Tag Archives: Philemon

Chapter One from Radical Social Change

Chapter One – The Writers

Paul identified himself and Timothy as the writers of this letter. He qualified his identity with the fact that he was in prison for preaching the Good News about Jesus Christ – Yeshua ha Mashiach. Paul had gone to Jerusalem at the end of his third missionary journey to take a relief offering from the Gentile churches to the Jewish churches in Jerusalem who were suffering because they were poor and the non-Christian Jews wouldn’t help them anymore – after they put their faith in Yeshua – Jesus – as their Mashiach. Luke went with him, and at least six others. They visited James and he was glad to hear about all the Gentiles that had been saved, but told Paul, “You see, brother, how many myriads there are among the Jewish people who have believed—and they are all zealous for the Torah. They have been told about you—that you teach all the Jewish people among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or to walk according to the customs. What’s to be done then? No doubt they will hear that you have come.”[1] James had a plan though. He said, ““So, do what we tell you. We have four men who have a vow on themselves. Take them, and purify yourselfalong with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. That way, all will realize there is nothing to the things they have been told about you, but that you yourself walk in an orderly manner, keeping the Torah.”[2]

Paul did as advised and at the end of the seven days of purification Jewish leaders from Asia mobbed him because they thought he had desecrated the temple by bringing a Gentile into it. They were afflicted with so much religious spirit that they didn’t really care if they were believers or not, as long as they appeared good and they looked good. Most of the inhabitants of town of Capernaum, where Jesus did a lot of his preaching and miracles, just did not believe.

Are you and I simply religious people? Do we live in our own personal Capernaums? Because looking at the destruction of that city, we can see where good works, good will, good heart, and a good view of things leads to. No one does good. Man’s heart is full of evil. And although we may look like great Christian workers and/or peacemakers, that’s not what counts. We need to believe in the ultimate sacrifice that was made on our behalf, so God will no longer see us as sinners, but as the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.”[3].

The Jewish leaders from Asia made an untrue hypothesis and started a riot. The Holy Spirit of God wants you and me to remember what the consequences of making assumptions – even very well intended conjectures about others – and spreading opinions about those suppositions can generate. Jesus said not to judge another person – God is the only one capable of judging people because he is the only one that can read our hearts.

Roman soldiers rescued Paul – from the murderous crowd that resulted from the gossip – and took him into their custody. Paul then became entangled in the Roman judicial system. All Jerusalem was in chaos. The commander of the cohort took soldiers and centurions and rushed down to them, arrested him, and ordered him to be bound with two chains. The commander asked the crowd who he was and what he had done. Some in the mob shouted one thing, some another. Since the commander couldn’t learn the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks. When Paul came to the steps, the violence of the mob was so great that he had to be carried by the soldiers. The crowd that followed kept shouting, ‘Away with him![4]

When Paul asked the commander in Greek for an audience he said, “You know Greek? Then you’re not the Egyptian who stirred up a rebellion some time ago—and led four thousand men of the Assassins out into the desert?”[5]

Paul told him that he was a Jewish man from Tarsus in Cilicia, and reminded him that that made him a citizen of a significant city. Then he requested an audience with his people.

The commander gave him permission, and he stood on the steps and motioned to the people with his hand. When there was a great hush, he spoke to them in Aramaic,[6] saying: “Brothers and fathers, listen to my defense which I now present to you.[7]

The crowd got quieter and when Paul spoke to them in Arabic, they became even quieter. He told them who he was – gave them his credentials – and his history.

He told them that he had been brought up in Jerusalem at the feet of Gamaliel, trained strictly according to the Torah, and he was very zealous for God. He added that he knew that they, too, were Jews that were energetic about their religion.

He told them that he had persecuted the Way – Christianity – to the death, arresting both men and women and throwing them in prisons as the kohen gadol[8] and all the council of elders could testify He explained that he also received letters from them to the brothers, and went to Damascus to take the Christians from there to Jerusalem in chains to be punished.

Then he told them about his meeting, on the road, with Jesus. He told them that it had been about noon and they were almost to the entrance of Damascus when a great light from heaven suddenly flashed all around him and he fell to the ground.

Then he heard a voice that said, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?”

Paul told the crowd that he asked who was speaking and was told that he was Yeshua ha Natzrati[9] – the one he was persecuting.

Paul told the mob that the ones that traveled with him saw the light but did not understand what the voice was saying. When he asked the Lord what he should do he told him to get up and go on to Damascus and he would be told what he had been appointed to do.

