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September 21, 2020 8:00 am
The apostle Paul was superstar of the faith. But like all such superstars. He was an imperfect, flawed human being.
This strong personality that drove him to succeed in preaching the gospel also drove him to put his own plans above God's. Keep listening as Dr. James Boyce explores what happens when a man of faith ignores his friends the prophet, and God himself. Welcome to the Bible study our radio and Internet program with Dr. James Boyce preparing you to think and act biblically in X 21 Paul is determined to go to Jerusalem as part of his plan to preach the gospel but is it God's plan.
Everyone tries to talk him out of it but in the end is Luke finally writes we gave up. Let's listen now to Dr. Boyce our study of the book of acts resumes with chapter 21 and I invite you to turn to that as we consider a period in the life of the apostle Paul, which is not has encouraging as other things we have looked at in earlier chapters of the book chapter 21 begins a new section as I'm sure you know the missionary journeys are now completed. All is on his way to Jerusalem for the last time and arrives there in the chapter where he is arrested and so far as we know from the story of the book of acts never again finds freedom.
There is an argument in biblical theology.
Perhaps a valid one, that there was a period in which Paul was released later, perhaps even traveled on display so far as we know from acts or from any direct testimony in the New Testament that wasn't so.
So what we have here in a certain sense is the beginning of the last and final episode in Paul's life and witness.
I when I was looking for a title for this message. My mind ran to a book that was written by Irwin Lutz or the pastor of Chicago's great Moody Church book was entitled when a good man falls, and it contains.
As you might expect, knowing the author in the title story biblical studies on the stories of those man in the Bible who experience some great period of disobedience, or sin in their lives and the consequences of that book contains the stories of Moses. For example Moses who got it into his head that he was to be the deliverer of his people and as a result of that began a liberation by killing an Egyptian and he had to flee the country. He ran away and he spent four years as a refugee. On the far side of the desert before God appeared to him once more to call him and send them to Egypt with the instruction. Let my people go contains the story of Samson who was so bewitched by Delilah and her charms that he gave away the secret of his strength was walks were sure he lost his ability to defend himself with the listings was captured. His eyesight was taken away and it was only at the end of his death that he managed to destroy many thousands of listings were there in the great temple of Dagon story of Jonah ran away from God story of David who committed adultery and tried to cover it up by murder. The story of Peter who denied his Lord and many other stories. Reason I thought of that title of that book is that in my opinion, we come to an incident now. The life of the apostle Paul, which is similar is a similar because as I hope to show in the context of the study. What Paul did go, it seems to me it was wrong, was nevertheless undoubtedly done with high motives same time as I think we will say it was wrong and it had unfortunate consequences for him and perhaps other people as well. Basis for what I want to say is found in the fact that apparently as we gather from a careful reading of these chapters through the Holy Spirit was warning. Paul wants to go to Jerusalem, while himself acknowledges that you look back to the 20th chapter which we've already studied verse 23 Paul when he was speaking to the Ephesian elders says I know that in every city, as all the cities he'd been visiting the Holy Spirit warns me that prison hardships are facing way. That is if I want to Jerusalem is true, of course, that verse does not say in categorical language. Paul do not go Jerusalem. Nevertheless, warning, and it carries weight because what Paul says you see is not simply that in every city. My friends warned me not to go to Jerusalem, but rather the holy spirit has been speaking. Paul doesn't say how the Holy Spirit did speak in every city, perhaps for his friends, but perhaps also in a personal way. At any rate, Paul disregarded warning and was determined to go.
I mentioned that as background, but with an emphasis not upon chapter 20, but rather upon chapter 21 which were studying because 20 silver in this chapter in verses four and 11 we find Paul being warned again not to go with. We count those original warnings in every city is one morning here you have warnings to three verse four we find one morning through the Spirit today.
That is, the disciples entire whom they were visiting. They urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. You say that's just a bit stronger than what was said in chapter 20 chapter 20 Paul confesses that in every city, the Holy Spirit warned him that imprisonment awaited him and he went a course that's as I said, not categorical statement not to go here. It's become a bit different. Stronger now disciples speaking and I quote through the spirit that is not just on their own, not just saying Paul we know the situation there is bad and were afraid for you. If you go, but rather through the Holy Spirit.
