Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg

with Tom Fuller

Walking Headlong into Trouble

Acts 21:1-40

Did trouble take Paul by surprise? It shouldn?t have. Back in Acts 9, right at his conversion, Jesus made it clear to then Saul what his future would be like. He told Ananias, who was sent to pray for Saul, ?Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.?


He?s been before the Gentiles and the Jews?and suffered for it through riots and beatings and stoning and even shunning. But he has yet to appear before kings. Now he is going to get that opportunity, first to King Agrippa and eventually the emperor of the Roman Empire.


But Paul can?t simply make a call to the emperor?s secretary and get some face time with the big guy. To get there he must go through some pretty intense and terrifying trouble. In the past, Paul hasn?t really known what lay in store for him in the various cities where he travelled. His time, though, he gets the word over and over that Jerusalem spells danger. Most reasonable people would probably avoid the place, but not Paul. He goes forward despite some well meaning folks? best efforts.


His attitude teaches us when trouble comes around the corner in our lives.


1 ? 4


It?s interesting that the people told him not to go but it was God?s will for him to go (20:22 ? ?I am going to Jerusalem, constrained (?bound?) by the Spirit, not knowing what happen to me there.?). The people heard of Paul?s future trouble and concluded that God would not want him to experience it.


5 ? 6


This is such a tender moment. Luke notes how not just the elders but their entire families went with them to the ship, knelt on the beach and prayed, sending him off to who knows what!


7 ? 9


This is thought to be the same Philip who preached to the Ethiopian eunuch in chapter 8 and was one of the first deacons.


10 ? 16


Agabus also predicted a famine in Jerusalem in chapter 11, 15 years earlier. All Agabus could do was tell the truth, it was up to Paul to decide how to respond. As pastors, we can lead people to the truth but cannot constrain them to obey God. Interesting that Agabus uses the same Greek word that Paul used when he said he was ?bound? by the Spirit.


14 ? Luke too didn?t want Paul to go. Paul had walked away from other fights (like in Ephesus) but here he won?t. Paul was not suicidal or masochistic, he was obedient.


17 ? 26


James here is Jesus? half brother, not the disciple James, who was martyred.


Josephus reports that this time (A.D. 56-57) was full of political upheaval in Jerusalem, with lots of uprisings and Jewish nationalism, all put down by Governor Felix. Paul, with a mission to the Gentiles, would not be greeted warmly, even by Jewish believers, who were zealous for their countrymen.


There is no evidence that Paul told Jews not to do things like get circumcised. He had Timothy, who had a Jewish mother, get circumcised. But for Gentiles, he communicated no such practice.


The Jerusalem council had already settled the matter of how Gentile Christians should act. They should abstain from sexual immorality and things sacrificed to idols. Nothing about following the laws and customs of Moses, including circumcision. But in order for Paul to show he was not going against the council, which wanted Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians to live in harmony.


Instead of being strong and denouncing the rumor mongers, the council wanted Paul to pay the expenses of some folks who?d taken a Nazirite vow.


So was Paul under the law or not? No, but he bent to some non-essentials in order to win the Jews.


1 Corinthians 9:20-23 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. ESV


The restatement of the council?s decision 8 years ago may just have been to assure Paul that they hadn?t changed their mind.


Paul had done more for the kingdom than any of these men in terms of influence and conversions and churches started. Yet he did not flaunt it but submitted humbly to their request. But I wonder if their request to have him go to the temple was what actually sparked the riot that gets him arrested! The seven days we?re going to see next were the 7 days of the completion of the Nazirite vow.


27 ? 36


Notice who is causing the uproar? The same Jews who caused Paul problems in Asia Minor. Claudius Lysias was the commander of the cohort (part of a Roman legion) that numbered perhaps 1,000 men. They were quick to investigate any uproar in the city. There were perhaps 200 soldiers that went to rescue Paul (plural ?officers? ? centurions, each in charge of around 100 men). It actually saved Paul?s life!


Their shouts of ?away with him!? were almost identical to what the Jews cried out to Pontius Pilate about Jesus in Luke 23.


37 ? 40


Josephus wrote about this Egyptian, who led thousands of Jews to the Mount of Olives. He said that at his command the walls of Jerusalem would fall and that would signal the end of the Roman Empire. Lysias intervened and hundreds of Jews were killed ? the Egyptian disappeared into the desert.




1. Can suffering be God?s will for us?


In Matthew 14:22-27 Jesus sent his disciples out onto the Sea of Galilee knowing a storm would come up and threaten their very lives. He told Saul that suffering was coming at his conversion in chapter 9.


Jesus told us we would face difficulty:


John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.\" NKJV


Then there?s always Job. Contrary to popular belief, suffering is just a part of life here in a fallen creation and even serving the King of Kings. God uses suffering in a whole variety of ways. It works patience in us (James 1), it is used as a witness to others (Job), it draws us closer to God (Phil 3:10).


2. How should we act when we know suffering awaits us?


- Don?t try to avoid it (like Jonah) but seek to glorify God in it

- Use the time as you wait to walk in the power of the Spirit and not the flesh

1 Peter 4:1-2 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. NIV

- Look beyond the suffering to the glory


2 Timothy 4:6-8 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day ? and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. NIV

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. NKJV


3. How should we act when we find that suffering awaits someone else?


Peter reacted badly when Jesus foretold of suffering in Mark 8:31-33. Peter concluded that suffering and rejection could not be in God?s plan. Jesus rebuked him saying that shortcutting God?s plan does the work of Satan rather than God.


- Go with them (Paul was accompanied by caring people on his journey)

- Draw near them (Genuine loving farewells connote close physical contact, don?t shy away from someone who is having a hard time)

- Pray for them that they will endure trial with patience and that God will be glorified, not necessarily that they would be spared.

- Provide comfort and assistance to them when needed (stayed with friends).

Is this not what the Lord does for us as well?


? Go: ?I will never leave you nor forsake you? (Hebrews 13:5)

? Draw near: ?Draw near to God and He will draw near to you? (James 4:8)

? Pray: ?The Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26)

? Provide: ?Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction? (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

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