind to pay attention to what Paul was saying. 15 After she and the people of her house had been baptized, she invited us, “Come and stay in my house if you have decided that I am a true believer in the Lord.” And she persuaded us to go.
In Prison at Philippi
16 One day as we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a young servant woman who had an evil spirit that enabled her to predict the future. She earned a lot of money for her owners by telling fortunes. 17 She followed Paul and us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God! They announce to you how you can be saved!” 18 She did this for many days, until Paul became so upset that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I order you to come out of her!” The spirit went out of her that very moment. 19 When her owners realized that their chance of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to the authorities in the public square. 20 They brought them before the Roman officials and said, “These men are Jews, and they are causing trouble in our city. 21 They are teaching customs that are against our law; we are Roman citizens, and we cannot accept these customs or practice them.” 22 And the crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas.
Then the officials tore the clothes off Paul and Silas and ordered them to be whipped. 23 After a severe beating, they were thrown into jail, and the jailer was ordered to lock them up tight. 24 Upon receiving this order, the jailer threw them into the inner cell and fastened their feet between heavy blocks of wood.
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a violent earthquake, which shook the prison to its foundations. At once all the doors opened, and the chains fell off all the prisoners. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he thought that the prisoners had escaped; so he pulled out his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul shouted at the top of his voice, “Don't harm yourself We are all here!”
29 The jailer called for a light, rushed in, and fell trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas. 30 Then he led them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 They answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your family.” 32 Then they preached the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in the house. 33 At that very hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; and he and all his family were baptized at once. 34 Then he took Paul and Silas up into his house and gave them some food to eat. He and his family were filled with joy, because they now believed in God.
35 The next morning the Roman authorities sent police officers with the order, “Let those men go.”
36 So the jailer told Paul, “The officials have sent an order for you and Silas to be released. You may leave, then, and go in peace.”
37 But Paul said to the police officers, “We were not found guilty of any crime, yet they whipped us in public—and we are Roman citizens! Then they threw us in prison. And now they want to send us away secretly? Not at all! The Roman officials themselves must come here and let us out.”
38 The police officers reported these words to the Roman officials; and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were afraid. 39 So they went and apologized to them; then they led them out of the prison and asked them to leave the city. 40 Paul and Silas left the prison and went to Lydia's house. There they met the believers, spoke words of encouragement to them, and left.
17 Paul and Silas traveled on through Amphipolis and Apollonia and came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue. 2 According to his usual habit Paul went to the synagogue. There during three Sabbaths he held discussions with the people, quoting 3 and explaining the Scriptures, and proving from them that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from death. “This Jesus whom I announce to you,” Paul said, “is the Messiah.” 4 Some of them were convinced and joined Paul and Silas; so did many of the leading women and a large group of Greeks who worshiped God.
5 But some Jews were jealous and gathered worthless loafers from the streets and formed a mob. They set the whole city in an uproar and attacked the home of a man named Jason, in an attempt to find Paul and Silas and bring them out to the people. 6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city authorities and shouted, “These men have caused trouble everywhere! Now they have come to our city, 7 and Jason has kept them in his house. They are all breaking the laws of the Emperor, saying that there is another king, whose name is Jesus.” 8 With these words they threw the crowd and the city authorities in an uproar. 9 The authorities made Jason and the others pay the required amount of money to be released, and then let them go.
10 As soon as night came, the believers sent Paul and Silas to Berea. When they arrived, they went to the synagogue. 11 The people there were more open-minded than the people in Thessalonica. They listened to the message with great eagerness, and every day they studied the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was really true. 12 Many of them believed; and many Greek women of high social standing and many Greek men also believed. 13 But when the Jews in Thessalonica heard that Paul had preached the word of God in Berea also, they came there and started exciting and stirring up the mobs. 14 At once the believers sent Paul away to the coast; but both Silas and Timothy stayed in Berea. 15 The men who were taking Paul went with him as far as Athens and then returned to Berea with instructions from Paul that Silas and Timothy should join him as soon as possible.
16 While Paul was waiting in Athens for Silas and Timothy, he was greatly upset when he noticed how full of idols the city was. 17 So he held discussions in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentiles who worshiped God, and also in the public square every day with the people who happened to come by. 18 Certain Epicurean and Stoic teachers also debated with him. Some of them asked, “What is this ignorant show-off trying to say?”
Others answered, “He seems to be talking about foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching about Jesus and the resurrection.[y] 19 So they took Paul, brought him before the city council, the Areopagus, and said, “We would like to know what this new teaching is that you are talking about. 20 Some of the things we hear you say sound strange to us, and we would like to know what they mean.” (21 For all the citizens of Athens and the foreigners who lived there liked to spend all their time telling and hearing the latest new thing.)
22 Paul stood up in front of the city council and said, “I see that in every way you Athenians are very religious. 23 For as I walked through your city and looked at the places where you worship, I found an altar on which is written, ‘To an Unknown God.’ That which you worship, then, even though you do not know it, is what I now proclaim to you. 24 God, who made the world and everything in it, is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples made by human hands. 25 Nor does he need anything that we can supply by working for him, since it is he himself who gives life and breath and everything else to everyone. 26 From one human being he created all races of people and made them live throughout the whole earth. He himself fixed beforehand the exact times and the limits of the places where they would live. 27 He did this so that they would look for him, and perhaps find him as they felt around for him. Yet God is actually not far from any one of us; 28 as someone has said,
‘In him we live and move and exist.’
29 Since we are God's children, we should not suppose that his nature is anything like an image of gold or silver or stone, shaped by human art and skill. 30 God has overlooked the times when people did not know him, but now he commands all of them everywhere to turn away from their evil ways. 31 For he has fixed a day in which he will judge the whole world with justice by means of a man he has chosen. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising that man from death!”
32 When they heard Paul speak about a raising from death, some of them made fun of him, but others said, “We want to hear you speak about this again.” 33 And so Paul left the meeting. 34 Some men joined him and believed, among whom was Dionysius, a member of the council; there was also a woman named Damaris, and some other people.
18 After this, Paul left Athens and went on to Corinth. 2 There he met a Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, for Emperor Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, 3 and stayed and worked with them, because he earned his living by making tents, just as they did. 4 He held discussions in the synagogue every Sabbath, trying to convince both Jews and Greeks.
