God’s Message goes to All Nations
Paul’s Last Years – and the Other *Apostles
An EasyEnglish Study Unit (2800 word vocabulary) on the New Testament from Acts to Revelation
G. Barrie Wetherill and M. P. H. Stear
Words in boxes are from the Bible.
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
This commentary has yet to go through Advanced Theological Checking.
The book of Acts ends with Paul in prison. He expects that he will soon be free. His letters to Timothy and Titus have good evidence that he was free. In 1 Timothy 1:3, Paul says that he had urged Timothy to stay behind in Ephesus. This is not the same occasion that Luke wrote about in Acts. Paul did in fact spend a long time in Ephesus on his third *missionary journey, but he did not leave Timothy there. Instead, he sent Timothy into Macedonia and Corinth (Acts 19:21; 1 Corinthians 4:17; 16:10). Also, in Titus 1:5, Paul says that he had left Titus behind in Crete. Titus had to appoint *elders in the churches. But in the journeys in Acts, we see that Paul never went anywhere near Crete at that time. When he was not a free man, his ship sailed near the coast of Crete.
2 Timothy tells us that Paul is in prison in Rome again, (2 Timothy 1:16, 17). He is not in a house, as he was at the end of Acts. Now they have tied him with a chain, like a criminal (2 Timothy 2:9). Nearly everyone has left him (2 Timothy 1:15). He is very close to death (2 Timothy 4:6-8). This is quite different from Paul’s time in prison as the end of Acts describes it.
We believe that Paul left prison. When he was free, he wanted to send Timothy to Philippi (Philippians 2:19-24). Later Paul would meet Timothy there. Paul also intended to go to Colosse (Philemon 22). On this journey, he would have travelled through Ephesus.
If Paul did go on these journeys, Timothy must have met him at Ephesus. Paul left Timothy there, and went on to Macedonia (1 Timothy 1:3). At some time before this, Paul must have visited Crete, probably on the way to Ephesus. So, after Paul left Ephesus, he must have written 1 Timothy and Titus. These two letters are very similar. In the letter to Titus, Paul urged Titus to meet him at Nicopolis in Greece (Titus 3:12).
Paul also wanted to take the good news about Jesus to Spain (Romans 15:24). Clement, who was one of the early Christian leaders, wrote to the Corinthians in about the year AD 95. He said that Paul had ‘*preached in the east and in the west.’ He said that Paul had ‘travelled even to the furthest lands of the west’ (the first *Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, section 5). So there is a real possibility that Paul did reach Spain with the *gospel.
At last, the Romans put Paul in prison again. Tradition says that they cut off his head in about the year AD 67. It was from this prison that he wrote 2 Timothy. He urged Timothy to come quickly. He had to bring Mark with him (2 Timothy 4:9-11). We do not know if Timothy reached Paul in time. At that time, Nero was *emperor (the very important man, who ruled over many lands) and he was strong in his attacks on Christians. But Paul prepared for death with delight. This is what he says about it (these are probably nearly the last words that he wrote):
By God’s *grace, this man had spread the *gospel to the known world. He had trained other men. They would do what he had done. He had started churches that remained, even under attack. The attack did not stop them. They continued to spread the news about Jesus. Sometimes the attack encouraged them to do this. They achieved all this with the power of the Spirit. Praise the *Lord for his *grace!
1 Timothy tells us clearly that false teachers were present in the church at Ephesus. Paul had said that this would happen (Acts 20:29-31). These false teachers concentrated on family history (1 Timothy 1:4). They wanted to teach the *law (1 Timothy 1:7). Paul says that they do not understand the law. In 1 Timothy 4:1, he mentions bad *spirits (*demons). He also speaks about rules about food and *marriage. Judaisers (that is, people who wanted Christians to follow *Jewish customs) would not like what Paul said. They pursued him once more. Timothy’s most important task in Ephesus was to correct these errors. That is why Paul left him there (1 Timothy 1:3).
Paul urges Timothy to be true to *scripture. He must be careful when he reads it. He must be careful when he teaches or *preaches (1 Timothy 4:13, 14). *Scripture is the best answer to wrong teaching or weak teaching. Timothy must allow the words of *scripture to have a good effect. Then other people can understand for themselves what the *scripture says.
