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The Light Shines In Jerusalem Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
October 19, 2022 1:00 am

The Light Shines In Jerusalem Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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October 19, 2022 1:00 am

Imagine all God can do through someone solely focused on God’s will. Paul’s determination to settle a church split in Jerusalem drove him into hardship, and eventually, to be on trial in Rome. In this message, we consider Paul’s dilemma and defense. Are we willing to do what is right even when harm is seemingly inevitable?

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. The apostle Paul rejected the counsel of his peers and went back to Jerusalem after completing two missionary journeys.

His determination to settle a church split there drove him into hardship and eventually execution in Rome. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, was it wise for Paul to reject the advice of his peers? Well, you know, Dave, I want to side with the apostle Paul, but what I love about that story is the fact that oftentimes decisions are made, people disagree with what we do, we have to trust God, we have to seek his wisdom, and then we have to do what we are called to do. And that's true today, isn't it?

In the midst of our culture where we have so many decisions to make, so many issues that we are confronted with, the question is how do we navigate this culture? And that's why I've written the book entitled No Reason to Hide, Standing for Christ in a Collapsing Culture. At the end of this message, I'm going to tell you more about this book, but I want to remind you that for a gift of any amount it can be yours.

Simply go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now let us listen to God's word. We're glad that you are here today and we're here for one purpose during the next few moments and that is to ask God to birth in us a passion for him. Because the question that is before us is this, what is God able to do through a person who is God-intoxicated, for whom only love for God really matters and doing God's will? It's the story of the Apostle Paul and it's in the 21st chapter of the book of Acts. Acts chapter 21, please turn to it in your Bibles because you've got to follow along the progression. And in the process we're going to be discussing such issues as God's will. How do you determine God's will? Not in detail of course, but sometimes overriding compulsion by the Spirit enables us to do things we wouldn't normally do. And also we're going to get right into the thick of the question of what is the relationship of Christianity and Judaism?

How far is it that we should go in being a witness to those who perhaps come from a different tradition, a different religion or a different culture? All that in the next few moments. Acts chapter 21 opens and the Apostle Paul is finished all of his missionary journeys. He has only one desire left, actually two desires if we could put it that way, and that is for him to visit the city of Jerusalem one last time and then go to Rome.

And he's going to do both despite the fact that there are those who advised him against it. So what we're going to do is to take some cameo shots today of the Apostle Paul's heart. You know there are many people who are interested in the Apostle Paul's theology, but the problem is that these people who have his theology don't necessarily have his heart.

Today we're going to see a glimmer into his passion and what made him tick. So in order to get the context, he's on his way to Jerusalem and we're going to notice first of all his determination, his absolute determination to go even against, catch this now, even against good advice. Normally I never tell anyone to go against good advice, but the Apostle Paul did. But then on the other hand I've never spoken to the Apostle Paul either. Notice in chapter 21 we had come close to Cyprus and then we sailed to Tyre, verse 4, and having sought out the disciples we stayed there for seven days and through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go to Jerusalem.

Through the Spirit Paul don't go. All right, with that as a background let's look at verse 8. On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist who was one of the seven and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied, especially during the times of the New Testament. The gift of prophecy was evident and it was not limited to men. And so we're not sure of what their prophecies were but they were prophesying, these young ladies were, and a prophet by the name of Agabus who shows up earlier in the book of Acts, he came at verse 11, he took Paul's belt, bound his own feet and hands and says, thus says the Holy Spirit, this is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns the belt and deliver him to the hands of the Gentiles.

Old Testament prophets frequently acted out their prophecies and to make it vivid that's just exactly what he did. When we heard this, verse 12, and who's the we? Remember the book of Acts was written by Luke, Timothy was there, seven or eight other people mentioned in the previous chapter are there as well, Paul is taking them as a delegation to Jerusalem and he's determined to go to Jerusalem and you'll notice it says, when we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, what are you doing weeping and breaking my heart for I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.

And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, well, let the will of the Lord be done. Paul was determined to go to Jerusalem because the church was about to split. Furthermore, he had an offering that he was bringing from other churches that he wanted to bring to Jerusalem and he thought that this would heal the rift between Jew and Gentile.

From the Gentiles, he received money to give to the Jews who are going through a time of poverty in Jerusalem because of a famine and so what he thought was, I want to go there personally, time out. Did Paul do what was right or not? Many commentators say no, he was just stubborn through the Spirit told don't go, then Agabus says this is going to happen to you. All of the good advice was don't do it and Paul did it anyway. I'm going to argue that Paul did do the right thing even though when he got to Jerusalem, it was like a spark in a can of kerosene, everything blew up. But Paul was determined, I think that the warnings should be interpreted as warnings and not necessarily as prohibitions because in chapter 22, when he's speaking to the elders at Ephesus, he says this, it says verse 22 of chapter 20, and now behold, I'm going to Jerusalem constrained by the Spirit not knowing what will happen to me except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and affliction awaits me. Well, does the Holy Spirit contradict himself? Give one message to these people in the Spirit and then another message to Paul?

