Sermon: The Law Is Not Our Enemy, Acts 21

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The Law Is Not Our Enemy 

Acts 21

Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • May 21, In the year of our Lord, 2017


  1. Acts 21.1–3 | On the Move Toward Jerusalem 
    1. Paul and his preaching team left Miletus,
    2. sailing straight to Cos, and
      1. the next day they went to Rhodes,
      2. then to Patara.
        1. They found a ship to take them to Phoenicia, and
        2. as they sailed they passed to the left of Cyprus, and
          1. continued on to Syria,
          2. landing at Tyre, because
            1. the ship needed to unload its cargo there.
  2. Acts 21.4–6 | Paul, Don’t Go to Jerusalem 
    1. They found disciples in Tyre (how?), and
      1. stayed with them in Tyre for seven days,
      2. showing the lost art of hospitality.
    2. The Holy Spirit had already warned Paul
      1. that wherever he went,
      2. chains and tribulations awaited him.
    3. However, at Tyre he received an extra message from the Spirit,
      1. who spoke through the disciples there
      2. that Paul should not go up to Jerusalem.
        1. That did not move Paul,
        2. nor his friends.
          1. Therefore, after one week they left and
          2. made their way toward Jerusalem,
            1. with the brethren from Tyre accompanying them out of town,
            2. bringing their wives and children with them.
    4. Outside the city, they went by the seashore, and
      1. knelt down and
      2. prayed.
    5. Finally the preaching team boarded a ship
      1. to take them South, and
      2. the brethren went back their homes in the city.
  3. Acts 21.7–9 | From Brethren in One City to Brethren in Another City 
    1. They sailed from Tyre to Ptolemais,
      1. named after the Greek general who took over the area after Alexander the Great died.
      2. In Ptolemais they found brethren again, and
        1. stayed one day.
    2. They left Ptolemais and headed for Caesarea.
      1. There they found Philip the evangelist,
      2. one of the seven deacons in Acts 6, and
        1. they stayed in his home.
        2. An evangelist owned a home.
    3. Philip had four daughters,
      1. all virgins and
      2. they prophesied.
  4. Acts 21.10–14 | Paul Will Be Arrested 
    1. They stayed in Caesarea for a while and
      1. Agabus, a prophet, arrived from Judea.
      2. Why did the Spirit not use Philip’s daughters?
    2. This man took Paul’s belt,
      1. bound his own hands and feet with it, and said,

        “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’”
      2. All Paul’s friends did what we would do,
        1. they tried to persuade him not to go up to Jerusalem.
        2. Why walk into trouble?
          1. Paul did not see it that way.
          2. He saw it as living and dying for the only eternal cause,

            13 Then Paul answered, “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”
    3. What more could his friends say?
      1. Why would they even think of stopping a man
      2. from dying for the Lord Jesus?
        1. He loved them all very much.
        2. Therefore, their tears and pleading were breaking his heart.
          1. He wanted to do what they said, but
          2. he also wanted to die for Jesus.
  5. Acts 21.15–16 | The Final Step in the Journey 
    1. Paul’s team stayed with those precious brethren for several days, but then
    2. the time arrived that they had to leave for Jerusalem, for
      1. they wanted to arrive on time for the Feast of Pentecost.
      2. Otherwise, all their traveling and haste would amount to nothing.
    3. Some of the disciples of Jesus from Caesarea
      1. wanted to make this journey with Paul and his team,
      2. wanting part of a great evangelism opportunity.
  6. Acts 21.17–25 | They Arrive in Jerusalem: Controversy Greets Them 
    1. The brethren in Jerusalem received the preaching team with joy.
      1. The next day, the team met with James, the Lord’s brother, and the elders.
      2. Paul reported in detail on how God worked through Paul’s ministry for the benefit of the Gentiles.
        1. Did Paul brag?
        2. Did he bring attention to himself?
          1. If you know Paul,
          2. you know that he honored God.
    2. Verse 20 says that they did not glorify Paul
      1. after hearing his detailed report,
      2. they knew it was all about the Lord!
    3. Then James and the elders turned their attention to the multitude of believing and zealous Jews,

      20b And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law; 21 but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. 22 What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come. 23 Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. 24 Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law. 25 But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.”

      1. The main source or instigator of persecution against the preachers
        1. has been the Jews, but
        2. many of them also
          1. believed in Jesus and
          2. were zealous for the Law.
      2. As preachers always find out, someone talks about them,
        1. misinforming others about the preacher’s words and works.
        2. In this case, the rumor was
          1. that Paul taught Jews living among the Gentiles
            1. to forsake Moses,
            2. not to circumcise their children, and
            3. not to walk according to the customs of the Jews.
      3. James and the elders feared that the misinformed brethren would hear that Paul had arrived in Jerusalem.
        1. Therefore, James and the elders wanted Paul to go with four brethren
        2. who had taken a vow.
          1. The leaders wanted Paul to purify himself along with these men,
          2. paying their expenses
            1. that they might shave their heads, and
            2. that would show that the Jerusalem brethren
              1. had been misinformed, but
              2. that Paul
                1. walked orderly and
                2. kept the Law.
        3. As for the Gentiles who believed,
          1. the Jerusalem leaders, of which Paul had been a part,
          2. had written to the Gentiles that they did not have to do those things,
          3. yet, they should keep themselves from
            1. things offered to idols,
            2. from blood,
            3. from things strangled, and
            4. from sexual immorality.
  7. VII.Acts 21.26–29 | The Misinformed Start a Riot 
    1. Paul did as James and the elders asked, and
      1. just about when Paul and the four men had completed the days of purification, when they would make an offering,
      2. verse 27 says that Jews from Asia,
        1. not Jews in the church or out of it from Jerusalem, but
        2. troublemakers who came from another place,
          1. saw Paul in the temple.
          2. They then stirred up all the people there,
            1. capturing Paul, and
            2. they spread more misinformation about him,

              28 “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.”

