Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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Acts 21-22

June 12th, 2010 by Vic

Acts 21-22

“The Goal of your life”

Ever since he became a Christian, Paul wanted to preach to his fellow Jews.  He felt that all his education in Jewish schools had prepared him to understand the Jewish mind and explain to them how Jesus is the expected Messiah.  Paul was one of them.  He was trained by their best scholars.  He worked directly with the high priest to destroy the Christian cult.  Surely the Jews would listen to him if only the Lord would give him the opportunity to preach to them.

Now in these chapters the Spirit had confirmed in his heart that he was to go to Jerusalem.  He was going to be able to do what he had wanted to do for a long time.  However on his way he was told that he would be put in prison and some friends tried to dissuade him from going.  There is much in this story that is similar to the story of Jesus going to the cross.  Paul steadfastly went to Jerusalem even though he was told 3 times he would be handed over to the Gentiles.  Should there be parallels in my life?  Peter says, “Jesus gave us an example to follow in His steps.”  Do you know God’s will for you life well enough so that your friends cannot deter you from your goal?

As God directed Paul’s life, He directs your life.  God has not changed.  But you are not Paul.  The ways God directs your life may not be the same ways he directed Paul, but He knows how to talk to you.  Is your response “Thy will be done” or “my will be done”?

Acts 21:1-9

My mom always tells me, “Don’t be foolish, lest ye die before your time.”  We are told there is safety in the multitude of counselors.  That is not always true.  Abundant life involves a risk.

For 7 days the ship Paul was taking to Jerusalem unloaded cargo in Tyre.  Paul stayed with the disciples there.  These disciples saw danger ahead for Paul.  They urged him not to go to Jerusalem.  “But” Luke says, “when our time was up we continued.”  It was a kindly farewell.  We get a glimpse here of the family setting of the early church.  The children were part of the prayer meeting on the beach.  All the families got together, knelt on the beach and prayed for the travelers.

The ship stopped at the next port for a day.  Paul again found the believers and stayed with them.  The next day they docked at Caesarea and stayed with Phillip for several days.  Phillip had 4 daughters who were serving the Lord.  They were not on staff at some big mega church, but they were apparently evangelists just like their dad.

Can you imagine the conversations that Paul and Phillip had?  (Review the story of Phillip in chapter 8.)  God had directed both their lives very differently.  There was no church council that had told these men where to evangelize.  They both heard God speak.  They trusted and obeyed.  Now they were sharing how God surprised them in their ministries.  They were not talking about their great education or their great ideas or their comprehensive plans.  They were remembering the ways God went before them and was their rear guard.

Acts 21:10-16

Agabus had predicted the famine during the reign of Claudius (11:27-30).  Now he predicts Paul’s coming arrest in Jerusalem.  Following the example of OT prophets, he symbolically acted out the fate of Paul.

Paul’s friends did not want Paul to suffer.  They assumed that God warns us so we can avoid suffering.  Paul assumes that God warns us so we can reconfirm our commitment to trust Him.  Paul was not choosing to suffer.  He was choosing to do God’s will whether it means suffering or not.  We have no trouble following God through green pastures, but we want to avoid the valleys with the shadow of death.  We need to remember that neither the presence nor absence of trouble is an indicator of God’s will or God’s presence.

Paul replied that it was not important to him whether he lived or died, but their tears were tempting him to soften his commitment.  He knew God wanted him to go to Jerusalem and he wanted to preach to the Jews there.  He was willing to die for the Name of the Lord Jesus.

What are you willing to die for?  As a Christian you are to die daily to the flesh.  It is hard for a dead person to sin.  In fact I have never heard of a dead person sinning.  Paul writes that Christians have been crucified with Christ.  How dead are you?  Have we died to our self, our worries, our fears, our agenda, and our expectations?  Jesus said if you try to save your life you will lose it.  Did Jesus know what He was talking about?  Selfishness is self-destructive.

His friends replied, “The Lord’s will be done.”  They stopped pushing their agenda.  When you are a friend too quick to give advise to someone remember to ask yourself, is it my will be done or the Lord’s will be done?

Some of his friends walked with Paul 65 miles from Caesarea to Jerusalem.  They introduced him to Mnason.  Not many Christians in Jerusalem could or would have hosted Paul and his Gentile friends during Pentecost, but Mnason did.

Acts 21:17-26

Paul was controversial to say the least.  His desire was to be a peacemaker, but conservatives have trouble understanding peacemakers.  To them all compromise is sin.  The leaders of the Jerusalem church were glad to hear Paul’s reports and receive the offering from all the churches, but they were concerned about the rigid Christian Jews who had come for Pentecost and did not have all the facts about Paul’s ministry.  These Christian pilgrims were zealous of the law.  Many Christians who had been raised in the Jewish culture assumed that all Christians should be like them.  They should sing the same hymns that we sing.  They should dress the way we dress.  They should celebrate the holidays like we celebrate the holidays.

When we read Paul’s letters we hear him distinguish between culture and Christianity.  Here in this paragraph we can see where Paul is willing to be a Jew to the Jews so that he can win some.  Paul had preached salvation by grace through faith in Christ.  Paul taught that Jewish Christians could keep the Law as Jews, but not as Christians.

One false accusation was that Paul was telling Jews that they did not have to follow the laws of Moses to be Christian. So the leaders suggested that Paul demonstrate that as a Jew he followed the laws of Moses even though Paul knew Jewish customs were not necessary for salvation.

