Saturday, June 24, 2023

2023.06.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 21:15–30

Read Acts 21:15–30

Questions from the Scripture text: What do they do in Acts 21:15? Where do they go? Who go with them (Acts 21:16)? Whom do they bring, for what purpose? Who receive them in Jerusalem, in what manner (Acts 21:17)? When does who go to whom in Acts 21:18? Who is present? What does Paul say first (Acts 21:19), Then what does he tell? With what specificity? How do they respond (Acts 21:20)? What do they point out in return? What have the Jews believed? But for what are they still zealous? And what have they heard about Paul (Acts 21:21)? How do they present this as a problem (Acts 21:22)? What do they tell Paul to do (Acts 21:23-24)? Whom do they say should not do these things (Acts 21:25)? What does Paul do, when, in Acts 21:26? Where does he go? What is he going to do there on their behalf? What time has almost arrived in Acts 21:27? But what providence occurs at this point? What do the Jews from Asia cry out in Acts 21:28? On what basis do they say this (Acts 21:29)? What result does their crying out have in Acts 21:30? What do they do to Paul? 

How do believers properly treasure one another and their fellowship in the Word? Acts 21:15–30 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these sixteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that believers properly treasure one another and their fellowship in the Word by responding to it together in love, faith, and submission toward God. 

God's grace through the fellowship of our service to one another. Though they had tried to dissuade Paul from going to Jerusalem, now that he is going, they go with him. Like Thomas with Jesus (cf. John 11:16), they are willing to share in his going and share in his suffering. The text even “slows down” to highlight the “packing” in Acts 21:15. Because of the feast, lodging will be scarce. Mnason is mentioned as from Cyprus but evidently has a house in Jerusalem (Acts 21:16). He is an eminent saint, and those who are part of this party will have the benefit of Paul’s instruction, Mnason’s godly maturity, Luke’s faithfulness, and others. It is a happy fellowship when many saints of a variety of graces serve one another together. God’s grace in each one becomes God’s grace to each other. We should seek the fellowship of the saints, not only in the formal assemblies of the church, but in love and sympathy and action with each other.

God's grace through the fellowship of our praise of Him. The day they arrive in Jerusalem, there is a Session meeting (Acts 21:18) that turns into a worship service. Or perhaps it was intended to be one all along. What better purpose is there for the elders of the church to gather than to tell in detail what God has done and glorify the Lord together? Paul, and Luke, and their company go, and they speak not of themselves although it was “through his ministry,” but rather “those things which God had done” (Acts 21:19). This must have taken quite a while, since God had done many things, and Paul was telling it in detail. He was pleased to see them (verse 19a), and pleased to praise God with them. They are eager to give cause for praise as well in Acts 21:20, with the many … tens of thousands (“myriads”) of Jews who have believed. This was something near and dear to Paul’s own heart (cf. Romans 9:3; Romans 11:13, Romans 11:25). God’s grace uses us not only to serve one another but to turn our hearts toward Him in praise!

God's grace, despite and through those hindrances that come through our fellowship. The cause for praise is muted, however, by the sad news that they are “all zealous for the law” (Acts 21:20). Paul, who wrote Galatians and Hebrews, was the perfect candidate for teaching them to put away the shadows of Moses the servant in the house for the sake of the substance that had come in Jesus, the Son over the house (cf. Hebrews 3:1–6). Perhaps James and the Jerusalem elders aren’t as troubled by this as we may be sure that Paul was; the Scripture gives no indication. However, we do know that they are troubled by the possible response of the murmurers in the church. Acts 21:17 indicates the folly of this; generally speaking, the brethren received Paul and company gladly. But it is a perpetual temptation for the elders of the church to respond defensively to the murmurers and complainers, rather than proactively in accordance with God and with the work that He is actually doing. So, they speak those fateful words, “do what we tell you” (Acts 21:23) and come with a plan that will conclude in Paul’s offering a blood sacrifice (!!) in the temple. They thought that this would avoid scandal, but the exact opposite was true. How could the apostle, from whose pen came the affirmation that the New Covenant is not in the blood of bulls and goats but the blood of Jesus (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:25), and who warned against attaching ongoing significance to the ceremonial law in his letters to the Galatians and the Ephesians, now go and offer a blood sacrifice himself? Surely this would have been a cause of stumbling to many. And so God graciously intervenes to prevent His servant both from sinning against the finality of Christ’s sacrifice and from becoming a stumbling block to many in the church. We are still sinners, and our sin and error always threatens to hinder and harm one another in our walk together. But we are free to walk together in fellowship and hope, because we know that God in His grace will ultimately rule and overrule all things for our good… often through our fellowship, but whenever needs be, even despite our fellowship. Praise be to God!

What saints’ graces have been a blessing to you? How are you seeking to be a blessing to others? What opportunity do you have for the fellowship of praise? How are you improving those opportunities? What threats in your own inconsistencies threaten other believers’ walks with the Lord, in their fellowship with you? What are you doing about that? What good hope do you have about what God is doing about that?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we praise You for Your marvelous grace in the fellowship of the church. Thank You for our own congregation, and the believers whom You have given us to serve and with whom You have given us to worship You. Forgive us our sins, and grow us in grace, we pray—so that we might not be a hindrance or harm to one another. And rule over all things for our growth in grace we pray, through Jesus Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP16A “Keep Me, O God” or TPH354 “Not All the Blood of Beasts”

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