5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul gave his whole time to preaching the message, testifying to the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah. 6 When they opposed him and said evil things about him, he protested by shaking the dust from his clothes and saying to them, “If you are lost, you yourselves must take the blame for it! I am not responsible. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 So he left them and went to live in the house of a Gentile named Titius Justus, who worshiped God; his house was next to the synagogue. 8 Crispus, who was the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with all his family; and many other people in Corinth heard the message, believed, and were baptized.
9 One night Paul had a vision in which the Lord said to him, “Do not be afraid, but keep on speaking and do not give up, 10 for I am with you. No one will be able to harm you, for many in this city are my people.” 11 So Paul stayed there for a year and a half, teaching the people the word of God.
12 When Gallio was made the Roman governor of Achaia, Jews there got together, seized Paul, and took him into court. 13 “This man,” they said, “is trying to persuade people to worship God in a way that is against the law!”
14 Paul was about to speak when Gallio said to the Jews, “If this were a matter of some evil crime or wrong that has been committed, it would be reasonable for me to be patient with you Jews. 15 But since it is an argument about words and names and your own law, you yourselves must settle it. I will not be the judge of such things!” 16 And he drove them out of the court. 17 They all grabbed Sosthenes, the leader of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the court. But that did not bother Gallio a bit.
The Return to Antioch
18 Paul stayed on with the believers in Corinth for many days, then left them and sailed off with Priscilla and Aquila for Syria. Before sailing from Cenchreae he had his head shaved because of a vow he had taken.[z] 19 They arrived in Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He went into the synagogue and held discussions with the Jews. 20 The people asked him to stay longer, but he would not consent. 21 Instead, he told them as he left, “If it is the will of God, I will come back to you.” And so he sailed from Ephesus.
22 When he arrived at Caesarea, he went to Jerusalem and greeted the church, and then went to Antioch. 23 After spending some time there, he left and went through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the believers.
Apollos in Ephesus and Corinth
24 At that time a Jew named Apollos, who had been born in Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent speaker and had a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord, and with great enthusiasm he proclaimed and taught correctly the facts about Jesus. However, he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him home with them and explained to him more correctly the Way of God. 27 Apollos then decided to go to Achaia, so the believers in Ephesus helped him by writing to the believers in Achaia, urging them to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who through God's grace had become believers. 28 For with his strong arguments he defeated the Jews in public debates by proving from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah.
Paul in Ephesus
19 While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior of the province and arrived in Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?”
“We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit,” they answered.
3 “Well, then, what kind of baptism did you receive?” Paul asked.
“The baptism of John,” they answered.
4 Paul said, “The baptism of John was for those who turned from their sins; and he told the people of Israel to believe in the one who was coming after him—that is, in Jesus.”
5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 Paul placed his hands on them, and the Holy Spirit came upon them; they spoke in strange tongues and also proclaimed God's message. 7 They were about twelve men in all.
8 Paul went into the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly with the people, holding discussions with them and trying to convince them about the Kingdom of God. 9 But some of them were stubborn and would not believe, and before the whole group they said evil things about the Way of the Lord. So Paul left them and took the believers with him, and every day[aa] he held discussions in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for two years, so that all the people who lived in the province of Asia, both Jews and Gentiles, heard the word of the Lord.
The Sons of Sceva
11 God was performing unusual miracles through Paul. 12 Even handkerchiefs and aprons he had used were taken to the sick, and their diseases were driven away, and the evil spirits would go out of them. 13 Some Jews who traveled around and drove out evil spirits also tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus to do this. They said to the evil spirits, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches.” 14 Seven brothers, who were the sons of a Jewish High Priest named Sceva, were doing this.
15 But the evil spirit said to them, “I know Jesus, and I know about Paul; but you—who are you?”
16 The man who had the evil spirit in him attacked them with such violence that he overpowered them all. They ran away from his house, wounded and with their clothes torn off. 17 All the Jews and Gentiles who lived in Ephesus heard about this; they were all filled with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was given greater honor. 18 Many of the believers came, publicly admitting and revealing what they had done. 19 Many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in public. They added up the price of the books, and the total came to fifty thousand silver coins.[ab] 20 In this powerful way the word of the Lord[ac] kept spreading and growing stronger.
The Riot in Ephesus
21 After these things had happened, Paul made up his mind[ad] to travel through Macedonia and Achaia and go on to Jerusalem. “After I go there,” he said, “I must also see Rome.” 22 So he sent Timothy and Erastus, two of his helpers, to Macedonia, while he spent more time in the province of Asia.
23 It was at this time that there was serious trouble in Ephesus because of the Way of the Lord. 24 A certain silversmith named Demetrius made silver models of the temple of the goddess Artemis, and his business brought a great deal of profit to the workers. 25 So he called them all together with others whose work was like theirs and said to them, “Men, you know that our prosperity comes from this work. 26 Now, you can see and hear for yourselves what this fellow Paul is doing. He says that hand-made gods are not gods at all, and he has succeeded in convincing many people, both here in Ephesus and in nearly the whole province of Asia. 27 There is the danger, then, that this business of ours will get a bad name. Not only that, but there is also the danger that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will come to mean nothing and that her greatness will be destroyed—the goddess worshiped by everyone in Asia and in all the world!”
28 As the crowd heard these words, they became furious and started shouting, “Great is Artemis of Ephesus!” 29 The uproar spread throughout the whole city. The mob grabbed Gaius and Aristarchus, two Macedonians who were traveling with Paul, and rushed with them to the theater. 30 Paul himself wanted to go before the crowd, but the believers would not let him. 31 Some of the provincial authorities, who were his friends, also sent him a message begging him not to show himself in the theater. 32 Meanwhile the whole meeting was in an uproar: some people were shouting one thing, others were shouting something else, because most of them did not even know why they had come together. 33 Some of the people concluded that Alexander was responsible, since the Jews made him go up to the front. Then Alexander motioned with his hand for the people to be silent, and he tried to make a speech of defense. 34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, they all shouted together the same thing for two hours: “Great is Artemis of Ephesus!”
