Acts23:1-11 “Have a pure concious”

              In today’s passage that we just read, the Roman commander wanted to know why Paul had been arrested by the Jews so he took Paul to the Jewish counsel. What happened at the counsel is recorded in today’s passage.  Here it is recorded that the Greek commander was invited and attended the Jewish counsel and Paul was able to speak to the counsel. Both of these things were usually unthinkable things. This passage is often questioned as being historically correct.  The Paul in this passage leaves a very deep impression. When Paul stands in front of the Jewish counsel, in front of the priests and elders, he says that until now he has lived before God with a pure conscious.

              Paul up until now has lived before God with a pure conscious.  He is saying that he hasn’t gotten angry with men who have bothered him, nor has he lived by what others thought was right, nor has he played up to others to get their approval, but before God he stood up for what he believed and lived that way.  No matter what others said or how much he was pushed by authorities, before God “yes” was “yes” and “no” was “no” because he could have a free spirit.  That is the free conscious that is mentioned in verse 16.  How blessed it would be if we too lived with a free conscious. Today let’s look at three things about having a free conscious.

I. Have a pure conscious (vs. 1-3)

             First of all the Christian life is a life of having a conscientious lifestyle.  When Paul stood before the counsel, he said, “I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” (1)  This is really a bold accusation.  Paul is saying to the Jewish Priests and elders that he have lived before God with a completely pure conscious.

              Before Paul had been thoroughly educated in the Jewish law, and was extremely zealous towards God.  When he was going to Damascus to persecute the Christians there, he met the resurrected Jesus. When he heard a voice says, “Saul, Saul, Whey do you persecute me?” (22:7) he fell to the ground and asked, “Who are you?” (22:8) and the voice answered, “I’m Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.” (22:8) Then Paul clearly realized that up until now what he had thought was correct was in reality wrong.  Jesus who he thought could not be God in reality was God and the Savior. Then he began to preach Christ, that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God, Christ.  At first no one believed him.  Paul who had persecuted the Christians so severely was now saying the Jesus was Christ.  However, through the support of Barnabas Christians accepted him, the Antioch church sent him out, and he gave his life to preaching the good news.  He is saying that his actions were all stemmed from the base of a pure conscious. That conscious was not afraid of people, nor was it influenced by what others thought, nor did it play up to others to get their approval, but it was a heart of dignity based upon living before God as he believed he should.  He lived with a completely pure conscious before God.

              This is one thing that is different between other religions and Christianity.  Christians have a pure conscious. Why don’t Christians deceive others, or tell lies? That’s because they have a pure conscious.  They want to live with a pure conscious before God who can see to the depths of our hearts.  They are living with a pure conscious.  The average person is not like that.  The average person bases his actions upon whether something is against the law or not. However, Christians are different.  Christians think about how they are before God. They think about how God sees them. They think about whether their actions will make God happy or not. Paul told the council, “I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.”  This should be the base of all that we do too.

              When Paul said this, “the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth.” (2)  What was the problem or why did the high priest get so angry?  Probably it was because Paul said that what he has done was correct before God.  He was probably shocked. 

              Then Paul said to Ananias, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall!  You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!” 

              “A whitewashed wall” is a heart that is like a wall that has been painted to look attractive but in reality it may be ready to fall.  Even though the wall is ready to fall, the beautiful paint camouflages it so no one realizes it.  Before in Matt. 23:27 Jesus said to the teachers of the law and Pharisees, “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.”  This means that the teachers of the law and Pharisees looked like they were living correctly, but their insides were filled with “hypocrisy and wickedness”. (Matt. 23:28)  Here Paul didn’t say, “whitewashed tombs”, but “whitewashed walls”.  However, the meaning is the same. Even though the outside is beautifully painted the inside is dirtied by wickedness and is like a cracked fence that is ready to fall.  That is what Paul was saying to Ananias.

              This is what a person who lives rightly before God is like.  No matter who the other person is, he does not flatter the other person, but follows his own conscience and clearly states what he thinks is right. He doesn’t flatter other people to gain their approval, but before God and before men he doesn’t have a guilty conscious, but a good conscious, and does his best.

              Sometimes we don’t say the truth to the other person. We think it wouldn’t be nice to say how we really feel and thus our conscious bothers us. We need to be like Paul and before God and before man have a guiltless conscious and do our best.

II.          A conscious that misses the mark (vs. 4-10)

              Next let’s look at a conscious that missed the mark.  When Paul called the High Priest, Ananias, a “white washed wall”, those around Paul said, “You dare to insult God’s high priest?” (4)  Paul replied, “I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: ‘Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.’” (5)  Paul who followed his conscious freely and even if the other person was the High priest Paul insisted “no!” “What is bad is bad”, but here he looks very soft spoken. 

              Paul knew that Ananias was the High Priest.  Paul was using pure irony. He is saying, “is this person really the high priest? I would never have guessed so!”  He said this because the things that the high priest said was so far from what a high priest should be that it was unbelievable. Paul said this in hope that Ananias would realize his mistake and repent.

              We can also see this in the following verses where Paul saw that part of the council was Sadducees and part were Pharisees and thus spoke about the hope of resurrection from the dead.  Paul spoke about the resurrection of the dead to break down their core.  In other words, their religion was not a pure conscious, but a conscious that depended on what was good for them personally.

              When Paul said this “a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and Sadducees and the assembly was divided.” (7)  The Sadducees denied the resurrection, angels and spirits.  The Pharisees insisted that all 3 existed.  It turned into a great uproar.  Some of the Pharisees said, “We find nothing wrong with this man…What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” (9) 

              In other words, Paul purposely caused a dispute to break out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees so they could break down the wicked                  parts of their religious baggage.  That is to say that their behavior did not arise from pure conscious, but their behavior was determined by their own hearts as they considered what was best for them.  As a result it looks like they are following their conscious, but in reality they are following their conscious that is missing the mark.

              Many people say that they are following their conscience in what they are doing.  However in a lot of cases they are like the Sadducees and Pharisees and are following their conscience which is missing the mark. Even Paul before he met Jesus, he thought that his actions were conscientious and persecuted the church. You may think you are following your conscious and doing the right thing, but it may not necessarily be correct.  Conscientious actions are correct only when they are standing on a correct base. Jesus Christ’s cross is the correct base.  The conscious of a natural man is like the Sadducees and Pharisees whose conscious missed the mark.  Even Christians who believe in Christ and have been changed and who are standing on the base of Christ’s cross, need to continuously check themselves by the Word of God. or else they may go off in the wrong direction. Let’s live by making the cross of Jesus as our base, continually check ourselves by the Word of God, and have a pure conscious.

III.         Take Courage (vs.11)

              The third point is to take courage.  “The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them.  He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks.” (10)   Then the following night the Lord stood next to Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” (11) 

              Probably Paul was very depressed at that time.  He came to Jerusalem and risked his life testifying in Jerusalem, but there were hardly no results.  In the temple because of the misunderstanding with the Jews a huge riot occurred.  He was sent to the Jewish counsel by the Roman commander, but an uproar occurred there too.  He wanted to give his testimony so that the Jews would be saved, but in front of his eyes uproars, and more uproars occurred.  I think he spent a very tired and lonely night.  The Lord came to him and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.” (11) Up until now too, whenever something happened, Paul heard the Lord speak to him.  Especially the Words of the Lord that came to him at Corinth were left strongly impressed into his heart. “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.  For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” (18:9,10)

             The Lord always at the necessary time and with the necessary words encourages and helps him stand again. This was true in Corinth. This night too the words of the Lord, enter deeply into Paul’s heart and deeply encouraged him.

              Here these words that the Lord gave him didn’t just encourage him.  There were certain promises and a commission. There was the promise that this trip would not be over in Jerusalem, but will continue on to Rome.  The Lord said, “you must also testify in Rome.” It is a must, a certainty.  It is a promise that he will.  From such promises and commissions Paul received courage. Those who are able to stand up have received from God such encouragement and are able to encourage others.

              Those who have received freedom of conscious before God, and not only have been encouraged by the courage of God, but are also able to encourage those who are suffering, and can live to give strength to others.  Let’s remember that we are now being invited to this type of life. Let’s have a good conscious and before God and men be guiltless. Let’s strive to do our best.

Acts22:22-30 “To Live is Christ”

               In last week’s passage Paul was arrested and he gave his defense to the Jewish people. In today’s passage is the crowd’s reaction to Paul’s defense. The crowds “raised their voices and shouted, ‘Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!’… They were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air.” (22, 23)  The Roman commander wanted to know why the crowds were shouting so much at Paul so he ordered Paul to be whipped and then questioned. When they started to whip him, Paul, almost like he was bragging, says that he is a Roman citizen.  However, he wasn’t bragging, and he was not using his Roman citizenship as a “ticket” to Rome. He was saying this so that he would have a longer chance to evangelize. By saying this, he was protecting his life so that the Gospel of God could be shared.  For Paul “to live is  Christ and to die was to gain. ” (Phil. 1:21) He wanted Christ’s name to be praised through him whether he lived or died.  Today let’s look at 3 aspects of “To live is  Christ.” (Phil. 1:21)

I.             Don’t forget the calling that God has given you. (vs. 22, 23)

First let’s look at how the crowds got angry.  From verse 1 and on as Paul’s testimony was given, the crowds were calm. First Paul says that before he became a Christian, he was too a very enthusiastic person toward the law.  Secondly he says that that zealousness was wrong.  The goal of the law was to believe in Jesus Christ, but he persecuted Jesus Christ. His enthusiasm missed the mark.  Therefore, his third point was to repent, believe in Christ, and make Christ your backbone. 

Paul talked considerately as not to get the crowds emotionally upset and in an uproar. However, the Jews threw off their cloaks, flung dust into the air and, shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!” (22)  Why did they become so furious?

Of course, they probably as they listened to Paul talk, anger built up in their hearts.  In most cases anger works that way.  At first it doesn’t matter what is said, you are able to have a calm attitude.  However, when it hits the limits, you are unable to keep still. Then it explodes.  Even so there is usually something that triggers the explosion.  In this case, what was the trigger?

The trigger was Paul’s words recorded in verse 21.  The reason these words pierced their hearts was because they thought of themselves as “the chosen people of God”.  Since they were the chosen people, they thought God would always be with them. Consequently, they thought they were better than any other nation or peoples. They thought that only they were saved. For a Gentile to be saved, first he had to become a Jew.  The real problem was that they had forgotten the purpose for which they were chosen.

