Acts 27

Acts 27: Paul Travels to Rome

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

Acts 26

Acts 26: The First Vision – Paul and Joseph Smith

King Agrippa comes to Paul and tells him that he is free to speak. Paul gives an autobiographical account of his dealings and explains his side of the story. He asks King Agrippa to hear him “…patiently…” (Acts 26:3) Why is that so important? Because what Paul is about to tell King Agrippa is easy to immediately dismiss without hearing the entire thing. After all, that is what his accusers did! They heard him speak as if he was a messenger of God (which he was), however those who accused him were too quick to judge and thought he spoke blasphemies, comparing himself to God. So it is important that King Agrippa hears Paul with an open heart and mind. Paul begins by stressinh that Moses and the prophets predicted the coming of Chris and that in his name they raised the dead and cast out evil.

Paul explains his vision and conversion story;

“At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, [Saul is Paul] why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” (Acts 26:13-18)

Paul explains to King Agrippa that he was not disobedient unto this heavenly vision. He explains that he first traveled to Damascus, then to Jerusalem and throughout all the coasts of Judea and finally to the Gentiles that they would repent and turn to God, doing works “…meet for repentance.” (Acts 26:20) Paul continues to explain, that for preaching about Jesus, the Jews caught him in the temple, desiring to kill him.

Paul continues his testimony to King Agrippa; Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.” (Acts 26:22-23)

As Paul spoke, Festus interrupted with a loud voice said to Paul; “…thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.” (Acts 26:24-25)

Paul dismisses Festus’ claim that he is mad. King Agrippa says he is almost convinced to become a Christian, and comments that Paul would have been set free had he not appealed to Caesar.

Joseph Smith’s First Vision

The story of Paul is very similar to the story of Joseph Smith, at least in the sense that no one believed him. Joseph Smith did not persecute any church, for during his time, the TRUE church of Jesus Christ was no longer on the earth. However, as a young boy Joseph Smith was curious as to which of all the sects was the correct one for him to join. For years Joseph Smith wondered which church to join, however he was confused for they all seemed to say that they had the truth. Joseph Smith explained his story;

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“I was born in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and five [1805], on the twenty-third day of December, in the town of Sharon, Windsor county, State of Vermont. … My father, Joseph Smith, Sen., left the State of Vermont, and moved to Palmyra, Ontario (now Wayne) county, in the State of New York, when I was in my tenth year, or thereabouts. In about four years after my father’s arrival in Palmyra, he moved with his family into Manchester in the same county of Ontario— His family consisting of eleven souls, namely, my father, Joseph Smith; my mother, Lucy Smith (whose name, previous to her marriage, was Mack, daughter of Solomon Mack); my brothers, Alvin (who died November 19th, 1823, in the 26th year of his age), Hyrum, myself, Samuel Harrison, William, Don Carlos; and my sisters, Sophronia, Catherine, and Lucy.

Some time in the second year after our removal to Manchester, there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country. Indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, “Lo, here!” and others, “Lo, there!” Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist.

For, notwithstanding the great love which the converts to these different faiths expressed at the time of their conversion, and the great zeal manifested by the respective clergy, who were active in getting up and promoting this extraordinary scene of religious feeling, in order to have everybody converted, as they were pleased to call it, let them join what sect they pleased; yet when the converts began to file off, some to one party and some to another, it was seen that the seemingly good feelings of both the priests and the converts were more pretended than real; for a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued—priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions.

I was at this time in my fifteenth year. My father’s family was proselyted to the Presbyterian faith, and four of them joined that church, namely, my mother, Lucy; my brothers Hyrum and Samuel Harrison; and my sister Sophronia. During this time of great excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from all these parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit. In process of time my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them; but so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.

My mind at times was greatly excited, the cry and tumult were so great and incessant. The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others. In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?

While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.

At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture. So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty [1820]. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.

After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.

But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

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My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” (Joseph Smith History 1:3-19)

Joseph Smith saw God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ and through him, God himself opened the door the last dispensation, or the “…dispensation of the fullness of times…” (Ephesians 1:10) by calling another Prophet [Joseph Smith], it is important to note that in Mormon Doctrine, Joseph Smith is looked at as a Prophet, like Moses. Some believe that Mormons worship Joseph Smith; however he is not looked at on the same level as Jesus Christ or God. Joseph Smith was an instrument in the hands of God, and nothing more.

Acts 25

Acts 25: Paul Appeals unto Caesar

When Felix is replaced by Festus, Paul’s Jewish accusers decide to re-try the case against Paul. Paul asks Festus to appeal unto Caesar; “…I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest.” (Acts 25:10) Festus explains the case involving Paul to the visiting King Agrippa. Shortly after, the trial begins, and Festus makes an opening speech explaining the situation of the Jews desiring his death and Festus explains that the Jews made warrantless claims and false accusations with no evidence against Paul. Festus explained that this was contrary to Roman Law, explaining; “…It is not the manners of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have licence to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him.” (Acts 25:16) Festus desired that King Agrippa hear from Paul himself, and he agrees.

Acts 24

Acts 24: Paul is accused and bound

Ananias the high priest and an orator named Tertullus make accusations toward Paul. Paul is accused of profaning the temple and sedition. Paul declares that there are no witnesses or evidences to support their claims or accusations during his visits to the temple. Felix (the governor of Judea) defers a decision, later taking his Jewish wife Drusilla to hear Paul speak of Christ. Felix hoped that Paul would bribe him to be released.