Paul told Timothy to appoint *elders and deacons (servants) in every church. He taught Timothy clearly what kind of men he was to appoint (1 Timothy 3:1-13). It was important to Paul that people respected the *elders. Then the *elders would be able to teach other people, and guide the church through these difficulties (1 Timothy 1:19; Titus 1:9; 1 Timothy 5:17-21). It was important to appoint good leaders. They had a very important task.
(See the extra information at the end on ‘Leaders and Leadership’)
Paul also gave Timothy instructions about how the church should *worship God together (1 Timothy 2:1-15).
Paul also advised Timothy about social action. Christians were to take care of the poor people who lived among them. Some of these people were widows. Timothy was to teach good behaviour to older and younger men. He was also to teach good behaviour to young widows (1 Timothy 5:3-16).
It seems that Timothy was beginning to tire. He had a great responsibility and, in several places in the letter, Paul encouraged him. He urged him to keep his attention on the work (1 Timothy 6:11-16). Timothy must not use his time on other things. We can have no doubt that Paul always prayed for Timothy.
We have more information about the church at Ephesus. This information is from 25 or 30 years after Paul wrote a letter to the church. The ‘Wars of the *Jews’ began in AD 66. The Christians in Judea remembered that Jesus had warned them about this time (Luke 21:20-24). Many of the *Jews who spoke Greek escaped to the east part of Turkey. This is where Paul had worked. The *evangelist, Philip and his daughters, and the *apostle John, had also worked there. About 25 years after Paul’s last visit to Ephesus, John had the series of *visions that we find in the book of Revelation. This includes the messages to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3.
In Revelation 2:1-7, we read the message to the church at Ephesus. In that message, the *Lord praises them for their continuing hard work. He praises them especially for testing false *apostles and false teachers. The church had learned the lesson that Paul and Timothy had taught them. They were very careful about the truth of the *gospel. It is sad that they had forgotten about love. Without love, nothing has any value. They needed to learn Paul’s great hymn (a song to God) about love in 1 Corinthians 13. They needed to live like that, and to show love for other people. The *apostle John taught in parts of Ephesus in his last year, and John always spoke about love (1 John 3:11-18; 4:7-5:2). He might have been thinking about Ephesus when he said this:
The church at Ephesus had to continue to remember this truth. It should not forget the love of Jesus. He died for us, while we were *sinners. God’s *grace would help the church to show this same love to other people.
The letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation show us about the church in the first century. They also show the work of the *apostles. Now we will think about the last years of Paul.
Paul tells us that false teachers from the ‘*circumcision party’ were at work in Crete also. He tells Titus to appoint *elders in every church. They should be men who have strong beliefs. They must be able to correct those in error (Titus 1:9, 10). But most of the letter is instructions on what to teach. Titus is to teach that we must live good lives. This is while we wait for the Second Coming. This is the time when Jesus will come back to the world, as he had promised. (See Titus 2:1-3:8, especially Titus 2:11-15.) At the beginning of the letter, Paul says that if you know the truth, you can become a *godly person. Later he explains that this means a life of discipline. We must obey rulers and those with authority. We must not tell lies about people. We must try to live at peace with everyone. Paul finishes this section with these words:
Paul wanted Titus to meet him at Nicopolis. He was going to stay there for the winter. Nicopolis was an excellent place. There Paul could begin what he wanted to do next. He wanted to go to Spain. However, in winter, it was not good to travel by sea at that time. But Paul did not want Titus to leave Crete then. He must wait until someone took his place (Titus 3:12). The churches there needed help.
There is also a message in this letter to help the journey of ‘Zenas the lawyer’ and Apollos. Paul wanted them to hurry. We do not know what kind of lawyer Zenas was. He might have been secular (belonging to society, not belonging to religion), or he might have been an expert in the *Jewish law. He was with Apollos, and so we might think that he is an expert in the *Jewish law. However, we do not really know. They had some urgent business that mattered to Paul.
This letter shows that Paul now has a different mood. He is in prison, and men have tied him up with a chain, like a criminal. Paul expects that he will die (2 Timothy 2:9; 4:6-8). He is certain of this, but calm in his mind. We must admire him very much for this (2 Timothy 1:2). This is the man who once attacked the church as much as he could. What courage he now has, as he waits to die! Soon Paul will be with the *Lord whom he has served. But he does want to see Timothy again (2 Timothy 1:4; 4:9).