Paul explained that he couldn’t see because of the brilliance of the light and had to be led by the hand into town where a man named Ananias who was devout according to the Torah with a good reputation, among all the Jewish men living there, came and stood in front of him. Paul told them that he looked up at the man and he could see again.

Then he explained that Ananias told him that the God of their fathers – the great I Am, Yahweh – had handpicked Paul to know his will. He had been handpicked to see the Righteous One and hear him speak, because he was to be a witness for him, to everyone, of what he had seen and heard. Then the man told him to get moving – to be baptized in Jesus’ name.

Then Paul told the crowd that when he returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the Temple, that he fell into a trance and saw Jesus. Jesus told Paul to get out of Jerusalem quickly because the Jews wouldn’t accept Paul’s witness about him.

Paul told the crowd that he had argued with Jesus, telling him that the Jews knew that he had been beating and imprisoning anyone who believed in Yeshua. He reminded him that even when Stephen was killed, he was standing close by, approving and guarding the clothing of those who were killing him.

Paul told his listeners that Jesus told him again to go because he was sending him (Paul) to the Gentiles.

At that, the crowd stopped listening to Paul and began to scream for his death. They were throwing off their clothes in preparation for another stoning when the Roman soldiers again intervened.

The commander ordered for Paul to be brought into headquarters. He said Paul should be examined by lashing, so that he might find out why they were shouting against him. But when they stretched him out with straps, Paul asked the centurion standing there if it was legal for him to scourge a Roman citizen without due process. He knew that it wasn’t, of course and the centurion immediately reported Paul’s citizenship to the commander.

The commander asked Paul to confirm that he was a Roman citizen, and when Paul told him that he was, the commander remarked the it had cost him a lot to buy his own citizenship. Paul told him that he was born with Roman citizenship and everyone drew away from him.

Roman citizenship carried some important privileges including protection from execution and torture without judicial process.[10]

The following day, the Roman Commander commanded the ruling kohanim[11] and all the Sanhedrin[12] to meet, and he brought Paul and set him before them.

They questioned him again and after a while a big dispute developed, and the commander was afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them. So, he ordered the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them and to bring him into headquarters.

More than forty of the Judean leaders formed a conspiracy and bound themselves by an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. They told the ruling kohanim and elders and the Sanhedrin to serve notice to the commander to bring him down as though they were about to investigate his case more thoroughly. They would be ready to kill him before he came near the Sanhedrin.

However, Paul’s nephew heard about their plot and warned Paul and the Roman commander and the commander got him a horse and large escort, and sent him to the governor, Felix, in Caesarea who gave orders for Paul to be guarded in Herod’s Praetorium.

Felix gave the centurion orders for Paul to be kept in custody, but he also gave instructions for a certain amount of freedom for Paul. The guards were not to prevent any of Paul’s friends from attending to his needs and he was able to spread the Good News from his position as a prisoner. However, two years later, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus; and he left Paul in prison.

Festus went to Jerusalem on his way to his new position. The ruling kohanim and the leading Judeans hadn’t forgotten their grudge and asked Festus to have Paul sent to Jerusalem, planning an ambush to kill him on the road.

Festus told them that Paul was being guarded at Caesarea, and that he himself was about to go there shortly. He told them to send their prominent men to go with him and they could accuse him together.

When he got to his new post, Festus asked Paul if he was willing to go up to Jerusalem to be tried before him in Jerusalem; and Paul refused. He told Festus that he was innocent of any wrongdoing against the Judeans and appealed to Caesar.

When Festus had consulted with the council, he resolved to send Paul to Caesar, but he was able to give his testimony before the king first. King Agrippa told him that if Paul hadn’t appealed to Caesar, he would have been set free. Paul considered himself a prisoner of the Lord, Jesus Christ, and knew that God was sending him to Rome, When God sends an ambassador somewhere, we don’t ask him why – we just go. So Paul went to Rome for the sake of the Gospel.

After a long, hard trip, Paul arrived in Rome and testified there. He remained two whole years in his own rented quarters and continued to welcome all who came to him—proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ – Yeshua the Messiah – with all boldness and without hindrance.

[1] Acts 21:21, 22 TLV

[2] IBID 23, 24

[3] From Amir’s Bible Bites Devotionals

[4] IBID 31-36

[5] IBID 38

[6] IBID 40

[7] IBIDChapter 22:1

[8] High Priest

[9] Nazarian

[10] The Archeological Study Bible, Zondervan, 2005, page 1930

[11] Priests, descendants of Aaron – cohenen or kohnen

[12] the highest court of justice and the supreme council in ancient Jerusalem