As I mentioned in my previous blog, Paul had intended to collect an offering for the saints at Jerusalem, and, considering the times and the account of Josephus, the offering was most probably for those priests who were denied their tithes by the high priesthood there, particularly guilty was the high priesthood of the house of Annas (Sceva in Acts 19). Notice what Josephus says concerning Ananias (Annas in the Gospels):
“…he (Ananias) also had servants who were very wicked who joined themselves to the boldest sort of the people, and went to the thrashing-floors, and took away the tithes that belonged to the priests by violence, and did not refrain from beating such as would not give these tithes to them. So the other high priests acted in the like manner, as did those his servants, without anyone being able to prohibit them; so that [some of the] priests, that of old were wont to be supported with those tithes, died for want of food.” [JOSEPHUS: Antiquities of the Jews; book 20; chapter 9; paragraph 2] (parenthesis mine).
It was in this context that the offerings from the saints in Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia and Asia were taken. Remember, Luke addressed both his Gospel and Acts to Theophilus, son of Annas and a former high priest himself, in the context of a prophet exposing the sins of a family to whom he is sent (Ezekiel 33:7-9).
Paul had already written to the Corinthians to be ready with their offering (1Corinthians 16:1-8) to lay it in store for when he would come to them, and again while he was in Macedonia (2Corinthians 9:2). But, he remained in Ephesus until after Pentecost, and would winter with them in Achaia (1Corinthians 16:6), which he did, but when he intended to sail to Syria, it was reported that the Jews were waiting to take him by force, so he went afoot back into Macedonia to Philippi, while the others in his party sailed to Troas and waited for him (Acts 20:2-6). This took time, so he was unable to get to Jerusalem before the following Pentecost (Acts 20:16).
After Paul rejoined his party in Troas, Luke wrote of the death and resurrection or restoring to life of a young man through a miracle of God by the hand of Paul (Acts 20:7-12). This incident would have challenged Theophilus’ theology, because, as a Sadducee, he did not believe in any kind of resurrection. Moreover, when Paul later met with the elders of Ephesus for the final time at Miletus, he reminded them of how he lived among them, saying that they should do likewise, because wolves would enter into the church to fleece the flock (Acts 20:29), presumably in the context of what was going on presently among the Jews at Jerusalem at that very time. Paul warned them (Acts 20:30), telling them to take heed of themselves and for the sake of the flock, over which the Holy Spirit had made them overseers in order to feed the church of God, which he had purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28)!
The statement: “which he had purchased with his own blood” is a very controversial statement among biblical scholars today. It would have also been a controversial statement for Theophilus in his own day, as well, for it was for this very matter that Jesus was condemned (Matthew 26:63-65). Nevertheless, both statements, that of Acts 20:28 and Jesus’ own statement in Matthew, declare Jesus is God, indeed. I have already written blogs to this effect, which, if anyone wishes, he may read HERE and HERE. Yet, even so, it is a wonder indeed to understand that Jesus is just as controversial today, as he was in the first century. He is the same yesterday and today and always. Praise God!