This week we study the last recorded events of Paul’s life in the New Testament and move on from the recorded events to the apostolic epistles next week.
We should take the time this week to discuss and talk about the efforts that Paul made in the days of the early Christian church. Think about what effects Paul had on the world because of his tireless preaching. How many people have come to know Jesus Christ and the message of the atonement because of Paul?
At the time, Paul’s influence was not very far reaching. In the context of the Roman Empire and the territories surrounding, he did demonstrate a wonderful ability to spread the spirit of conversion to a people ready and eager to receive the message of The Way (as the Christian message was known at the time). But in the context of the entire world, Paul was nothing more than a minor religious figure isolated to the Mediterranean world. He had little influence during his life over the Asian continent or the people of Northern Europe. The people farther South in Africa certainly had no knowledge of the great apostle. And then Paul has no influence at all on the people across the sea in the America’s. However, Paul’s messages stood the test of time and now all people all over the world are influenced by Paul’s devout and eager service for Jesus Christ.
I say this because often the things we do today may only have a small effect on the world, because we know “that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass;” – Alma 37: 6. So do not hesitate to bear witness of Jesus Christ. Do not think that your efforts will go to waste, because they won’t. God is aware of you and will use the sacrifices you make in His name to build the Kingdom of God on Earth. And the effects of our small and simple things will be exponentially increased as God sees fit.
Watch this general conference talk and discuss:
Tell the story of Paul and his journey to Rome after he met with King Agrippa. (Acts 27-28) Then read Acts 28:1–9 Paul was a worthy disciple of Jesus Christ, yet he often suffered, was imprisoned, and constantly ridiculed. How do you think Paul kept good spirits during his journeys? Why did the Lord allow such bad things to happen to one of his greatest disciples?
Share with your family these pictures from various locations of where Paul travelled. How does seeing the real places help us understand Paul's testimony in Jesus Christ?
If you served a mission, share your mission pictures with your family. Tell them the stories of how you shared the gospel despite adversity. Talk to them about the struggles you faced while serving and how your faith and testimony in God helped you.
If you didn't serve a mission talk about a time when you struggled through difficult circumstances and how your faith in God helped you through it. Tell a story of when you shared the gospel, despite hardships you may have faced. Or tell a story of fulfilling a church calling, despite obstacles that got in the way.
Encourage family members to share their own stories, pictures, and struggles.
As we bring Acts to a close and have no more to read about the life of Paul, I think it appropriate to review his life and the dedication Paul gave to Jesus Christ, in stark contrast to his early life in which he persecuted the early Christians.
The Church has produced several resources on the matter, but in 1975 an Ensign was published that focused particularly on the New Testament. Below is linked a summary retelling of Paul's journey's--one that might will grow your understanding of Acts.
There are a lot of different characters that appear throughout the end of Acts. But who are these people? Thankfully, we have historical resources that shed light on the writings of Luke in Acts. Here are some shot summaries on who some of these people are:
Claudius Lysias, the tribune: A roman military commander that is depicted as just. He treats Paul with fairness and respect. Lysius comes up several times throughout Paul's arrest, in Acts 21 and 23. He had troops stationed outside of Jerusalem and intervened when Paul was accused of bringing gentiles into the temple. He arrested Paul to quell a riot that broke out before the temple. Lysias sends Paul to Caesarea with an armed escort to protect him from a conspiracy by a group of Jews to murder the apostle.
Felix: The Roman governor serving as procurator of Judea. He was a freed slave that rose to power in the Roman government. He is depicted as corrupt and ruthless; he is accused of extorting the Jewish people. He dealt harshly with the people over uprisings and riots. Lysias brings Paul to Felix. After hearing the case against Paul Felix delays deciding, likely in hopes of receiving a bribe from Paul. Paul is kept under his custody for two years--during which Paul is given more liberty than other prisoners. Felix is succeeded by Porcius Festus after those two years.
Porcius Festus: A Roman procurator who succeeded Felix as governor of the Judean province. Festus did what he could to attempt to restore peace in a time where relations between Rome and the Jewish people grew ever more tumultuous. He was fair and just, while also strictly enforcing Roman law. He struggled to understand the complexity of the religious and political issues surrounding Paul's case and decided to send him to Rome, after conferring with King Agrippa.
King Agrippa: The great grandson of Herod the Great (the same King Herod that ordered the killing of male children in Bethlemen, causing Joseph and Mary to flee to Egypt). He was the second Agrippa, son of the First and had the Lebanese ethnarchy of Chalcis given by Emperor Claudius--and also Galilee, Iturea, Gaulanitis, and Trachonitis. Festus sent Paul to King Agrippa to help draw up the charges against Paul before the apostle was sent to Rome. There is evidence that both Jews and Romans had great respect for King Agrippa. With his and Paul's short interaction, King Agrippa remarks on the persuasiveness of Paul's testimony--and perhaps the general aptitude with which Paul had to make personal connections with the people around him, suggesting that Paul was likely a very pleasant and encouraging man to be around. With King Agrippa's death in the year 92, the Herodian dynasty ended.
Bernice: The sister of King Agrippa. She became the mistress of the Roman general Titus--the same who laid siege to Jerusalem. Titus promised to make Bernice his empress when he became emperor but went back on his promise because of anti-Jewish public opinion.
Aristarchus: This man was a close companion and fellow traveler of Paul's. He was a Macedonian, from Thessalonica and was likely a Jewish convert. He and Gaius were seized by a mob during the riot of silversmiths in Ephesus. They bore the brunt the Ephesians anger toward Paul for his teachings that threatened the trade of the silversmiths. He sails with Paul from Caesarea to Rome. He is mentioned five times in the New Testament, all of which suggest he was a faithful and loyal companion to the apostle Paul.
Follow the example of Paul and declare your testimony in difficult circumstances. We are all faced with opportunities to declare our testimony, even if it seems inappropriate or hard. Follow Paul’s example, who declared his testimony to governors and kings, without hesitation. You have a great opportunity this week since it is Fast and Testimony meeting. Take the spirit of that meeting into your everyday life.