Robert R. McLaughlin Bible Ministries
The Tree of Life is a weekly teaching summary.
The Tree of Life from the week ending 10/31/04
The Apostle Paul at Jerusalem. 
Acts 21:1-26

Philippians 4:1-9, in our amplified translation, reads: Therefore, my beloved brethren [members of the Royal Family of God] whom I desire to see or be with, my source of happiness and wreath of glory, so stand firm [be advancing, not retreating] in the Lord, my beloved. I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be having the same viewpoint or to think objectively by means of the Lord. Indeed, I request also you, true Syzygus [genuine one who is a real man], to help or to assist these women of such quality who have fought by my side in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. Keep on having perfect happiness by means of the Lord at all times; once more I repeat the command, keep on having perfect happiness. Let your supergrace mental attitude be known to all men. The Lord is near. Stop worrying about anything, but in every circumstance through prayer and through supplication for personal needs after thanksgivings let your requests or petitions be revealed to the God. In fact, that spiritual peace and prosperity from the source of the God, which surpasses or rises above and beyond all comprehension, shall garrison your hearts [right lobes], also your motivation[minds] in Christ Jesus. From now on, members of the Royal Family of God, whatever is true [doctrinal], whatever is honorable [noble or worthy of respect], whatever is just [fair or right], whatever is pure [of proper motivation], whatever personal loves exist, whatever is commendable, if there is any virtue [and there is for the mature believer]and if anything worthy of praise [and there is for the mature believer], be concentrating on these things. These things [doctrinal principles] also you have learned [manthano-learned from a teacher under strict academic discipline] and received [accepted through metabolization of doctrine] and having heard [under discipline] and having understood by means of me [Paul’s teaching ministry], be putting these into action, and the God of prosperity shall be with you, all of you [supergrace believers].

We are now ready to begin verse 10, “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity.” The first word in this verse is the particle de, used as a transitional conjunction, and although it is translated “but,” in this context it actually means“now.” The verb translated “rejoiced” is the aorist passive indicative form of chairo, which is echaren. It means to have happiness, and here it specifically means sharing the happiness of God by thinking with the thoughts of God. The aorist tense is a constantive aorist, which encompasses the entire time that Paul was in supergrace, culminating in his now sharing the happiness of God. In the passive voice, Paul receives the action of the verb; he has been given this joy, and he now has the opportunity to express it. The indicative mood declares the reality of Paul having received God’s happiness. We could therefore translate PHI 4:10, “Now, I have received much inner happiness by means of the Lord greatly”

Paul has recovered from his reversionistic experience in Jerusalem and is not compromising his doctrinal beliefs any longer. He was in prison because he had disobeyed God. The manifestation of his recovery of supergrace status is found in his possession of perfect happiness and the fact that his happiness is stimulated by the obvious interest of the Philippian church.

The story begins in ACT 21:1-4“And when it came about that we had parted from them and had set sail, we ran a straight course to Cos and the next day to Rhodes and from there to Patara; and having found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail. And when we had come in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left, we kept sailing to Syria and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload its cargo. And after looking up the disciples, we stayed there seven days; and they kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem.”
For seven days God the Holy Spirit was using these disciples to warn Paul not to go to Jerusalem. Paul should have been going west to Rome, Italy, France, and Spain; instead he is heading east to Jerusalem. Paul was behaving like many of God’s people today-involved in emotionalism and tradition, in Paul’s case, his emotional bond to Jerusalem. He is about to leave the geographical will of God.

Many believers are so emotionally attached to a certain geographical area that it hinders their spiritual life. It’s one thing to head in the wrong direction, it’s another thing to actually arrive there; it’s one thing to think of a sin, it’s another to actually commit the act. And when Paul walks through the gates of Jerusalem, he will be out of the geographical will of God. We read in JAM 1:15, “Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” Slowly but surely, Paul is pulling away from his relationship and fellowship with God.

ACT 21:5 continues, “And when it came about that our days there were ended [they accomplished what they desired], we departed and started on our journey, while they all, with wives and children, escorted us until we were out of the city. And after kneeling down on the beach and praying, we said farewell to one another.” The word“escorted” is the Greek verb propempo, which means to accompany someone with high respect or esteem. Even though Paul had rejected their warning, they still honored and respected him. This is the Royal Family honor code. We are to present the truth to each other, but not force the truth upon each other, ROM 14:1.

ACT 21:6-12 continues, “Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home again. And when we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais; and after greeting the brethren, we stayed with them for a day. And on the next day we departed and came to Caesarea; and entering the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven [one of the original seven deacons], we stayed with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters who were prophetesses. And as we were staying there for some days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.[A second warning is now given to Paul by God.] And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: ‘In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’ And when we had heard this, we [Paul’s companions traveling with him] as well as the local residents began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem [Paul’s third warning].”