In fact, Paul’s thoughts and prayers are for Timothy. They are not for himself. We see that Timothy was nervous (2 Timothy 1:7, 8). Paul had to encourage him, to prepare him for troubles. Timothy would certainly have troubles (2 Timothy 1:8, 12, 16; 3:12). The letter aims to encourage Timothy. Paul urges Timothy to be strong (2 Timothy 2:1).
Those men who opposed Christ opposed Paul. They would also oppose men like Timothy and Titus. Paul had to make Timothy and Titus ready for this. Paul talks about a reward. This is the crown of *righteousness. Jesus will give this to those who follow him. He will give it to Paul, and to Timothy and Titus also, but they also would have a fight (2 Timothy 4:8). Paul says this about the need to be true to Jesus:
Again Paul urges Timothy to tell other people about the *gospel. He must teach them what Paul has taught him. These people will be able to teach other people. Paul tells Timothy that his authority for the *gospel and his teaching is the Bible.
Paul tells Timothy to be true to God as Timothy tells people the Word (the *gospel). Paul knew that people quickly and easily forget the truth.
After the *resurrection, Jesus chose Peter for very important work. He was to lead other people as they established the early church (John 21:15-19). The early chapters of Acts show how well Peter did this. Peter was a leader of the *disciples after Jesus returned to heaven. Peter was the chief *preacher on the day of *Pentecost. He continued to speak about Jesus. His enemies wanted to hit him and put him in prison. But he did not stop. God did miracles (wonderful events that show that God is at work) through him. He told the *Jews about Jesus, and this was very successful. At last, Paul returned to Jerusalem. He discovered then that many thousands believed (Acts 21:20). Later we see Peter in Samaria (Acts 8:14), in Joppa and in Caesarea (Acts 10:5). Paul also mentions that Peter visited Antioch (Galatians 2:11).
In Galatians 2:9, we read about their agreement. Paul would go to the *Gentiles, and the other *apostles would go to the *Jews. Perhaps, after this, Peter did travel, and probably he went more to *Jews than to *Gentiles. Paul says that Peter travelled with his wife (1 Corinthians 9:5). Peter must have been in Corinth and *preached there. Otherwise, it is difficult to understand how a ‘Cephas’ group could begin there (1 Corinthians 1:12). Cephas is another name for Peter.
Peter’s first letter was to Christians in ‘Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia’. People from these places were present on the day of *Pentecost. Probably Peter visited them to encourage them. He would also want to tell other *Jews in the area about Jesus. Apart from Galatia, this list of places includes areas that Paul did not go to. The Holy *Spirit did not allow Paul to enter some of these places (Acts 16:6, 7).
There is strong evidence that Peter did spend his last years in Rome. We believe that he was a *martyr there. Certainly, Peter refers to ‘Babylon’ in his letter (1 Peter 5:13). Babylon is a word that may have been a secret name for Rome. Also, Clement, an early Christian writer, refers to the *martyrs, Peter and Paul, in Rome. In addition, some *archaeologists have found evidence that Peter visited Rome.
Peter’s story is impressive. He was a fisherman (a man who catches fish) who only followed the *Lord. In the Gospels (the parts of the Bible that tell about the life of Jesus Christ), we see him as a man like ourselves who made many mistakes. He had not studied to become a teacher, as Paul had done. But we see him become a great *evangelist and pastor (leader and teacher in the church). He became a very brave man. Peter used other people to write for him. He mentions that Sylvanus helped to write the first letter (1 Peter 5:12). Sylvanus had been one of Paul’s helpers. This is why this letter is similar to some of Paul’s letters. People think that Jude might have helped Peter with his second letter. Papias was another early Christian, who wrote about 60 years after Peter’s death. He says that Mark wrote his Gospel by writing down Peter’s words. These words have helped and encouraged many millions of people for many years. God has spoken through them by his Spirit.
In his first letter, Peter told Christians that they must all suffer. He encouraged them to be strong. He reminded them about the special joys that they have. They have these because God has chosen them (1 Peter 2:9, 10). They must always think about what Christ will keep for them. Christians belong to God’s family, and Christ has good things for them. Nothing can destroy what Jesus is keeping safe for them (1 Peter 1:3-6).
