Paul Faced Persecution in Jerusalem
Book of Acts Chapter 21
As the children of God we must be willing to face difficulties and dangers to be a faithful witness for the Lord.
Those that have not seen persecution will surely see it. Yes, even here in America.
Even our own government is trying to silence the Church today.
The Apostle Paul is probably the most persecuted missionary who witnessed for the Lord Jesus Christ!
Most every man of God and every friend of Paul, tried to warn Paul of the harm that would come to him if he went to Jerusalem.
What was Paul’s answer to these things?
Act 21:13 Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.
Act 21:14 And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.
Paul was determined to go to Jerusalem.
We might ask ourselves why Paul would do such a thing and there is no answer except that everything happens for a reason.
Things in Jerusalem started well as the brethren, those who were saved, the Church in Jerusalem, received Paul and those with him gladly.
Paul was warmly received.
*Act 21:17 And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.
Act 21:18 And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.
Paul had a great desire for his fellow Jews to be saved and it is probably this desire that pushed Paul to do the things he did in Jerusalem.
Paul also knew he would not be able to witness for Jesus in Jerusalem unless there was peace.
This being true, then Paul would have to compromise in order to reach those who opposed him.
What Paul did not know was, that they were never going to receive him!
The church in Jerusalem welcomed Paul gladly.
This was probably an unofficial welcome by just a few of his brothers and sisters in Christ.
Next Paul would meet with James the stepbrother of Jesus Christ, the pastor of the church in Jerusalem, and the elders of that church.
These men formed the government of this church, and it was these men who needed to hear the results of Paul’s mission trip.
Paul went in with those who had traveled with him.
We know that this church had not tried to help the Apostle Paul, but there were good reasons because this was a church of people who were excommunicated from the Jewish society.
This was an extremely poor church.
It was Paul who brought the love offering from the Gentile churches to help these in Jerusalem.
We should notice that none of the Apostles are mentioned, and we would think that Luke would have mentioned it if they were there.
Paul had with him all those that had helped him in this work for Christ, in hope they would get some recognition for how they had contributed, but at this time not all the church was called together.
Paul recognized the elders of this church.
*Act 21:19 And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.
After Paul recognized these elders, then the Apostle Paul gave God the glory for the accomplishments that were made, and the souls that were saved.
It had been at least five years since Paul had been in Jerusalem and much work had brought many accomplishments in the name of Christ Jesus.
Many churches had been planted and each one had elders just as this church in Jerusalem.
Since he had saluted the Church, when he had probably seen James last, he had labored at Antioch, in Galatia and Phrygia, and had wrought a mighty revolution in Asia.
He had consolidated his work in Macedonia and Achaia; he had held his visitation of Gentile elders in Miletus; he had visited Tyre, Ptolemais, and Caesarea, great Gentile cities, and had seen everywhere astonishing tokens of the grace of God which was with him. And now he pours his tale into the ears of the chief pastor of the mother Church of Jerusalem, and those of the Jewish elders.
It is at this time that James and the elders praised the Lord for what He had done.
It is James who points out some things of the saved Jews.
James also points out that they still were zealous of Moses’ Laws.
We should also notice that there was no unfriendliness shown to Paul or these with him.
*Act 21:20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:
Act 21:21 And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.
These that remained zealous for the Law were some of the same ones who caused problems in the Church.
Still yet, there was not much printed material in the teaching of the New Testament Church and the truths of God.
As Paul later began to write the New Testament, he wrote many things about the Law.
That word “particularly” in verse nineteen means, one by one, in great detail, step by step, Paul described all the things that had happened.
It is always good for the Church to know these things!
Paul gave all the credit to God, and James and these elders they also glorified God, as we all should.
1) Churches should be informed of mission trips in great detail.
2) God alone should be recognized and credited as the One who caused the work to be a success.
That is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (Holy Ghost).
3) God alone should get all the praise for what was done and what was accomplished.
