Sunday, January 20, 2013

From Acts to Revelation Part 60 – Paul Arrives in Jerusalem

From Acts to Revelation
Part 60  – Paul Arrives in Jerusalem
Pastor Bruce A. Shields
House of Faith Church | |

Last week, Paul and his companions (including Luke who is record this in the Book of Acts), stopped in Caesarea, at the house of Philip the Evangelist. Philip, if you remember, was one of the first Deacons.

Philip had four daughters, who remained virgins, and prophesied, and evangelized for the Lord. Sort of like modern day nuns who preached.

While visiting, Agabus, the Prophet, showed up, taking Paul's belt, and binding his own hands and feet, saying, "This is how the Jews in Jerusalem will hand you over to the Gentiles.", and they all cried and tried to convince Paul not to go to Jerusalem.

Paul simply said, "Why do you break my heart!"

He knew they were right, but he also knew that he was called by the Holy Spirit to go to Jerusalem, and Paul chose to obey God rather than men.

Today, we will see in scripture, Paul's arrival in Jerusalem, his warm welcome by James and the other Elders of the Jerusalem Church, and the plan Paul undertakes to prove to the people, that he is not teaching "against" Moses, rather, completing God's plan.

We can learn from Paul's approach here. It's an approach we have seen before, as in the case where Paul preaches about the "unknown god" on Mars' Hill in Athens, in Acts 17:16-34

We will see;
A) How Paul obeys God, not men, even when it is painful.
B) How Paul builds bridges when trying to reach the lost, as in Athens, now Jerusalem.
C) How we can take this same approach, and win souls as Paul did.

Acts 21:17-26
17 When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers 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. 21 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. 22 What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, 23 so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. 24 Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. 25 As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”

26 The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.

a.      The Brothers and Sisters gave warm greetings to Paul and his companions when they arrived in Jerusalem.

b.     The next day, the group sees James and the Elders
i.       This is James, the brother of Jesus, who is the Senior Pastor of the Jerusalem Church.

ii.    The Elders were also present. Many Pastors all serving in the same church in Jerusalem.
a.      Some scholars suggest that the church in Jerusalem was very large, having many services and teachings for the estimated 30,000 members or more!

c.      After Paul greeted them, he gave account of his ministry
i.       He talked about his second, and third missionary journey, and told of the planting of many churches across the lands.

a.      In verse 20, we see they Glorified the Lord
i.       Giving credit where it is due, praising God for what was accomplished, not Paul.

ii.    We too should be mindful to not take credit for God's work.

b.     They encouraged and uplifted Paul second about the thousands of Jews that believed in Christ here in Jerusalem.
i.       Saying that they were all still zealous of the Law

ii.    James warns Paul of the Jewish converts "newness" to Christ
a.      Their new-found faith in Christ stirred them up to serve the Lord with a mew zeal, which they channeled in the direction of attempting to obey the Law of Moses to an even greater degree than ever.

c.      James informs Paul that the New-Converts, know of his arrival
i.       And James is concerned, because of talk against Paul's teaching's on Law/Grace

ii.    James informs Paul, the New-Converts are concerned because they believe Paul is teaching Jews among the Gentiles to forsake Moses.
a.      However, this was not correct.

b.     Paul actually taught almost exclusively from the Old Testament, holding up all it stated as pointing to Christ.

iii. The New-Converts also believed Paul said children should not be circumcised, nor walk after the other customs.
a.      Not exactly what Paul was teaching, though.

b.     He just taught that circumcision did not "save the soul", and that no flesh shall be justified by the deeds of the Law [Romans 3:24-31; Galatians 3:19-25]

d.     However, James had a plan that would diffuse this situation.
i.       James had four men who were ready to take the Nazarite Vow
a.      Numbers 6:14-20 -
1.      Offerings to the Lord
1.      year-old lamb without defect for burnt offering
2.      year-old ewe lamb without defect for sin offering
3.      a ram without defect for fellowship offering
4.      together with grain offerings and drink offerings
5.      a basket of bread made without yeast
6.      cakes of fine flour mixed with oil
7.      Then shave off his hair, and put it in the fire

ii.    James also said that Paul had to pay for this himself, this would show he did it of free-will, and not done for him.

iii. James believed that in doing this, it would show that Paul was not opposed to the Law, or he would not have observed this. If he truly opposed the Law, as they claimed, he would not be in the Temple observing the Nazarite Vow, which was part of Mosaic Law.

e.      Why did Paul do this?
i.       We know that Paul did not keep the Law as it regarded all of its rituals and ceremonies.

ii.    In fact, ALL OF THAT WAS FULFILLED IN CHRIST...and NOT necessary.

iii. The only reason Paul did this, was to prevent a split in the Church, and build a bridge to the New-Converts, until such a time they may have a deeper understanding of their faith, and realize that the Law was to direct people to Christ, who fulfilled all of the ceremonies and rituals.

iv.   Remember, the ceremonies and rituals were given as teaching aids, to help man understand their need for a savior, who the savior would be, how to recognize Him, and what He would accomplish!

v.      About 10 years from this time in scripture, God makes it IMPOSSIBLE for the Law to be kept anymore, in that the Temple was totally destroyed by the Roman Army. Yet Christ, who was destroyed, rose again in three days as He said.

a.      Obeying God rather than men
i.       Paul consistently obeys the Lord, rather than men.
a.      Even teaching to the point of relieving Gentiles from obligation to the Mosaic Law.

b.     Building bridges
i.       Paul took the Nazarite Vow to build a bridge for teaching, as he did with the Pagans in Athens.

c.      Appearance of sin
i.       In this case, it gives good example for us to understand about the "appearance of sin" we are told not to have in our lives.

ii.    To the New-Converts, Paul appeared to be sinning against God because of Mosaic Law he was not adhering to.
a.      To avoid the "appearance of sin", because Paul was NOT actually sinning against God, and build a bridge for future teaching, Paul observed the Vow.

Today in scripture we saw;
A) How Paul obeyed God, not men, even when it is painful.
            He followed his head, not his heart, feelings or emotions.

B) How Paul builds bridges when trying to reach the lost, as in Athens, now Jerusalem. Which we can do to, for the lost, as well as the New-Converts, who may not have a full understanding of their faith as of yet.
~However, building bridges is NOT a license-to-sin!  Although we are trying to connect with others, and may observe Laws, rituals and ceremonies of Old Testament, so as not to offend them, this "building bridges" does not give us free reign to participate in un-godly behavior in hopes of winning others to Christ.

~Too often I see Brothers and Sisters get themselves in trouble, participating in sin under the guise of winning souls.  We need to remember the warnings of scripture on this matter!

            Galatians 6:1 - " Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted."

C) How we can take this same approach, and win souls as Paul did.

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