Deut. 7:6-8

In this passage we are told that they were chosen by God to be a holy people, the “treasured possession” of God. (Deut. 7:6)  They were a special people to God.  They were chosen not because there were a lot of Jews or because they were strong.  They were chosen because the Lord loved them and because God was keeping the oath which He had made with their ancestors.  Concretely said, it was the promises that God made to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3

The Jewish ancestry began with Abraham. God chose Abraham and told him to leave his home and go to the place that God would show him.  If he did so, then God would make him into a huge people and bless him and all peoples on the earth would be blessed by him.  Therefore, Abraham left the land that he was born in and went to God’s Promised Land, Canaan.  That was not only so that he would be blessed, but so that all peoples on the earth would be blessed. In other words, Abraham was chosen that he might be a base for the blessing of all peoples.  Even so, the Jews forgot the purpose for which they were chosen. They thought only about themselves being blessed. They completely forgot that they were chosen to be a witness to the real living God in the entire world. Therefore, when they heard Paul say that God told him to go because God was sending him to the Gentiles, the Jews were furious because they couldn’t conceive of the idea that the chosen Jews would be set aside and that Gentiles would be saved. For them, that was unthinkable!

Here, we can see basis of the sin of prejudice. When a person is afraid about his position, then he always lowers the other person, and tries to protect himself.  Prejudice comes from such mental thinking. The wrong Jewish consciousness of being “the chosen people” is the outcome of nothing else than self-protecting sinners. They didn’t want their special privileges to be invaded on by other peoples and nations.

We need to have the vision that all the people on the earth will be blessed by us.  If you have some special ability or skill, you need to think that through you all the peoples of the earth will be blessed and use those abilities for all the peoples in the world.  We need to have vision to see that all peoples are in one family and not focus on our own group.

We can say the same of us Christians who hare chosen.  We have been chosen so that through us, all peoples will be saved.  We have been chosen to be a base for salvation.

I Peter 2:9

We have been chosen to be “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God,” so that we can share the greatness of God who called us “out of darkness into his wonderful light” (I Peter 2:9) If we loose sight of this purpose, and are just content with being chosen, then we are abiding in self-protecting sin and selfishly are protecting ourselves. Therefore, it is important to remember why we were chosen to be Christians and reconfirm our calling. 

These Jews who had forgotten such fact, tried to kill the awakened Paul. The same is true today.  When we try to live above group consciousness or racial consciousness and live by God’s calling, we always meet large obstacles. However, God’s will is “I will send you far away to the Gentiles.” (22:21) and “all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3) Therefore, we need to give up our wrong consciousness that we are the chosen people and remember that we exist so that all peoples on the earth will be saved and live.

II.          To live is Christ (vs. 24-28)

              Secondly, let’s look at Paul who claims he is a Roman citizen. The Roman commander saw the crowds attack on Paul and immediately ordered that Paul “be taken into the barracks.” (24)  The Roman commander knew the Paul was the cause of the problem, but he couldn’t understand what he had done to cause such a disturbance.  Therefore, he commanded that Paul be whipped and questioned.  This was not really questioning, but while being whipped he would be forced to confess.  The whip was a merciless instrument of torture.  It was a whip of leather thongs with pieces of bone or metal attached to the ends. When the person was whipped, the bones and metal would tear the skin so that the internal organs would fall out.

              When Paul was ordered to be whipped, Paul said to a centurion that was standing near, “Is it legal to fog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?” (25)  Paul claimed that he was a Roman citizen. It was legal to use a whip to force a confession from a slave or alien, but never from a Roman citizen. It was illegal to whip a Roman citizen unless he had a proper trial.  It was a huge crime to do so.  However, if Paul was willing to die, why did he claim his rights?

              Paul claimed his rights so he could live to fulfill his call from God.  When he was in Ephesus, the Holy Spirit told him something.  That was that he was to go through Macedonia and Achaia to Jerusalem and from there he “must visit Rome also.” (19:21) That was his call from God. To fulfill that call, he went to Jerusalem, and witnessed fervently to the Jews in hope that they would be saved. There is nothing left for him to do there.  All that is left is Rome.  He needs to go to Rome and share the Gospel there.  To do that he has to live a little longer.  This is not for his own safety.  It is so the he witness to the Gospel.  For Paul both living and dying is so that Christ will be worshipped.

Philippians 1:20,21

              Paul wanted at all times and cases not to be shameful, but always boldly witness to Christ. To live was Christ.  For Paul, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21) May we too at all times and in all cases not be shameful, but always boldly witness to Christ.

III.         Never fear at all times (vs. 29)

              When Paul claimed that he was a Roman citizen, “Those who were about to question him withdrew immediately.   The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen in chains.” (29)  Now the situation has completely reversed itself.  Instead those who were going to question Paul are now afraid.  This is because all situations are in the hand of God.

              Even in the deserts of life, in dangerous situations, God’s hand is there in the midst of the desert.  In no matter what situation we are in, God is there so there is no need to fear.

Matt. 10:28-31

              Even one sparrow does not fall to the ground without God’s permission.  We are only a small thing, but our Father in heaven remembers us.  There is nothing we need to fear.  The only thing we need to fear is the one and only God who can throw our soul and body into Hell.

Isaiah 12:2

              If we put on glasses of fear and look at situations then everything causes worries and anxiety.  However, if we believe in our Savior, live relying on the Word of God, then everything will change to thanksgiving and praise.  What is necessary is to not look at the situations and our environment, but to keep our eyes on God.  We need to put on such glasses of faith. What kind of glasses are you wearing when you look at your present situation?

              Let’s not draw back from all situations, but deal with them.  Even with struggles and dangers before us, let’s believe that the Lord is with us.  Confess our fears to God. God is our hiding place and our fort. He is who we should depend upon.  “To live is Christ.” (Phil. 1:21) and let’s at all times and in all cases not be shameful, but always boldly witness to Christ. Let’s seek to have Christ worshipped.  That’s because for us too “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21)

Acts22:1-21 “Making Jesus Christ the backbone of our life” 

Today let’s look at 3 aspects of making Jesus Christ the back bone of our life.

I.  Being earnest toward God(vs.1-5)

              When Paul was in Jerusalem taking part in purification rites in regard for the Jewish Christians, he was arrested. As he was about to be taken to the Roman military barracks, Paul asked the commander for permission to speak to the crowds.  He was given permission and his speech is recorded in 22:1-21.

              First he tells about his birth.  He was a Jew born in Tarsus in Cilicia.   In other words, he was of the same Jewish background as the people who were knocking him down. 

            Next Paul tells us about his up bringing.  He learned under the scholar of the law, Gamaliel. He received thorough training in the law.  He was extremely zealous for the Lord.  If we look at verses 4 and 5, we can see how zealous he was.  He persecuted the Christians by throwing both men and women into prison, and put them to death. He was so approved of that even “the high priests and all the Council can testify” to it. (5) There was no one who didn’t know about his zealousness.

              Why did Paul share about his past?

1.               By defending himself, he is able to find common areas with the other people, contacts that could pull their hearts together with his heart. Therefore, Paul avoided using the public languages of Latin and Greek and spoke Aramaic or possibly Hebrew. Aramaic was the most commonly used language among Palestinian Jews.   By using Aramaic the other person’s heart was opened and that opened the door for them to accept the Savior.  This is an example of “becoming a Jew to the Jews.”

2.               By sharing about his background and how zealous he was before he was converted, when he shares in verse 6 and on about he was converted, the story will burn in the hearer’s heart and will leave an impression in their hears.   In other words, his zealousness towards God to the point of persecuting the Christians is the same as theirs. However, zealousness is not everything.  His zealousness was destroyed.  That happened on the way to Damascus to persecute the Christians.  There he met the risen Jesus.  Then he realized that what he thought was right up until now was actually wrong.   It was an experience like a sand castle being washed away in the waves.  

Jews in comparison with other people are very deeply religious and very zealous.  They do not do things half way.  Therefore, what they achieve is so great that it is hard to believe that it was obtain humanly.  However, just being serious, enthusiastic, having a deep faith isn’t necessarily enough. The important thing is what you believe in.  If what you believe in is wrong, then you will be going completely in the wrong direction.  The Jews were enthusiastic towards what they believed in, but it was not what God desired or willed.

A missionary who came to Japan commented, “I was surprised that Japanese are such an extremely industrious, and highly motivated people.” According to a survey that was conducted, the majority of the people responded, “Extremely busy” to the question,”Now do you feel that your everyday life is extremely busy?” Japanese are an extremely busy people.  To the question, “Then if you had a free day, would you like to spend it resting or would you feel that you had to be doing something?”, 60%  to 70% of the respondents said “I would have to be doing something.” I would have probably answered the same way too. That means that we are making ourselves busy.  This type of person is often seen as industrious, enthusiastic, and as putting things into action. However in reality he doesn’t know the reason but is just having a hectic time from time pressure. If his enthusiasm isn’t based upon real wisdom, then his enthusiasm is missing the mark. We shouldn’t live the life we want, but live a Christ centered life and then we will have enthusiasm for the right things, and have a reason for living.

II.              The will of God, Jesus Christ (6-15)

Paul thought that Christianity was the most blasphemous religion. That was because Jesus claimed that he was the Son of God, the Savior.  Paul though that Jesus was just a regular man.  To say that he was God or the Messiah was blasphemy.  Something had to be done about it.   He was very serious. Therefore, Paul was going to go to Damascus and bring the Christians there “as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.” (5) 

However, when they neared Damascus, a bright light flashed around him and he heard a voice, “Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?” (7)  Paul asked, “Who are you, Lord?” (8)  The voice answered, “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.” (8) 

This showed that Paul and the Jews premises were decisively wrong. They thought that Jesus of Nazareth could never be the Son of God, the Messiah, and the Savior.  Anyone that says such a thing must be a blasphemer.  However the Jesus that Paul was persecuting was in reality, the Lord Himself.

Paul who studied the law of the Old Testament under Gamaliel so enthusiastically did not know this.  Romans 10:4 says, “Christ is the end of the law…” This “end” means the fulfillment or the goal.  In other words, the goal of God’s law was Christ.  When He came, Christ would fulfill the law, end it.  Even so they didn’t know Jesus who fulfilled the law, and was the goal of the law.  It’s like looking at one tree and missing the forest. Ananias’ words point this out in verse 14, “The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth.”

Paul thought that he had been “thoroughly trained in the law” (3) but “The God of our fathers has chosen” to show Paul his will and for then Paul will “see the Righteous One and… hear words from his mouth.” (14)  This “Righteous One” is Christ, the will of God.  If you don’t know this then you can’t see Him.