              1. Then Luke explains that last line,

                29 (For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)
              2. More misinformation gets added to misinformation.
    2. Paul did not teach everyone everywhere
      1. against the Jews,
      2. against the Law,
      3. against the temple, nor
      4. did he bring non-Judaized Greeks into the temple.
  8. VIII.Acts 21.30–32 | Misinformation Leads to Evil Actions 
    1. People in Jerusalem knew of Paul’s influence in the Mediterranean world.
    2. Therefore, when they heard this false news about him,
      1. it disturbed them, and
      2. they grabbed him,
        1. hauled him out of the temple, and
        2. the temple reacted,
          1. the doors closing automatically, instantly.
    3. These Jews had every intention of killing Paul, but
      1. the local Roman commander heard that Jerusalem was in a riotous state.
      2. He brought soldiers and centurions, and
        1. ran to the Jews as they were beating Paul and
        2. when they saw the Romans, they quit beating him.
  9. Acts 21.33–36 | The Roman Commander Assumed Paul a Criminal 
    1. The Roman commander went and rescued Paul, but
      1. bound him with two chains,
      2. not ropes or something similar, but chains,
        1. assuming he was the problem.
    2. The commander asked the Jews
      1. who Paul was and
      2. what he had done, but
        1. as with all riotous protestors,
        2. they just all shout this and that,
          1. making it impossible to know what was going on.
          2. Therefore, the commander wanted Paul brought to the barracks,
            1. which was a safe place for Paul
            2. that the commander might question him and find out the truth.
    3. However, the violence of the out-of-control mob
      1. made the soldiers have to carry Paul
      2. above the rioters to keep him safe.
        1. They wanted him dead.
        2. They followed the Romans as they carried Paul,
          1. crying out, “Away with him!”
          2. as the Jews did who wanted Jesus crucified.
  10. Acts 21.37–39 | An Amazing Thing Happened on the Way to the Barracks 
    1. In Greek, Paul asked to speak to the commander,
      1. who was shocked that Paul could speak Greek.
    2. First, the commander asked whether Paul could speak Greek, for
      1. it might be that he only knew a few phrases.
      2. Could he speak fluently?
        1. If only this Roman commander could have known,
        2. that Paul could have spoken any language, because
          1. as an apostle the Holy Spirit
          2. enabled him to speak in all languages.
    3. Then notice in verse 38 how the Romans also had misinformation about Paul.
      1. The commander was surprised that Paul could speak Greek, because
      2. the commander thought Paul was an Egyptian,
        1. who had started a rebellion and
        2. who had led 4,000 assassins out into the wilderness!
    4. Paul set the record straight with the Roman and
      1. he wanted to set the record straight with the Jews.
      2. Therefore, he stated that he was a Jew,
        1. so these were his people, but
        2. he was also from Tarsus in Cilicia,
          1. a highly significant city,
          2. meaning that he was also a Roman citizen.
    5. What did Paul want with the commander?
      1. Paul wanted to talk with the people
      2. who were just beating him, wanting the Romans to kill him.
  11. Acts 21.40 | Paul Readies to Speak 
    1. The Roman commander allowed Paul to speak.
      1. They let him down on the stairs, and
      2. he motioned to the people with his hand.
    2. Then he did something that got their attention:
      1. He spoke in Hebrew!
      2. This was their own language.
        1. We do not have time to continue, but
        2. Lord willing we will see what he said next week.


  1. Think Saving Souls (Matt 28.18 [Greek?: “As you go…])
  2. Show Hospitality 
    1. If you cannot show it at home,
    2. show it at our assembly.
      1. Do not simply talk with your friends and family.
      2. Visit with other members of the church.
      3. Look for visitors and greet them.
    3. Hebrews 13 still says,

      2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels (Heb 13.2).
  3. Pray and Kneel 
  4. Do Not Fear Opposition 
  5. Preachers and Elders Meet 
  6. Reconsider What You Think of the Old Testament 
  7. VII.Correct Misinformation 
    1. Concerning self: As far as you can, and as long as people are willing to listen.
    2. Help someone who has been the subject of misinformation.
  8. VIII.Do Not Spread Misinformation about Others 
    1. If you dislike someone it is easy to make assumptions about him,
    2. such as the Asiatic Jews assuming Paul brought Trophimus into the temple.
  9. Do Not Follow a Multitude to Do Evil (Exo 23.2) 
  10. Government: Sometime Friend, Sometime Enemy (Rev 12; 17) 
  11. Do Not Let Opposition Quiet Your Faith