Summary: Paul goes to Jerusalem and is arrested; is he doing the will of God?
July 13, 2008
Could Paul have been wrong? Certainly, as I’ve repeated, he was a man, a man of flesh-and-blood, and he was not above sin! There are two points in today’s passage at which different commentators believe that Paul made an error. There are some who believe that Paul made a mistake, a sinful, obstinate display, in going to Jerusalem in the first place. Ray Stedman, a Bible teacher whom I respect greatly, is convinced that this is the case. There are others who believe that what we read in today’s text is evidence that Paul spoke one way but perhaps, in a moment of weakness, acted another. I’m not so sure at all, though, for I believe that there is Scriptural justification, quite likely, for Paul’s actions in both cases. At any rate, what was prophesied to take place when Paul reached Jerusalem indeed does in today’s text.
We really, today, begin the final section of our Unleashed study on the book of Acts, because as we’ll see today, Paul is arrested, and for the remainder of the book, Paul is under arrest until he finally reaches Rome. But we begin on a happy note.
I. A Glad Reunion - :17-20a
We’ve got some old friends from Pennsylvania whom we’re hoping will be in attendance at Red Oak next Sunday; it’s always great to see them, and it was no different for Paul as he reconnected with old friends. James, the brother of Jesus (not of “James and John” fame) was the leader of the church in Jerusalem, and it was appropriate that Paul seek him out first. This was at least their fourth meeting, these two men who represented the twin streams of Christian faith; James the Jewish strain, and Paul the Gentile. The elders of the church joined the meeting as well. Finally, Paul is able to present the offering that has been collected for the poor believers in Jerusalem (his reason for going to Jerusalem in the first place! See I Corinthians 16:1-4; Romans 15:25-27.) and to fill in the leaders of the “mother church” on the events of his missionary journeys. Paul actually feared the possibility of a rejection of the gift by the Jewish Christians (Romans 15:30-31). Why would that be the case? The Jerusalem church was caught, in some ways, between its devotion to the Gentile mission, on the one hand, and its national heritage on the other. What would the willing acceptance of such a gift mean? It could drive a further wedge between the Jewish Christians and their Jewish countrymen. And in a time of rising Jewish patriotism, this might not be a good thing. Thus, understanding the situation, Paul had some concern! But his fears, while well-founded, proved to be no problem.
Paul had argued that the Gentile believers owed a debt of gratitude to the Jews, sharing in their spiritual blessings, and thus they ought to give generously. There is a grace to giving, and there is a grace to receiving as well. But while Luke makes no mention here of the gift, it’s obvious that the church leaders received it, along with news of Paul’s successes in promoting the gospel, with real joy; note that the Hero of the story isn’t Paul, though, but God Whom they glorified.