35 At last the city clerk was able to calm the crowd. “Fellow Ephesians!” he said. “Everyone knows that the city of Ephesus is the keeper of the temple of the great Artemis and of the sacred stone that fell down from heaven. 36 Nobody can deny these things. So then, you must calm down and not do anything reckless. 37 You have brought these men here even though they have not robbed temples or said evil things about our goddess. 38 If Demetrius and his workers have an accusation against anyone, we have the authorities and the regular days for court; charges can be made there. 39 But if there is something more that you want, it will have to be settled in a legal meeting of citizens. 40 For after what has happened today, there is the danger that we will be accused of a riot. There is no excuse for all this uproar, and we would not be able to give a good reason for it.” 41 After saying this, he dismissed the meeting.
To Macedonia and Achaia
20 After the uproar died down, Paul called together the believers and with words of encouragement said good-bye to them. Then he left and went on to Macedonia. 2 He went through those regions and encouraged the people with many messages. Then he came to Achaia, 3 where he stayed three months. He was getting ready to go to Syria when he discovered that there were Jews plotting against him; so he decided to go back through Macedonia. 4 Sopater son of Pyrrhus, from Berea, went with him; so did Aristarchus and Secundus, from Thessalonica; Gaius, from Derbe; Tychicus and Trophimus, from the province of Asia; and Timothy. 5 They went ahead and waited for us in Troas. 6 We sailed from Philippi after the Festival of Unleavened Bread, and five days later we joined them in Troas, where we spent a week.
Paul's Last Visit to Troas
7 On Saturday[ae] evening we gathered together for the fellowship meal. Paul spoke to the people and kept on speaking until midnight, since he was going to leave the next day. 8 Many lamps were burning in the upstairs room where we were meeting. 9 A young man named Eutychus was sitting in the window, and as Paul kept on talking, Eutychus got sleepier and sleepier, until he finally went sound asleep and fell from the third story to the ground. When they picked him up, he was dead. 10 But Paul went down and threw himself on him and hugged him. “Don't worry,” he said, “he is still alive!” 11 Then he went back upstairs, broke bread, and ate. After talking with them for a long time, even until sunrise, Paul left. 12 They took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.
From Troas to Miletus
13 We went on ahead to the ship and sailed off to Assos, where we were going to take Paul aboard. He had told us to do this, because he was going there by land. 14 When he met us in Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene. 15 We sailed from there and arrived off Chios the next day. A day later we came to Samos, and the following day we reached Miletus. 16 Paul had decided to sail on by Ephesus, so as not to lose any time in the province of Asia. He was in a hurry to arrive in Jerusalem by the day of Pentecost, if at all possible.
Paul's Farewell Speech to the Elders of Ephesus
17 From Miletus Paul sent a message to Ephesus, asking the elders of the church to meet him. 18 When they arrived, he said to them, “You know how I spent the whole time I was with you, from the first day I arrived in the province of Asia. 19 With all humility and many tears I did my work as the Lord's servant during the hard times that came to me because of the plots of some Jews. 20 You know that I did not hold back anything that would be of help to you as I preached and taught in public and in your homes. 21 To Jews and Gentiles alike I gave solemn warning that they should turn from their sins to God and believe in our Lord Jesus. 22 And now, in obedience to the Holy Spirit I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit has warned me that prison and troubles wait for me. 24 But I reckon my own life to be worth nothing to me; I only want to complete my mission and finish the work that the Lord Jesus gave me to do, which is to declare the Good News about the grace of God.
25 “I have gone about among all of you, preaching the Kingdom of God. And now I know that none of you will ever see me again. 26 So I solemnly declare to you this very day: if any of you should be lost, I am not responsible. 27 For I have not held back from announcing to you the whole purpose of God. 28 So keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock which the Holy Spirit has placed in your care. Be shepherds of the church of God,[af] which he made his own through the blood of his Son.[ag] 29 I know that after I leave, fierce wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock. 30 The time will come when some men from your own group will tell lies to lead the believers away after them. 31 Watch, then, and remember that with many tears, day and night, I taught every one of you for three years.
32 “And now I commend you to the care of God and to the message of his grace, which is able to build you up and give you the blessings God has for all his people. 33 I have not wanted anyone's silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that I have worked with these hands of mine to provide everything that my companions and I have needed. 35 I have shown you in all things that by working hard in this way we must help the weak, remembering the words that the Lord Jesus himself said, ‘There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.’”
36 When Paul finished, he knelt down with them and prayed. 37 They were all crying as they hugged him and kissed him good-bye. 38 They were especially sad because he had said that they would never see him again. And so they went with him to the ship.
Paul Goes to Jerusalem
21 We said good-bye to them and left. After sailing straight across, we came to Cos; the next day we reached Rhodes, and from there we went on to Patara. 2 There we found a ship that was going to Phoenicia, so we went aboard and sailed away. 3 We came to where we could see Cyprus, and then sailed south of it on to Syria. We went ashore at Tyre, where the ship was going to unload its cargo. 4 There we found some believers and stayed with them a week. By the power of the Spirit they told Paul not to go to Jerusalem. 5 But when our time with them was over, we left and went on our way. All of them, together with their wives and children, went with us out of the city to the beach, where we all knelt and prayed. 6 Then we said good-bye to one another, and we went on board the ship while they went back home.
7 We continued our voyage, sailing from Tyre to Ptolemais, where we greeted the believers and stayed with them for a day. 8 On the following day we left and arrived in Caesarea. There we stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the seven men who had been chosen as helpers in Jerusalem. 9 He had four unmarried daughters who proclaimed God's message. 10 We had been there for several days when a prophet named Agabus arrived from Judea. 11 He came to us, took Paul's belt, tied up his own feet and hands with it, and said, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: The owner of this belt will be tied up in this way by the Jews in Jerusalem, and they will hand him over to the Gentiles.”
12 When we heard this, we and the others there begged Paul not to go to Jerusalem. 13 But he answered, “What are you doing, crying like this and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be tied up in Jerusalem but even to die there for the sake of the Lord Jesus.”