This is like a map.  When we open up a map it is for the purpose of finding out how to get to the place we want to get to.  However, if we think about each individual place on the map, we’ll forget about where we wanted to go and there will be no purpose in having opened the map.  If we think, “Ah, there’s a 7-11 here!” “Oh, here’s a bakery! When I have a chance I want to see what they sale!”  “Oh, here’s the park that everyone is always talking about.  I wonder what the park is like.” “Oh, I forgot where I was going to go.” Then the map has no purpose.  The Law was supposed to be a map that man was supposed to follow.  It was good that man did consider the map very important, but they were concerned with each individual thing on the map and forgot about where they were going.  There were supposed to arrive at Jesus. When Paul met Ananias in Damascus and heard the words of Ananias, he understood clearly those words.  Jesus of Nazareth whom he had been persecuting was the Son of God, the will of God. Also his calling was to be a witness and witness to all people.

Since Japanese don’t have the Old Testament, we tend to think that this is for Jews only.  However in reality that is not so.  If we are separated from the “Righteous One” and “Going my way” then we have no different from Paul who forgot where he was going because he was so busy looking at the map. 

“Even the stork in the sky knows her appointed seasons, and the dove, the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration.  But my people do no know the requirements of the LORD.

How can you say ’We are wise, for we have the law of the LORD,’ when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?

The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the LORD, what kind of wisdom do they have?”

Jeremiah 8:7-9

This passage is saying that the birds know when it is time to return home. This is because it is part of their nature. In the same way, man too has such instinct.  For example, in the natural law that would be the ability to determine right and wrong, our consciences, etc. Man’s actions are kept fixed because there are such laws. As long as man is man, such laws are part of the instincts of man.   Even so if they say that they don’t know what God’s will is and live a self centered life, “what kind of wisdom do they have?” (Jeremiah 8:9) They have no wisdom.  They are foolish.  In other words, this is not just Jews, but true of us Japanese too.  Man who was made my God. Man was made in the image of God. He was made so that he could know God, to please God, to pray to God, to fellowship with God, but man doesn’t make God God, and lives a self centered life. That is no different from the Jews who had lost the purpose of the law. It is enthusiasm without wisdom, a meaningless walk.   

When David became king, Saul, the previous king whom David served, died in battle.  One of the servants of Saul saw that Saul was injured. The servant killed Saul.   Then he “took the crown that was on his head and the band on his arm” and brought them to David. (10) Then David said to the man, “Why were you not afraid to lift your hand to destroy the LORD’s anointed?” (14)

This servant took action by human laws of thinking and thought that he was doing something good and enthusiastically took action.  However he failed to see who was “the LORD’s anointed” and to see his relationship with God, and lost the central point of action.

We too think that other religions are good, other people are no different from Christians, maybe even better, and admire them.  If we allow the Messiah to be removed from the center, no matter how enthusiastic we become according to human laws, it won’t do any good.  Jesus Christ is the center of the law, the goal of worship to God.  By knowing Him, man’s actions, and the focal point of all laws of life are put together.

III.            Jesus as our backbone (vs. 16-21)

Ananias said to Paul who had missed Jesus and had lived according to his own thinking, being completely out of focus, “And now what are you waiting for?  Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” (16)  Sin in its original meaning means “missing the mark”.  If you are living with the law as the center, and have missed the mark of Christ, you must call on his name and “be baptized and wash your sins away”.(16) We have to rebuild our unfocused life by putting Jesus Christ who came from heaven to die for our sins at the center of our thinking and our actions.  How can we live a life of not missing the mark if we don’t make Jesus our backbone?

What we thought was good, actually was a completely wrong aim.  In reality, Paul too, was very enthusiastic toward God, but because his zealousness was leaving out Christ it was completely wrong aim. Instead, we need to make Christ our backbone, the center of our lives. Verse 17 is a concrete example of this.

              When Paul returned to Jerusalem, he entered the temples and prayed.  He “fell into a trance and saw the Lord speaking.” (17,18)  The Lord said to him, “Quick!” “Leave Jerusalem immediately, because they will not accept your testimony about me.” (18) Paul who realized through Ananias’ words that he had been wrong, openly accepted  what Ananias said and repented, witnessed about Christ.   If he did so, he thought the Jews would all be like himself and realize their mistake.  However in reality it didn’t happen that way. The Lord’s thinking was different.  The Lord’s will was to “Leave Jerusalem.” (18)  The Jews weren’t going to change their thinking so easily.  Instead God’s will was that Paul go to the Gentiles.

              We should not decide things by our own thinking. Before Paul was like this, but he repented and made Jesus the backbone of his life, he chose to live his life not by his own thinking but live a life of being led by the Lord Jesus Christ.  What we need to do is live with Jesus as our backbone. Then we will be filled far more than we can ever imagine with God’s glory.

              How about you? Are you living for yourself, for your own thinking?  Even though humanly speaking it may seem right, in reality the focus is off. “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” (16) Rebuild your out of focus life. Put the Lord Jesus Christ as the center of your thoughts and actions.  Let’s listen to the Lord’s voice and walk according to his leading.  This is the enthusiasm that the Lord is happy about.

Acts21:17-40 “Everything is for the Gospel”

The events in today’s passage occurred after Paul ended his third mission trip and went to Jerusalem. In today’s passage Paul is arrested, and is bound in chains.  From here until the end of Acts Paul’s hardships are recorded.  Luke who wrote Acts wrote it in four parts.  At Pentecost Acts began with the coming of the Holy Spirit and was greatly expanded with the salvation of Paul on the way to Damascus.  Presently Paul is arrested at Jerusalem and this is tied to his imprisonment in Rome. In other words, these events in Jerusalem are central to all the events in Acts.  They are the turning point to what happens from here on. Today from this event of Paul being arrested let’s look at three things that we can learn from Paul who did everything for the sake of the Gospel.

I.           In order that many people would be won (vs. 17-26)

              First let’s look at Christian freedom.  When Paul arrived in Jerusalem, the Church brothers welcomed him.  The next day they went to see the Jerusalem Pastor, James. There Paul reported to the church elders who had gathered there, the great things that God had done through him among the Gentiles. Of course at that time too they gave the offerings that had been gathered from the Macedonian churches.  Those elders who heard the report praised the Lord. There was unity in the church.  Even if the works were done by other people than themselves, it was the Lord that worked through the other person so they rejoiced in the work and was thankful.  It is important to be happy and rejoice together in the work of the Lord through other people.

              However, there were some people who weren’t like this.  These were Jews who became Christians, but fervently held to the law. There weren’t necessarily a lot of such Christians, but because of their zealousness towards the law, they were openly against Paul.  This was because they thought that just by believing in Christ that you aren’t saved.  They thought that you must also follow the law to be saved. Therefore, when they heard that Paul was not requiring the Jewish Christians to follow the law, they became antagonistic towards Paul.

              Not all the Jews who entered the Christian faith were like that.  It was just some of the Jewish Christians, but they were very zealous towards the law so they weren’t able to leave the old customs, and they weren’t able to see the whole picture, and were locked into their own thinking. 

              There are times when we are the same.  We are so enthusiastic that we can’t see what’s happening.  Especially those who have studied about the subject think that they are right and can’t look correctly at the situation.

              However, this problem that is occurring here has already occurred in the Antioch church.  That problem was supposed to be already solved.  In 15:1 the Jews from Judea came to Antioch and were teaching, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”  This caused a huge dispute.  As a result Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem and discussed this with the apostles and the elders.  This was the Jerusalem council.  There it was decided that God gives the Gentiles the same Holy Spirit.  There was no partiality.  God purified them through their faith.   Therefore, they must not burden them down with the law.  A person is saved through faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore it was decided to “write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” (15:20) The problem was solved this way, but again the problem arose.  Also they are saying that Paul was teaching “not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs.” (21) Paul was teaching that you do not have to be circumcised to be saved.  The Jerusalem leaders also agreed to this.  However, he never forbids them to circumcise.  He never said that they could not follow the law.  He only said that salvation was through Jesus Christ.  Only by believing in Christ are you saved.  Jesus is the savior.  The basis of our faith is that by believing and receiving Christ you are saved.  This is what Paul was emphasizing.          

              The Jerusalem leaders who realized that the Jewish Christians accusations were wrong made a suggestion in verses 23-25.

              We don’t know what the vow was that the 4 men had made.  It was probably a Nazirite vow.   We’ve seen the Nazirite vow before, but the Nazirite vow was for at least 30 days and during that time you cannot drink alcohol, go near a dead body, eat unclean food, or cut your hair.  When the vow is over, you must cut your hair before God, and offer a sacrifice unto the Lord. Then you are set free.  If Paul paid part of the expense of the purification rites it would show them that Paul was following the law and living rightly.

In verse 26 we are told how Paul reacted to their suggestion. “The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them.  Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.”    

              Paul immediately accepted their suggestion and the next day went to the temple, and was purified with the men who were being purified for their vows. He paid the bill for all of their purifications. Then until their days of purification were over, 7 days later, he didn’t do anything.  Paul taught that a person is saved only by Jesus Christ, not by what he does; but he participated in their vow purification. He was not against the Jewish customs.   He followed these customs so that he would not be a stumbling block. He wanted others to be saved. 

I Cor. 6:12

              Christians are free.  However, we need to think about how we are going to use our freedom. We need to be like Paul and be careful not to be a stumbling block. This is love.  We are free, but we use that freedom for other people’s good. 

I Cor. 9:19-23

              This was Paul’s heart.  In order for others to be saved he became a Jew to the Jews and like a Greek to the Greeks.  The central points of the Gospel should never be changed, but we should be willing to be flexible with non essential points.  Having a correct understanding of the Gospel and being sacrificial is a good Christian witness.

              Christians are living to show the greatness of Christ.  At times that requires being sacrificial.  You can’t live how you want to, but so that the wonderful Christ can be seen.  We want to gladly give of ourselves. That was how Paul lived.  Paul was able to live like a Jew because he wanted many people to be saved.  We too need to live like Paul.

              The sacrifice that Paul makes is not a compromise. 

              1.           Here Paul and the Jerusalem leaders are confirming again what the Jerusalem counsel had already decided upon.  In other words, salvation is only by faith not by following the law.  Paul knew that the Jerusalem Church was standing correctly in their understanding of the Gospel so he could confidently worship at the temple and took part in the vow purification. When we are established in our basic doctrine, then we are able to make sacrifices.  When our understanding of the Gospel is not well established then often we compromise.

              2.           The reason and motive for the sacrifice is important.  Paul wanted the Jews to be saved. Therefore, he was willing to make sacrifices.  If we just don’t want to be a stumbling block then we make compromises.  However, if we are really concerned that the Gospel be spread and others saved, then we will be willing to make the necessary sacrifices.

              In the present day church there are occasionally people like these Jewish Christians that cause conflict within church.  Sometimes there is thinking that we should compromise.  However it is important to stand in a correct understanding of the Gospel and have a heart of love to be like the Jews to the Jews, and spread the Gospel of Christ.

