Saturday, July 01, 2023

2023.07.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 21:31–40

Read Acts 21:31–40

Questions from the Scripture text: What are they seeking to do (Acts 21:31)? Who receives what news? What does he do in Acts 21:32? What do the people stop doing? What does the commander do to Paul and ask about him (Acts 21:33)? What answers does he get (Acts 21:34)? So, what does he decide? What do the soldiers have to do in Acts 21:35? Why (Acts 21:35-36)? Where is Paul about to enter in Acts 21:37? What does he ask? About what is the commander surprised? For whom had the commander mistaken him (Acts 21:38)? How does Paul identify himself now in Acts 21:39? What citizenship does he have? For what does he now ask? What does the commander give him (Acts 21:40)? Where does Paul now stand, what does he do, and what amazing response does he get? How does he speak?

What are we to think, when providence brings us difficulties like Paul’s chains? Acts 21:31–40 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these ten verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that even in believers difficulties, the Lord is loving believers and employing them in the advance of His kingdom. 

Chains of protection. All Jerusalem was in an uproar, during a feast, because the Jews sought to kill Paul. Acts 21:31 hearkens back to the scene of the city while Jesus was being brought out before Pilate. Thankfully, in this case, rather than joining in the attacks of the Jews, the Romans were protecting Paul (Acts 21:32). The chains that they put on Paul in Acts 21:33 were friendly in more ways than one. Believers must remember that they have been protected from wrath, and they are being protected from their sin. Even difficult providence comes in the love and wisdom that protects us. We are in the protective custody of sovereign providence.

Chains of love. Not only were they applied by the people who had just saved Paul from the mob, but they had been prophesied by the Holy Spirit, in Whose fellowship we live (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:14), and Whose great ministry to us includes pouring out God’s love in our hearts (cf. Romans 5:5). Recently, the Holy Spirit has been telling Paul in every city that chains awaited him (cf. Acts 20:23, Acts 21:11). So when they apply the chains to Paul, it’s actually a reminder that this has been lovingly ordained and brought about by his God. And this in addition to the circumstances in which it occurred—keeping him from sinning against Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice and breaking down the dividing wall (cf. Ephesians 2:14). Everything that happens to a believer comes to him in the love that gave him Christ. The Holy Spirit may not have told us specifically what is going to happen, but He has planned what is going to happen, and He has told us many of the reasons why. Believers are not only in protective custody of sovereign providence but in loving custody.

Chains of fellowship. We’ve already noted the similarity in the Jewish murder mob. There’s another similarity in Acts 21:34, where the witnesses against Paul can’t agree (cf. Mark 14:56, Mark 14:59). And another in Acts 21:36, where the “Away with him!” also reminds of the same thing on the day that Christ died for sinners (cf. Luke 23:18; John 19:15). Christ sympathizes with us in our sufferings. He receives them personally (cf. Acts 9:4). Our suffering is together with Him (cf. Romans 8:17). Our sufferings are His sufferings (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:5). All suffering of believers is sweetened by Christ’s fellowship with us in them.

Chains of opportunity. The reality of Who has superintended his chains has reminded Paul of why he is in those chains: for the Name of the Lord Jesus (cf. Acts 21:13). Paul takes advantage of his captive audience (he’s captive to his chains, but the crowd is captive to their rage, and the soldiers are captive to their duty). And he takes advantage of his abilities to speak both Greek (Acts 21:37) and Hebrew (Acts 21:40). And he takes advantage of his citizenship (Acts 21:39). Everything at his disposal, he takes advantage of in order to tell of the Lord Jesus Christ! Is the glory of the Name of Christ, everything to a believer? Then let that believer take advantage of his circumstances, abilities, and any other assets he might have for the sake of that Name.

What are your most difficult circumstances right now? From what is the Lord protecting you? How can you know that it all comes to you in God’s love? Who is with you in this suffering? What opportunities have you been taking to tell of the goodness and glory of the Lord Jesus?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You and praise You for the wisdom and love of Your providence. And we thank You that even when that wisdom and love send suffering, You give us to have fellowship with Yourself in those sufferings in Jesus Christ. Give us also to love His Name to do all things for His glory, and to take all opportunities that we can to tell of Him, we ask in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH509 “Why Should Cross or Trial Grieve Me?” 

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