This Week’s Reading Schedule
Monday’s (today’s) Bible Reading is Acts 21-24.
Tuesday, April 3: Acts 25-28
Wednesday, April 4: Psalm 6-10
Thursday, April 5: Psalm 11-15
Friday, April 6: Psalm 16-20
Next week we will read Joshua.
The overall year’s plan is here.
The Holy Spirit has been testifying to Paul that chains await him in Jerusalem. That hasn’t moved Paul, but this verse tells us the disciples told Paul "through the Spirit" not to go to Jerusalem.
Was Paul being disobedient to God when he ignored this? I’ve always wondered about the wording of that verse. What’s sure is that God stood by Paul and used him despite the massive tribulations that arose in and after Jerusalem.
I suspect most Evangelicals don’t even know this passage is in the Bible. After Paul reports everything God has done among the Gentiles, James and the elders get right to the point concerning the Law. It’s okay for the Gentiles not to keep the Law, but you, Paul, need to prove that the rumors about you are not true. The Jewish believers, all zealous for the Law, want to know that you are walking orderly and keeping the Law yourself, not teaching Jewish believers to forsake Moses.
Paul agrees to "pay the expenses" for four men who are taking a Nazirite vow. This means he’ll be buying their sacrifices, too. He does this without complaint or argument. In fact, he "purifies" himself along with them.
Clearly, at this point neither the Jews nor even Paul have simply forsaken the Law. It has been established that the Gentiles do not need to be circumcised or keep the Law, but Jewish Christians were still "zealous for the Law."
As we’ve pointed out before, it took some time for the "that which was growing old" to finish vanishing (Heb. 8:13).
Jesus had already made it clear that the Law and the Prophets were until John the Baptist. Since then the kingdom of God, which is the fullness of the Law, is preached.
Paul’s act of peace does no good. Jews of Jerusalem make an assumption that he’s brought Trophimus the Ephesian into the temple, and they begin to beat him to death without verifying anything, much less providing a trial. Paul has to be rescued by the commander of the Roman cohort.
Paul tries to appease the Jews by speaking to them in Hebrew. He’s very honest, and he tells them exactly what happened to him.
They listen intently to him until he tells them that Jesus sent him to the Gentiles, when they immediately go back to calling for his death.
Paul spares himself a whipping by calling on his Roman citizenship, and then appears before the chief priests and the council the next day … but still in the custody of the Roman commander, who is simply trying to settle a riot.
Personally, I think we get a taste of the apostle Paul’s humanity here. We tend to think of him as "apostle," and not as a human being called to preach the Gospel. Paul had a temper and could be sharp-spoken. Throughout his letters, you will pick up other aspects of his personality as well.
Already, in Acts 20, we saw the way he cared for the members of the churches, warning and pleading with tears, constantly urging them forward, and working hard.
Paul brought up the resurrection of the dead because the Sadducees do not believe in a resurrection, while the Pharisees do. He purposely sent them into a doctrinal debate to divide their loyalties.
The Lord himself stood at Paul’s side at night to encourage him and let him know that he would go all the way to Rome to testify.
These stories speak for themselves. We leave chapter 24 today with Paul in Felix’ custody for two years, having much freedom to talk with friends, and Felix about to be replaced by Porcius Festus.
It’s worth paying attention to the Scripture’s little summations of the Gospel. Are they the same way we would sum up the Gospel?
Paul spoke of the faith of Jesus Christ with Felix, according to this passage, and the topics that Scripture uses to sum up faith in Jesus are "righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come" (NASB).
In Acts, you cannot miss the fact that when forgiveness of sins comes by believing in Jesus, it is incumbent upon repentance. It is followed by exhortations to continue in the faith and to enter the kingdom of God through many tribulations. It includes righteousness, and not just a legal righteousness that God confers upon you because Jesus died, but a righteousness that is the product of self-control and can be judged at the judgment to come.
As we go through the letters, we will see that those themes are not lost. Instead, to those themes are added, primarily by Paul, a thorough explanation of how this was accomplished through Jesus’ death, through the Spirit, through the resurrection, and how we are able, spiritually, to be made part of all that.
I tell you this because in reading Paul’s explanations of these spiritual mysteries, much of modern Christianity has lost sight of practical righteousness, of self-control, and of the judgment to come.
As we go through the letters of the apostles, I will be pointing out the repeated warnings not to lose sight of those things. There are many of them.
Little children, let no one deceive you. The one that practices righteousness is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who practices sin is of the devil. (1 Jn. 3:7-8)