Apparently there were 4 other Jews like him who have been traveling in Gentile territory and needed to purify themselves before they could celebrate Pentecost.  Or maybe they had made a short term Nazarite vow and did not have the money to complete it.  The Jews considered it a very generous act to pay the expenses for the sacrifices and offerings of a person wanting to purify himself and fulfill a vow.  Paul was asked to identify with these men and sponsor them during their purification.

These church elders wanted to bring about a unity among the Christians.  There is a time when compromise is not a sign of weakness, but of strength.

Paul submitted to the counsel of the elders and went to the temple with these men.  He made a public commitment to the priest in charge to sponsor these 4 men.

Acts 21:27-39

When you are in a crowd and hear a cry for “help” you assume some person is being attacked.  Selfish people know how to press our righteous buttons.  Their hate and prejudice blinds them to facts and they ignore the truth.  Their hate becomes the reason for their violence.  They kept shouting “away with him” (36) as they had shouted against Jesus.

Paul says nothing until he is escorted to the stairs.  What is he thinking?  Is he seeing the biggest congregation assembled that he has ever preached to?  Is he thinking about God’s orchestration of this event?  Why did God let him get beat up?  Is he thinking about Stephen?  Maybe he had some broken ribs and it was hard to breathe.  The calm self-controlled boldness of Paul in the presence of this mob is amazing.  His courteous request in Greek to the commander was also a surprise.

The Roman commander assumed Paul was the Egyptian that had escaped 3 years earlier.  An Egyptian Jew who called himself an assassin had stirred up a revolt by leading 4,000 men to the Mount of Olives, promising that the walls of the city would be leveled before them and that they would be able to overthrow the Roman garrison.  The revolt was crushed by the Roman procurator Felix, but the Egyptian had escaped.

Acts 21:40-22:21

Paul preaches from the stairs.  He is surrounded by Roman soldiers.  And miracle of miracles, the mob becomes quiet.  Paul spoke in Aramaic, which the Jews knew better than Greek.  This is the sermon he had wanted to preach for many years.  He had dreamed about this day.  He had rehearsed this in his mind many times.  Now is the time.

“Men, brothers, and fathers” is the same phrase that Stephen used (7:2) in his final sermon.  Now Paul is facing similar charges brought against Stephen.  He does not argue, state the real facts, or try to correct the false accusations.  He just tells his life story.  He makes no mention of the charge that he had defiled the Temple.  He tells them what changed his religious focus and fervor.

(Verse 16 has two imperatives (commands) in the middle (reflexive) voice.  The NIV misses the thrust a little,  It literally reads “get yourself baptized and get your sins washed away.”  Peter uses a similar thought in 1 Pet 1:22-2:1.  Now that you have met the Lord face to face practice some spiritual disciplines.)

Paul is saying he is a Jew just like they are.  He was a rabbi.  He was zealous just like they are.  He worked personally for the high priest in persecuting Christians.  He had a heavenly vision in Damascus and was changed from a persecutor to a disciple of Christ.  He had another vision while praying in the Temple in Jerusalem.  If Paul had a vision while praying in the Temple, would that be a false vision?  He assumed this vision was from God.  He wanted to stay and preach in Jerusalem, but God told him to leave Jerusalem and preach to the Gentiles.  While praying in the Temple, Paul was sent by God to preach to the Gentiles who could never worship in the Temple.

Paul’s conversion was not something he thought up or something that someone else imposed on him.  It was the result of a heavenly vision.  The commission Paul received from the risen Christ to preach to all men was communicated by a pious Jew and by the Lord Himself in the Temple.

Paul saw God as the God of all nations.  The Jews saw God as the lover of the Jews and no one else.  Paul saw Jesus face to face and was changed.  He was willing to see that God included Gentiles in His plan of salvation.

Acts 22:22-30

The crowd did not really process what Paul was saying.  They had selective hearing.  When Paul says that God told him to preach to Gentiles, they exploded.  Deep seated prejudice prevented reason and thoughtful consideration.

The commander was totally confused.  He probably did not understand the Aramaic language so when the crowd exploded again he assumed Paul was guilty of something.  He wanted the truth so he ordered that the truth be beat out of Paul.  This was not a punishment but an effective way of getting to the truth.

Paul now declared his rights.  The commander apparently paid a big bribe for getting his name on a list of candidates for citizenship.  Paul’s father apparently did something that pleased a Roman administrator or general and was freely granted his citizenship for valuable service rendered.  Even though Paul had been unjustly arrested he did not demand his rights for recompense for suffering and damages during his illegal arrest.  He did not threaten the commander for his mistake in the arrest procedure.  He did not sue the government for damages.

Conclusions:

One of the goals of Paul’s life was to preach to the Jews in Jerusalem.  God had told him that they would not listen, but he still wanted to try.  He felt like he was a notorious Jew and they would listen to him and be converted if he could just say the right words.

He reached his goal.  He fulfilled his dream, but God was right.  Nobody listened.  Sometimes God gives us the desire of our hearts just to remind us that He is God.

Now what’s ahead?  In his reflection he probably remembered that the Lord had told him he was going to be a witness in Rome.  So here he was in Roman custody in Jerusalem.   How would he ever get to Rome?  He expected to be surprised by God.

1. Can arrest and suffering be God’s will for us?  Did Jesus send the disciples into a storm?  Did Job suffer?

2. How should we act when we know suffering is coming?  Run like Jonah or fight the good fight

(2 Tim 4:6-8)?  Lay aside every weight and run with endurance the race (Heb 12:1).  Continue to be faithful.

3. What should we do or say when someone else is going to suffer?  Walk with them.  Kneel on the beach and pray with them.

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