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  1. Study in the Acts of the Apostles Presentation 43

  2. In His Steps Chapter 21v1-26 Presentation 43

  3. Introduction What does it mean to follow Jesus? It does not involve a Holy Land tour where we try to walk where Jesus walked. When God’s Word speaks to us of walking ‘in his steps’ [1Pet.2v21] it points to Jesus as an example. But more than that, there is an entering into fellowship with the life of Jesus, who put it like this, ‘If anyone would come after me he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me’ Matt.16v24.Paul talks of ‘filling up the sufferings of Christ’ Col.1v24. And so Christians are cross-bearers who enter into the fellowship of Jesus’ sufferings. As Paul made his way to Jerusalem, Luke indicates a number of ways in which Paul’s experience mirrored that of his master. Presentation 43

  4. Costly Obedience Paul had a growing awareness of the price of costly obedience. At both Tyre and Caesarea the picture of what lay ahead became clearer and clearer. He would be arrested and imprisoned, yes, and death lay beyond that. Suffering can be divided into two classes: First, there is the suffering that creeps up on you unaware. Someone drops a brick on your head and for several days you are convinced that there is a brick is inside your head knocking to get out. There is no volitional element associated with that kind of suffering, you made no conscious choice to stand on a spot where you knew a brick would fall! Presentation 43

  5. Costly Obedience Secondly, there is a volitional suffering. You see a child in a burning building and run into the flames in order to make the rescue. You may not have taken a lot of time to think but you have made a costly choice. But what if you had months and years to think about a course of action that would lead to intense suffering? That is a costlier choice to make and it was this choice that Jesus made when he went to Jerusalem to die. Indeed, this is what made his sacrificial death so very different from all of the OT animal sacrifices that pointed to his coming. He knew what lay ahead and that knowledge did not deflect him. He lived all of his life from birth under that shadow of the cross. He set his face like a flint for Jerusalem. Obedience meant sacrificial death. Presentation 43

  6. Costly Obedience I believe that Luke intends us to see Paul emulating his master in this respect. He too is making his way towards Jerusalem with the growing certainty of death ahead. This trip is his Gethsemane. He is grasping a clearer picture of what cross-bearing-obedience will cost him. His suffering is not hidden. Indeed, it is embraced as part of his cross-bearing, part of his Christian discipleship. He refused to be deflected from it. Some have suggested that, since the Spirit of God through Agabus made it abundantly clear that he would be arrested and imprisoned, Paul had stubbornly refused to pay heed to the threatening danger. He is depicted as a man who refused to take on board the advice her was given. Presentation 43

  7. Costly Obedience This view is reinforced in the minds of some by the language of v4 that through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go. Now the Holy Spirit does not contradict himself. He cannot at the same time be leading Paul to Jerusalem and be urging the believers to tell him not to go. How do we reconcile the dichotomy? I think in this way. The Spirit of God had made it clear to the church that Paul’s journey to Jerusalem would end in arrest and imprisonment but from that the believers drew their own conclusions that he must avoid going. Presentation 43

  8. Costly Obedience We need to see something of the conflict of emotions in this narrative. The believers were influenced by their love for Paul but he was influenced by his love for Christ. And these two loves were pulling in different directions. In this situation the church’s love stopped at Paul and what they considered was best for him. Dean Farrar perceptively writes; ‘Those whose intentions towards us are best are the most dangerous to us when their intentions are merely human… His friends who love him best become in their worldliness, his worst enemies. They drag him down from the heights of self-sacrifice to the vulgar, the conventional the comfortable.’ Presentation 43

  9. Costly Obedience There is a valuable lesson to be learned. Our greatest temptations and deepest hurts often come not because of a lack of love but because our love is not great enough. Our love for Christ requires us to transcend human relationships. We then ask, ‘What is his purpose for his children’s lives and how does he intend to achieve it?’ In this regard note the words of Jesus, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father mother, wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple’ Lk. 14v26. While Jesus consistently taught the necessity of loving and honouring our parents he is saying that our love for him must be greater. It must be the controlling and pre-eminent love of our life. Presentation 43

  10. Costly Obedience Part of Paul’s cross-bearing was the pain of being misunderstood. Listen to the pathos in v13 ‘why are you weeping and breaking my heart?’ We are not told the specific arguments that were used to attempt to deflect him but imagine what might have been said; ‘Do you love us so little you are prepared to throw your life away? Can you not see how much we need you, how much God’s work needs you? This trip is ill conceived and stupid.’ The temptation his friends were placing before him was one, which said, “You can gain the kingdom without cost, without a cross!” Presentation 43

  11. Costly Obedience But once again note that Paul is simply entering into his Master’s sufferings. There is a parallel here with Satan’s wilderness temptation of Jesus - ‘bypass suffering, bypass the cross’ cf. Matt. 4v1ff. A similar temptation came to Jesus from the lips of one of his closest friends cf. Matt 16.22. Words spoken after Jesus had told his disciples plainly that he was going up to Jerusalem to die. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, ‘Never Lord, this shall never happen to you.’ Presentation 43