At the end of Peter’s second letter, Peter was thinking about the second time that Christ will come to earth. He was thinking about the day when God will punish all who are evil. Then there will be a new *heaven and earth. Here are his words:
Peter was a leader in the early church, but he travelled away from Jerusalem. Another leader of the Jerusalem church was James, who was Jesus’ half brother. James was happy to be a *Jew. Although he was a Christian, he was popular with the *Jewish people. The *Jewish man Josephus wrote about the past. He wrote more about James than about Jesus. Festus, the *Roman *procurator, who governed Jerusalem, suddenly died. Before another *procurator came, the *High Priest ordered the death of James. Men threw stones at him, to kill him. However, many *Jews protested to the next *procurator, who was called Albinus. Albinus ordered that a different person should be *High Priest.
When we think about the other *apostles, there is much less information. However, there are strong traditions about them. We believe that they *preached in Judea for a few years. Then most of them, or all of them, travelled and *preached the *gospel elsewhere. We think that all, except John, were *martyrs. John had to go away and stay on the island called Patmos. He had to stay there for the rest of his life.
Tradition says that Matthew *preached in Israel for about ten years. Then he went to Ethiopia, Syria, Macedonia, Parthia and Media. Men killed him with an axe in Ethiopia. Andrew was a *missionary to Asia Minor, Greece, and perhaps to Russia and Poland. He died by *crucifixion on an X-shaped cross at Edessa. Tradition says that Thomas went to tell the people called Parthians, Medes and Persians about Jesus. At last, he reached India at the Malabar Coast. It also says that men killed him with a spear (a kind of long sword) near Madras. Bartholomew *preached in India and greater Armenia. There men stripped off his skin and cut off his head.
The stories about these men do not always match each other. It is difficult to put them together. But there is a strong tradition about their courage and about how they spoke about Jesus. There are some words in Hebrews, which are about *Old Testament *prophets. These *apostles were as honourable as the old *prophets and we can use these words for the *apostles also.
These men had a strong trust until they died. They started to *preach the *gospel through the world. That task continues. May the *Lord help us to continue the task! By his Spirit, may he give us the same courage and determination.
When Paul was almost at the end of his third journey as a *missionary, he wrote to the Romans. This is what he said:
Paul’s plan came from God. It was to begin churches in important places. They would show the *gospel all the time to the areas that were near them. This would complete the task that Paul had begun. They would tell the whole area about Jesus. A group of *elders, whom Paul and other people taught well, would lead these churches. These men would be able to guide the church when there were difficulties. Paul knew that there would be difficulties. These would come from people who belong to the church. People who did not belong to the church would also cause trouble. The final authority is to be the Bible, and the churches must have a great desire to *preach and to teach. Above all, Christians’ lives should be like plants with much fruit. The lives of Christians should give honour to the *Lord. This is all in Paul’s prayer for the Colossians.
May we turn to the *Lord for *grace to follow these loyal men.
Today different churches and kinds of churches have different names for their leaders. They choose different ways to appoint them. We do not want to think about these differences. We want to think about the nature and purpose of leadership. We also want to think about the qualities that any leader in Christ’s church should have. Church leaders in any time should have these qualities.
The Bible does not seem to tell us about ‘titles’ (names of leaders’ jobs) and methods of appointment. It does however teach what the leaders’ responsibilities should be. It teaches us also what kind of people leaders should be. The church has not always succeeded in appointing the right people.
Sometimes the church has forgotten Bible principles. When this has happened, this has damaged the church. This is an important subject for the whole church or any part of it.
It is important to study what Paul says here together with other teaching in the Bible. Here are some examples:
· 1 Peter 5 ~ about leaders, their responsibilities and their attitudes.
· Acts 6 ~ about the qualities for the deacons (servants) in the early church.
