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By Pastor Glenn Pease
When Irving Berlin visited London as a young man he gave the doorman at the station the largest tip of his life.
He did it because when he held the door open for him he was whistling, "Alexander's Ragtime Band."
That was Berlin's first big hit.
That doorman was in the right place at the right time doing the right thing.
On the other hand, there was Mike Maryn in Chicago who had been mugged 83 times in 5 years.
He had been mugged by men, women, and by youth.
The police didn't know why.
All they could say was, "He happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Paul gives us a picture of another possibility, and that is of being in the right place at the wrong time.
He was in the temple doing good, but he was recognized by an enemy who started a riot.
Paul got into serious trouble even when he did everything right.
There are those who dispute whether Paul was right in coming to Jerusalem.
Ray Stedman, for example, is convinced that Paul made a major mistake in his stubborn determination to come to Jerusalem.
He was warned by people led of the Spirit, and he should have given heed to their warnings.
He didn't do so, and it led to two years of imprisonment in Caesarea and three years imprisonment in Rome.
It was all unnecessary waste says Stedman, and so Paul's problems could have been prevented had he been open to friendly advice.
The problem with such criticism of Paul is that is ignores the fact that Acts 20:27 says that Paul was compelled by the Holy Spirit to go to Jerusalem, and that he was fully aware of the risks that awaited him.
We have to accept the testimony of God's Word and see that Paul was in the center of God's will.
He was doing what was good and right, and yet was nearly buried under an avalanche of problems.
Joseph Parker feels that the church leaders were the ones making a mistake in expecting Paul to have to prove himself to the Jewish Christians.
Paul was God's man, and the Holy Spirit had used him mightily to open up the Gentile world to the Gospel.
What business was it of there's to impose their ceremonial nonsense on Paul?
It is easy to feel this way for us who are Gentiles, but the fact is, Paul did not present one word of resistance.
This man of deep conviction, who withstood Peter to his face on an issue where Peter was falsely compromising, did not say a word to this proposal for peace, but he calmly cooperated.
Who has the authority to call this a mistake?
Paul was seeking unity with the largest Christian church in the world, and the headquarters of Christianity.
It was a sensible move.
Paul recognized when there were times when you have to cooperate with fellow Christians on issues over which you disagree, but which are not vital to salvation.
I think of Billy and Ruth Graham.
Here is the world's most famous Baptist married to a Presbyterian.
Many of Billy's friend urged Ruth to be re-baptized by immersion.
In spite of the pressure she declined.
So Billy has had to live with love, and cooperate with a wife who has a different conviction from his own.
It is probably led to some problems, but it has also opened up doors for him in different denominations.
Problems are not a valid criteria by which we judge the rightness or wrongness of actions, or the success or failure of a plan.
You cannot say that if you do all that God wills that there will be no problems.
That does not fit reality.
Paul's life was problem oriented from the moment he stepped on to the stage of history.
He was a major problem to the Christians as he persecuted them.
He then became a major problem to the Jews when he was converted.
He was always somebody's problem, and so he had problems wherever he went.
He was in Jerusalem as a peacemaker, and he was in the temple proving he was a lover of the Jewish heritage, and still he became the center of a vicious riot that almost ended his life.
He was trying to solve a problem and became the cause of a larger problem.
Erick Sevareid was right when he said, "The chief cause of problems is solutions."
Paul was not causing a problem because he was a proud and presumptuous Christian who thought he was above the law.
He was not like the one who was driving an evangelist down the streets of Los Angeles when the evangelist shouted, "You are going down a one way street the wrong way!"
He responded, "It's okay.
We are children of the king, and so we have the right of way."
We can understand such a Christian getting into serious trouble.
But Paul gets into trouble even when he is being an ideal law abiding citizen.
He is bending over backwards to please everybody.
He is trying to please the Jewish leaders of the church, and he is trying to please the thousands of Jewish converts to Christianity who have heard false rumors that he is anti-Moses.
Paul is a totally cooperative spirit, and yet he still gets into serious trouble.
In My Fair Lady Eliza Doolittle sang of the need for action rather than words.
Words, Words, Words!
I'm so sick of words!
I get words all day through.
First from him, now from you!
Is that all you blighters can do?
Don't talk of stars burning above
If you're in love, show me!
Sing me no song!
Read me no rhyme!
Don't waste my time, show me!
Don't talk of June!
Don't talk of fall!
Don't talk at all! Show me!
This is what the leaders of the Jerusalem church wanted out of Paul.
They wanted a demonstration of his loyalty to the heritage of Israel.
They did not want a testimony or lecture on loyalty, but they wanted action.
They said, "Show us," and Paul said by his actions of going into the temple with four other men that he was showing his loyalty.
This sincere act of love and cooperation almost got him killed, and it did lead him to spending most of the rest of his life in prison.
We have looked at the theme many times of how God brings good out of evil, but here is a switch where we see evil coming out of good.
As Paul's life unfolds after his arrest, and one court case after another, we see again how good comes out of evil of his imprisonment.
But in our study now we want to focus on this theme of evil coming out of good, and the primary tool Satan uses to make this possible.
Why does it happen that people doing the will of God, and striving to be loving to others, end up in some sort of mess because the whole plan collapses, and folly wins the day?
That is what we see happening to Paul, and it happens to Christians all the time.
Their honest efforts to be peace-makers leads to more conflict.
Paul trying to bring peace produced as much violence that we see anywhere in the New Testament.
The whole plan backfired, and now Paul is the most hated man in town.
People try to pin the blame for this on Paul, or on the leaders of the church in Jerusalem, but these accusations will not hold water.
The real culprit is a sin we seldom consider, but which is one of the most powerful causes for evil suffering in the world.
And all of us are capable of doing it, for it is the sin of slander.
All of the conflict and struggle we see in this chapter, and the rest of Paul's life, has its roots in this sin of slander.
Slander is the defamation character.
It is a false report, oral or written, maliciously designed to injure the reputation of another.
This was a popular sin in Jerusalem, and Paul was the victim.
In verse 21 we see that the Christian Jews had been informed that Paul taught all the Jews among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, and to stop circumcising their children, and to cease living according to Jewish customs.
In other words, Paul was slanderously accused of being anti-Semitic.
The Christians believed this false report to some degree, or there would have been no need to device a plan to prove it was not so.
What we have here is an innocent man who has to prove he is innocent because he is being held guilty until proven innocent.
It is the Christians belief in the false witness against Paul that led to all the problems.
Slander cannot be effective without those with willing ears to listen.
If such ears are available, there is no escape from the evil power of slander.
Moliere said, "There is no protection against slander."
The Bible supports this statement by its frequent denunciation of false witness because it is such a dangerous and serious sin that can hurt even the best of people.
It is number 9 of the 10 Commandments: "Thou shalt not bear false witness."
2. David's major conflict is that false witnesses rose up against him.
Among the 6 things that God hates in Prov.
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