  12. Costly Obedience In one of Amy Carmichael’s poem’s a believer who refuses to suffer for Jesus’ sake is addressed: Hast thou no scar? No hidden scar on foot or side or hand I hear thee sung as mighty in the land, I hear them hail thy bright ascending star Hast thou no scar? Hast thou no wound? Yet I was wounded by the archers spent, Leaned me against a tree to die and rent, by ravening beasts that compassed me; I swooned Hast thou no wound? No wound? No scar? Yet as the master shall the servant be, and pierced are the feet that followed me. But thine are whole: Can he have followed far, Who has no wound nor scar! Presentation 43

  13. Paul An Embarrassment It is clear from v17-26 that the church in Jerusalem was embarrassed by Paul’s visit and that too would have been painful for Paul. Note the way in which they quickly pass over Paul’s exploits to what they see to be the real matter in hand, ‘they praised God and then they said to Paul, ‘you see brother…v20 ’So much for his church planting in Europe and Asia, its time to deal with a really important issue! “We have a large number of Jewish converts who are a bit unhappy with what you have allegedly taught about the Mosaic Law. O we are sure there are no grounds in these reports but just to be on the safe side this is what we want you to do, take a group of men through the Mosaic purification rites then people will see just how much you respect the law of Moses…” Presentation 43

  14. Paul An Embarrassment Remember that throughout his ministry Paul had contended for a gospel of grace, the essence of which is, ‘you can’t earn your salvation nor improve upon the work of Christ by adding to it’. It is not a case of what Jesus did + what I do = my forgiveness and acceptance by God. The Christian has a new relationship to the law. The ceremonial aspects of the law, including all the O.T. sacrifices are fulfilled in Christ. As a result the ceremonial law is a thing of the past. Remember the angry response of Paul in his Galatian epistle to those who said, ‘the way in which to experience God’s salvation and forgiveness is to trust in Jesus plus to undergo circumcision’. Presentation 43

  15. Paul An Embarrassment On the other hand, writing to the church at Corinth and describing his evangelistic method Paul says, ‘to the Jews I became a Jew’ 1Cor.9v20. In other words Paul would happily conform to Jewish ceremonial customs, [there was nothing inherently wrong with them], in order to create a platform from which to proclaim the gospel. He would never impose this practice on others and certainly never teach that the work of Christ required to be added to in order for men to experience God’s salvation. Presentation 43

  16. Paul An Embarrassment Why was the church in Jerusalem so keen for Paul to engage in Jewish ceremonial custom? It reflects their failure to openly acknowledge that Jewish ceremonial was now a thing of the past that it had all been fulfilled in Christ. This church was already compromised. Did they think that only by being careful not to offend the Jewish authorities they could guarantee their continued existence? How else do we explain the Jewish authorities eagerness to target Paul and not James and the leaders of the Jerusalem church? Presentation 43

  17. Paul An Embarrassment With a few exceptions the church in Germany behaved in this way in her relations to the Nazi movement. The anti-Semitic barbarities were greeted with silence. The church reasoned, ‘Our own existence is important. If we protest and so become an object of persecution what use will we be to the population?’ But a more searching question was to be answered, ‘If compromise our testimony how credible will we be to the population?’ Why did Paul agree to engage in Jewish ceremonial? Surely out of concern for his weaker brethren. He knew that Christ’s death had freed him from the restrictions of Jewish ceremonial law, [as distinct from God’s moral law], but he put his liberty to one side in order to win those who still did not see the gospel as clearly as they ought. Presentation 43

  18. Conclusion Not to put to fine a point on in there was a tendency in the Jerusalem church to shirk cross-bearing. Their refusal earlier to evangelise the Gentile world had caused the focus of missionary activity to move from Jerusalem to Antioch. And now their refusal to dissociate themselves from Jewish religious rites and customs, not in order to win more Jews to the faith but to make the life of the Christian minority more comfortable meant that the centre of spiritual leadership within the church also very quickly moved from Jerusalem to Antioch. They had become overwhelmed by the tidal wave of popular opinion . Presentation 43

  19. Conclusion It is possible to remove the offence of the cross from one’s testimony and in the process betray the gospel. Samuel Rutherford wrote; ‘There are some who would have Christ cheap, they would have him without the cross but the price will not come down’. Obey . . . take up your cross . . . deny yourself . . . it all sounds very hard. It is hard! Anyone who tells you differently is peddling soothing syrup and not real Christianity. And yet, in a strangely paradoxical way, it is also easy. With every cross that we lift in obedience to Christ comes the strength to carry it. It is a package deal. God helps us choose the Christ’s cross. He equips us to walk in Christ’s steps. Do we look for that equipping? Or, are we tempted to settle for a cheap Christianity. Presentation 43