II.          There is the help of God (vs. 27-36)

              “When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple.  They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him.” (27) First Paul was being criticized by the Jewish Christians.  Next Paul is arrested by the Jews.  The Jews from Asia are not Jewish Christians but pure Jews who hadn’t enter the Christian faith yet.    They thought that Paul had brought Trophinus, the Ephesian, into the temple area and had defiled the holy place.  The temple was a very important place for the Jews.  That was a symbol that God was with them.  They believed that God was there.  Not just anyone could enter the temple. There was a garden of the Gentiles.  The Gentiles couldn’t go in beyond this point. Anyone who went beyond that point would be considered making the temple unclean.  They thought that Paul had brought Trophimus into the temple and had defiled the temple.

              However, this was not the case.  They had jumped to conclusions and thus made Paul a criminal.  It caused uproar and riots within the city. They tried to kill Paul but “news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. He at once took some officers and soldiers, and ran down to the crowd.  When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.” (32) They were too stuck in their own thinking so they weren’t able to open their hearts and understand the present situation.

              When they tried to kill Paul, the commander of the Roman troops came and “they stopped beating Paul.” (32)   If the Roman commander would have been later, then Paul may have been killed.”  This was not because the Roman commander wanted to help Paul.  The Roman commander was worried about the riot and what influence it would have on his reputation. God used this fear to help Paul. Paul was helped by God.

III.        Use every opportunity as a chance to spread the Gospel. (37-40)

              Lastly let’s look at Paul’s defense.  “The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains.  Then he asked who he was and what he had done.” (33)  The crowd was shouting all sorts of things in confusion so he wasn’t able to find out what happened.  Therefore, he commanded that Paul be taken to the barracks. As the soldiers were about to take Paul into the barracks, Paul asked the commander, “May I say something to you.” (37)  The commander was surprised that Paul spoke Greek.  Paul requested permission to speak to crowd. “Having received the commander’s permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd.  When they were all silent,” he spoke to them in Aramaic.”  (40) 

              In the middle of a riot, when he was in a dangerous situation, Paul didn’t become discouraged, but asked the commander, “May I say something to you.” (37)  Paul wanted to witness to the people.  He wanted to witness to the Gospel.  Next week we will look at what he said, but Paul used the opportunity he had to witness to the people.  This was because for him sharing the Gospel was the most important thing.  What a person thinks determines his actions.  Those who think that sharing the Gospel is the most important thing will use every opportunity they have to do so.

              Paul thought that sharing the Gospel was the most important thing so he used every opportunity as a chance to do so.  For you what is the most important thing?  Let’s make God number one in our life and live for God.  We are alive for the purpose of sharing the Gospel. Let’s use every opportunity as a chance to share the Gospel.

Acts21:1-16 “Leaving it to the will of God”

              After giving his farewell address to the Ephesian elders at Miletus, Paul took his first step in heading toward Jerusalem.  It was like when Jesus made his last trip to Jerusalem, it was a trip of death, there was a dark cloud hanging in front of him on the road. Even so he continued on to Jerusalem because it was the Lord’s will. Today let’s look at 3 things we can learn from Paul who lived in the will of God.

I.            Live your calling  (vs. 1-6)

              First Paul lived for the calling he had received from God. Paul left Miletus and set sail to Co. The next day he “went to Rhodes and from there to Patara.” (1) There they “found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail.” (2) They were headed for Syria and landed at Tyre because the ship had cargo to unload there. When Paul got off the ship there he found the disciples there and “stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.” (4)

              When Paul got to Tyre he found the disciples there and stayed with them.  In Acts 11:19 we are told, “Those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch.”  These disciples were a result of the evangelization that took place by the disciples who had been scattered to the area as a result of the persecution in connection with Stephen’s martyr. The word that is used for “finding” means “going here and there and finally finding” At that time there were no maps of individual homes in the city, no phone books, etc. so it would have been difficult to hunt for the Christians there.  However, Paul went to the trouble to do so because he wanted to meet with them and fellowship with them.  This is Christian fellowship.

              Paul spent one week fellowshipping with them so it must have been a deep fellowship.  Even if we have a polite relationship with someone, if we are with them for 2 or 3 days, we begin to open our hearts to each other.  It was at this time the believers of Tyre the Holy Spirit revealed to the disciples that when Paul went to Jerusalem he was going to face many hardships. Therefore, “they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.” (4) Having been led to the faith by people who had come to Tyre because of the persecutions may have made them feel for and understand the struggles and trials of Christians who are in similar situations.  Therefore, it is very understandable that they would urge Paul so strongly not to go on knowing that trials lay ahead. Even so, Paul continued on towards Jerusalem.

              Even though Paul was urged by the disciples in Tyre not to go on to Jerusalem, Paul continued on towards Jerusalem because that was the Lord’s will.  In Acts 19:21 Paul decided that going to Jerusalem and on was the Lord’s will.  Also in Acts 20:23 Paul said to the Ephesian elders, “I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.” 

              Going to Jerusalem was the Lord’s will.  Paul knew that he would be facing prison and hardships. However, he was compelled to go to Jerusalem not only to bring the offerings from the different churches and to fellowship with the members there, but because he knew in the end that he had to go to Rome.  That was the Lord’s will. He had assurance that no matter what obstacles were put in his path to overcome them was what the Lord wanted.

              In Acts 20:24 right after Paul says that he knows that he will face prison and hardships, he says, “however, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.”

              This was Paul’s calling.  If he could fulfill his calling, then he considered his life worth nothing.  A person’s calling is a source of energy that allows you move forward even though you know that there are huge problems ahead.

              What has God called you to do?  It’s ok if your call is not clear, but vague.  It is important to establish it.  It is not what you want to do, but what God wants you to do.  It is what you are living for.  Our greatest calling is heaven, but at the same time to make the rest of the time we have left on this earth meaningful, we need to think thoughtfully about what our calling is.  May we like Paul say, “If only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me.” (20:24)  We are really blessed

if we can say decisively what our task is.

II.          Make up your mind.    (vs.7-13)

Paul continued the voyage from Tyre to Ptolemais.  He spent one day there and the next day reached Caesarea. In Caesarea there was a man named Philip, the evangelist whose house Paul stayed at. This is the Philip that appeared in chapter 8 of Acts. In 8:40 we are told, that “Philip traveled about preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.” From then all, he stayed in Caesarea and evangelized.  He had 4 unmarried daughters who were dedicated to serving the Lord.  

              After they “had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.” (10)  Agabus occurs in 11:27.  He came to Paul when he was staying with Philip and “took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it.” (11)  Then he prophesized, “In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.” (11)  Paul was warned in Tyre and now is warned a second time here by Agabus.  Not only that but this warning is “in this way”, it is more real or visual.   When those who were traveling with Paul heard this, they  joined the people there urging Paul not to go to Jerusalem. However, Paul gives his answer in verse 13.  He shook off their pleading and says that he is determined to go to Jerusalem. This is because he was “ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” (13) For Paul the important thing was not running from death or being bound, but doing the will of God.

Romans 6:5

Philip. 3:10,11

Paul wanted to be like Jesus. To be like Jesus means to become like Jesus in his death.

Jesus said in Luke 13:33, “In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day-for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!”

Jesus’ words are a response to a Pharisee who came to Jesus and said, “leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.” (31) In the same way, Paul must today, tomorrow, and the next day continue towards Jerusalem. He wanted to become like Jesus in his death.

              In reality, Paul must have been really shaken up. Even though Paul was moving earnestly towards Jerusalem. the believers who were close to him, and fellow workers were saying to him, “Don’t go”. What would you do if you were in Paul’s shoes?  Paul responded, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart?” (13)  By his words we can feel that Paul was very shaken up and his heart is wrenched.  Even so he is continuing towards Jerusalem.  This is because “for the name of the Lord Jesus” (13) Paul was living for the name of the Lord Jesus.  Even if there were struggles, trials, even death, he was moving forward because he was living for the name of the Lord Jesus.  He had made up his mind that even if it meant death he was going to live for the name of the Lord.  How strong a commitment we have determines not only our Christian life, but our whole life. Because Paul had made up his mind to live for the name of the Lord Jesus, even if it meant death so he was able to move forward towards Jerusalem even though he knew what he was going to have to face there.

III.         Leave everything to the Lord (vs. 14,15)

              Thirdly, Paul left everything to the Lord.  In other words, Paul didn’t move according to his own decisions or what others advised, but he left everything to the Lord.  As a result of Paul’s decision, the disciples who were with him realized that they couldn’t stop his will and they themselves were able to leave everything to the Lord.  We need to leave everything to the Lord who made us and teaches us. The road of life isn’t one of joy, but for those who leave everything to the Lord, God will be responsible to them.  Our life, our death, the way we live, everything we need to leave to the Lord, and move forward in His will.

              When we look at Acts 20:24 we can see that Paul was controlled by Christ.  He went where he was meant to go.  That was Paul’s life.  Whether he was going to Jerusalem or to Rome no matter where he was running, he kept running the race even when his life was on the line.  He was controlled by and lived for the name of Christ. Therefore, he kept running the race and it became his lifestyle.  Also he left everything up to God. His life was running the road that he was given.          

              No matter what road God has given us, like Paul’s lifestyle, we need to continue down that road, the road of God’s will. Then trusting in God and his love, walk on to our Jerusalem.  

Acts20:28-38 “The Good Shepherd” 

Today’s passage is a continuation of Paul’s message at Miletus. Last week we looked at the first part of Paul’s message and saw what kind of a person is a witness to the Gospel.  Today let’s look at how a leader in the church should be. In verse 28 it says, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God.”  In other words, Paul is telling the Ephesian church elders and pastors, in other words the leaders of the church, to and how they should pastor the church.

Pastoring is “a noble task”. (I Tim. 3:1)  Therefore, today let’s look at 3 aspects of a person who is a good shepherd, or a good pastor.

I.            Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock (vs. 28-30)

             Paul first says to the Ephesian leaders who were to pastor the flock, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock.” (28) “Watch over” means “to concentrate on being careful”  In other words, it means to be extremely careful about yourself and your flock.  The reason is given in verses 29 and 30.  It is because Paul knew that after he left them, savage wolves will come and destroy the flock.  Even within the flock “men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” (30)  There was an evil force working to draw away believers from the faith from the beginning of the church. This evil force destroys the flock. Therefore, in order to counteract this force, and so that the Church can stand as a church, we must watch over ourselves and the flock.

              First of all Paul says, “Keep watch over yourselves.” (28) In other words, the concerns of helping others and of management tend to draw our attention and we don’t realize that we ourselves are lacking and in danger.  We need to build up ourselves.  Of course the leader’s skills and identity are important, but more important is being fed by the Word of God.  Therefore, it is the Word of God that builds us up. Through the help of the Holy Spirit we must grow spiritually. The church leaders before feeding the people need to feed themselves.

