Summary: Our words and actions have a direct impact on the unity of the church.
Keeping the Peace
Intro: Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Paul refers to God as the “God of all peace.” If the only peace people get from you is a piece of your mind, then maybe this message is for you. Regardless, we all need peace w/ God, others, and ourselves. In our text Paul’s actions promote peace in the church. He was high profile, but what about us? What influence do we have on peace among members of the body of Christ?
Prop: Our words and actions have a direct impact on the unity of the church.
Interrogative: In light of this, what can we do to promote peace in God’s family?
TS: Let’s take a look at some simple keys for keeping the peace.
I. We Keep the Peace by Praising God for His Work among Us (Acts 21:16-20a)
16 Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and brought us to the home of Mnason, where we were to stay. He was a man from Cyprus and one of the early disciples. 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.
-Praise fosters peace. We often talk about some of the other benefits of praise (it results in joy, it gives credit where it is due, praise lifts us above our circumstances, and so on). We could talk a lot about the many benefits of praise, but let’s just focus in on this one area. Praise helps promote peace among believers. Praise is the natural positive expression that comes from a believer when they see God at work around them. How does this affect the relationships Christians have with one another?
-Well, one way to look at it is to ask what praise is incompatible with. James comments on this in his letter to the Christians scattered around the Gentile world. Here is what he says about our words and our hearts: 9 ”With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water” (James 3:9-12).
-If we have a heart full of praise, then the things that are inconsistent with praise should never come out of our mouths. What is inconsistent with praise? Gossip, slander, complaining, cursing others, as James said. If we are tearing down someone else, rather than building them up, then we are spewing salt water, not fresh water. We are not making a contribution to peace, but to strife and disappointment.
-In our text, the Jewish elders were happy to hear that the gospel had effectively reached large numbers of Gentiles. They were so thrilled about God’s work among the Gentiles that they began praising the Lord, thanking Him for His free gift of forgiveness and grace that was far-reaching enough to set pagans free from their dark ways of living.
-Unfortunately, there were still some Jews who were not thrilled with the idea of Gentiles being saved without keeping the Law of Moses. It was some of these Jews who never stopped trying to make trouble for Paul, and for churches everywhere. See, they had made God’s grace “their” thing rather than God’s thing. V.19 says that Paul reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. It is important that we remember whose work it is, and who really makes it happen. The more we recognize it as God’s work among us, the more our hearts and mouths will be filled with praise for Him. And the more we praise Him together, the more peace and harmony there will be in the body of Christ.
-TS: So, let’s keep praising the Lord together for His work among us. Not just to keep the peace, but because praise is the right and natural thing for a believer to do. Another way we keep the peace ties in with humility. Sometimes we think we’ve got everything figured out, so we don’t really listen to what the Lord is saying to us through other believers. It takes humility to realize that other believers might actually have some wise counsel for us to follow.
II. We Keep the Peace by Listening to other Believers (Acts 21:20b-23a)
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.