Tag Archives: Acts

Morning Thoughts (Acts 26:8)

Philip Conley's Morning Thoughts

Acts 26:8, “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?” 

This morning, people still find many Biblical tenets fantastically unbelievable, and most of the incredulity stems from inability to understand it fully.  For example, many today will deny that Jesus Christ is fully God as well as fully man, since that concept blows the mind’s circuits.  The fact that such a concept is a mystery is undeniable (I Timothy 3:16), but mysteries do not necessarily entail an untruth.  Much of life is a mystery to me, but my lack of understanding does not change the existence of these truths.  For some, the idea of the resurrection of our bodies when time shall be no more is thought to be so utterly fantastic that it is nothing more than a children’s fairy tale.  However, to someone who knows something of Biblical foundations, the idea should not be unbelievable but completely believable.

Our study verse is set in the midst of Paul’s appearance before King Agrippa.  He has already made his case before Felix and then Festus, but King Agrippa’s arrival warrants another hearing.  So, Paul stands before these 3 magistrates, but primarily speaks to Agrippa since he had already spoken to the other two.  Paul actually enjoyed this hearing (Verse 2), and the reason for that happiness is found in verse 3, setting the stage for the premise of all of Paul’s arguments.  Agrippa, unlike other magistrates, had a good knowledge of the Jews’ religion, customs, and beliefs about various things.  Because of this knowledge, Paul hinges many of his arguments on the teachings of the prophets of the Old Testament, but his questions hinge upon Agrippa’s understanding of the power and consistency of God as well.

If Agrippa knew what the Jews thought and had in the Old Testament, then he knew the Genesis account of the creation.  Knowing that the Book described an entire universe formed out of nothing, Paul presses the argument.  If God can create something from nothing, how hard would it be for Him to take that something and fashion it again as something?  The resurrection is not a new body, but a change of the old body.  No matter the condition, the resurrection starts with the premise that the remains of the body are fashioned again into another body (Job 19:24-25).  For someone who had not heard of or been acquainted with the God of the Old Testament, the resurrection could be an incredible thing, but for people who believe in the literal creation of the universe from nothing by God, the resurrection should be well within His power.

Furthermore, Agrippa had other accounts familiar to him.  Notice the language of verse 3 again.  Agrippa was not just casually acquainted with these things.  He was an expert in all questions and customs among the Jews.  Therefore, he knew more than just that there were prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah, he had read them extensively and heard many of the discussions about the harder questions of the law.  Many times in writing his defenses of the resurrection, like in I Corinthians 15, Paul would quote extensively from the Old Testament.  The writings of the prophets bear great testimony to the truth of the raising from the dead. (Isaiah 25:8 as a good example) Therefore, the concept of the resurrection should not have been alien to Agrippa on that level.

Another appeal that Paul had from Scripture was that the Old Testament linked the resurrection by illustration to nature.  Job describes this in Job 14:1-15.  In Job’s declaration of life after death, he mentions the observation of a tree that is cut down.  Though the tree is gone with nothing but the aging roots in the ground, yet through the presence (scent) of water, it will sprout again.  Even nature’s courses (set in place by a very intelligent Creator) show forth the reality of life after recession through the season’s courses and the examples of things like trees that Job gives us.  Agrippa was more familiar with these things than other people that Paul stood before.  As Paul’s discourse ellipses back to the resurrection in Acts 26, it causes Festus to accuse Paul of insanity for believing these things.  To some today, someone would have to be incredibly insane to believe the truth that we shall be raised from the grave some sweet day.

Beloved, today we should look at Paul’s question as though he asked it to us.  Why should it be thought incredible that God should raise the dead?  Do we believe that He verily created something from nothing?  Amen and amen.  Do we believe that all that the prophets declared is verily true and without error?  Amen again.  Do we see and observe the change and “rebirth” cycles in nature?  Surely so.  Why with all this evidence screaming about should the resurrection be thought incredible to us?

Most of the incredulity about the event stems from lack of ability to grasp it.  I freely confess that the idea of “sleeping dust” coming forth in an instant to be fashioned into a glorious immortal body is more than my mind can logically project or fathom.  I simply have no experience comparison with which to base it.  However, the reality and power of that event does not hinge upon my ability to mentally project it.  It is grounded in the reality that the heart of the resurrection – Jesus Himself – has all power in both heaven and earth.  He can do – and does – whatsoever He will.  No matter the condition of the “dust,” it shall come forth.  Burned, consumed, torn of beast, or scattered to the far corners of the globe, none of it has landed outside the watchful eye of Him who shall one day raise it.  Incredible?  Let us not be found thinking so, but rather let us be found rejoicing in hope of the glory of God knowing that one day we shall stand before Him wholly in not only spirit and soul but body as well.

In Hope,

Bro Philip

Morning Thoughts (Acts 17:3)

Acts 17:3, "Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ."

This morning, the evil shrouds of darkness get worse and worse.  Just as Paul was inspired to prophesy, evil men and seducers wax worse and worse. (II Timothy 3:13) While the worsening world does not please me in the slightest, there should be no surprise that it is indeed occurring.  One of the most prominent tactics that evil employs is that of secrecy and concealment.  Christ many times spoke of this during His earthly ministry.  His coming marked the coming of the True Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. (John 1:9) Because the Saviour's deeds are good, light seems a very fitting moniker, and the evil deeds of men and devils equally fits being darkness.  However, the assault upon the kingdom of light has heightened in my lifetime, and I fully expect the war to rage even more bitterly in the moments to come.  There is a grave warning to the household of faith to be wary of all that comes before us as light and righteousness.  Since Satan and his ministers pose many times as ministers of light and righteousness (II Corinthians 11:13-15), we need to be vigilant to spot real gold as opposed to pyrite.  Something may glitter, but as the song goes, it still may not be gold.