They urged him not to go. So you have that in verse four.
Then in verse 11 and verses surrounding that there's this incident that involves the prophet's he had come down the coast from Judea, perhaps from Jerusalem itself, and now added the visual demonstration. The warning, which had already been given twice over, took Paul's girdle were told that is a cloth belt that he had used as they did in those days to bind up the garments around his waist. This man Agnes tied his own hands and feet with it. That is a very dramatic way. And then he said this, I quote the holy spirit says in this way, the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over the Gentiles, that in spite of this, you see, Paul was determined to go to put one other bit of data together with this, though I acknowledge at the start that it's ambiguous you turn it chapter further on to chapter 22 find an account of Paul's speech before the crowd in Jerusalem and in the context of that to find him speaking of the special revelation that God had given him when he was in Jerusalem for 17 when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple I fell into a trance saw the Lord speaking quick.
He said to me leave Jerusalem immediately because they will not accept your testimony about me. I say that's ambiguous and for this reason, the context Paul is speaking about his conversion on the Damascus Road in the verses immediately before this say how Ananias God's servant. Damascus came and was instrumental in the power leading of God and restoring Paul's site. It's after this that he says when I returned to Jerusalem. We do know that after Paula been in Damascus there was a brief visit when he went to Jerusalem. That was before this and in the flow of events. It may well be that this is what he speaking of something years before that I was in Damascus I was converted there came to Jerusalem and while I was in Jerusalem Holy Spirit said Lord himself spoke.
I had a vision and said leave Jerusalem quickly go to the Gentiles that may be on the other hand, when we look back to the account of that we find it actually don't find anything that suggests that and it is possible that what Paul is acknowledging here is that on this visit to Jerusalem when he had been there. The Lord had spoken to him to tell them to go. I say again that is ambiguous, but whether or not this incident refers to something that happened in Jerusalem. On this occasion it does set a pattern for the things that are occurring now if not now, at least earlier Lord himself and told Paul not to linger in Jerusalem, but rather to go to the Gentiles because lack is the mission field that which God had called them yet.
It would save.
In spite of this, Paul continued to have this yearning for Jerusalem he wanted to go back here the end, in spite of the many warnings that is receiving. He is determined to go up and do the things that we will see as we continue to study. I think this is a case of Paul being out of the will of God determining to do what he wants to do in opposition to God's leading. I do want to say several things in defense of Paul because this is something that should not be gotten out of proportion. First of all, if this is what Paul is doing well. Then in the most pejorative sense. It is at worst simply an exercise of a very strong obstinate and determined personality.
We use those words as if that's extremely bad today, but we have to remember that Apollo not had that kind of a personality when the been the kind of missionary he wants, takes more than Casper milquetoast to go out and evangelize the Roman world. Paul was a great man, a man of great courage and determination. And when things got tough. He did just what our little saying says tough get going and that is what he did and so he persevered for many, many long years in spite of the kind of opposition and persecution and even physical abuse that he relates in writing his letters to the Christians at Corinth Apollo not have this kind of personality. Paul would not have achieved the achieve the very fact that he did this he did it in about about God and given him a God certainly given them personality so we have to say at least that in Paul's defense. Secondly, we have to acknowledge that he certainly had a love of his people you doubt that you should turn the ninth chapter of Romans where Paul is writing about great heaviness of heart that he has for his people. He was a missionary to the Gentiles started called them to do that, but he was after all a Jew and had a great heart of the Jewish people. He says in that great ninth chapter of Romans. I could wish myself cursed from Christ for the sake of my brethren.
I don't know that I would say that I doubt if there are many Christians living today would say that actually mean that they would be willing to be cut off from Christ.
Let's put it bluntly, be willing to be sent to hell for the sake of their people. Yet that's what Paul says and he says and not in an offhanded manner.
Speaking humanly only but he says that in the context of holy writ. This is something Paul certainly meant. He loved his people. He was concerned for them and if he had not been it would not of gone.
