Well, it’s been a few weeks since we were last looking at the book of Acts, but today we are going to jump back into it! Today, we are just at the end of Acts chapter 21 – and the end of Paul’s third missionary journey. Along the way, Paul has been repeatedly warned by the Holy Spirit that imprisonment and suffering await him in Jerusalem.
And when I say “warned by the Holy Spirit” – that doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit was trying to stop him or to get him to change direction, but rather, the Holy Spirit was preparing Paul (and the other believers) for what was about to happen. Paul was about to face some major persecution, and God wasn’t warning Him so that he could avoid that, but God was warning Him so that He would able to endure and be confident in God’s leading through that persecution.
Understandably, Paul’s friends didn’t want to see any harm come to Paul, and so they urged him not to go on to Jerusalem. But Paul knew that Jerusalem was exactly where God wanted him to be – regardless of any suffering that he might endure. By this point in his life, I think Paul knew that sometimes God allows and even leads us through great suffering so that even greater things can be accomplished in our lives and in the lives of others.
And so, Paul faithfully obeyed the leading of the Lord and finally arrived in Jerusalem. Upon his arrival, he was warmly greeted by all the Apostles and the other leaders in the church, but his reception among the other Jews was a little less than welcoming.
You see, as Mike shared with us a few weeks ago, the Jews had heard rumours that Paul had completely abandoned and rejected his Jewish heritage and was teaching others to do likewise – which was a pretty major issue for the Jews!
But those rumours simply were not true. Of course, Paul certainly taught that being Jewish wasn’t required for salvation – God’s free gift was available to anyone simply through faith in Jesus Christ. That meant that gentiles didn’t have to follow all the Jewish laws and traditions to be saved, but at the same time, the Jews weren’t forced to abandon all their Jewish practices to be saved either!
And so, to help alleviate the Jew’s concerns that Paul was now anti-Jewish – the church counselled Paul to take part of a Jewish purification ritual – which would show that, while Paul was not counting on his Jewish-ness for salvation, as a Jew, he could still honour God through some of those Jewish practices!
And so Paul did exactly that – and that’s where we’re going to pick up the story today.
So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to start in Acts chapter 21 – verse 26.