I don't think so. I think that they prophesied in the Spirit in the sense that they were warning Paul and not necessarily prohibiting him. I'm going to give the Apostle Paul the benefit of the doubt even though there are some people who think he did the wrong thing, but we're going to assume that he did the right thing and I think it will become evident as we go through the text. But talk about determination. You're warning me that I'm going to Jerusalem? I am willing to be imprisoned and to die in Jerusalem for the sake of the faith with that we had a thousand Apostle Paul's.

That's his determination. What is his dilemma? What happens when he gets there to the city of Jerusalem? Well, he meets with James.

Now, James is the half brother of Jesus. And James on the following day, I'm now in verse 18 of chapter 21, he went with us and the elders were present. After greeting them, Paul related one by one the things God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified God. I love that because clearly Paul was not honoring himself here. What Paul was doing is talking about what God had done and when the report was over, they glorified God. That's the way it should be after every missionary report. We should end up giving God glory because it's not about us how clear God makes it. It is always about him. So they give God the glory.

But then here it is now, the split that's about to happen and Paul is about to exacerbate it. You'll notice it says when they heard it, they glorified God. They said to him, you see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, they are all zealous for the law.

Wow. 3,000 people converted on the day of Pentecost, they believed. Couple thousand later mentioned in the book of Acts and then you begin to ask yourself, think now 20 years after Pentecost, think of the thousands and the thousands of Jews that were converted in Jerusalem. But there was a problem that could have split the church and seemed as if it would.

Here it was. Now put yourself in the sandals of a first century Jew. You have been taught that you should honor the feast days. You should honor the dietary laws. You should restrict your travel on the Sabbath day. All of this is in the Old Testament. You should bring sacrifices to the temple in accordance with God's prescriptions. You have all of these commands and you're an observant Jew and you want to keep all of them in honor of God. And that's what many of the Jews were doing. Now along comes a man by the name of the apostle Paul who says, you know, you don't have to do that because salvation is free through Jesus and the law has been done away.

And what are they saying? They're saying, wait a moment now and who are you to tell us that the law has been done away? So you have two groups of Jews. You have those who dig in their heels and say, we will not change our view because God gave us these laws and only God can take them away. You have another group who's convinced that Jesus is the Messiah and they say, yeah, God gave us these laws. That's true, but, but Jesus is God and Jesus did do away with them and taught us that the Old Testament laws were but a shadow of what was to come. And they believed in Jesus, but they were still zealous for the law. That's what the Bible says.

James says thousands believe, but they're still zealous for the law. Now, how does Paul get wrapped up in this? Notice it says, and verse 21, and they've been told about you, he's speaking to Paul, that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to their customs.

What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. You're going to stir up a riot here in Jerusalem, Paul.

Now, we have to pause here. We have to stop all the way along the line and say, is this a correct representation of what Paul taught? Don't keep the law of Moses.

Don't circumcise your children. All that is history. That's Old Testament.

A new dispensation, a new era has come. Is that really true to Paul? Not really, but you can understand how this rumor would get started and how it would be perpetuated because it's very clear that Paul taught salvation by faith alone, not the works of the law. And so you don't have to keep the laws of Moses, all those intricate laws regarding travel, regarding what you can eat.

Everything now is clean. And so you can understand that people would say, Paul, you're teaching this. And it's close to what Paul is teaching, but not quite.

Not quite. Because what the Apostle Paul taught is this, that now that he is a believer, now that he believes in Jesus, you can still keep some of the customs of the Old Testament. You can still circumcise your children. As a matter of fact, he had Timothy circumcised. If you want to take a Nazarite vow, you can because Paul says that he did it.

He did it, but it has an entirely different meaning. Bottom line, you can still keep some of these customs if you do not think that they save you. But if you were to think that the salvation comes through here, then you are wrong. That's where Paul drew the line. By the way, today there are observant Jews. And there are observant Jews who want to keep the law, and we should respect them for that. Did you know that in Israel, there are certain elevators in hotels, I've seen them, that on the Sabbath day, they automatically stop at every floor so that no Jew has to press a button.

Now that might seem strange to us, but I'm telling you the truth because they feel that if they have to press the button, they're crossing a line and having to do some work. So there are certain rules here that some of us don't quite get and understand, but it's an attempt to continue the rules of the Old Testament. What Paul was saying is that if you want to do these rules, that's fine as long as you don't think that they are salvific.

What I mean by that is as long as you don't think they save you. Now, here's what they do. They tell Paul something. I mean, James is speaking here. Verse 23, do therefore what we tell you. I'm thinking, boy, that's a little strong for the apostle Paul. If he came here to Moody Church, I wouldn't say, well, Paul, I'm here to tell you what you should do. So do what I'm going to tell you.

I think I'd couch it a little more diplomatically. But then it says, verse 24, we have four men who are under a vow. It must be a Nazarite vow.

Take these men, purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses so that they might shave their heads. Thus, all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law. But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we've sent a letter that they don't have to keep the law, but they should, of course, abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, from blood, from immorality, and so forth.

There is no question about that. The Gentiles, in Acts chapter 15, there was a conference where they agreed Gentiles do not have to keep the law. They don't have to be circumcised or anything in order to be saved.

