In Isolation Thoughts 2

Hymn: Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine

Bible Reading: Acts 21. 17-36

Arrival, Acclaim and Arrest

After all that he and endured, enjoyed and experienced, at last Paul arrives in Jerusalem. Not his first visit but it was to be his last, it was a significant point in his life, in that he had gone out preaching the Gospel initially to Jews and now had returned from a mission where he had included the Gentiles converts to the church. Probably at this time there were more Gentile Christians than Jewish converts, but the old habits were hard to put off and the new way, in Christ, was to be seen as more relevant to eternal life. There was a new way, as initiated by Jesus to supersede the Mosaic customs and practices, which had completed their purpose, to point to Christ, and the teaching of Jesus was prevalent and life giving. The sacrifice routines were no longer needed, a final sacrifice, a perfect sacrifice had been offered, the Son of God, Jesus Christ had died, risen again and ascended back into heaven, with a promise to return in glory.

Paul meets the church leaders in Jerusalem, it appears that James was the leader of the church, but Paul was welcomed by all of the elders. First, Paul gave an updated account of his ministry and journeys. The elders were delighted to hear how the message of Jesus had spread across the world, that many had come to faith in Christ. They gave God the glory and praise for this evangelism.

They had to be fair to Paul, so raised a matter of some hearsay, it concerned religious practices. They pointed out that many Jews had come to faith in Christ, they were zealous followers of the Mosaic laws, and claimed that Paul had been teaching that certain things were unnecessary and to be avoided. The rumour was that Paul had teaching that following their conversion, it was no longer necessary to practice circumcism or follow the Jewish customs. Having outlined the issue, they asked Paul how should they deal with it. It would soon be common knowledge that Paul had arrived, they wanted to be prepared for the attack that would certainly come from the orthodox Jewish converts who still held to their practices. No doubt Paul explained what he had been teaching, that the accusation was untrue and he was simply encouraging the Gentile believers to be careful in their lives and practices. They were used to totally different religious worship in the pagan temples. They had to be united in the new way of worship which centred on the ‘Breaking of Bread’ remembrance instituted by Jesus at the Passover in Jerusalem, just before His crucifixion.

The elders suggested that Paul joined four men who were taking a vow, pay the necessary expenses and follow the ritual of purification. This would ensure there was evidence that he was not telling Jews to ignore the laws. The purification rite was not an essential to either the OT law or NT teaching, but a way of showing unity with others. The elders also reminded Paul that they had written to Gentile believers with guidance on daily life, that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from eating blood and animal killed by strangulation. They should also refrain for the sexual practices of their old religions. Paul was willing to do this vow, accepted that the advice given to the Gentile was correct and joined the four men in their purification.

It would seem that the advice being followed was successful, but there came the inevitable problem, Jews from Asia arrived in Jerusalem and saw Paul in the Temple. They were groups from the areas that he had visited and men who had opposed him, stirred up ill-feeling and led the mini- revolts against the gospel preaching. Now they did the same in Jerusalem. They stirred up the people, using the same accusation, he teaches against our law and ways, he brings Greeks into the Temple. This was enough to cause the riot, again the accusation was untrue, the Greek Tophimus had been in the city with Paul and they assumed he had been taken by Paul into the Temple. They put two and two together and came up with five!!

It was enough, just as the crowd some years previously had been stirred to shout ‘Crucify’ at Jesus, they now had a new focus and it was Paul. They dragged Paul from the Temple and closed the gates, they were out to kill him. They had forgotten that the Romans were still in power and controlled the city, the noise attracted their attention and they came onto the scene, the assault on Paul ceased and he was arrested by the Roman Commander. The Commander tried to make sense of what was happening, but as usual there was confusion, conflicting accusations were made, it was impossible to resolve. The Commander took the simple way out, left them arguing and tool Paul back to the barracks to confine him for his own safety and also to allow proper consideration of the accusations. The riot did not cease, in fact it got worse, the soldiers had to surround Paul and carry him to the barracks, with the mob chanting, ‘Get rid of him!’

In this incident, we see how Jesus changes lives for all people, Jews and Gentiles. The old way of life is no longer part of the new life. Faith in Christ changes everything, old practices must stop and the new walk of faith begins in Christ. We can expect opposition from without and within as people prefer stability and not change, but essence of the Christian life is change as we follow Christ and His guidance. There is also the lesson that we should look for and test the truth, not make decisions on hearsay, flimsy evidence and crowd pleasing. Paul shows us how, with the power of God, we can stand firm, it may be unpleasant, it may be painful, but we must always stand for the truth. From Stephen to the present day, there have been and are Christians standing for the faith who are in prison, have been killed, ostracised and exiled. How strong is your faith and are you depending wholly on Christ?

Prayer

Hymn: Guide me O Thou great Redeemer


Page last updated: 26th June 2021 8:23 PM
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