Joh 15:8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
These are things that make God happy!
3Jn 1:3 For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.
3Jn 1:4 “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth”.
If we want to make God happy, then we should walk in the truth of God!
After all these things are said and God is praised and glorified, then James and these elders asked Paul to compromise.
We are taught to never compromise when speaking the message of God.
Thousands of Jewish believers were disturbed with the preaching of the Apostle Paul, but Paul preached the truth of God!
What did James suggest to the Apostle Paul?
*Act 21:22 What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come.
Act 21:23 Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them;
Act 21:24 Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law.
What we see is, that most of these Jewish Christians refused to give up the ritualism in which they had been brought up.
Remember ritualism has nothing to do with salvation, and in fact, could be considered detrimental to “faith”.
Many of these Jews were still zealous of the Laws of Moses, and considered them too important than to just give them up.
If not cleared up, these things can warp our judgment!
We might ask ourselves, what is bigotry?
Bigotry consists in being obstinately and perversely attached to our own opinions, or, as some have defined it, “a tenacious adherence to a system adopted without investigation and defended without argument; accompanied with a malignant, intolerant spirit towards all who differ.”
These Jews were suffering from bigotry!
The Church is suffering from democratic bigotry in our own nation today!
It is this bigotry that had kept the truth of Grace from being received by all!
We should understand that some twenty-five years have passed since the church in Jerusalem had been formed.
There had been plenty of time for these zealous people to learn the Gospel facts!
It goes to show us that once false teaching enters a church, it can be hard to get rid of.
Bigotry still exists in the Church today!
It is true that we need peace in the Church!
We know that Paul had circumcised Timothy to keep the peace when it was not necessary for Timothy to be circumcised, because salvation comes by the “Grace” of God through “faith”.
Paul had never preached that the Jews should give up the Law, but Paul had preached that the Gentiles were not to observe the Laws of Moses.
You see we are not to become Jews, to then become Christians, and this is the message that would have been sent to the Church.
1Co 7:18 Is any man called being circumcised? let him not become uncircumcised. Is any called in uncircumcision? let him not be circumcised.
1Co 7:19 Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God.
1Co 7:20 Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.
Paul had his way about certain things:
1Co 9:20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
1Co 9:21 To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.
1Co 9:22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
1Co 9:23 And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
1Co 9:24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
There were four men who had made the vow of the Nazarene and Paul was asked to join them.
We are never to compromise on the Word of God, but if we have the love of Jesus within us, then we should work on ways to settle social discords.
**Paul joined these Nazarites, not as a slave to human ordinances, but in the light of Christian liberty!
1Co 6:12 All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
**Paul joined these Nazarites in the spirit of brotherly love!
Rom 15:1 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
Rom 15:2 Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.
Rom 15:3 For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.
**Paul joined these Nazarites in the spirit of conciliation!
1Co 9:1 Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?
1Co 9:2 If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.
1Co 9:3 Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,
1Co 9:4 Have we not power to eat and to drink?
1Co 9:5 Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?
1Co 9:6 Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?
1Co 9:7 Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?
1Co 9:8 Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?
It was clearly understood that the Gentiles who came to the Lord by the “Grace of God”, would not be asked to do such things as this.
*Act 21:25 As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.
James wanted Paul to know that nothing had changed since the Council of Jerusalem where these things of the Gentiles had been established.
What had James written?
Act 15:20 But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.
We can see the integrity of James the half-brother of our Lord, making sure the Gentiles would not get caught up in this Jewish bigotry.
Paul followed through with this discussion with James and the church elders, but even this trouble came from the Judaizers, who traveled to the places where Paul preached just to cause him trouble.
There are people in America today who are on Soros’s payroll, who travel from city to city just to stir up trouble especially during protest.
They are not protesters; they are law breakers seeking to cause damage to a free America and push socialism and communism!
*Act 21:26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.
Act 21:27 And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him,
Act 21:28 Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place.