              Next, they need to keep watch over “all the flock”. This means to pastor the church.  A shepherd’s responsibility is so the sheep can eat grass and drink water and grow, to lead them to places where there is grass and water.  They also must protect them from wolves and wild animals so they don’t get eaten up.  They need to be on the watch that nothing disrupts the flock. In other words, the leader needs to love deeply those whom the Lord has given him.

II.          Committing to God and to the word of his grace   (vs.31-32)

              The second thing a good shepherd needs to do is commit his flock to God and to the word of grace. With hungry wolves coming from the outside and within the flock “men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them”, we must be constantly on watch. Then we need to commit the flock “to God and to the Word of his grace.” (32)    

              In verse 32 Paul says, “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”  Here is Paul’s strongest assurance and strongest message.  This is a stronger assurance than he has had up until now as he gave encouraging words, commands and warnings.  It is stronger than anything he has said about his lifestyle.  That’s because in the end, he had to commit everything to God and to the word of his grace.  That is because it is by the Word of God that Christians grow.  It is not by human knowledge or strength that the church is built up. It is only by God and the word of his grace that the church is built up and we can be given an inheritance in heaven.

              Before in the reigns of Judah’s kings, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, Judah’s enemies came to destroy Jerusalem.  They were in a pinch because the whole city of Jerusalem was surrounded by its enemies.  The leaders of Jerusalem got together and put their heads together trying to think of what they should do.  They thought of all sorts of strategies. They thought of ways to try to develop peaceful relationships with their enemies.  They thought of signing treaties with other nations so other nations would protect her. They had lots of ideas.   Isaiah warned the Israelites not to depend upon their own thinking or wisdom, but to depend upon God. He suggested that the reason that they were in such a pinch was because they had left the real God.  The only solution was for them not to rely on human knowledge, but on the knowledge of God. He said that they needed to return to God.  Then God would forgive them.  They needed to rely on God.  However, the Jerusalem leaders didn’t listen to Isaiah’s warning.  They relied on their own thinking. As a result Jerusalem was destroyed.  That was because they didn’t rely on God.

              This can also be said of the church.  When the church becomes separated from the Word of God and depends on human thinking, it experiences destruction like Jerusalem.  However, when the church is committed to God and the word of grace, it is never destroyed.  Therefore, it is necessary to understand what the Word of God is saying, and then follow it.

              Paul believed that God and the word of grace would build up the church and give the believers an inheritance in heaven so he was able to commit the church to the Word of God.  This was not just the Ephesus church, but all churches in all generations.  It is God who builds up the church.  We need to remember that it is only by God, and the Word through the work of the Holy Spirit that the church grows.  Therefore, we need to be a flock that follows the Word of God.

III.         It is more blessed to give than to receive (vs. 33-35)

              Thirdly a good shepherd practices the words of Jesus “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (35) The last thing that Paul talked about was how they could help the weak.  That was to have the heart of Jesus who said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (35)  Jesus lived such a life.

Luke 6:38

John 12:24,25

Jesus gave up himself and died on the cross that we might live.  Jesus’ life was a life of giving.

John 10:11

Jesus gave his life for us.  Jesus is the good shepherd.  “A hired hand doesn’t give his life for his sheep” because he doesn’t own the sheep. “So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away.  Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.” However, Jesus is the good shepherd. He gives his life for the sheep.  Then we who follow the good shepherd need to live by “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (35)

              In this world a lot of people think the opposite that it is more blessed to receive that to give.  We are self centered so we think we are really happy when we receive things, but that is not real happiness.  In fact the more we try to keep possessions for ourselves, the more we have feelings of meaninglessness.  Money is not bad.  What is bad is being controlled by money.  When we try to save money, we tend to rely on the money, and become a slave to the money. 

II Cor. 8:7

Giving is the grace of God.  Offerings are the grace of God.

II Cor. 8:19

Offerings “show our eagerness to help” (19) If our offerings do not show this eagerness, then there is little meaning in it.  Not only that, but it is difficult for us to give joyfully.  If we really understood that offerings show the unity and concrete fellowship of the church, we will be changed into giving people.  Therefore, Paul gladly gave. He thought he had to help the weak.  Also by giving, he was able to remember the words of Jesus who said, ‘ “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  Paul while remembering these words, was able to live a life of giving.

              When we look at Paul we can see that he never really experienced a slump.  Instead, he said, “rejoice”.  Even when he was in prison, he said “Rejoice”.  He had a secret for overcoming all things.  That secret was Jesus Christ.  Like Jesus, he was able to give his life. If we live our life by “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” then we will be able to overcome too. 

              “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock” (28) giving freely, expecting no reward, being faithful and committing everything to God and the word of grace. This is what is expected of those who are overseers of the church that God “bought with his own blood.” (28) It is also the way of blessing for all Christians.

              In Rev. 2:1-5 we can see how the Ephesus church was like in the end of the first century.  According to verse 2 the Ephesus church followed the teachings of Paul and they didn’t “tolerate wicked men” and were careful to test “those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.”  In other words, they followed the Word of God and they were victorious in battle.  However, God had a complaint against them.  They had forsaken their first love. 

              May our church have a hot burning love based on the Word of God.  By the love and tears of a mother may we build up the church until the coming of the kingdom of God. May each of us fulfill faithfully the task that we have been given. May we like Jesus and Paul as the result of being loved first by God joyfully give of ourselves. May we be shepherds living in this love.  This is the good shepherd that Paul and Jesus envisioned.  

Acts20:17-27 “Those who witness to the Gospel”

              Paul has finished his third mission trip and is heading for Jerusalem.  The focal point of the third mission trip was Paul’s ministry in Ephesus.  After spending 3 years ministering in Ephesus, Paul went though Macedonia where he spent 3 months and then headed for Jerusalem.  On the way in Troas there was incident of Eutychus falling out the window and dieing, but as a result of God raising him up, many people were encouraged.  From there Paul sailed to Assos and from there to Mitylene, then on to Samos. The next day they arrived at Miletus.  “From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church” (17) and gave his farewell message to them.  This was because “Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost.” (16)

              In today’s passage Paul’s farewell message is recorded.  In the Bible there are several messages of Paul to the Jews or to the Gentiles that are recorded, but there are only a few messages like this to Christians.  That means that this message is very important, and that its contents are very moving. It continues to verse 35 so it is a little long so we will look at it for 2 weeks. Paul’s message is made up into 3 parts.  In verses 18 to 21 Paul reminisces about his ministry up till now.  In verses 22 to 27 he shares his heart and what he is thinking about now. Finally in verses 28 to 35 he advises what they should do from now on. 

              Today let’s look at the first 2 sections. From this part of Paul’s farewell message let’s consider 3 aspects of the preparing our hearts to be a witness to the Gospel.

I.                A serving servant (vs. 18-21)

First of all Paul tells us to be a servant that serves.  He reminisces how he has lived up until now.  In other words he tells us about his basic lifestyle, the way he lived his life.  His life was a life of “serving the Lord”.  It was being a slave of Jesus Christ, a servant, serving the Gospel, and serving the church.  This is concretely written here.

First of all Paul “served the Lord with great humility and with tears” (18)

although he “was severely tested by the plots of the Jews.” (18)  “with great humility” (18) means that he strove not to stand out in front, but to only show Jesus Christ not himself. “with tears” is used in the same way in verse 31.  It means wearing the other person’s shoes, being absorbed in working for the other person’s salvation and benefit In other words, having humility, love, and patience and earnestly serving the Lord.

              The way he did this was he did not hesitate to preach anything that would be helpful to them and taught them publicly and from house to house to “turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.”(21) “Publicly” (20) refers to in the Jewish synagogue, and at the lecture hall of Tyrannus and at all other public places.  On the other hand, “from house to house” (20) refers to visiting homes, meetings held in homes, etc.  “to you” actually means “to each individual personin other words, personal evangelism. 

              In other words, Paul, that others might be saved always forgot about himself, using his mouth and also his body and in tears, he declared everywhere and to every one  “turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.” (21) He had that type of lifestyle.  His whole life was focused on God. He thought only about God and was controlled by him. If you pulled him away from God, the person Paul would be empty.  His heart was controlled by God.  In verse 24 he said, “I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” At the present time, Paul is going to go to Jerusalem, but he doesn’t know what will occur.  All he knows is that he will face “prison and hardships” (23) However, even if that means dying he considers his life worth nothing. He is concentrating on earnestly serving the Lord, and intently continues walking on that road.  Paul is saying this not because he wants their sympathy, but because he wants them to understand him.  He is also saying this to show what a person who serves the Gospel’s lifestyle is like.  Paul often says to imitate him.  The central thing that should be imitated is Paul’s lifestyle of serving the Lord.  This morning we want to receive his earnestness and intentness to serve the Lord .                 .

II.              Living by the priority of your calling (vs.22-25)              

Next Paul is preaching about the present circumstances that he is in and what he anticipates will happen to him. Here the number one reason why Paul who served the Lord, could continue to do so is given.  That is because he was “compelled by the Spirit” (22) to do so. When Paul goes to Jerusalem, he doesn’t know what will occur.  He does know however that he will face “prison and hardships” (23) Even so, he won’t run away because he is “compelled by the Spirit” (22) to “finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given (him)- the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” (24)

Paul made his calling his number 1 priority.  He put the Lord’s thoughts above himself.  He wasn’t caught up in his own life or death. In reality, when Paul went to Jerusalem, he was arrested, put in chains and put in prison.  However it isn’t the chains that are holding him.  It is the Holy Spirit.   He is under the power of Jesus Christ so for Christ he becomes a prisoner and goes to Jerusalem. It doesn’t matter what happens there because Jesus will lead him down the road that he is supposed to run.  It is Paul’s priority to continue on that road.  He has to continue on that road because he is under the power of Jesus, he is “compelled by the Spirit” (22) He has to “finish the race and complete the task.” (24)  This is what a person who is controlled by Jesus, a servant is like.  Paul wanted to show this to the Ephesian church’s elders.

Are you under the power of Jesus Christ?  Or are you controlled by other things?  If you are controlled by your work, your school, or your family or your future, or any other thing than Jesus Christ or if you are not compelled by the Spirit, then all is meaningless. What you are doing is just self expression. No matter what we are doing, we need through our environment and ministry make “the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” (24) our number 1 priority in our life.

II Cor. 5:14

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that” Jesus died for us (II Cor. 5:14) so our hearts are “compelled by the Spirit.” (22)  Therefore, let’s make Christ’s desires the first priority in our lives.  That is what Christ’s servants are like.