14 We could not convince him, so we gave up and said, “May the Lord's will be done.”
15 After spending some time there, we got our things ready and left for Jerusalem. 16 Some of the disciples from Caesarea also went with us and took us to the house of the man we were going to stay with[ah]—Mnason, from Cyprus, who had been a believer since the early days.
Paul Visits James
17 When we arrived in Jerusalem, the believers welcomed us warmly. 18 The next day Paul went with us to see James; and all the church elders were present. 19 Paul greeted them and gave a complete report of everything that God had done among the Gentiles through his work. 20 After hearing him, they all praised God. Then they said, “Brother Paul, you can see how many thousands of Jews have become believers, and how devoted they all are to the Law. 21 They have been told that you have been teaching all the Jews who live in Gentile countries to abandon the Law of Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or follow the Jewish customs. 22 They are sure to hear that you have arrived. What should be done, then? 23 This is what we want you to do. There are four men here who have taken a vow. 24 Go along with them and join them in the ceremony of purification and pay their expenses; then they will be able to shave their heads.[ai] In this way everyone will know that there is no truth in any of the things that they have been told about you, but that you yourself live in accordance with the Law of Moses. 25 But as for the Gentiles who have become believers, we have sent them a letter telling them we decided that they must not eat any food that has been offered to idols, or any blood, or any animal that has been strangled, and that they must keep themselves from sexual immorality.”
26 So Paul took the men and the next day performed the ceremony of purification with them. Then he went into the Temple and gave notice of how many days it would be until the end of the period of purification, when a sacrifice would be offered for each one of them.
Paul Is Arrested in the Temple
27 But just when the seven days were about to come to an end, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul in the Temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and grabbed Paul. 28 “People of Israel!” they shouted. “Help! This is the man who goes everywhere teaching everyone against the people of Israel, the Law of Moses, and this Temple. And now he has even brought some Gentiles into the Temple and defiled this holy place!” (29 They said this because they had seen Trophimus from Ephesus with Paul in the city, and they thought that Paul had taken him into the Temple.)
30 Confusion spread through the whole city, and the people all ran together, grabbed Paul, and dragged him out of the Temple. At once the Temple doors were closed. 31 The mob was trying to kill Paul, when a report was sent up to the commander of the Roman troops that all of Jerusalem was rioting. 32 At once the commander took some officers and soldiers and rushed down to the crowd. When the people saw him with the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 33 The commander went over to Paul, arrested him, and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked, “Who is this man, and what has he done?” 34 Some in the crowd shouted one thing, others something else. There was such confusion that the commander could not find out exactly what had happened, so he ordered his men to take Paul up into the fort. 35 They got as far as the steps with him, and then the soldiers had to carry him because the mob was so wild. 36 They were all coming after him and screaming, “Kill him!”
Paul Defends Himself
37 As the soldiers were about to take Paul into the fort, he spoke to the commander: “May I say something to you?”
“You speak Greek, do you?” the commander asked. 38 “Then you are not that Egyptian fellow who some time ago started a revolution and led four thousand armed terrorists out into the desert?”
39 Paul answered, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of an important city. Please let me speak to the people.”
40 The commander gave him permission, so Paul stood on the steps and motioned with his hand for the people to be silent. When they were quiet, Paul spoke to them in Hebrew:
22 “My fellow Jews, listen to me as I make my defense before you!” 2 When they heard him speaking to them in Hebrew, they became even quieter; and Paul went on:
3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up here in Jerusalem as a student of Gamaliel. I received strict instruction in the Law of our ancestors and was just as dedicated to God as are all of you who are here today. 4 I persecuted to the death the people who followed this Way. I arrested men and women and threw them into prison. 5 The High Priest and the whole Council can prove that I am telling the truth. I received from them letters written to fellow Jews in Damascus, so I went there to arrest these people and bring them back in chains to Jerusalem to be punished.
Paul Tells of His Conversion
6 “As I was traveling and coming near Damascus, about midday a bright light from the sky flashed suddenly around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute me?’ 8 ‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked. ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you persecute,’ he said to me. 9 The men with me saw the light, but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 I asked, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ and the Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told everything that God has determined for you to do.’ 11 I was blind because of the bright light, and so my companions took me by the hand and led me into Damascus.
12 “In that city was a man named Ananias, a religious man who obeyed our Law and was highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He came to me, stood by me, and said, ‘Brother Saul, see again!’ At that very moment I saw again and looked at him. 14 He said, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see his righteous Servant, and to hear him speaking with his own voice. 15 For you will be a witness for him to tell everyone what you have seen and heard. 16 And now, why wait any longer? Get up and be baptized and have your sins washed away by praying to him.’
Paul's Call to Preach to the Gentiles
17 “I went back to Jerusalem, and while I was praying in the Temple, I had a vision, 18 in which I saw the Lord, as he said to me, ‘Hurry and leave Jerusalem quickly, because the people here will not accept your witness about me.’ 19 ‘Lord,’ I answered, ‘they know very well that I went to the synagogues and arrested and beat those who believe in you. 20 And when your witness Stephen was put to death, I myself was there, approving of his murder and taking care of the cloaks of his murderers.’ 21 ‘Go,’ the Lord said to me, ‘for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”
22 The people listened to Paul until he said this; but then they started shouting at the top of their voices, “Away with him! Kill him! He's not fit to live!” 23 They were screaming, waving their clothes, and throwing dust up in the air. 24 The Roman commander ordered his men to take Paul into the fort, and he told them to whip him in order to find out why the Jews were screaming like this against him. 25 But when they had tied him up to be whipped, Paul said to the officer standing there, “Is it lawful for you to whip a Roman citizen who hasn't even been tried for any crime?”
26 When the officer heard this, he went to the commander and asked him, “What are you doing? That man is a Roman citizen!”
27 So the commander went to Paul and asked him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?”
“Yes,” answered Paul.
28 The commander said, “I became one by paying a large amount of money.”
“But I am one by birth,” Paul answered.
29 At once the men who were going to question Paul drew back from him; and the commander was frightened when he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had put him in chains.
Paul before the Council
30 The commander wanted to find out for sure what the Jews were accusing Paul of; so the next day he had Paul's chains taken off and ordered the chief priests and the whole Council to meet. Then he took Paul and made him stand before them.