The question was, what do we do with the Jews who are struggling with this issue? And here they say, why don't you join them in their vow, pay their expenses? This probably came about because Paul did bring an offering, and it was customary in those days for a richer person to help a poorer person to fulfill his vow with all the sacrifices that attended to it. You go through that, Paul, and that'll show people that you're also observing the law. Do you understand now why there are some people who think that Paul compromised here?

I don't think so. In 1 Corinthians, he says this, to the Jews, I became as a Jew that I might win the Jews. To those who are under the law, I became like those who are under a law to win those who are under the law.

And those who are outside the law, I became like they that I might be able to win those that are outside the law. Paul I think is saying, I can do all this as long as it's correctly interpreted and not a matter of compromising salvation. So that was Paul's stance. So we've looked at his determination. We've also looked at his dilemma.

And what is his defense? Well, he doesn't fulfill the vow because a riot breaks out. And you'll notice it says, for example, in verse 27, when the seven days were almost completed, God kept Paul from having to offer sacrifices, which were part of the Nazarite vow. When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd. They laid hands on him.

They arrested him. They accused him of bringing Gentiles into the temple area. Paul would never have done that. He had some Gentiles with him, but he would have never brought them into the temple area because he understood. If you go to Jerusalem today, it's been a long time since I've been there, 10 years. But I remember going to the temple mound and there still is a sign there that says, do not enter upon the pain of death, owing to the sacredness of the place. Gentiles were not supposed to go where they in the inner temple area. So there's a warning sign there, which all of us respectfully, of course, ignore. And we go in anyway.

And the Dome of the Rock today, of course, is a Muslim shrine. But the point is this, my friend, the Apostle Paul would not have brought people, a Gentile, into the inner sanctum because in those days that was a crime that resulted in death. Bottom line, Paul is arrested.

He gives his defense. And you can go on and you can read what he has to say. And these events are actually going to turn out now in such a way that he does end up going to Rome. But I won't tell you that story. That will become more evident in the next message in this series. So Paul gets to Jerusalem and he also gets to Rome.

Well, my friend, this is Pastor Lutzer. And isn't it interesting that the issue of racism, Jews versus Gentiles, goes back all the way to the first century. In my new book entitled No Reason to Hide, I have an entire chapter on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Does it really help us or does it hurt us when it comes to race relationships? Let me ask you another question. If your children come home from school and say that we are living on stolen land, how would you answer that? And furthermore, should we be responsible for the sins of our forefathers? How do we navigate that? Those are the kinds of questions I discuss in my new book entitled No Reason to Hide, Standing for Christ in a Collapsing Culture. And each chapter ends with an example of a person who stood against their culture and we honor them today because of their strength and courage.

And we, of course, should do the same. For a gift of any amount, this book can be yours. Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337.

Let me give you that contact info again, or 1-888-218-9337. And thanks in advance for your generosity because together we're making a difference to get the gospel around the world. It's time now for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Discrepancies in the Bible, it takes some study to resolve many of them.

One listener asks Pastor Lutzer this question. In Genesis 32-30, Jacob said he saw God face to face. Now how is that possible when we read, No man can see me and live?

Very good question. Nobody has ever seen God as God because you cannot see God and live. To see God as God would be something like standing maybe a hundred feet from the sun. But there's no doubt that throughout the scriptures you can see manifestations of God. Moses, for example, he was in the cleft of the rock and he saw the glory of God pass by.

Here's an interesting reference. It says in the book of John, no man has seen God at any time, but the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the father, he has declared him. When you looked into the face of Jesus, you were seeing God, but you were not seeing God as God. That's why at Christmas we sing veiled in flesh the Godhead see the glory of Jesus had to be veiled. So when the Bible speaks about seeing God face to face, it means that yes, Jacob did see God, but Jacob saw God in a veiled way.

I can say two things that appear to be contradictory, but they really aren't. I can say I saw my face this morning and that's true. I can also say I did not see my face this morning. Obviously I didn't. How could I see my face directly?

I couldn't. I saw it, however, in a mirror. Well maybe that helps us understand that nobody sees God directly, but there are manifestations of God and Jacob was right when he said I saw God face to face. Thank you Dr. Lutzer for clearing that matter up. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer or call us at 1-888-218-9337. In Jerusalem some new believers insisted that converts to the Christian faith keep observing Jewish laws. The conflict was sharp and Paul had to settle an argument that put the outreach of the Gospel at risk. Next time on Running to Win, we feel the passion of Paul, a man determined to run his life's race all the way to the finish line in Rome. But first he must sort out the conflict between Jewish law and Christian freedom.

It's no secret that America is in crisis. Pastor's book, No Reason to Hide, Standing for Christ in a Collapsing Culture, will be sent as our gift to you when you give a gift of any amount to support Running to Win. Just call us at 1-888-218-9337. That's 1-888-218-9337. Online go to That's Or write to Running to Win, Moody Church, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois 60614. This is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-11-22 21:21:42 / 2022-11-22 21:30:43 / 9

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