III.            Fulfill the job that we are given (vs. 26,27)

The third aspect of a servant of Christ is that they fulfill the job that they are given.  Here Paul says “I am innocent of the blood of all men.” (26)

Ezekiel 3:16-21

These are words of the Lord to Ezekiel.  Here God is saying that he had made Ezekiel a watchman over the house of Israel.  A watchman is a person who when he hears the Word of God, he then tells the people the Words in the Lord’s place.  He doesn’t know if the people will accept the warning or not. Even if the people did not accept the warning, the watchman did not have to take on the responsibility with his life.  The only thing the watchman had to do was to speak the words of his Lord.  That was the watchman’s responsibility

Probably that is why Paul is saying here that he has no responsibility for the judgment that will come upon all mankind. Paul will only be judged on whether he spoke the Words of the Lord or not.  If he fulfilled the job of spreading the gospel, then he will not need to take responsibility for those who did not believe with his life.  Even if the people do not believe, it is the responsibility of the hearers, not Paul.  The job that we are responsible for, is sharing the Good News of the grace of God. Paul was able to give his life to sharing the Gospel because he realized that he had responsibility to proclaim the Gospel and the upcoming judgment.  Christians mustn’t think that it is enough just to be able to go to heaven.  We must fulfill the job that we are called to do.  We need to intently share the Gospel of God to our family, relatives, and friends so that we can say to them like Paul did that we are not responsible for the judgment that is coming upon them “For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.” (27) 

Jesus told us to look at the fields because they are ripe and ready for harvest. (John 4:35)  Sometimes we think that the fields aren’t ripe when they really are.  We think that a person won’t be saved now if ever.  However, in reality they are ready to hear the Gospel.

   Rev. Yasuro Enomoto was passing out tracts in a hospital.  There was one person that he thought that he wouldn’t give a tract to.  That person was a group leader in the Yakuza.  He figured that it was of no meaning to give a tract to such a person.  When he tried to sneak past the person, the person yelled, “Hey! Give one to me too!”  so he gave the person one.  Right after that one of the people under the Yakuza group leader came to Rev. Enomoto and said that he had been sent to bring the pastor to Yakuza group leader. In reality in the hospital the person closest to God was the Yakuza group leader.

Sometimes we think, “this person will never become a Christian” so we don’t share the Gospel with him. However, sometimes a person that we never dreamed would accept the Lord does sooner than others. We shouldn’t be selective but boldly plant seeds.  If we do that, and are intently planting seeds, all at once we’ll be harvesting. When we plant seeds we have to wait before they are harvested.  However, now is the age of grace so God prepares the seeds and the harvest.  “Now is the time of salvation.”  We need to put the emphasis on the “now”.  It is important to be like Paul and always be sharing about Christ to everyone. Then planting and harvesting will occur at the same time.  We need to preach the Gospel.  God will work in their hearts.  However, whether they believe or not is up to the person.  We don’t need to think that they have to believe. We just need to share the Gospel.   If the person believes, out of his heart will flow the river of living life.  However, until that time the person may not be thankful for us sharing the Gospel, but even so we need to continue preaching the Word of God.

Look at the ripe fields that are ready for harvest.  Being encouraged by the Word of God let’s keep our eyes on the fields and do the work of the Lord.  Like Paul, let’s be controlled by Christ. Let’s give up ourselves, and with tears always share the Gospel of grace everywhere, and to everyone, that by our lips and actions others might be saved,.  No matter what the result is, let’s fulfill the job that we have been given.

Acts20:1-12 “The Christian comfort”

              Today’s passage tells us what happened between the time that the 3rd mission trip was over and until Paul reached Jerusalem.  In verse 1 it says, “When the uproar had ended“.  This refers to the episode that we looked at last week, the disruption that occurred at Ephesus over the goddess, Artemis.  When the disruption calmed down, Paul called together the disciples and encouraged them, and announced that he was leaving.  Then he left for Macedonia. His concern was for the Corinthian church.  The Corinthian church had many problems.  In order to solve the problems he had sent many letters, but even so that problems never seemed to be solved.  Therefore, Paul got the idea of going himself to Corinth and after that going on to Jerusalem. Therefore he went from Ephesus to Macedonia, and from there he went to Greek where he spent 3 months.  This Greece refers to the province of Achaia. This is probably a reference to Corinth, the capital of Achaia After spending 3 months there, he planned to sail on a boat for Syria (Jerusalem).  “The Jews made a plot against him.” (3) The Jews were determined to take Paul’s life.  The port at Cenchrea would have provided a convenient place for Paul’s enemies to detect him as he entered a ship to embark for Syria.  Therefore, they returned again through Macedonia.  From there they went to Troas and then from Assos they got on a boat and returned to Jerusalem.  During this time about a year passed, but Luke writes almost nothing new about the work. What he writes about is Christian encouragement and comfort. Verse 1 says “When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them…”                                                and verse 2 says, “He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people…“  In addition, from verse 7 and on, the episode at Troas of the young man, Eutychus following asleep is recorded. Eutychus who fell asleep during worship and fell from the 3rd floor window died, but he rose again.  Those who witnessed this were comforted.  Today let’s look at 3 aspects of Christian encouragement and comfort.

I.            Encouragement by the Word of God   (vs. 1, 2)

              First of all, the foundation of Christian encouragement is the Word of God.  3 years of evangelism in Ephesus ended with the great uproar over the goddess of Artemis.  “When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples” (1) whom Paul had ministered to day and night with tears for 3 years. He said his good-byes to them and planned to set out for Macedonia.  He didn’t just say good-bye, but his purpose was to encourage. It is not written here what he said, but probably it was close to what he said on his first evangelistic trip to those who had become Christians in 14:22.

              The encouragement and comfort that the church gives isn’t just mere words of encouragement, but words of the kingdom of God.  They are words that hold on to hope and give patience and endurance.  Paul encouraged them with such words, and not only that but he left Ephesus and visited the Macedonian towns that he had visited on his second mission trip, encouraging and advising them. In verse 2 it says, “He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people.” These are the words of the Gospel, the Word of God.  The church is encouraged and given strength through the Word of God. Of course, at times we are encouraged by other people’s words.  However, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.  And this is the word that was preached to you.”  (I Peter 1:24, 25)

              There are many things that come our way in life and at times we wonder if we are going to be able to continue standing, but it is the Words of the Gospel that keep us standing. 

              To those who are depressed we can say, “Read Hebrews 13:5, 6.”  It says, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’”             

To those who are worried about many things, we can say, “Read I Peter 5:7.” It says, “Cast all your anxiety on him (Jesus) because he cares for you.”

              To those who are having temptations, we can say, “Read I Cor. 10:13.” It says, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

              To those who are tired, we can say, “Read Matt. 11:28, 29.” It says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

              We need to remember that we find real encouragement and comfort through the Words of the Gospel.

II.          It’s important to find ways to protect our brothers and sisters in Christ (vs. 3-6)

              Paul, who came to Greece, spent 3 months there and then planned to leave by ship to Syria.  However, because of a plot on his live, he decided to return by way of Macedonia. The 7 people who were traveling with him are listed in verse 4.  There were “Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia.”  Then in verse 5, Luke uses, “we”.  The “we” is the “we” of Acts 16:17 which disappeared in the middle of the evangelism at Philippi. In other words, Luke remained in Philippi encouraging the brothers there.  Now Luke is with Paul again so the pronoun becomes “we”.  God did not make the road that Paul walked a lonely one, He always provided someone to walk with him.  What a great encouragement that must have been to Paul!  When the Gospel is preached there are times that there are struggles and we feel lonely, but God provides such companions to walk alongside us. 

              Let’s look at what type of people these people were.  The first to be mentioned is Sopater who is introduced as being from Berea.  Berea was one of the towns that Paul went to on his second mission trip.  Aristarchus and Secundus are introduced as being from Thessalonica.  Thessalonica was also a town that Paul visited on his second mission trip.  Gaius and Timothy were from Derbe.  Derbe was one of the towns that Paul visited on his first mission trip.  Tychicus and Trophimus were from the province of Asia which had Ephesus as its capital. Now Luke came from the church of Philippi and meets up with Paul.  The people that are traveling with him are the representatives of the different churches that Paul had visited on him mission trips.

              These men were concerned about Paul and wanted to support him on the trip. However, this was not the main reason that they went with Paul.  Paul was going to Jerusalem to bring the offering from the churches to the Jerusalem church.  They didn’t want to just hand the offering to the Jerusalem church, they wanted to share in fellowship with them.

              However, they were going not to just enjoy the warm fellowship, but as a way to protect the weak Christians.  As you probably remember, when Paul was in Corinth he made tents to support himself while he was evangelizing there.  That was because there were rumors that Paul was using the offerings for himself.  Because of the scandal, Paul wanted his life to be free from anything that might be questionable so he worked to support himself while he was evangelizing.  Now he was going to cross the sea to go to Jerusalem so he didn’t want to take any chances of having a scandal start again so he took the men with him. A scandal could be a stumbling block for weak Christians so Paul wanted to avoid it.  The best way to avoid a scandal was for Paul to have nothing to do with the money.  He had the representatives of the various churches carry it. 

              II Cor. 8:20-21

              This was the feeling that Paul had.  He wanted “to avoid and criticism of the way (II Cor. 8:20)he brought the offering to Jerusalem. He also took great “pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.” (II Cor. 8:21) 

Romans 15:1-3

              This is how Jesus was.  We are to follow the example of Christ.  Then we will be able to be an encouragement to others.

III.         A sympathetic and thoughtful heart  (vs. 7-12)

              At the end of the 7 day stay in Troas, “On the first day of the week we came together to break bread.” (7) “Break bread” means to have communion. The church was meeting on Sunday the day before Paul was planning to leave.  “Because he intended to leave the next day, (Paul) kept on talking until midnight.”  A young man named Eutychus was seated in a window in the upstairs room of the third floor. Paul’s message was so long that Eutychus fell asleep. “He fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead.” (9)  Paul went and laid on top of the man and put his arms around him and said, ”Don’t be alarmed.””He’s alive.” (10)  This does not mean that Eutychus hadn’t died. Luke, a doctor, had already recorded that he was dead in verse 9.  He was dead.  What Paul meant was that he was resurrected. Then the people returned to the room and had communion and talked until daybreak and then Paul left.

Luke did not put this passage here to teach us not to sleep in church.  Some people say he wrote this passage to teach us that God has the power to resurrect us.  Of course, this passage shows this, but the resurrection is not given a lot of emphasis.  It just happened and everyone continued to have communion and listen to the sermon.  The real reason is written in verse 12.  They “were greatly comforted.”