23 Paul looked straight at the Council and said, “My fellow Israelites! My conscience is perfectly clear about the way in which I have lived before God to this very day.” 2 The High Priest Ananias ordered those who were standing close to Paul to strike him on the mouth. 3 Paul said to him, “God will certainly strike you—you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the Law, yet you break the Law by ordering them to strike me!”
4 The men close to Paul said to him, “You are insulting God's High Priest!”
5 Paul answered, “My fellow Israelites, I did not know that he was the High Priest. The scripture says, ‘You must not speak evil of the ruler of your people.’”
6 When Paul saw that some of the group were Sadducees and the others were Pharisees, he called out in the Council, “Fellow Israelites! I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees. I am on trial here because of the hope I have that the dead will rise to life!”
7 As soon as he said this, the Pharisees and Sadducees started to quarrel, and the group was divided. (8 For the Sadducees say that people will not rise from death and that there are no angels or spirits; but the Pharisees believe in all three.) 9 The shouting became louder, and some of the teachers of the Law who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and protested strongly: “We cannot find a thing wrong with this man! Perhaps a spirit or an angel really did speak to him!”
10 The argument became so violent that the commander was afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces. So he ordered his soldiers to go down into the group, get Paul away from them, and take him into the fort.
11 That night the Lord stood by Paul and said, “Don't be afraid! You have given your witness for me here in Jerusalem, and you must also do the same in Rome.”
The Plot against Paul's Life
12 The next morning some Jews met together and made a plan. They took a vow that they would not eat or drink anything until they had killed Paul. 13 There were more than forty who planned this together. 14 Then they went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have taken a solemn vow together not to eat a thing until we have killed Paul. 15 Now then, you and the Council send word to the Roman commander to bring Paul down to you, pretending that you want to get more accurate information about him. But we will be ready to kill him before he ever gets here.”
16 But the son of Paul's sister heard about the plot; so he went to the fort and told Paul. 17 Then Paul called one of the officers and said to him, “Take this young man to the commander; he has something to tell him.” 18 The officer took him, led him to the commander, and said, “The prisoner Paul called me and asked me to bring this young man to you, because he has something to say to you.”
19 The commander took him by the hand, led him off by himself, and asked him, “What do you have to tell me?”
20 He said, “The Jewish authorities have agreed to ask you tomorrow to take Paul down to the Council, pretending that the Council wants to get more accurate information about him. 21 But don't listen to them, because there are more than forty men who will be hiding and waiting for him. They have taken a vow not to eat or drink until they have killed him. They are now ready to do it and are waiting for your decision.”
22 The commander said, “Don't tell anyone that you have reported this to me.” And he sent the young man away.
Paul Is Sent to Governor Felix
23 Then the commander called two of his officers and said, “Get two hundred soldiers ready to go to Caesarea, together with seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen, and be ready to leave by nine o'clock tonight. 24 Provide some horses for Paul to ride and get him safely through to Governor Felix.” 25 Then the commander wrote a letter that went like this: 26 “Claudius Lysias to His Excellency, Governor Felix: Greetings. 27 The Jews seized this man and were about to kill him. I learned that he is a Roman citizen, so I went with my soldiers and rescued him. 28 I wanted to know what they were accusing him of, so I took him down to their Council. 29 I found out that he had not done a thing for which he deserved to die or be put in prison; the accusation against him had to do with questions about their own law. 30 And when I was informed that there was a plot against him, at once I decided to send him to you. I have told his accusers to make their charges against him before you.”
31 The soldiers carried out their orders. They got Paul and took him that night as far as Antipatris. 32 The next day the foot soldiers returned to the fort and left the horsemen to go on with him. 33 They took him to Caesarea, delivered the letter to the governor, and turned Paul over to him. 34 The governor read the letter and asked Paul what province he was from. When he found out that he was from Cilicia, 35 he said, “I will hear you when your accusers arrive.” Then he gave orders for Paul to be kept under guard in the governor's headquarters.
The Case against Paul
24 Five days later the High Priest Ananias went to Caesarea with some elders and a lawyer named Tertullus. They appeared before Governor Felix and made their charges against Paul. 2 Then Paul was called in, and Tertullus began to make his accusation, as follows:
“Your Excellency! Your wise leadership has brought us a long period of peace, and many necessary reforms are being made for the good of our country. 3 We welcome this everywhere and at all times, and we are deeply grateful to you. 4 I do not want to take up too much of your time, however, so I beg you to be kind and listen to our brief account. 5 We found this man to be a dangerous nuisance; he starts riots among Jews all over the world and is a leader of the party of the Nazarenes. 6 He also tried to defile the Temple, and we arrested him. 7 [aj] 8 If you question this man, you yourself will be able to learn from him all the things that we are accusing him of.” 9 The Jews joined in the accusation and said that all this was true.
Paul's Defense before Felix
10 The governor then motioned to Paul to speak, and Paul said,
“I know that you have been a judge over this nation for many years, and so I am happy to defend myself before you. 11 As you can find out for yourself, it was no more than twelve days ago that I went to Jerusalem to worship. 12 The Jews did not find me arguing with anyone in the Temple, nor did they find me stirring up the people, either in the synagogues or anywhere else in the city. 13 Nor can they give you proof of the accusations they now bring against me. 14 I do admit this to you: I worship the God of our ancestors by following that Way which they say is false. But I also believe in everything written in the Law of Moses and the books of the prophets. 15 I have the same hope in God that these themselves have, namely, that all people, both the good and the bad, will rise from death. 16 And so I do my best always to have a clear conscience before God and people.
17 “After being away from Jerusalem for several years, I went there to take some money to my own people and to offer sacrifices. 18 It was while I was doing this that they found me in the Temple after I had completed the ceremony of purification. There was no crowd with me and no disorder. 19 But some Jews from the province of Asia were there; they themselves ought to come before you and make their accusations if they have anything against me. 20 Or let these who are here tell what crime they found me guilty of when I stood before the Council— 21 except for the one thing I called out when I stood before them: ‘I am being tried by you today for believing that the dead will rise to life.’”
22 Then Felix, who was well informed about the Way, brought the hearing to a close. “When the commander Lysias arrives,” he told them, “I will decide your case.” 23 He ordered the officer in charge of Paul to keep him under guard, but to give him some freedom and allow his friends to provide for his needs.