So when we're talking about his failures at this point, if indeed they are failure. Certainly they are failures that grew out of this strong personality and this concern. Those were lost, then certainly we can say this in his defense, Paula. Great plan of this was part of it all know that there was a growing rupture between the Jewish and the Gentile church. I suppose it was inevitable whether it was inevitable or not he saw that he wanted to do everything he could to overcome its one way try to do this was by collecting and offering from all the Gentile churches which he was determined to bring up to Jerusalem as a demonstration of the solidarity of the people of God throughout entire world. Now it's interesting that in the context of the book of acts, Luke says very little about the offering. Matter fact it is really not mention saving the 24th chapter in the context of the speech that Paul is giving before Felix there in the 17th verse he mentions his intention after an absence of several years is that I came to Jerusalem to bring my people. Gifts for the poor and the present offerings. We don't learn much about this offering from the book of acts when we begin to read Paul's letters, especially first and second Corinthians.
We soon find that this was not an incidental matter with Paula's was part of his great strategy for welding the church together in first Corinthians the 16th chapter, the opening verses of that chapter gives instructions to how this offering is to be collected and in second Corinthians written later because apparently the offering wasn't going real well, at least in the church of Corinth, he reiterates what it is that he has in mind and goes on there at some length, but only throughout the eighth chapter, interrupting it a little bit but throughout chapter 9 as well. I suspect just a bit as I read that that the matter may have been getting a little bit out of hand.
Certainly Paul gives a lot of valuable instruction about how we are to give up our substance to the Lord's work, often referred to these verses and stewardship sermons, but one wonders, is rated whether or not the tone is right isn't Paul being just a little preemptory as he addresses these questions physically ordering them about something which should by all definition be voluntary. I don't know maybe reading a bit into it, but I even suspect that this silence nuclear story exercises as he writes about this and asked me to give testimony to the fact that in Luke's opinion, the thing had perhaps gotten a little bit out of proportion. At any rate. Paul's intention was good you wanted to bring up this great gift of money from the Gentile churches to say to the Jews of Jerusalem.
Look how much the Gentiles's love you yet is were going to see that had very little bearing on what happened to me say one other thing when their warning. Paul in chapter 21 shouldn't go. Paul says, verse 13.
Why are you weeping and breaking my heart. I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. I think we need to say when were speaking in Paul's defense that this was true all literally was willing to be bound, and even to die for the sake of Christ. And indeed he did. In the end he was martyred guilds in Rome as we know from tradition asked the question, is that the plaintiff drew and Paul was willing to die for Jesus. But is that the issue in the matter of this journey to Jerusalem was Jesus asking Paul to die for him or was he in fact instructing him not to go to Jerusalem is a sometimes we can cover-up disobedience in our lives or willfulness by taking a high spiritual road. We can say and we do it sometimes don't wait.
Well, you know, I am willing to do anything for Jesus and sometimes what we mean by that is what I want to do what I want to do any rate, as I read the story seems to me that this is what's happening now.
Someone probably will say at that point. Now what's the big deal. What difference does it make after all that, plus a go up to Jerusalem, even if he is out of the will of God. Certainly many of us do similar things as a matter why didn't God just say well alright let them do it some and will get back on track later. What we find out why. As we read on in the story we find that Paul's journey to Jerusalem. On this occasion, led a great problem and the problem I'm referring to is not the problem of his arrest and imprisonment, which he wasn't released again, at least in the context of this book, but to something that was almost a terrible compromise of the Christian gospel understand that we have to understand something about the nature of this church in Jerusalem. It was composed largely of Jews and these were Jews that come out of Judaism with all of the traditions of their fathers. I wanted to maintain all of their Jewishness while at the same time being Christians is a sense in which that can be done. This wasn't what they were trying to do. However, what they were trying to do was to maintain all of the ceremonial purification's and all of the outward observances of the Mosaic law on the moral law which is binding upon all men, flowing from the very character of God that the ceremonial law as well which is obviously we know fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Now, when Paul went in established Gentile churches. This immediately became a problem. As Paul understood in presenting gospel to the Gentiles. No one is saved by keeping that old ceremonial law or even for that matter, trying to keep the moral law saved through Christ. When the matter of keeping the law became an issue in the church. The apostle Paul, great defender of the freedom of the Gentiles, argued again forcefully and rightly.