Paul’s greatness isn’t stressed.  Eutychus’ happiness wasn’t stressed.  The church members who were all saddened by Eutychus’ death were comforted was the focal point.  At first glance that may seem like the natural response, but not necessarily.

A class was on a school trip.  One of the students got extremely sick and as a result all of the students had to come home early.  The other students and parents visited the sick child and when they saw the student getting better said, “I’m so glad!”  However, the teacher did not visit the student or say that he was glad that the child was better.  Instead, he told the parents to apologize to the president of the P.T.A. because all the students had to come home early because their child had gotten sick.  The teacher wasn’t able to rejoice that the child had gotten better.

What would happen if a child fell out of the window and got hurt in the middle of the worship service at this church?  If we called an ambulance and heard that the child was going to live, would we be saying, “I’m so glad!” or even if our mouth is saying that would we be thinking, “What was that child doing in that window!”  “The parents should have been watching him more.”  “The parents weren’t bringing him up right.” “The parents should be more strict with him.”  “The child disrupted the church worship.”  “That child was a terrible witness for the church.” etc.

When you think about the fact that “The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted” (12) was an amazing thing.  This shows that the whole church loved even the careless young man.  In their hearts Jesus was not only the source of all life, but also the shepherd with 100 sheep.  When 1 sheep was lost he left the other 99 sheep and went looking for the lost sheep until he found him.  When he found the sheep, he was overwhelmed with joy and called all his friends and neighbors and asked them to rejoice with him.  They had the same heart of love as their shepherd, Jesus. 

Paul resurrected the young man by laying his body on top of the trouble maker and putting his arms around him.  He took the boy’s death as his own.  The people cried for him and rejoiced for him.  We can see Christian comfort here.

“Comfort” means “to call alongside”.  It means to call a weak person to come to your side, and encourage and comfort them.  Paul in order to strongly encourage Christian hearts he called people to come to his side and he encourage them with the Word of God. He was careful not to be a stumbling block to the weak by finding a way to bring the offering to the Jerusalem church in such a way as to protect the weak Christians.  He put his arms around a young trouble maker and helped him stand up again. He rejoiced in the fact that 1 lost sheep returned rather than considering the problems that the lost sheep had caused.  Being sympathetic and thinking about others is the way Christians encourage their brothers and sisters in Christ and through this encouragement comfort each other.  This is how the church should be. We need to have the heart of Christ and give this type of encouragement.

Acts19:21-41 “Walking in the way”

Today’s message title comes from verse 23. “The way” refers to Christianity.  In Hebrews 10:20 it is called “the new living way”.  Christians are those who walk in the way.  There are times when Christians walk on the way and an unthinkable      disturbance occurs, but still they need to continue walking in the way.  Not only do they just continue walking on the way, but by doing so they show the world that the way is the only living way and is a way of overflowing power and blessings. Today let’s look at 3 aspects of living by the way.

I.            A great disturbance (vs. 21-23)

              Whenever Christians strive to walk in the way, they almost always run into problems.  In this passage, Paul’s ministry in Ephesus is coming to an end.  For 3 years Paul never stopped preaching the Gospel “night and day with tears” in Ephesus. (20:31) When the ministry was slowing to a close, the Holy Spirit led him to go to Jerusalem through Macedonia and Achaia. Paul went through Macedonia and Achaia because of the friction in the Corinthian church.  He heard that there were many problems in the Corinthian church.  He tried to solve the problem by sending letters to the church, but they didn’t solve the problems well.  Therefore, Paul thought of not only going to Corinth to help solve the problems there, but to also encourage the church face to face.  However, his plan didn’t end there.  He thought of going from there to Jerusalem and then from there on to Rome.  Like the 2nd missions trip this was to report to the Jerusalem church about the 3rd mission trip and also to give the offerings from the churches in Macedonia and Achaia.

              Paul’s reason for wanting to go to Rome was not only that Rome was the center of the world, but because at that time Rome was considered to be the “ends of the earth”.  Paul knew that bringing the Gospel to the “ends of the earth” was the will of God.

Acts 1:8

In order for this promise to be fulfilled, it was necessary that the word of God be spread to “the ends of the earth”, Rome.  This was the will of God. However when Paul wanted to follow the Holy Spirit and go through Macedonia and Achaia to Jerusalem and Rome, the Bible tells us that he ran into a problem.  First Timothy and Epaphras were sent to Macedonia and Achaia. Paul was planning to go later, but was going to stay in Ephesus for a short time.  However at that time a great disturbance          occurred. There was a silversmith name Demetrius who made a good living by making silver idols of Artemis. Lot’s of people were making decisions for Christ so it was putting him and the other craftsmen out of business so they caused a great disturbance.                     Paul’s good plans of going to Jerusalem and then on to Rome by way of Macedonia and Achaia were being blocked.  Whenever we are moving forward with the Gospel and tackling the spread of the Kingdom of God problems occur which puts an obstacle in the way.

The time has come for the Nishiyama family to leave for their evangelistic missionary field.  However, a problem occurred. The papers they needed from the language school  in order to get a student visa didn’t come.  When they contacted the school they found out that the documents that the school had sent had gotten lost.  The school told them come on a traveling visa and later change the visa status to student.  Therefore, they are planning to go. Whenever, we start to move forward for the Kingdom of God, things like this happen.

About 445 B.C. Nehemiah who had returned to Jerusalem started to build the temple walls again and the same thing happened.  People objected to the work.  When Sanballat and Tobiah, an Ammonite, heard that the wall was being repaired, they got mad, and fought against it.  Tobiah said, “What they are building-if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!” (Neh. 4:3)                                              They got even madder when the Israelites continued to work on the wall regardless of his threat.  They plotted together to put an obstacle in the way of building and “stir up trouble against it.” (Neh. 4:8).  Therefore the Israelites continued working on the wall by working with one hand and holding a weapon in their other hand. They were able to complete the wall within 52 days.  God didn’t allow the wall to be built without any obstacles in the way. Rather, He led them to overcome the obstacles and to complete the wall.  We are the same.  

I Timothy 3:12

Paul was persecuted so much!  When we are tackling the spread of the King of God, some kind of obstacle always occurs. However no matter what kind of obstacle it is, a really victorious person will overcome it.  How do we overcome these obstacles?   Let’s next look at how Paul overcame them.

II.              The power of the Gospel (vs. 24-32)

Paul’s evangelism became a trigger for a great disturbance that occurred in Ephesus.  This was because Demetrius and the other silversmiths were making a good living on making silver idols of Artemis. However, Paul said that things made by hands were not gods so their business went bad.  Therefore, Demetrius caused a huge ruckus.  Artemis was originally one of the Olympus gods known as a goddess of the hunt, the forest, and wildlife. In the area of Ephesus from old times Artemis became tied with the fertility gods.  Therefore, Artemis was a woman with many breasts and was worshiped as a god of many births.  The shrine where Artemis was worshiped, the Shrine of Artemis, was a gorgeous beautiful shrine.  It greatly influenced Ephesus religion and economy. It was said that the                                     festivals and customs related to this shrine built up Ephesus.  When there were festivals many worshipers and tourists came and had a great influence on the economy of Ephesus.  Around the temple were many store booths and there were many which sold the silver idols of Artemis and was one of the major items sold there. Therefore, many people’s livelihood in Ephesus was connected to Artemis.

The other day when Dr. Gessley came we took him and his wife to Nikko      Toshogun Temple. Nikko is the same.  There are many souvenir shops and restaurants there. The people of Nikko depend upon the temple for their livelihood.  If it disappeared they would have a difficult time.  This is what happened in Ephesus.  Paul came and said that that these things made by hands are not gods.  Therefore, many people turned to the real God so Artemis and the temple were no longer necessary for them.  Demetrius’ sales went way down so he gathered together the other people of the same profession and accused Paul.  Probably he was like the head of an union.

The accusation against Paul consisted of 3 points.

1.           They receive a good income because of the work they do.

2.        Because Paul was saying that the idols made by human hands were not gods the great Artemis temple was not only discredited, but she “will be robbed of her divine majesty.” (27)

3.           As a result they were in danger of loosing their jobs and their reputation.  In other words, what Demetrius is giving as the problem is that their lifestyle is at stake.  At a short glance it looks like they are worried about Artemis’ glory, but in reality that is not what they see as the problem.  In reality they are worried about the danger of their business not being able to stand.  This was the cause of the disturbance.  This is the same as when Paul evangelized in Philippi.  When Paul cast the evil spirit out of the slave that was possessed with an evil spirit, her owner brought Paul before the magistrates.  It was for the same reason; they were making money off of her. They had lost their income so they brought Paul before the magistrates. 

Jesus had the same thing happen when he went to Gerasenes.    Jesus drove evil spirits out of the man.  The evil spirits “went into pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.” (Mark 5:13)  Therefore, the owners of the pigs went and told everyone about it and all the people pleaded “with Jesus to leave their region.” (17)  A lot of people think of the worship of God as a means of profit. Demetrius was such a person.  He said, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians.” (28) However, at the same time in his heart he was only thinking about his own wallet.  Unfortunately as a result the disturbance escalated. “Soon the whole city was in an uproar.  The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and rushed as one man into the theater.”  It had developed into a riot.  Lots of people didn’t even know why they were there.  The crowd had become hysteric. It was out of control.

When you think about it the riot was the result of Paul preaching the Gospel.   The Gospel that Paul preached changed the Ephesians’ hearts.  It changed the hearts of worshippers throughout Asia.  Those who received the Gospel that Paul was preaching no longer needed the Great goddess Artemis. They were changed into people who didn’t need the temple.  The Gospel has that much power!

II Cor. 5:17

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  It is the power to change people from being in a state of death to return to the living God.  This is one of the reasons that the Roman empire began to persecute Christians so heavily.  Christianity may not do anything, but by preaching the Gospel, it has the power to make the businesses of those who support other religious temples, and who make their livelihood by selling things go down.  It has the power to change people’s lifestyles and hobbies.  This is the way.  This is what caused the disturbance. It is natural for this kind of disturbance to take place because their livelihood depended upon their sales.  However, what is more important than you own lifestyle is what the truth is that leads people to salvation.  If  the road you have been walking on up until now is wrong, even if in may effect your lifestyle, it is necessary to return to the right road.  Then the Lord will take care of us.

The God that we believe in is the true God.  This God has the power to make us into totally new people.  We are made anew by the Gospel.  When we preach the Gospel, we have many struggles, but at the same time this is showing the power of the Gospel.  No matter how big of a problem it causes, there is no need to be afraid.  We need only to believe in the power of the Gospel to save and stand strongly upon the Gospel.

