New Testament Gospel Doctrine Lesson 38: “Thou Hast Testified of Me”
Paul is warned
to the Book of Acts in this lesson and the continuing saga of Paul.
Paul has gathered together the offerings for the poor from among the
Gentile converts and sets sail to Jerusalem. In his letter to the
Romans, he noted his intent to visit them after going to Jerusalem,
probably as part of a plan Paul had to open up a new mission field in
Paul goes on his journey, and is warned many times by disciples and the
prophet Agabus that danger awaits him in Jerusalem. In fact, Agabus
trussed himself up in Paul’s girdle and stated that Paul would also be
bound if he went there. It seems that the Lord was giving Paul a
choice, and several opportunities to back out of a sore trial and
imprisonment. Yet, Paul set his sights on his plan, and continued on it
until there was only one option: imprisonment and being sent to Rome.
would really be interesting to be able to get inside of Paul’s head to
see why he made such a determined decision. Did he think that being
imprisoned would open doors that otherwise would remain closed? Did he
think there was no other way for him to go to Rome? Or was he just a
stubborn old fool that was going to do things his way, and disregard the
counsel given him by others. Think of it. Had he stayed away from
Jerusalem, he could have had many years of preaching. He could have
gone to Rome as a free citizen, rather than a prisoner. He would have
been able to continue on to Spain, France, and perhaps even England.
Why then, did he choose the route he did?
expected, Paul returned to Jerusalem. While there, the apostles asked
him to be cleansed and serve in the Temple as a proper Jewish-Christian.
He agreed and went to the temple. Some saw him and thought he brought
into the temple a Gentile. The action angered the crowd into being a
mob, and they attempted to slay him. The Roman centurions stopped him
and allowed him to explain himself to them and the crowd. Speaking in
Hebrew, he explained his Jewish past at the feet of the great Jewish
scholar Gamaliel, and his conversion by Jesus in vision.
the Jews were angered from hearing about his taking the gospel to the
Gentiles and the soldiers had to take him in. There, they chose to
question him by flogging. Flogging, a harsh form of torture, was often
used upon individuals that resided within the Roman Empire. It could
not, however, be used on free citizens without Caesar’s approval. Paul
noted he was born a free citizen, unlike the centurion before him, who
had purchased his freedom.
went before the Sanhedrin, where he put them fighting among themselves,
asking questions that put Sadduccees against Pharisees. He stated that
he was a Pharisee and was in trouble because he taught about the
resurrection of the dead. Pharisees believed in resurrection, but
Sadduccees did not believe there was life after mortality. An argument
ensued, and he was whisked away once again.
evening, the Lord told him he would go to witness in Rome. Paul had
reached the point of no return when it came to having a choice of where
he would go. At any prior time, he could have decided another route:
not go to Jerusalem, not go to the temple, not anger the crowds by
telling them about preaching to the Gentiles, not angering half the
Sanhedrin. There were no other options for a free-born Roman citizen
who had left his Jewish roots completely behind and embraced the Gentile
order. Jesus appeared to tell Paul where his choices had now led him.
plot was planned against Paul’s life by radical Jews, so he was taken
by armed guard out of Jerusalem and to Caesarea to be judged of the
governor Felix. Paul defends himself against the Jews who bring claims
against him. Not found guilty, Paul still is kept in house arrest for
the governor of Jerusalem went to Caesarea to judge Paul, asking him to
return to Jerusalem to be judged. Paul insisted on going to Caesar to
be judged instead. Paul still was intent to follow his path to Rome in
chains, even when other paths may have taken him there easier. Paul was
then heard by King Agrippa, Felix and Festus were concerned about
sending a prisoner up to Caesar, not knowing what to write regarding the
case, as parts of it seemed frivolous, yet here were members of the
Sanhedrin willing to testify against him.
amazing was Paul’s conversion story that Festus told Paul, “thou art
beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad” (Acts 26:24). Just as with Joseph Smith, who claimed to see God and angels, Paul was considered crazy or possessed by demons.
King Agrippa, who was a student of Judaism since his childhood,
understood the teachings of the prophets regarding the Messiah and
resurrection: “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (26:28).
Many of those who understand ancient Jewish/Christian things are amazed at what Joseph Smith brought forth in the Book of Mormon, and other ancient writings. Harold Bloom, a well known scholar of Judaism, wrote highly of him and wondered how such a poorly schooled young man could successfully recreate ancient Judaism within the Book of Mormon.
The rulers agreed he was not guilty of death or bonds. Yet, because
Paul had asked to go before Caesar, they had no choice but to send him
on to Rome.
to Rome, the ship was caught in a storm and shipwrecked on an island.
Through God’s providence and protection of Paul, all on-board were
protected for following his counsel. The crew and prisoners were well
cared for by the island people until they were rescued.
interesting event occurred during that time. While putting firewood
near the fire, a poisonous snake leaped out of the fire and bit him.
All watched to see Paul fall over dead. To them, he obviously had done
some heinous act that required punishment from the gods. Instead, Paul
shook the snake back into the fire and continued with no harm. When he
did not die or get sick, they decided he must be a god.
Paul was not a god, he was a disciple of Christ. In Paul’s writings
we’ve read several passages that talk about our being heirs of God and
co-heirs with Christ, able to receive all the blessings of God, which
includes his sharing all his power and glory with the faithful. While
Paul was not divine, he had the power of the divine with him. Such
power amazed the natives, who had never seen a person survive such a
deadly and dangerous attack before. What kind of viper jumps out of a
fire, except one sent from the gods? Yet Paul paid it little heed.
Obviously, his magic was more powerful than that of any local god
trying to harm him.
such is the teaching of Christ we receive from Paul. We may
occasionally get bitten by fiery serpents in this life. But through the
atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ, each of us can eternally
shake off all the ills and pains of this life and become even as Jesus
is, a divine child of God.
Paul did arrive in Rome, where he lived for two years in house arrest before he was brought before Caesar’s judgment.
Harold Bloom, "The American Religion":