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Paul and James

Acts: Christ Builds His Church  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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William Poteet wrote in The Pentecostal Minister how in 1903 the Russian Czar noticed a sentry posted for no apparent reason on the Kremlin grounds. Upon inquiry, he discovered that in 1776 Catherine the Great found there the first flower of spring. "Post a sentry here," she commanded, "so that no one tramples that flower under foot!" Some traditions die hard. 
Leadership, Summer, 1989, p. 43.
TS: Paul has arrived in Jerusalem and gathers with James, Jesus’ brother and pastor of the church, and the elders of the Jerusalem church.
He gathered to share what God had done. The elders offer Paul advise to try and head off conflict with Jewish believers.

1. Fellowship among Brethren

Acts 21:17–18 ESV
17 When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly. 18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.
EX: Paul and James enjoyed fellowship
He paid a courtesy call to James and the elders of the church at Jerusalem
He would have delivered the relief funds collected at this time.
No hierarchy implied and no report was being given to superiors
They were brothers in Christ.
It was a gathering of equals
Fellow servants of God
It was a gathering of equals
different ministries but part of the same Kingdom
AP: Believers share the same fellowship today.
We are united by a common cause, service to our Savior.
Each serve in different ways.
Some are out front and visible
Others are behind the scenes
All share in the work of God
It isn’t only true of just churches, but extends to the whole Kingdom of God.
We are in different churches, communities, and countries
We may have different titles.
All share in the love and grace of God.
That bond is the basis for our fellowship and unity.
Christ is the head.
We are all equals.

2. Glory to God

Acts 21:19–20 ESV
19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law,
EX: Paul put the work of God on display and glorified Him.
EX: Paul put the work of God on display and glorified Him.
Related what God had done
This as a worship service where God was praised.
His mighty deeds and character were on display
One by one
As the apostle to the gentiles, he shared the specifics of God’s work in the Gentile world.
The church in Jerusalem were informed and their conviction that GOD had indeed saved Gentiles was reinforced.
Paul recounted the journeys he had taken and the events which ha unfolded.
AP: We too must give God all of the glory.
As we share the things He has done, the glory is all His.
Never think that our testimony is bragging.
It is praise!
It is declaring what God has done.
We so much for which to give thanks
specifically naming what He has done in our lives.
“Count your blessings, name them one by one”
He is worthy of all praise!
He is higher than the highest
Greater than the great
He is all knowing, all powerful
He is loving and just
Time is too short and we are too frail to ever exhaust the praises due Him.

3. A Rising Conflict

Acts 21:20–21 ESV
20 And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, 21 and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs.
EX: A conflict was rising and would soon come to a head.
EX: A conflict was rising and would soon come to a head.
Problem- 1000’s of Jewish believers
a. zealous for the law
Probably influenced by or even former Pharisees.
held to a more strict custom than requirements of the law.
It was not wrong to keep following it, but there was no need.
They may have been Judaizers.
The Judaizers sect was growing and Paul had dealt with them numerous times.
In The Jerusalem Council had officially settled the issue.
There was no need to be circumcised and follow the law.
However, the problem persisted.
b. misinformed
They had taught/fabricated a lie
They said Paul told Jewish believers to forsake the law.
a. no longer circumcise children
b. no longer walk in customs
They disagreed with how the choices in question.
The problem was: These were clearly lies
Paul had Timothy, a half Jew, circumcised.
Paul had taken a vow of the Nazirite.
He never abandoned his Jewish roots, just recognized that they didn’t save him and that all in Christ are made one.
There was no reason for division between brothers and sisters in Christ based on:
holidays celebrated
AP: If we aren’t cautious, traditions can lead to conflict today.
Tradition is the living faith of those now dead.                                                                          Traditionalism is the dead faith of those still living.
 Jaroslav Pelikan, The Vindication of Tradition, p. 65.
Change is inevitable an unfortunately, people resisting change an having conflict over it is too,
Too often, we elevate traditions to the level of scripture.
If you read my article in the bulletin (or blog) you recall Jesus’ words to the Pharisees in
Mark 7:6–8 ESV
6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”
Some can grow to see violations of tradition as evil as violating the commands of God.
Sadly, it can lead to to violating Scripture in the name of keeping traditions.
When faced with something new, you hear:
“We’ve never done it that way before”
“We’ve always....”
“It was good enough for Momma and Daddy then it should be good enough still.”
If there is no Scriptural reason to resist a change, then we are guilty of fighting for tradition, not GOD.
Possibly even guilty of fighting AGAINST God
Remain focused on God and His word.
That is the the rule and standard
If it is Scriptural, then it is a matter of preference and effectiveness.
In those areas we must be gracious to both sides!
Don’t fall for the trap of focusing on traditions to the point of sowing discord and driving away brothers and sisters.

4. A Wise Solution

Acts 21:22–26 ESV
22 What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. 23 Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; 24 take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law. 25 But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.” 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for each one of them.
EX: Paul was advised to prove the rumor to be a lie.
EX: Paul was advised to prove the rumor to be a lie.
a. Purification - the end of a Nazirite vow.
He was to join the ones finishing a vow.
He paid expenses and purified himself as well.
This was in keeping with Jewish custom and demonstrated that he wasn’t anti-customs.
He would have been viewed as being unclean due to time spent among gentiles.
This would change his condition from ceremonially unclean to clean.
b. Freedom of Gentiles
They reiterated the freedom Gentiles had
No requirement to follow the law.
Their advise was not meant to be viewed as walking back from the Jerusalem Council’s decision.
Out of courtesy and in keeping with God’s morals:
Abstain from food offered to idols, bloodm strangled, and sexual immorality
This was done to keep peace within the church of Jerusalem
From blood
From what has been strangled
AP: ‘Keep the peace.
When 2 students get upset at each other and start to mouth off, I really am not concerned with how one looked at the other and who bears the guilt. I want to the two to stop arguing an disrupting class. I want them to keep peace!
Remember Paul’s words to Roman believers in:
Romans 12:18 ESV
18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
We can’t change what others do.
We can change how we respond.
Practical ways to keep the peace in church:
a. Be firmly committed to church other members
b. Love others as Christ loves us.
c. Be open minded to change and the absence of change
d. be gracious to others with different points of view.


Give God the glory for all things and work actively to keep the peace and unity of His church.
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