Act 21:29 (For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)
Paul yielded to the advice of James and those church elders against his own judgment.
To us here today, this advice would seem to carnal wisdom rather than Spiritual wisdom.
Paul would seem to be something that he was not, making it as if he believed the law was still in force for salvation when it was not.
Salvation is by Grace through faith, and it will remain this way.
What was that old law?
Num 6:13 And this is the law of the Nazarite, when the days of his separation are fulfilled: he shall be brought unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation:
Num 6:14 And he shall offer his offering unto the LORD, one he lamb of the first year without blemish for a burnt offering, and one ewe lamb of the first year without blemish for a sin offering, and one ram without blemish for peace offerings,
Num 6:15 And a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, and wafers of unleavened bread anointed with oil, and their meat offering, and their drink offerings.
To be a Christian, is much better than to claim the law of the Nazarite without these sacrifices!
Paul was an apostle, but he respected the officers of the local church, and he showed respect to their judgment.
We need to understand that the work of God must be done in God’s way!
We must stick to the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ!
If we obey the law of Jesus Christ, we will automatically be obedient to any of those old laws of the Old Testament!
We should be clear, those in Jerusalem had not liked the Apostle Paul since he became a Christian.
This was not going to change! Even the church had some of these people on the inside as we have already seen.
We must never compromise the truth of God!
Those Paul haters were in this church crowd trying to dictate the policy of one of the greatest Christians upon the face of this earth at this time.
Though this thing was not right, Paul was willing to become “all things to all men” that he by any means might save some.
Paul consented to these certain customs of the Jews to prove himself orthodox!
Those who seem to be orthodox are those whose religious opinion is in accordance with some assumed standard!
In other words, it is nothing more than an opinion and it is not the same in all churches.
We must not add to, nor take away from the Word of God at any time in any church!
We must focus on being right in the eyes of Jesus Christ, and not the eyes of public opinion!
As teachers we have one rule and it is to follow the Scriptures and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and not get caught up in orthodoxy.
What is the only truth we need?
Joh 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
Joh 14:7 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.
Joh 18:37 Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.
What is our directive in the Word of God?
2Ti 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
What are we to do?
Rom 16:17 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
Rom 16:18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
Before these seven days were ended, notice it was Jews from Asia who stirred trouble for the Apostle Paul, so it did not matter the thing he was trying to accomplish at the advice of the church in Jerusalem.
Their claim was, that Paul taught against the Jewish nation, a nation Paul loved.
Their claim was that Paul taught against the laws of Moses, which Paul only said keeping those old laws could not bring salvation and that no one could keep all those laws.
Their claim was, that Paul taught against the Temple, which was a Jewish worship center but not a Christian church.
Their claim was that Paul had polluted the Temple by bringing a Gentile into the inner temple, which was a lie.
No uncircumcised person could go beyond the court of the Gentiles.
All these things were lies!
Many a true theologian have suffered disrepute in the name of orthodoxy!
Some of these being Johnathan Edwards, Luther, and many others.
We can understand that outsiders are sometimes guilty of causing trouble in the church, but many times the troubles in the church come from those within the walls of the church, because of the way they interpret Scripture, when God says there is to be no self-interpretation.
The Scriptures speak for themselves rightly divided!
We must never allow customs and rituals to replace the Lord Jesus Christ!
*Act 21:30 And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut.
Act 21:31 And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar.
Act 21:32 Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul.
Again, we see here the providence of God.
God was not through with the Apostle Paul, and God used some unknowing Gentiles to save Paul.
Paul had wanted to go to Rome, and he would soon go there.
The hand of God can be seen to be moving through this whole event.
As the servants of God, we can trust our life to be in God’s hand through all life’s trials and we see it here in the middle of a mob’s attack.
No matter our trial God is working out His will in each believer’s life!
When our job is done here on earth, then God will take us home as he did the Apostle Paul!