January 27, 2021 – Wednesday
Acts 21:17-20 NIV
17 When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters received us warmly.
18 The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present.
19 Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.
20 When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law.
Paul, along with others who had accompanied him have arrived in Jerusalem. But he had been advised not to go to Jerusalem by believers in Tyre who (v4b)Through the Spirit ,,, urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. It is important to note the Spirit did not tell him not to go to Jerusalem, through the Spirit urged him not to go as they foresaw great difficulties for him there. Later on his way to Jerusalem, when they stopped in Caesarea, a prophet by the name Agabus came down from Judea and (v11-12) Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’”
As a result, many pleaded with Paul not to continue on to Jerusalem. Paul replied to their pleas saying (v13), Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. So, Paul continued to Jerusalem and from our verses above it seemed to go well, at least initially. After Paul gave his report on what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry to James and the elders, he heard the report from James, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. Thus, there has been a great expansion of believers among the Jews and they were still keeping the law as given by God through Moses. Wondering why we need to recall the decree of the apostles in Acts 15:29 with respect to the law was only directly applicable to those who were converted from paganism to the faith of Christ. It would be many years before the Jews understood their freedom from the law as well.
What did this have to do with Paul? Some of them were a threat to Paul because (v21), They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. Of course, this was not true, so James and the elders came up with the idea for Paul to join four men in purification rites so everyone would (v24) know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law.
It did not work as afterwards Paul was dragged from the temple. Then those who told lies about him and those who were enraged believing the lies began to beat Paul trying to beat him to death. God saved him through the efforts of a Roman Centurion and his soldiers. Upon being brought to the Roman barracks he asked for and received permission to address the crowd that had tried to kill him. The crowd listened to him tell the story of how he had persecuted followers of Jesus until he met Jesus outside Damascus. He told the story without embellishment including how he guarded the clothes of those who killed Stephen. But when he spoke of Jesus sending him to the Gentiles the crowd once again sought his death.
I don’t know about you, but I was shocked how believers could behave concerning another believer when they disagreed on doctrine or practices. They had yet to learn “Jesus plus nothing equals Everything.” Such intolerance has continued through the ages at different times and in different ways. At one time people were burned at the stake for translating the Bible into English.
Prayer: Heavenly Father – Please help us to see other believers simply as brothers and sisters in Christ and not focus on what we believe, think, or even know to be invalid practices. Help us all to keep our focus on Jesus and on His atoning sacrifice on the cross alone. – In Jesus name. Amen.
Riley D. Driver – Pastor
Calvary Chapel of Dayton