Summary: This message examines the power that our words can have
* Over 600,000 words in the English language: average person uses 20,000
* The power of words...
- “A word from the mouth is like a stone from a sling.” (African proverb)
- “A word once uttered can never be recalled.” (Horace, Italian poet)
- “Colors fade, temples crumble, empires fall, but wise words endure.” (Edward Thorndike)
- “If you wish to know the mind of a man, listen to his words.” (Chinese proverb)
* What the Bible says about words...
- Proverbs 18:21 (power of life and death)
- Psalm 19:14 (pleasing in your sight)
- Matthew 15:18 (from the heart to the mouth)
- James 1:26 (worthless religion if tongue not controlled)
* The words we use can be a blessing or a curse (James 3:9-10)
* The need to be careful in what we do with our words...
- point people to God or point people away from God
- build people up or tear people down
- make it about God or make it about us
- reflect righteousness or reflect sin
- spread the gospel or hinder the gospel
* Text: many words were used by different people for different purposes...
1. We can use our words to brag about what God is doing (21:17-19)
* Our tendency: to boast about what we have done
* Think of all that Paul has accomplished since Acts 9; if anyone had reason to brag about themselves, it was him
* Focus of Paul’s boasting: God’s activity (v. 19: “what God had done”)
- 1 Cor. 1:31
- 2 Cor. 12:6
- Gal. 6:14
* Paul understood that anything productive or worthwhile in his life came about because of God working in him and through him
* Why we need to brag about God: our boasting induces praise (v. 20)
* Those without Christ don’t need to know what WE have done, but what GOD has done for us, in us, and through us!
2. We can use our words to remove stumbling blocks (21:20-26)
* What’s happening in the text:
- The Jews, though believers, were still zealous for the Law; the act of circumcision was a major part of the Law (it identified them as the chosen nation of God)
- A false report was going out that Paul was teaching the Jews that circumcision (and thus the Law) was no longer relevant, and that he taught the Gentiles that it was religiously inconsequential whether they circumcised their sons or not, and he did not teach them the Jewish customs. However, he never taught the Jews that.
- The false reports caused a “stumbling block” to exist between Paul and the Jews. Paul joining in the purification rites of the four men (v. 22-24) who had taken a vow would hopefully placate the Jews (remove the obstacle).
* The words the people used encouraged Paul to do whatever he could to remove any obstacle that might keep others from listening to (and possibly accepting) his Gospel message
* Paul’s practice was to remove any stumbling block he could (see 2 Cor. 6:3)
* Stumbling blocks exist today: ideas or concepts that keep people away from Christ
* With our words we can talk to those who have yet to accept Christ and try to remove any obstacle that stands in the way of their accepting the Gospel
3. We can use our words to oppose the plan of God (21:27-36)
* Those who led in the verbal attack against Paul were religious (see v. 28 = their presence in the temple), but Paul did not fit into their religious mold.
* What the text reveals is nothing more than Satan’s attempt to once again oppose God’s plan of getting the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
* Satan still has this desire today, and he will still use the words of the “religious” to oppose the plan of God.
* Words precede action: What the people said led to persecution
* Our words lead to action: If we always criticize, some will act by believing it; if we always slander, some will act by turning away
* Our words will either support and advance the plan of God or oppose it. What will yours do?
4. We can use our words to point others to Christ (21:37 - 22:21)
* This is the highest use of our words: leading others to the cross and to Christ
* Paul gives us a wonderful example of how simple it is to share our faith; he uses his words to explain three aspects of his life, which served as a witness for Christ...
1) He spoke of his life before Christ (22:1-5)
- Note: Paul was religious, but he failed to have a personal relationship with Christ