When reading the Holy Scriptures, it never ceases to amaze me at the great richness it contains with every pass.  The luster of the book never fades with time.  Equally impressive is the freshness that it maintains both with "known" thoughts as well as the "recently discovered nuggets."  In the last several days, a portion of this verse shone forth like never before.  Quite often I would read this verse or speak about it while visualizing the scene.  My visual included Paul in the synagogue reasoning and meeting the arguments with force and blessing from on high.  I could almost picture our beloved brother Paul driving all the arguments to the contrary to the ground while setting up the glorious structure of God's salvation through the merits of His Son Jesus Christ.  Indeed, that visual is – I believe – true.  However, that visual only captures half of the scene.  What I have just described in my mind's eye can easily be described by the word "alleging" in our study verse.  To allege something is to firmly commit to it and be willing to defend it.  When someone presents formal "allegation" in court, they are showing a willingness to stand behind what they are saying.  Doubtless, Paul did not lack for courage, and being the able lawyer that he could be with legal arguments, his alleging of Jesus being the Christ and having really and truly paid our sins and been made our justification were air tight and secure.

Yet, Paul did more than just allege these things.  His legal arguments were sound, but his presentation included so much more.  The word that I had "missed" all these years was "opening."  The purpose of light is to manifest things.  The truth is our light, which lights our feet and path. (Psalm 119:105) It opens to us the rich beauty of Christ, His work, and His kingdom.  Paul opened the Scriptures to these Jews.  To show the need of the suffering Messiah, he would point to a place like Isaiah 53 and then correlate that to what the man they knew as Jesus had experienced.  In an effort to show the foreshadowing of the resurrection, Paul would point to a place like Psalm 16, and much like Peter at Pentecost, he would show forth the beauty of Jesus's resurrection among many witnesses – himself included.  By showing the prophecies of the Jews' anticipated Messiah or Christ and paralleling them with Jesus's life, Paul was opening to these people that that man Jesus is verily the Lord above.  Paul probably could have debated with the best of them, but on occasions like this, Paul desired to argue rather than debate.

To argue a point is to present facts, points, and draw conclusions hoping to arrive at the truth of the matter.  Two people reasoning together by way of argumental structure is a very fitting way to come to understand more profoundly the truths of an important subject.  Sadly, most people today think of arguments from the negative connotation, and I believe that most of this comes from a misnomer.  Most of what people perceive as arguments are really debates.  Debates are not held to arrive at the truth of the matter, but they are held to "win the day" as it were.  The whole focus and goal is to win.  So, while the methodology may look the same, the pivotal motivation drives a totally different circumstance.  Paul argued to arrive at truth rather than debate to win the day.  So should our reasoning be that we would allege our beliefs and do so with the opening (rightly dividing) process of Scripture.

When one considers the ideas of erroneous teachers and false doctrines, there is a common thread between them.  They desire to keep their hearers and followers in darkness.  Secret orders will not expose their followers to many of their ideals and beliefs until they pass through certain levels of service.  The shroud of darkness taints everything they do.  Other erroneous orders of people are taught that their leaders have more knowledge than they do, and their leaders do not share their privilege of knowledge.  Politicians today rule by legislation that is so complicated that not even they understand it well enough to explain it.  Some even sign documents and legislation that they have no idea as to the precise contents of the document.  One of our politicians in this country famously stated, "We need to sign this bill now so we can find out what's in it."  All of these patterns follow the prince of darkness himself.  Consider his first tactics in the Garden of Eden.  Truly, he mentioned things that would happen if they ate (i.e. their eyes would be opened), but he veiled the real problem with disobeying God's commandment: death.

All error, lies, and falsehood preys upon the idea of keeping the followers in ignorance to their own destruction.  Contrasted with the promotion of truth, the contrast could not be any more stark.  The point of preaching the Scriptures in truth is to expound (lay open) the teachings for all to see.  Paul told the Ephesian brethren in his farewell to them that he had kept back nothing profitable (Acts 20:21) in his labours there.  He further declared to them all the counsel of God (Acts 20:27) – which in essence says, "If I knew it, you got it.  I held nothing back."  As promoters and allegers of the truth of Jesus Christ today, we should be desirous to open things to people.  If you rightly divide Scripture for people, you are hoping that they will see and the ideas will click.

There have been occasions when I have been engaged in Bible discussions with people, and I have pointed out a passage that plainly declares the opposite of their contended position.  This pointed opening sometimes evokes the following confession from them, "I was hoping you wouldn't go there.  I don't have an answer for that."  They knew it was there, but they wanted it to stay veiled throughout our discussion (closed).  Friends, our desire should be to open things, and sometimes, they need to be opened for us as well.  None of us are above learning and discovering freshness in the concepts of Scripture.  If a valid, reasonable, and above all, Biblical argument can be posed to nudge us in a direction previously avoided, we should labour to follow after that which is opened to us.

In a world that is daily gravitating towards the darkness and further down the hole of death and destruction, may we keep moving upwards towards the glorious light that opens things to us.  His Book declares that He came down, lived here, died a criminal's death in shame for us, and was raised the third and glorious day for our justification.  Anything contrary to this lovely story should be avoided as the works of darkness.  Anything that promotes, adorns, and becomes this sublime account should be alleged and contended for.  But, it should also be opened as well, for the things that pertain to Christ and His work will ever stand forth in glorious reflection in the light of examination and have no fellowship with the works of darkness. 

In Hope,

Bro Philip