Courage in the Face of Impending Danger

Acts 21:1 – 21:26

A.  Relentless progress  v. 1-14  (Holy Spirit in the foreground)

1.  fixed goal  20:16, 22; v. 4, 15

determined to go to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost

2.  ministry mindset  v. 4-5

      while the ship was unloading, used the time for ministering, not sightseeing

      can be seen by the response to his leaving – quite a relationship established in only 7 days

3.  firm convictions  v. 13-14

      refused to be dissuaded from his mission

      both at Miletus and at Caesarea, involved an emotional parting

1.    After they “had torn [themselves] away” (ἀποσπάω, apospaō) from the elders at Miletus

2.    Paul’s response to this pleading was to ask, “Why are you weeping and breaking (συνθρύπτω, synthryptō) my heart?” The word for “breaking” means “to break up” or “to pound,” and was often used of the practice of washing clothes by pounding them with stones. Paul sincerely felt the pain of his friends, but was determined that the Spirit wanted him to continue the journey to Jerusalem.  College Press NTC

      conflicting messages??

3.    Paul told by the Holy Spirit to go to Jerusalem, not knowing what to expect other than “chains and tribulations”  Act_20:22-23

4.    Disciples at Tyre told Paul “through the Spirit” not to go  Act_21:4

5.    Told by Agabus to expect being delivered to the Gentiles  Act_21:11

6.    Encouraged by those in Caesarea and his traveling companions not to go to Jerusalem  Act_21:12

7.   consistent message, conflicting interpretation

      Paul had been told by the Lord to expect suffering; see Act_9:15-16

      revelation or premonition given to others was misinterpreted

      warning/revelation was to prepare Paul and his acquaintances, to help them recognize that it was part of God’s purpose and plan

4.  motivating message  v. 16

      Paul’s courage was such that some from the church at Caesarea went along with the missionary party to Jerusalem.

      They were inspired not only to accompany Paul but also to be identified with him in a dangerous situation.

      It is important to note that although Paul did not shrink from danger and suffering, neither did he provoke or try to hasten it.  He had his plans, followed them, pursued his business in Jerusalem as if he expected all to be well.

5.  Gospel parallels

The words ‘The will of the Lord be done,’ (Act_21:14) which end the account of the journey, irresistibly call up to our mind the scene in Gethsemane, where the prayer of the Lord was ‘Not my will but thine be done.’ There too his soul was sorrowful even unto death, as here Paul’s heart was breaking.  Again the words, they shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles, exactly express the critical act in the Jews’ rejection of their Messiah.  These coincidences force us to conclude that while Luke is describing Paul’s victory over the temptation to abandon his purpose, he has in mind the last journey of the Lord to Jerusalem and his preparation for the passion which culminated in Gethsemane.  This at once gives significance to a number of other coincidences in the narrative of the present journey, which by themselves would have escaped notice.  Accordingly, we observed that as the Lord uttered three prophecies of his passion, so the Spirit three times warns Paul.  Paul kneeled and prayed like the Lord in Gethsemane.  The mention of kneeling is the more remarkable, as standing was the usual attitude of prayer.

Like the Lord Jesus, Paul is carried before the Sanhedrin and smitten on the mouth; the multitude of the people cry out Away with him; his fellow-countrymen deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles; he is accused before the Roman governor, and stands before a Herod; his accusers are the same, the Sadducean high-priesthood, as also the counts of the indictment which culminate in the charge of treason against Caesar; three times he is pronounced to have done nothing worthy of death, yet he narrowly escapes a scourging, and the governor leaves him bound in order to please the Jews.  …This resemblance is not due to arbitrary invention.  It is the natural working out of a law which had been enunciated by the Lord Himself: ‘as the master, so shall the servant be.’  Richard Rackham, Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles

B.  Missions Report  v. 17-20  (Holy Spirit in the background)

1.  warm welcome

      perhaps in part because of the benevolent gift

      not the primary reason since Luke does not mention it

      more a “family” reunion, that of brothers

2.  details conveyed

      report on growth in the Gentile church during Paul’s 2nd and 3rd journey

      broadening of the base in Asia Minor

      expansion into Macedonia, Greece and Italy

      correspondence – 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Romans

      growth in size, strength and spirituality

– accomplished by God through:

a.  personal apostolic/pastoral visits

b.  godly leadership

c.  correspondence

3.  thankful rejoicing

      recognized God @ work

      only divine power could explain the details of Paul’s report

      acknowledged Paul as a legitimate co-laborer – you see brother

      saw God @ work among Jews as well as Gentiles

C.  Attempted diplomacy  v. 21-26

1.  misinformation  v. 21-22

      Diaspora Jews had spread slander about Paul with some apparent success

      The letter written by the “Jerusalem Council” had not settled the issues – it was being presented as a “wedge” to separate Jews-among-Gentiles from other Jews

      Paul’s presence could not be kept secret and would likely serve to stir up the controversy

      Something needed to be done to keep a lid on emotions

2.  object lesson  v. 23-24

      Pay the expenses of those who have completed a Nazirite vow – male and female lamb, a ram, cereal and drink offerings  Num_6:14-15 – to be offered along with their hair

      Paul’s assistance and participation would show that the rumors were false, that he was living in accordance with the law

3.  legitimate “compromise”  v. 25-26

      James and the elders’ position was not to renege on the previous agreement

      The goal was to gain unity between various factions within the church

      Paul went the extra mile, undergoing purification himself, probably because of his extended time among Gentiles

      immovable on doctrine, humble on personal practice

  followed the counsel of James and the elders
  all things to all men that he might win some
  doing what would be helpful without violating his conscience even though it wasn’t required

D.  Christ’s Church and His Gospel above all

      a “whatever it takes” mindset regarding the advance of Christ’s kingdom

      a calculated disregard for personal convenience or safety – we are immortal until our work is done

      a commitment to “truth in love”   Eph_4:15

      a determination for genuine unity wherever possible

In extreme fundamentalism, every doctrine is a hill to die on. Music (worship), dress, Bible versions (KJVO), personal separation (i.e. no movie attendance, alcohol, tobacco, gambling), believer’s baptism, pre-tribulational rapture — all of these are lined up right next to the Trinity, justification by grace through faith alone, inspiration, inerrancy, the virgin birth, etc. In short, every doctrine is essential, no doctrines are merely secondary. If God says it, I believe it, and that settles it!

I’m not claiming we shouldn’t stand for secondary doctrines. They are important. But they are not what the kingdom of God is all about (Rom. 14:17-20). In all our defense of truth, let us make sure we are not belittling the place of the Gospel in our system of thought. Make sure the Gospel towers above your horizon as your defining reality and the focus of your faith and of your life.

      “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.”  Augustine


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