Paul before Felix and Drusilla
24 After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish. He sent for Paul and listened to him as he talked about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 But as Paul went on discussing about goodness, self-control, and the coming Day of Judgment, Felix was afraid and said, “You may leave now. I will call you again when I get the chance.” 26 At the same time he was hoping that Paul would give him some money; and for this reason he would call for him often and talk with him.
27 After two years had passed, Porcius Festus succeeded Felix as governor. Felix wanted to gain favor with the Jews so he left Paul in prison.
Paul Appeals to the Emperor
25 Three days after Festus arrived in the province, he went from Caesarea to Jerusalem, 2 where the chief priests and the Jewish leaders brought their charges against Paul. They begged Festus 3 to do them the favor of having Paul come to Jerusalem, for they had made a plot to kill him on the way. 4 Festus answered, “Paul is being kept a prisoner in Caesarea, and I myself will be going back there soon. 5 Let your leaders go to Caesarea with me and accuse the man if he has done anything wrong.”
6 Festus spent another eight or ten days with them and then went to Caesarea. On the next day he sat down in the judgment court and ordered Paul to be brought in. 7 When Paul arrived, the Jews who had come from Jerusalem stood around him and started making many serious charges against him, which they were not able to prove. 8 But Paul defended himself: “I have done nothing wrong against the Law of the Jews or against the Temple or against the Roman Emperor.”
9 But Festus wanted to gain favor with the Jews, so he asked Paul, “Would you be willing to go to Jerusalem and be tried on these charges before me there?”
10 Paul said, “I am standing before the Emperor's own judgment court, where I should be tried. I have done no wrong to the Jews, as you yourself well know. 11 If I have broken the law and done something for which I deserve the death penalty, I do not ask to escape it. But if there is no truth in the charges they bring against me, no one can hand me over to them. I appeal to the Emperor.”
12 Then Festus, after conferring with his advisers, answered, “You have appealed to the Emperor, so to the Emperor you will go.”
Paul before Agrippa and Bernice
13 Some time later King Agrippa and Bernice came to Caesarea to pay a visit of welcome to Festus. 14 After they had been there several days, Festus explained Paul's situation to the king: “There is a man here who was left a prisoner by Felix; 15 and when I went to Jerusalem, the Jewish chief priests and elders brought charges against him and asked me to condemn him. 16 But I told them that we Romans are not in the habit of handing over any who are accused of a crime before they have met their accusers face-to-face and have had the chance of defending themselves against the accusation. 17 When they came here, then, I lost no time, but on the very next day I sat in the judgment court and ordered the man to be brought in. 18 His opponents stood up, but they did not accuse him of any of the evil crimes that I thought they would. 19 All they had were some arguments with him about their own religion and about a man named Jesus, who has died; but Paul claims that he is alive. 20 I was undecided about how I could get information on these matters, so I asked Paul if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem and be tried there on these charges. 21 But Paul appealed; he asked to be kept under guard and to let the Emperor decide his case. So I gave orders for him to be kept under guard until I could send him to the Emperor.”
22 Agrippa said to Festus, “I would like to hear this man myself.”
“You will hear him tomorrow,” Festus answered.
23 The next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp and ceremony and entered the audience hall with the military chiefs and the leading men of the city. Festus gave the order, and Paul was brought in. 24 Festus said, “King Agrippa and all who are here with us: You see this man against whom all the Jewish people, both here and in Jerusalem, have brought complaints to me. They scream that he should not live any longer. 25 But I could not find that he had done anything for which he deserved the death sentence. And since he himself made an appeal to the Emperor, I have decided to send him. 26 But I have nothing definite about him to write to the Emperor. So I have brought him here before you—and especially before you, King Agrippa!—so that, after investigating his case, I may have something to write. 27 For it seems unreasonable to me to send a prisoner without clearly indicating the charges against him.”
Paul Defends Himself before Agrippa
26 Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak on your own behalf.” Paul stretched out his hand and defended himself as follows:
2 “King Agrippa! I consider myself fortunate that today I am to defend myself before you from all the things these Jews accuse me of, 3 particularly since you know so well all the Jewish customs and disputes. I ask you, then, to listen to me with patience.
4 “All the Jews know how I have lived ever since I was young. They know how I have spent my whole life, at first in my own country and then in Jerusalem. 5 They have always known, if they are willing to testify, that from the very first I have lived as a member of the strictest party of our religion, the Pharisees. 6 And now I stand here to be tried because of the hope I have in the promise that God made to our ancestors— 7 the very thing that the twelve tribes of our people hope to receive, as they worship God day and night. And it is because of this hope, Your Majesty, that I am being accused by these Jews! 8 Why do you who are here find it impossible to believe that God raises the dead?
9 “I myself thought that I should do everything I could against the cause of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 That is what I did in Jerusalem. I received authority from the chief priests and put many of God's people in prison; and when they were sentenced to death, I also voted against them. 11 Many times I had them punished in the synagogues and tried to make them deny their faith. I was so furious with them that I even went to foreign cities to persecute them.
Paul Tells of His Conversion
12 “It was for this purpose that I went to Damascus with authority and orders from the chief priests. 13 It was on the road at midday, Your Majesty, that I saw a light much brighter than the sun, coming from the sky and shining around me and the men traveling with me. 14 All of us fell to the ground, and I heard a voice say to me in Hebrew, ‘Saul, Saul! Why are you persecuting me? You are hurting yourself by hitting back, like an ox kicking against its owner's stick.’ 15 ‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked. And the Lord answered, ‘I am Jesus, whom you persecute. 16 But get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant. You are to tell others what you have seen of me[ak] today and what I will show you in the future. 17 I will rescue you from the people of Israel and from the Gentiles to whom I will send you. 18 You are to open their eyes and turn them from the darkness to the light and from the power of Satan to God, so that through their faith in me they will have their sins forgiven and receive their place among God's chosen people.’