Acts 23

Acts 23: 40 Jews try to kill Paul

                Paul goes before the Sanhedrin  and opens up by saying; “…Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” (Acts 23:1) and before Paul could finish, Ananias the high priest commanded the guards standing next to Paul to smack him across the face for his words. Paul quickly responds; “…God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?” (Acts 23:3)

The Sanhedrin’s reaction to Paul statement is divided between Pharisees (who do believe in the resurrection of the dead) and the Saducees (who do not). It gets so bad at one point that Paul has to be rescued by the Roman commander, so he doesn’t get pulled apart from the mess. Paul is told in a dream that he will go to Rome and testify there. Forty Jews vow not to eat or drink until they have accomplished in killing Paul. Paul is warned by his nephew, who learns of the plot. Paul escapes to Caesarea  with a full military escort and a letter referring his case to the governor of the providence. The letter says that Paul is not worthy of death. Paul awaits trial in Caesarea.

Acts 22

Acts 22: Conversion of Paul

                Paul delivers an address in Jerusalem after he was bound and ready to be sent to Prison. This carries over from Acts 21. Paul gives an autobiography,  telling of his persecution of Christians and his later conversion;

“And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus. And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard.” (Acts 22:6-15)

The crowd riots in response to Paul’s message. The commander orders that Paul be interrogated under scourging, but revokes the order when Paul reveals his Roman citizenship. The Roman commander arranges a hearing of the charges against Paul before the Sanhedrin.

Acts 21

Acts 21: Paul goes to Jerusalem

Paul sails to Syria where he is warned by disciples in Tyre not to go to Jerusalem. In Caesarea, the prophet Agabus binds his hands and feet with Paul’s belt and tells him the Jews in Jerusalem will bind Paul in the same way. Paul explains that he is willing to die in the name of Jesus Christ. Paul goes to Jerusalem anyways, saying: “… The will of the Lord be done.” (Acts 21:14) As a show of goodwill to the Jewish community there, Paul sponsors four Jews who are taking the Nazirite vow. Even with this show of goodwill, the Jews from Asia stir a mob against Paul. Roman soldiers rescue Paul, and he asks to speak to the crowd, and the soldiers agree. Paul addresses the crowd in Hebrew.

Acts 20

Acts 20: Apostasy

Paul travels through Greece and Macedonia, where he arrived at Troas. “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them…” (Acts 20:7) For this purpose the first day of the week is Sunday, and therefore the Sabbath Day is Sunday. While preaching a certain woman brings a young man who is ‘sleeping’ to see Paul, his name is Eutychus. Paul raises Eutychus from the dead.

Paul then travels to Miletus and sends for the elders of the church in Ephesus to meet him there. Paul says he will face imprisonment and tribulations preaching to Jerusalem. However, Paul is undeterred, because testifying of the gospel fills him with joy. Paul warns about the coming Apostasy in the church; “…after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29-30; see also Acts 28-30) Shortly after the apostles had been killed, the church started to fall in Apostasy and with time, evil men did lead away the members of Christ’s church, destroying it. Therefore, it was needful that a Restoration of His same Church, the Church of Jesus Christ would be restored in the last days, before His second coming. That church is known today as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Acts 19

Acts 19: The Gift of the Holy Ghost

                While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the upper coasts of Epheus where he found certain Disciples of Christ who had not yet received the Holy Ghost;

“He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as head whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto the, Unto what then where ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came upon them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.” (Acts 19:2-6)

                When Paul had asked them if they had received the Holy Ghost, they knew nothing of it. These people thought they had received a valid baptism with the proper authority. However, Paul, an Apostle of the Lord told them that they had been baptized without the actual Authority. So when the people heard and understood this, they were RE-BAPTIZED, because a baptism without the proper Authority is just getting wet, and serves no purpose. Paul then gave them the power and gift of the Holy Ghost, by the laying on of hands, by the proper Authority. Thus, it is important to have proper Authority to get a proper baptism. This Authority was lost some time after Paul was an Apostle, but has been restored in these Latter-days.

While in Ephesus Paul has a mixed response, but performs miraculous healings. The seven sons of Sceva, Jewish exorcists, try to exorcise by the name of the Lord Jesus. However, the evil spirits do not recognize them or their proper Authority and are beaten by the evil spirits. Many in Ephesus renounce occult objects. Demetrius, a maker of idols, opposes Paul because his business has suffered. A riot starts, which is finally calmed by a city clerk.

Acts 18

Acts 18: Apollos Preaches with Power

Paul departs from Athens and arrives in Corinth, where he stays with tentmakers named Aquila and Priscilla. Paul preaches to both Jews and Greeks, and many believe and are baptized. Paul receives encouragement in a vision to stay, and remains in Corinth for one and a half years. The Lord tells Paul in the vision; “…Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: For I am with thee…” (Acts 18:9-10) The Jews of Corinth attempt unsuccessfully to convict Paul before the civil authorities, but they refuse to convict Paul on the grounds of lawlessness. Paul cuts his hair in order to make a Nazirite vow. From here Paul travels to Ephesus, Antioch, Galatia and Phrygia. Aquila and Priscilla instruct a fervent Jew named Apollos about Christ; “…publickly shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.” (Acts 18:28)

A few things are very interesting from this chapter, first God tells Paul to not be afraid. Often times we can become afraid of spreading the Gospel, for fear of those who may reject it. God has made it clear that if we spread His Gospel, we will have His peace and comfort. The second thing that is interesting, is that Aquilla and Priscilla taught a Jew and not only did they verbally testify to him, they also used the scriptures to teach and convince. This means that it is ok to question things, but we need to fervently seek the answers by means of scripture study and help ourselves build our testimony of Jesus Christ and His Gospel through the testimonies and experiences of others.