· Jesus’ own teaching to his *disciples about their attitude to leadership, or being first. See Mark 9:33-37. The leaders must think like a servant. It is also important to find out what the Bible teaches members of the church. Once the church appoints leaders, the members of the church have to do certain things. Here are some examples:
· Hebrews 13:7, 17
· 1 Corinthians 16:15-16
apostle ~ a man that Jesus chose to be his helper and to teach people about him; a man that God chose to lead his church.
archaeologists ~ people who study history, often by looking at articles that are in the ground.
circumcision party ~ people who believed that Christians must obey *Jewish customs.
cross ~ two pieces of wood fixed together.
crucifixion ~ a cruel way to kill someone, by nailing that person to a *cross.
day of the Lord ~ This is the day at the end of time. God has said that he will visit this world. It will be a day of surprise and reward. It will be a wonderful day for those who love God. It will be a sad day for those who do not love God.
demons ~ evil *spirits that we cannot see.
disciple ~ a person who believes in Jesus and trusts him.
elders ~ church leaders, usually older, wise men.
emperor ~ a very important king, who rules over many countries.
epistle ~ a letter.
evangelist ~ a person who tells people about Jesus, and helps them to trust him.
faith ~ belief and confidence in someone or something; trust in God and in his Bible.
fisherman ~ someone who fishes.
Gentiles ~ people who are not *Jews; people who do not know God.
glory ~ the power and greatness of God.
godly, godliness ~ the quality of a life that pleases God.
gospel ~ the good news that God saves people from *sin.
grace ~ a gift of God that we do not deserve and cannot earn; his help and protection.
heaven ~ where God lives and rules.
heavens ~ sometimes another word for the sky.
High Priest ~ the most important priest in the *Jewish *temple (a place where *Jews met God).
holy ~ description of God; perfect, completely good.
Jews, *Jewish ~ a person who is from the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; a person who believes the *faith of the Jews, called Judaism.
kingdom ~ where a king rules; a land where a king rules; the kingdom of God is where God rules.
kingdom of light ~ God’s *kingdom.
law ~ God’s rules for the way that he wants people to live.
Lord ~ the name for God or Jesus in the Bible; it means that he is above all other things; a name that we use for Jesus; we use it when we obey him.
marriage ~ the relationship of husband and wife.
martyr ~ a person whom enemies kill, because of what he or she believes about Jesus.
missionary ~ a person who goes to another country to tell people about Jesus.
Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible; the holy things that the writers wrote before Christ’s birth.
Pentecost ~ the time each year when the *Jews thanked God for their food; the time when God gave the Holy *Spirit to the church.
preach ~ to tell people the good news about Jesus.
preacher ~ a person who tells people about Jesus.
procurator ~ a *Roman official, who looked after part of a *Roman province (area).
prophets ~ people who can tell other people what God wants.
resurrection ~ to come to life again after death.
righteous, righteousness ~ pleasing to God; with no bad things that do not please God; being right with God; when God sees us with no bad things that keep us from God.
Roman ~ Rome was the capital city of the rulers at that time. That which belonged to Rome was Roman.
salvation ~ when God saves us from the power and results of *sin.
scripture ~ another name for the Bible.
sin ~ things that we do, that do not please God; evil that is in us from birth.
sinner ~ a person who breaks God’s commands; a person who *sins.
spirit ~ that part of a person that we cannot see but which can speak to other spirits; there are other spirits which can be good or evil.
Spirit (Holy Spirit) ~ the part of God that helps a person to follow Jesus and to do good things.
temple ~ the special building in Jerusalem where the *Jews went to pray to God and to sing his praises.
visions ~ dreams; sometimes dreams that come to a person who is awake.
worship ~ when people honour God; to pray and sing his praises.
Craig Keener ~ Bible Background *Commentary NT ~ IVP
B. M. Newman and E. A. Nida ~ A Translators Handbook on The Acts of The *Apostles ~ UBS
F. F. Bruce ~ The Book of The Acts ~ MMS
Donald Grey Barnhouse ~ Acts – An expositional commentary ~ Zondervan
In the Footsteps of Paul ~ CWR (Daily Bible Readings 1988)
I. Howard Marshall ~ Acts ~ Tyndale
Campbell Morgan ~ Acts of the *Apostles ~ Pickering and Inglis
Paul Barnett ~ ‘Bethlehem to Patmos’ ~ Biblical Classics Series ~ Paternoster ~ ISBN 0-85364-874-3
Werner Keller ~ ‘The Bible as History’ ~ Hodder and Stoughton
F. F. Bruce ~ ‘Israel and the Nations’ ~ Paternoster ~ ISBN 0-85364-762-3
Also: Personal notes and material from many other sources
© 1999-2003, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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