Paul Tells of His Work
19 “And so, King Agrippa, I did not disobey the vision I had from heaven. 20 First in Damascus and in Jerusalem and then in the whole country of Israel and among the Gentiles, I preached that they must repent of their sins and turn to God and do the things that would show they had repented. 21 It was for this reason that these Jews seized me while I was in the Temple, and they tried to kill me. 22 But to this very day I have been helped by God, and so I stand here giving my witness to all, to small and great alike. What I say is the very same thing which the prophets and Moses said was going to happen: 23 that the Messiah must suffer and be the first one to rise from death, to announce the light of salvation to the Jews and to the Gentiles.”
24 As Paul defended himself in this way, Festus shouted at him, “You are mad, Paul! Your great learning is driving you mad!”
25 Paul answered, “I am not mad, Your Excellency! I am speaking the sober truth. 26 King Agrippa! I can speak to you with all boldness, because you know about these things. I am sure that you have taken notice of every one of them, for this thing has not happened hidden away in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do!”
28 Agrippa said to Paul, “In this short time do you think you will make me a Christian?”
29 “Whether a short time or a long time,” Paul answered, “my prayer to God is that you and all the rest of you who are listening to me today might become what I am—except, of course, for these chains!”
30 Then the king, the governor, Bernice, and all the others got up, 31 and after leaving they said to each other, “This man has not done anything for which he should die or be put in prison.” 32 And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been released if he had not appealed to the Emperor.”
Paul Sails for Rome
27 When it was decided that we should sail to Italy, they handed Paul and some other prisoners over to Julius, an officer in the Roman army regiment called “The Emperor's Regiment.” 2 We went aboard a ship from Adramyttium, which was ready to leave for the seaports of the province of Asia, and we sailed away. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with us. 3 The next day we arrived at Sidon. Julius was kind to Paul and allowed him to go and see his friends, to be given what he needed. 4 We went on from there, and because the winds were blowing against us, we sailed on the sheltered side of the island of Cyprus. 5 We crossed over the sea off Cilicia and Pamphylia and came to Myra in Lycia. 6 There the officer found a ship from Alexandria that was going to sail for Italy, so he put us aboard.
7 We sailed slowly for several days and with great difficulty finally arrived off the town of Cnidus. The wind would not let us go any farther in that direction, so we sailed down the sheltered side of the island of Crete, passing by Cape Salmone. 8 We kept close to the coast and with great difficulty came to a place called Safe Harbors, not far from the town of Lasea.
9 We spent a long time there, until it became dangerous to continue the voyage, for by now the Day of Atonement[al] was already past. So Paul gave them this advice: 10 “Men, I see that our voyage from here on will be dangerous; there will be great damage to the cargo and to the ship, and loss of life as well.” 11 But the army officer was convinced by what the captain and the owner of the ship said, and not by what Paul said. 12 The harbor was not a good one to spend the winter in; so almost everyone was in favor of putting out to sea and trying to reach Phoenix, if possible, in order to spend the winter there. Phoenix is a harbor in Crete that faces southwest and northwest.[am]
The Storm at Sea
13 A soft wind from the south began to blow, and the men thought that they could carry out their plan, so they pulled up the anchor and sailed as close as possible along the coast of Crete. 14 But soon a very strong wind—the one called “Northeaster”—blew down from the island. 15 It hit the ship, and since it was impossible to keep the ship headed into the wind, we gave up trying and let it be carried along by the wind. 16 We got some shelter when we passed to the south of the little island of Cauda. There, with some difficulty we managed to make the ship's boat secure. 17 They pulled it aboard and then fastened some ropes tight around the ship. They were afraid that they might run into the sandbanks off the coast of Libya, so they lowered the sail and let the ship be carried by the wind. 18 The violent storm continued, so on the next day they began to throw some of the ship's cargo overboard, 19 and on the following day they threw part of the ship's equipment overboard. 20 For many days we could not see the sun or the stars, and the wind kept on blowing very hard. We finally gave up all hope of being saved.
21 After everyone had gone a long time without food, Paul stood before them and said, “You should have listened to me and not have sailed from Crete; then we would have avoided all this damage and loss. 22 But now I beg you, take courage! Not one of you will lose your life; only the ship will be lost. 23 For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship came to me 24 and said, ‘Don't be afraid, Paul! You must stand before the Emperor. And God in his goodness to you has spared the lives of all those who are sailing with you.’ 25 So take courage, men! For I trust in God that it will be just as I was told. 26 But we will be driven ashore on some island.”
27 It was the fourteenth night, and we were being driven in the Mediterranean by the storm. About midnight the sailors suspected that we were getting close to land. 28 So they dropped a line with a weight tied to it and found that the water was one hundred and twenty feet deep; a little later they did the same and found that it was ninety feet deep. 29 They were afraid that the ship would go on the rocks, so they lowered four anchors from the back of the ship and prayed for daylight. 30 Then the sailors tried to escape from the ship; they lowered the boat into the water and pretended that they were going to put out some anchors from the front of the ship. 31 But Paul said to the army officer and soldiers, “If the sailors don't stay on board, you have no hope of being saved.” 32 So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the boat and let it go.
33 Just before dawn, Paul begged them all to eat some food: “You have been waiting for fourteen days now, and all this time you have not eaten a thing. 34 I beg you, then, eat some food; you need it in order to survive. Not even a hair of your heads will be lost.” 35 After saying this, Paul took some bread, gave thanks to God before them all, broke it, and began to eat. 36 They took courage, and every one of them also ate some food. 37 There was a total of 276[an] of us on board. 38 After everyone had eaten enough, they lightened the ship by throwing all the wheat into the sea.
39 When day came, the sailors did not recognize the coast, but they noticed a bay with a beach and decided that, if possible, they would run the ship aground there. 40 So they cut off the anchors and let them sink in the sea, and at the same time they untied the ropes that held the steering oars. Then they raised the sail at the front of the ship so that the wind would blow the ship forward, and we headed for shore. 41 But the ship hit a sandbank and went aground; the front part of the ship got stuck and could not move, while the back part was being broken to pieces by the violence of the waves.
42 The soldiers made a plan to kill all the prisoners, in order to keep them from swimming ashore and escaping. 43 But the army officer wanted to save Paul, so he stopped them from doing this. Instead, he ordered everyone who could swim to jump overboard first and swim ashore; 44 the rest were to follow, holding on to the planks or to some broken pieces of the ship. And this was how we all got safely ashore.