III.         Trusting in the Living God  (vs.33-41)

              “The assembly was in confusion and no one knew what they were doing.  Then “the Jews pushed Alexander to the front, and some of the crowd shouted instructions to him.  He motioned for silence for in order to make a defense before the people.  But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’” (33,34)  There was no solution to the problem.  It was the city clerk who finally quieted the crowd.  He said “Men of Ephesus, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven?  Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to be quiet and not do anything rash.” (35,36)  After saying this he said about the Christians they had brought, “they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess.” (37) In other words he pronounced them “not guilty”. Then he gives his advice to Demetrius in verses 38 and 39. 

              The city clerk’s words were successful in calming down the crowds.  We don’t know if he believed in Artemis or not.  His only concern was that the riot calm down before they were “charged with rioting” (40)  In other words he was afraid of his life. Therefore, he was no different than Demetrius.

              You will notice that Paul says nothing during this time.  This is because Paul wasn’t there. Paul wanted to go there, “but the disciples would not let him.”  In other words neither Paul nor anyone else gave a defense or a message.  The riot just started and stopped on its own. Luke was probably writing this to show through this riot who the real true God is.  In other words, the shallowness of idols made by human hands, people who use religion for their own livelihood.

              The real God is not made by human hands.  His divine majesty is not robbed.  The real God does not have to cause a riot against other faiths in order that the real God’s faith will stand.  The real God gives peace and meaning. He gives the only answer for death. He forgives sin. Without saying anything, He calms down rioting. There are people who use religion for their profit.    The real god is whom we need to trust.  When we try to walk on the way of truth many obstacles appear, but we need to trust in the real God.  We need to put our faith in the true God and worship Him.   We need to pray and read the Bible and trust in God.  This is the key to overcoming obstacles put in our path.

              Matt. 6:31-34

The problem is what we are putting first in our lives.  Our lives are full of problems that we can worry about.  However, God wants us to trust in him instead of worrying.  That’s because our God is real. He is awesome. He will give us all things.  This is what the riot in Ephesus is teaching us.

Acts19:8-20 “The power of the Word of God”

2 weeks ago we looked at the evangelism of Ephesus on Paul’s third missionary trip.  If we look at verse 8 we can see that first of all Paul evangelized in the Jewish synagogue for 3 months. Then in verse 9 and 10 we are told that he continued to evangelize at the lecture hall of Tyrannus for 2 years.  Altogether Paul was in Ephesus for 3 years. (20:31) For 3 years Paul never stopped preaching the Gospel “night and day with tears” in Ephesus. (20:31)
Three years was the longest stay in one missionary location that Luke records, but, the Bible records very little about the ministry there.  It tells us about the baptism in the name of Jesus Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples who only knew about the baptism of John.  We looked at this passage, 19:1-7, two weeks ago.  The only other record is this week’s passage, 19:8-20 and from verse 21to the end of the chapter which we will look at next week. For having stayed in Ephesus for 3 years that is a very short passage! That is because Luke chose a few events out of the 3 years worth of events to exemplify his conclusion of 19:20. In other words, Luke was focusing his writings on the fact that the “word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.” (19:20) Today let’s look at 3 ways in which “word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.” (19:20)

1. At the lecture hall of Tyrannus  (vs. 8-10)
When Paul arrived in Ephesus, he went to the Jewish synagogue like he always did and preached the Word of God.  However, this time he continued preaching there for 3 months.  This was unusual for Paul to continue preaching in a synagogue that long. Before when Paul came to Ephesus the people asked Paul to stay longer and preach. (18:20) so we can assume that Paul was really welcomed there.  There Paul “spoke boldly…arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God.” (8)  However, some of the people who heard Paul preaching “became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way So Paul left them.  He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.” (9)
Tyrannus was a person’s name.  We don’t know who he was.  He was probably the owner of the hall or one of the main speakers at the hall. The Greek word “hall” is the roots for the English word school.  In other words it was a place of instruction where people could discuss and debate together. At that time people worked until about 11:00 a.m.  The afternoon was a time of rest, a Siesta time.  During this Siesta time some people slept, others enjoyed their hobbies, and others studied.  When everyone else was taking their Siesta, the believers and those who were interested in the Gospel, met in the Tyrannus hall to hear the word of God.  What zealousness!  They gave up their nap in exchange for studying the Word of God.  They loved the Word of God more than their nap.  Of course, faith isn’t something we do in our free time or for leisure。 However, the fact that they were willing to use their Siesta time for studying the Bible shows their zealousness for the Lord.  The way we use our free time shows the type of person we are and the type of lifestyle that we have. No matter what Church you are in, Christians who are using their free minutes to study the Word of God are lay evangelists who a doing a great work for the Lord. Paul was spending time with such Christians everyday discussing the Bible.
However, according to verse 10 this continued for 2 years “so all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.” This is amazing! It is thought that during this time the Churches in Colosse, Laodicea, and the 7 churches that appear in Revelations were established at this time.  Let’s look at why the word of God spread out to all the provinces of Asia.
1. First was the fact that Ephesus was a strategic center.  Ephesus was a huge city like present day Tokyo where many people from local areas met together.  Therefore people who heard the Gospel in Ephesus took it back to their local areas.  These people really did a wonderful work in their own area.  For example, Paul never went to Colosse, but a church was established there because they had learned about the Gospel from Epaphras. (Colossians 1:7)  Probably Epaphras came to Ephesus and at the hall of Tyrannus heard the Word of God from Paul. When he returned to Colosse, he preached it.  In other words, the ministry at the hall of Tyrannus was like an evangelistic center for all of the provinces of Asia.
We can say the same thing about the huge city Otawara. When you hear that Otawara is a huge city, you may laugh, but it is true.  Now with the progress made in public transportation and the internet, even those in the country can live like those who live in huge cities.  That means that Word of God that is preached at the Sunday morning service is extremely important.  That is because if those who hear the Word of God on Sunday would return to their places and give testimony to the Word, then the Word will spread throughout the country.  It will become the roots for the starting of new churches and fruit will grow. We need to spread out our peripheral by putting this perspective in our evangelistic vision.
2. Another reason is Paul continued to preach the Word of God for 2 years.  To preach the Gospel is work that requires strong perseverance. You don’t see results right away. You can’t know whether you succeeded or failed right away.  You need strong perseverance to be able to continue day after day. The handkerchiefs and aprons that are mentioned in verse 12 were probably used by Paul in his tent making. That means that he was probably making tents as well as evangelizing.  In the morning he probably worked like every one else and during the Siesta time preached the Word of God.  He must have been very busy with very little free time. He may have even gone to the Tyrannus in his work clothes.   Later Paul said to the elders of the Ephesian church, “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia, I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews.  You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house.  I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.” (20:18-21)  “Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.” (20:31)
This is something that can not be done without tears.  Paul continued training them with tears day and night.  As a result all the people in Asia were able to hear the Gospel.  The important thing is that no matter the condition we are in to continue to preach the Gospel.  I think the words that God spoke to Paul in his dream in Corinth was always in Paul’s heart encouraging him to continue to preach the Gospel.

II. A powerful work (vs. 11-16)
In Ephesus not only did Paul preach the Word of God in the synagogue and the hall of Tyrannus, but many miracles were also performed.  If we look at verse 23 and following we can see that Ephesus was a very spiritual city.  It was a town of idols centered around Artemis. In this type of city not only preaching the Gospel, but the “extraordinary miracles” (11) were important for the spread of the Gospel.
Here the miracles that were performed by Paul were not the usual miracles, but no ordinary ones, so they were called “extraordinary miracles”.  Paul’s handkerchiefs and aprons “were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.” (12)  This is similar to the miracles performed in 5:15 where “people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of the as he passed by.”  In this case the people took Paul’s handkerchiefs and aprons to the sick, “and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.” (12)
Ephesus was a city of idols and among them the famous Artemis.  Therefore, such miracles were important in showing the people in a way that they could see the spiritual warfare going on. Not only that but it set the stage for the next event which is recorded in verses 13-16.
Here some Jews who drive out evil spirits come on the scene.  Since Ephesus was the center of the Asian provinces and was full of idolatry it was only natural that there be people who drive out evil spirits. These Jews who drive out evil spirits were amazed by the miracles that Paul was performing and wanted to be able to do the same thing so they “tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed.” (14)  One day they said, “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” (15)  and the evil spirit responded, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” (15)  Then the man with the evil spirit beat them up to the point “that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.” (16) These Jews who did this are introduced as the “seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest.” (14)
Their mistake was in thinking the name of Jesus had some kind of special power. They thought that just by saying, “Jesus” that something amazing would happen. They thought that just by saying, “Jesus” that anything they wanted would be done. This kind of thinking is seen commonly in Japan.  If you say the Buddhist prayer nothing bad will come upon you.  If you hang a safe transportation charm on your car, then you won’t have an accident.  However, just because you do that doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily going to be safe.   When there is a traffic accident, the car involved often has the sticker from a famous shrine or temple on it.
It is also interesting that when the seven sons of Sceva tried to cast out the demon in the name of Jesus, that the demons said that they didn’t know who the seven sons of Sceva were.  In human society we can deceive other people, but we can’t deceive the spiritual world.   The “evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all.  He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.” (16)  As a result, “when this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor.” (17)

III. They were all seized with fear (vs. 17-20)
This event more that Paul’s “extraordinary miracles” amazed people.  And this event became known to all of those in Ephesus. In other words, all Jews and all Greeks living there became aware of the event and were “seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor.” (17)
Not only that but according to verses 18 and 19, not only those people who didn’t know Christ, but many Christians too “came and openly confessed their evil deeds.” (18)  They brought the scrolls that they had used in sorcery and burned them. “When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas.” (19)  A drachma was a silver coin worth about a day’s wages.
Ephesians 5:8-12
There are cases when Christians do what “is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.” (Ephesians 5:12) They still have something “to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness.” (Ephesians 5:11)   This isn’t just the Ephesians, but us too.  If we are involved in such deeds of darkness, we need to bring them out and no matter what their value is burn them and throw them away.   This is because “the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth.” (Ephesians 5:9) This is what God desires.   If we repent of our sins and return to God, it will have the same purpose as Paul’s “extraordinary miracles”. By fearing God and repentance, the Word of God will spread out. This was the source of the Ephesus revival.
In other words, Paul continued to preach the Word of God in the idol filled Ephesus.  Also by the amazing work of God there was victory over the evil spirits. Also by the sons of Sceva being over powered by the demons, everyone was “seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor.” (17) Also believers repented and the Word of God “spread widely and grew in power.” (20)
There are times when we wonder if what we are doing has meaning or not.   However, we need to continue to preach the Word of God and day and night cry out to the Lord.   If we continue in the encouragement of the Lord’s work then people will fear God and repent and people will continue to come into the faith.  Let’s believe this and continue in the Lord’s encouragement.