Summary: The Apostle Paul was ready for anything, for persecution or for death. How did he get that way? How do we get ready to be able to handle what ever may come our way.

January 17, 2016 - Sermon - Acts 21:1-15 - Here is the live audio version:

Today we’re continuing to follow the very dramatic journey of Paul, and we’re nearing the last bend of our tour through the book of Acts. Acts is an early biography of the church. It lets us in on many of their joys and many of their struggles and hardships.

Acts is a very human book, at times filled with deep emotion, as we looked at last week, at times filled with harrowing stories about the risks that these early Christians took in order to share the story of Jesus, Jesus who had completely changed their lives.

Jesus who commanded them to go and make disciples of all nations and all peoples.

In today’s passage, the narrative is speeding up and there is an atmosphere of approaching storm as Paul comes nearer Jerusalem. It begins on a similar note to last week’s.

Paul had said goodbye the the Elders, those he was closest to, in Ephesus. There was great sadness at his leaving.

What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. That was at the end of Acts chapter 20.

Today’s reading begins with another indication of how hard it was to separate. “After we had torn ourselves away from them...” Luke says. Have you ever had to do that?

Tear yourself away from someone you care about, someone you love? It’s always brutal, but it is an indication of shared affection, for sure.

Paul and his group, including the book’s narrator Luke, eventually land in Tyre and they seek out and stay with fellow followers of Jesus, disciples, for a week.

“There is the wonderful fact that wherever Paul went he found a Christian community waiting to welcome him. If that was true in Paul's time, it is still more true today.

One of the great privileges of belonging to the Church is the fact that no matter where follower of Christ goes, they are sure to find a community of like-minded people into which they may enter.

The one who is in the family of the Church has friends all over the world” (Barclay).

And then after some back and forth they end up in Caesarea.

While there Agabus the prophet gives an ominous object lesson. Agabus is an interesting figure. Jewish prophets had a certain custom.

When words were inadequate, they dramatized their message. There are many instances of this in the Old Testament (e.g. Isa.20:3-4; Jer.13:1-11; Jer.27:2; Eze.4; Eze.5:1-4; 1Kgs.11:29-31.

The prophet Agabus lets Paul know that he will face persecution in Jerusalem and be handed over to the Gentiles. Again, the people plead with Paul not to go to Jerusalem. They tug at his heart, making his decision all the more difficult.

Then Paul says these powerful words: I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

The disciples gave up trying to persuade Paul otherwise and said, “The Lord’s will be done”. then Paul and company head to Jerusalem.

So what we have here is Paul, the Apostle. Former enemy of the church. Converted to Christ. Became its chief apostle, led countless people to Christ, established directly, or through those he taught, a great many churches.

The fragrance of the gospel was spread everywhere Paul travelled.

A powerful writer, he have us much of the New Testament and wrote deeply and beautifully of what it means to have a relationship with Christ, to live IN Christ.

His letter to the Ephesians is one of the most beautiful pieces of literature on the planet, inspired as it was by God.

But at an age - around 65 - that you’d think he might be ready to retire, Paul is not done. He has not decided to rest on his laurels.

He had worked very hard for a great many years, endured countless hardships, and has many hardships yet to come. He doesn’t know what’s ahead of him in Jerusalem.

He knew that the Christian movement, The Way as it was called back then, was not welcome in that great city.

He knew that Jesus had been put to death outside the gates of that city.

Paul says: I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

And that leads me to ask this question. Paul was ready for anything...even death, if that’s what serving obeying and serving the living God meant for him, if that’s what God called him to do.

Instead of growing wearier by the hardships, and instead of giving in to fear, Paul used the difficulties to build a richer resolution to continue in Christ till the end.

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