Christians are not to be brought under the power of the law. That is something that the Jews themselves could not keep, and Christians are delivered from that in Christ, saying, of course, Christians are not to keep the moral law. We are ceremonial law kind of law that was expressed right circumcision. That was the issue of the day, but in all of the purification's and the feast days all that as well. Now this church in Jerusalem was in a difficult position was composed of Jews that was living in a Jewish culture.
And yet it was supposed to be Christian what they were trying to do as we read it is lived on a tight rope with 1 foot as it were, in both camps. When Paul was in Galatia had trouble there. The legalizes was from Jerusalem from the Jerusalem church that legalizes came all had to fight them down and this issue came to a head in the church. Paul with Timothy and Titus had to journey to Jerusalem and took place on that occasion.
The great counsel recorded in acts 15 in which the battle was fought out, then the battle was won for the cause of Gentile liberty. Yet the problem wasn't solved in the Jerusalem church error law was still important and anybody who suggested even for a moment that it was not necessary or even proper to keep the ceremonial law was suspect. I'll Paul was coming to this city meeting with the leaders of this church and it was in this context situation which had become increasingly volatile over the years that this great compromise was put forward what we read is that the leaders of this church came to him and said something like this, Paul. We know that you're right.
You are the man who has stolen above all others, for the cause of Gentile liberty Understand that we live in a difficult situation here. We live in the midst of Jewish culture and furthermore there are many many people in the church. Many Christian people who just do not see it your way.
They think that you're trying to destroy the traditions of their fathers would like to dispel that image and what we suggest is this. We have here for man that have taken a lever right now and we would like you to join them there.
Poor people, they're not able to pay for the final sacrifice as part of this right and would like you to take on the cost of that go through the days of purification and then at the end of it. Join with them as this sacrificial offering for sin is made in the temple area. This was what we would call ecclesiastical politics. Quite simply, it was a compromise on an earlier occasion of something like this is been suggested to Paul we would leave expected Paul to react indignantly as he did in Antioch when Peter payment compromised by moving away from the Gentiles at meal times in order to sit only with the Jews in the kosher food. Yet, this was far, far worse, Peter was caught in a hypocritical position. This was worse than hypocrisy, though it was that this was a compromise of the very gospel apostle Paul Graves, writer of the New Testament books it would said you must believe that Jesus Christ has fulfilled the law and our salvation is in him was now about to go after the Jewish Temple in the presence of the very pre-suet crucified the Lord in their participate with others in the sacrifice of an animal that was meant to take place in it is turning his back on the sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ.
All I know is Paul made his way up to Jerusalem on this last journey that he wasn't thinking of these things all didn't know that when he got there is compromise was going to be suggested to him that's why God had been warning them not to go.
For that reason primarily but you see, was persisting in his own way and so when the great test came, he wasn't really able to stand against it always that way when were out of the will of God and going our own way. We hear the temptation and we don't even understand it is a temptation we say well there's something to be said for that. Maybe that's what I should do so. The stand that we should take is undermined the gospel that we should defend is eroded interesting, you know, to see how God dealt with this. If you read this carefully you'll find that there were these seven days of purification and that it was at the end of the days of purification of the offering that is a sacrifice, was to be made when you read verse 27 on the seven days were nearly over. Jews would come from Asia softball at the temple. They stirred up the crowd there was a riot. Paul was arrested, God is the God of circumstances. So God was certainly active in the circumstances, and it was God's way of saying this is the point beyond which I will not let my disobedient servant go all may have been willing to compromise. But God was not going to allow Paul to go up to the temple and have a sacrifice of blood sacrifice an animal made for him and for his sins. When Jesus was the one with taken away as sin and Paul was saved by that faith. So the riot came Paul was arrested and placed in the authority of Romans, and eventually transported to the capital letter happens, yet I do want to say this, you know, in spite of the fact that this is what we would at least have to call a low point in the life of the apostle Paul, one that is reflected quite often in our own lives to it nevertheless did not and Paul's usefulness and people have pointed out, and I think quite likely that a Paul and not been arrested, he would not have the opportunities that he did have testified to the grace of Jesus Christ this point on the point of his arrest refinement Paul testifying in one exalted setting. After another first chapter 23 to the Sanhedrin that he didn't wouldn't of heard it unless he had been in the situation, but they did give a testimony before these leaders of his nation.