28 When we were safely ashore, we learned that the island was called Malta. 2 The natives there were very friendly to us. It had started to rain and was cold, so they built a fire and made us all welcome. 3 Paul gathered up a bundle of sticks and was putting them on the fire when a snake came out on account of the heat and fastened itself to his hand. 4 The natives saw the snake hanging on Paul's hand and said to one another, “This man must be a murderer, but Fate will not let him live, even though he escaped from the sea.” 5 But Paul shook the snake off into the fire without being harmed at all. 6 They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after waiting for a long time and not seeing anything unusual happening to him, they changed their minds and said, “He is a god!”
7 Not far from that place were some fields that belonged to Publius, the chief of the island. He welcomed us kindly and for three days we were his guests. 8 Publius' father was in bed, sick with fever and dysentery. Paul went into his room, prayed, placed his hands on him, and healed him. 9 When this happened, all the other sick people on the island came and were healed. 10 They gave us many gifts, and when we sailed, they put on board what we needed for the voyage.
From Malta to Rome
11 After three months we sailed away on a ship from Alexandria, called “The Twin Gods,” which had spent the winter in the island. 12 We arrived in the city of Syracuse and stayed there for three days. 13 From there we sailed on and arrived in the city of Rhegium. The next day a wind began to blow from the south, and in two days we came to the town of Puteoli. 14 We found some believers there who asked us to stay with them a week. And so we came to Rome. 15 The believers in Rome heard about us and came as far as the towns of Market of Appius and Three Inns to meet us. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and was greatly encouraged.
16 When we arrived in Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself with a soldier guarding him.
17 After three days Paul called the local Jewish leaders to a meeting. When they had gathered, he said to them, “My fellow Israelites, even though I did nothing against our people or the customs that we received from our ancestors, I was made a prisoner in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. 18 After questioning me, the Romans wanted to release me, because they found that I had done nothing for which I deserved to die. 19 But when the Jews opposed this, I was forced to appeal to the Emperor, even though I had no accusation to make against my own people. 20 That is why I asked to see you and talk with you. As a matter of fact, I am bound in chains like this for the sake of him for whom the people of Israel hope.”
21 They said to him, “We have not received any letters from Judea about you, nor have any of our people come from there with any news or anything bad to say about you. 22 But we would like to hear your ideas, because we know that everywhere people speak against this party to which you belong.”
23 So they set a date with Paul, and a large number of them came that day to the place where Paul was staying. From morning till night he explained to them his message about the Kingdom of God, and he tried to convince them about Jesus by quoting from the Law of Moses and the writings of the prophets. 24 Some of them were convinced by his words, but others would not believe. 25 So they left, disagreeing among themselves, after Paul had said this one thing: “How well the Holy Spirit spoke through the prophet Isaiah to your ancestors! 26 For he said,
‘Go and say to this people:
28 And Paul concluded: “You are to know, then, that God's message of salvation has been sent to the Gentiles. They will listen!”
Acts 1-7English Standard Version (ESV)
The Promise of the Holy Spirit
1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
4 And while staying[a] with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas
12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.[c]
15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong[d] he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,
“‘May his camp become desolate,
“‘Let another take his office.’
21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
2 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested[e] on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
Peter's Sermon at Pentecost
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.[f] 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus,[g] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,
“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
The Fellowship of the Believers
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe[h] came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
The Lame Beggar Healed
3 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.[i] 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. 4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
Peter Speaks in Solomon's Portico
11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon's. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant[j] Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus[k] has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.
17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”
Peter and John Before the Council
4 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.
5 On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, 6 with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus[l] is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.[m] 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men[n] by which we must be saved.”
13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.
The Believers Pray for Boldness
23 When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant,[o] said by the Holy Spirit,
“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness.
They Had Everything in Common
32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.
Ananias and Sapphira
5 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.
7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you[q] sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” 9 But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.
Many Signs and Wonders Done
12 Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon's Portico. 13 None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16 The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
The Apostles Arrested and Freed
17 But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy 18 they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” 21 And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.
Now when the high priest came, and those who were with him, they called together the council, all the senate of the people of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But when the officers came, they did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, 23 “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them we found no one inside.” 24 Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. 25 And someone came and told them, “Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” 26 Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 34 But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. 36 For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. 37 After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38 So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, 40 and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.
Seven Chosen to Serve
6 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists[r] arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers,[s] pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
Stephen Is Seized
8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11 Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, 13 and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.” 15 And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
7 And the high priest said, “Are these things so?” 2 And Stephen said:
“Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’ 4 Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living. 5 Yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot's length, but promised to give it to him as a possession and to his offspring after him, though he had no child. 6 And God spoke to this effect—that his offspring would be sojourners in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and afflict them four hundred years. 7 ‘But I will judge the nation that they serve,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.’ 8 And he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day, and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs.
9 “And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him 10 and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household. 11 Now there came a famine throughout all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction, and our fathers could find no food. 12 But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent out our fathers on their first visit. 13 And on the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph's family became known to Pharaoh. 14 And Joseph sent and summoned Jacob his father and all his kindred, seventy-five persons in all. 15 And Jacob went down into Egypt, and he died, he and our fathers, 16 and they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.
17 “But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt 18 until there arose over Egypt another king who did not know Joseph. 19 He dealt shrewdly with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infants, so that they would not be kept alive. 20 At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God's sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father's house, 21 and when he was exposed, Pharaoh's daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. 22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.
23 “When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. 24 And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. 25 He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. 26 And on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why do you wrong each other?’ 27 But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 At this retort Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons.
30 “Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight, and as he drew near to look, there came the voice of the Lord: 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.’ And Moses trembled and did not dare to look. 33 Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt.’
35 “This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’—this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years. 37 This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.’ 38 This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us. 39 Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. 42 But God turned away and gave them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets:
“‘Did you bring to me slain beasts and sacrifices,
44 “Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness, just as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen. 45 Our fathers in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our fathers. So it was until the days of David, 46 who found favor in the sight of God and asked to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob.[t] 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him. 48 Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says,
49 “‘Heaven is my throne,
51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”
The Stoning of Stephen
54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together[u] at him.