Summary: In the midst of a rumour accusing Paul falsely, we see him doing what he can to preserve the unity of the church and mission of the church. This is the heart of a servant of God.
Read Acts 21:15-26.
LET US PRAY:
Thank you for your written Word. May the truth of your Word inspires us again, to know you and trust you, and to be faithful followers of Christ.
May the life and ministry of Paul be an encouragement for all of us who are serving you today. Bless us with your Word. In Jesus’ Name, AMEN.
Paul arrived in JERUSALEM, finally.
• Despite the warnings from good-hearted disciples, Paul was prepared, “not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (21:13)
• This is the heart of a servant of God – dying to self and living for Christ.
• As the Holy Spirit has revealed, Paul would face hardships in Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is predominantly Jewish and it is a challenging place because of the various Jewish groups.
• There are (1) the unbelieving Jews who rejected Jesus as Messiah and continued to persecute the Way.
• There are (2) the believing Jews who are zealous of the Law and continued to observe the sacrifices and customs.
• This is fine but among them are some who believed that salvation is only for them and not the Gentiles.
• And we have Jewish believers who are willing to accept the Gentile believers but (3) only if they become Jewish; to be circumcised and abide by their customs.
• We have the church (4) those who understand the Gospel and willing to embrace the Gentile believers.
Now nearing the Feast of the Pentecost, many Jews from the surrounding regions had gathered in Jerusalem.
• This situation was tense. The leaders were concerned that Paul’s arrival in Jerusalem would stir up anger among the traditional Jews who were against him.
• We can tell because, after the initial welcome and Paul’s report of what God has done among the Gentiles, the conversation was quickly taken over by their concern.
21:20-21 "You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. 21They 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."
• This concern overshadowed even the collection that Paul and his team have brought to the church. Nothing was mentioned about the gift. The urgent has taken over.
The predominantly Jewish community in Jerusalem, who valued their Jewish laws and customs, has been stirred by a rumour.
• “They have been informed”… likely by the Judaisers, the legalistic Jews that came from the province of Asia – Paul mentioned it to governor Felix in the trial in 24:19.
• They accused Paul of turning the Jews away from the Law of Moses, teaching them to abandon the Law, stop the circumcision and quit observing the Jewish traditions.
WHAT PAUL DID NOT TEACH
Paul did not teach the Jews to forsake the Law or change their customs.
• Remember on his second missionary journey, when Paul was at Lystra and wanted Timothy to join him, he had him circumcised, for the sake of the mission.
• Acts 16:3 “Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.”
When he wrote to the Romans (earlier from Corinth), Paul specifically told them not to judge Jewish believers who are still practising their customs.
• Rom 14:1-4 “1Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. 2One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.”
• Paul himself being a Jew understands the traditions. So he did not teach the Jews to quit being Jewish and drop their customs.
SO WHAT DID PAUL TEACH?
We can gather this from his writings to the Galatians and the Romans. Let me quote you some verses.
Gal 2:15-16 15 We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' 16 know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified
Observing the law and customs cannot save them; salvation is only be found through faith in Jesus Christ.
• Christ is the One who could and had fulfilled the requirements of the Law completely. He died to pay in full the penalty of sin.