Summary: Exposition of Acts 21:16-26 about how Paul’s arrival in Jerusalem was used to build up the church in three ways
Text: Acts 21:16-26, Title: Impacting the Body, Date/Place: NRBC, 3/8/09, AM
A. Opening illustration: tell about when Bailey Smith created such a stir at SEBTS,
B. Background to passage: the third missionary journey of Paul’s ends here in Jerusalem. And when he arrives, as usual, his presence impacts the church in a powerful way. And of course, his desire is to build up the church that it might impact the world for Christ. And God uses him and the elders at Jerusalem to do that.
C. Main thought: in the text, we will see three ways God builds His church
A. A Testimony of God’s Work (v. 19-20)
1. We are told that the church leadership at Jerusalem received them joyfully (who wouldn’t receive somebody with a bag of money for them gladly). Notice that it mentions specifically, James and the elders. The transition in Jerusalem had been made completely from apostles to elders. And the first thing that Paul does after that is spend time telling them all that God had done in the last two missionary journeys. This was common practice in the early days of the church by both Peter and Paul. It was also the practice of OT saints as they built markers according to God’s command so that when the children asked why, they could tell the story of God’s deliverance among them. Luke does not elaborate, but since we usually focus on a small portion of the text, let’s review, and hear what the elders heard. Do a review slide on the PowerPoint. And it says that they (imperfect tense) kept on glorifying God for what they heard. Testimony brings God glory. Remember that is the reason that we exist.
2. Acts 11:4-18, 14:27, 15:4, 15:12; Rom 15:18, 15:19, Ps 111:1, 22:25, 35:18, 40:10
3. Illustration: tell about Lew wanting to know what’s going on in our lives, tell about testimony time in the membership class, tell about doing testimony in the first and second services at LSCC so that we would know one another better, Don’s prayer team meets monthly, and one of the first things they do is share how God has been speaking to them over of the course of the last four weeks,
4. Testimony is one of the most encouraging aspects of believers sharing their lives together. This is how Jesus did discipleship—sharing life together. And we really should work on hearing from each other more often. The body needs to hear of God’s work in your life. It encourages our hearts, reminds us about the God that we serve, and strengthens our faith. It creates a longing in us for God to work in our lives that way. It creates a bond within the body, especially as we bear one another’s burdens. Reading Christian biography powerfully challenges us to look for the moving of God’s hand like He did in days gone by. Missionary stories are particularly impactful. Some of you should share how God is working in your lives with our congregation. The Spirit will use it to work in our congregation and to bring glory to Christ. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so in the midst of the congregation.
B. A Potential Ecclesiological Disaster (v. 21)
1. Immediately after the praise-a-thon regarding the testimony of God’s work among the Gentiles, James and the elders address a situation that is potentially disastrous for the church in Jerusalem. From Acts 6 to 10 and to 21 relationships have been strained in the early church between Jewish and Gentile believers. It was probably a carry over from the hatred of the Jews toward Gentiles prior to Christ. But whatever the reason, the leadership needed to deal with it. Paul was in Jerusalem, and the elders could foresee a major crisis. One of the problems that caused this potential mess was misinformation (nice PC word). The gossip going around Jewish Christian circles was that Paul was teaching Jews in foreign lands to jettison Jewish customs prescribed in the Mosaic Law, which by the way, Paul did not do. And James notes that many Jewish believers are “zealous for the law,” explain the phrase. And of course another issue wound up in here is correct doctrine—what is the relationship of Jewish Christians to the law.
2. 1 Cor 1:11-13, Pro 6:19, John 13:34-35,
3. Illustration: In the 1890s there was a small Baptist church in Mayfield County, Kentucky. The church had just two deacons, and those two men seemed to be constantly arguing and bickering with each other. On a particular Sunday, one deacon put up a small wooden peg in the back wall so the pastor could hang up his hat. When the other deacon discovered the peg, he was outraged. "How dare someone put a peg in the wall without first consulting me!" The people in the church took sides and the congregation eventually split. Over a hundred years later, residents of Mayfield County still refer to the two churches as Peg Baptist and Anti-Peg Baptist, There’s a book entitled War In The Pews that talks about real-life instances which are absolutely outrageous. Churches have split over whether the pianist should sit to the right or the left side of the podium, over whether the Lord’s Supper should be served from the front to the back or the back to the front, over trying to decide whether a kitchen should be a part of the church building or not. One church split over who was the real pastor. They had two pastors. Two groups thought they each had their own guy, and both of them got up to lead a service one Sunday. Both led the singing. Both groups tried to out-sing each other. Then both pastors started preaching, trying to out-preach each other. heard testimony this week of people leaving denominations because of this,