Secondly, before Felix the King in chapter 24.
Thirdly, before King Festus in chapter 25 fourth before King Agrippa in chapter 26, and finally the very end of the letter after chapter 27 that describes the ship journey to Rome and the rectifying Paul in the care of the Roman guard the Imperial guard in the capital and there is testifying to the soldiers, which as we know from his writing to the Philippians eventually cause the gospel to spread throughout the entire palace those days some of the royal family actually came to know Christ and become Christians.
So the worse great opportunity in the business to look at the 23rd chapter verse 11, you find that in spite of all this happened was another vision.
One night, in which the Lord himself stood near Paul and said, I quote, take courage, as you've testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.
I love that because you see, in spite of the disobedience of Paul and his willfulness. The Lord is aware is not bringing this up to his face still flaunted Adam here on this occasion, rather the Lord appears to them not in condemnation but in encouragement saying cheer up Paul take courage as I have many things for you to do yet.
The time is coming when you'll testify for me, even in Rome that takes me back to those other biblical characters. I mentioned that the start of the message that are dealt with in the book from which I got the title was characters like Moses and Samson Jonah David Peter many many others.
It is an interesting thing is in it. When you read their stories, you find that in spite of their sin and failures. In some cases indeed and all of those cases sins and failures were far greater and much more extensive than those of the apostle Paul fact that they seconded not in their usefulness, but rather God worked in them once again blessed.
Not only them but those to whom they ministered Moses certainly paid a price for his mistake. He spent 40 years in the desert as an alien. The time came when God sent him back and he became the great leader of the people and the one through whom he gave the law.
Samson SC sins at the end of his story is a note of triumph were told. As we read that in the book of the judges he killed more of the enemies of Israel in his death that he had killed even in his lifetime Jonah. Jonah ran away from the Lord. But the word of the Lord came to Jonah 2nd time and said to them, go to Nineveh, that great city and preach the message that I did the end Jonah went and revival followed so with David.
David repented he had many more useful years. Peter, though he denied the Lord became the power of the Holy Spirit led by Christ, a great great witness.
Indeed, the apostle to the Jews.
Even as Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles. I say that because you and I fall we sinned where willful as all these biblical characters seem to of been we should take encouragement from their stories back that we have sin doesn't mean that we have eliminated our transfer usefulness in Christ service.
Rather, it gives us an opportunity for him to display his great grace where we deal with others who have been entrapped in sin or who have failed for one reason or another where to approach them. Not in that spirit of superiority because we are not superior, not in any way, but the spirit of humility and helpfulness in order to strengthen them.
Apostle Paul himself wrote about that to the Galatians the very beginning of chapter 6, he said you know when a brother is overtaken in the sin, it should be your duty to restore such a one I condemn them but restore him, considering yourself as Paul blessed.
You also be tempted. All that really says is that in this business of living the Christian life. We need one another. There times. Indeed, when one is strong and another's week one is off the path but another is on it. That's when we need each other because the Holy Spirit works through us. Each one.
We are build up as the body of Christ to be more like him and to serve him increasingly well. Trust that God will do that with us and might bless us now and in the days ahead as he blessed Paul spray.
Father, we thank you, even for these stories which tell us they do. Quite frankly of the failures of your people. We thank you because though they fail. You fail not with us what we are faithless, you are faithful and you keep us and lead us and are able abundantly to forgive and restore, so father granted we might learn from that become men and women who operate that way with one another, build us up. Granted we might have a sense of our need for one another so that as we live the Christian life, and above all, as we serve in the life and fellowship of the church such as this, we might shouldn't again and again goad one another on the good works and so increasingly please the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen. You are listening to the Bible study hour with the Bible teaching of Dr. James Boyce listener supported ministry of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals. The alliance exists to promote a biblical understanding and worldview. Drawing upon the insight and wisdom of reformed theologians from decades and even centuries gone by. We seek to provide Christian teaching that will equip believers to understand and meet the challenges and opportunities of our time and place.
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