Everyone who cares about Paul is trying to convince him to stop his disastrous course toward Jerusalem, but Paul already has his mind made up, and we see his rejection in ACT 21:13, “Then Paul answered, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.'” His answer sounds so good, but it comes from his emotions, which are controlling his soul at this time. Paul was emotionally attached to Jerusalem, where as a young man he was very popular and successful. He has all kinds of friends there, saved and unsaved, or so he thinks. Paul declares his attitude, which is a good attitude, but he is going in the wrong direction with it. You can have a good attitude and good intentions, and be very sincere, but if you are going in the wrong direction, it does not matter. You can have the right attitude in the wrong place, just as you can have the wrong attitude in the right place. We see the response of Paul’s companions in ACT 21:14, “And since he would not be persuaded, we fell silent, remarking, ‘The will of the Lord be done!'”

Paul still has the right to make his own mistakes without interference from others and the right to make his own decisions, right or wrong; this is the privilege and responsibility of all believers. Bible doctrine is the basis of making your own decisions, not coercion from others. Paul’s companions will follow him even though they know he is wrong; they allow the Lord to deal with the situation and do not get in His way. This is a great temptation, when you know you are completely right and someone else is completely wrong, but you have to put them in the Lord’s hands. You can warn them in love, but the moment you start trying to force them to make a certain choice or manipulate them, you are out of line. Therefore, they allow Paul the privacy and freedom of choice, regardless of whether he is right or wrong.

ACT 21:15-17 continues, “And after these days we got ready and started on our way up to Jerusalem. And some of the disciples from Caesarea also came with us, taking us to Mnason of Cyprus, a disciple of long standing with whom we were to lodge. And when we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.” Paul is out of fellowship and out of the geographical will of God, and at this time Jerusalem was full of believers under legalism and reversionism. According to 2Co 8, Phi 4, and 1CO 16:3, Paul brought a large sum of money with him for the Jews, which is obviously why “the brethren received us gladly.” The believers at Jerusalem were in poverty because they were under divine discipline for rejecting the grace of God.

ACT 21:18-20 continues, “And now the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders [pastors] were present. And after he had greeted them, he began to relate one by one the things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry [namely, the grace of God]. And when they heard it they began glorifying God; and they said to him, ‘You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law'”

The Jews at Jerusalem were being taught that the Christian way of life was living morally and following ascetic taboos. While Paul greets them and tells about the grace of God among the Gentiles, they have something else in mind. They are disturbed by his presence, but they are delighted to see his money. So what do they want Paul to do?
ACT 21:21-24, “and they have been told about you, that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. What, then, is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. Therefore do this that we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses in order that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law.”

Everything Paul had taught about grace is contrary to his behavior here. He is about to make the greatest mistake of his life because of emotionalism. This is the same man who wrote the book of Galatians, which teaches:
1. A believer under the Law makes Christ a minister of sin, GAL 2:17.
2. The believer has died to the Law, GAL 2:19.
3. The believer receives all benefits of the Spirit through faith, GAL 3:1-5.
4. The Law brings nothing but condemnation, GAL 3:10-14.
5. God’s promised blessings to Abraham, of which all believers partake (Rom 11), precede the giving of the Law,GAL 3:15-17.
6. The Law has no power to give or sustain life, GAL 3:21.
7. The Law is intended only for the immature, while Church-age believers are positionally adult sons, GAL 3:23-4:7.
8. The Law is a bondage to the believer, GAL 4:9.
9. Law and grace are mutually exclusive principles, GAL 4:21-31.
10. The believer has an abiding freedom in Christ, GAL 5:1.
11. To keep even part of the Law, one must keep all the Law, GAL 5:2-4.
12. The persuasion to put us under the Law is not from God, GAL 5:8.
13. Legalism does away with the offense of the Cross, GAL 5:11.
14. All the Law is fulfilled by the Holy Spirit, GAL 5:16-24.
15. The life of the believer must be sustained on the same principle as his new birth and regeneration, GAL 5:25.
16. Our sin calls for our dealing with grace, not with the Law, GAL 6:1-5.
17. All who advocate the Law for the believer cannot keep it themselves, and their intention is ultimately glory in the flesh, GAL 6:13.

The pastors of Jerusalem had a problem. As they listened to Paul’s report, they knew they were entertaining a very controversial figure. Paul had been the object of their scorn and contempt in their sermons. They were anti-grace and he was the apostle of grace, therefore they attacked Paul from their pulpits. They now focus their attention on getting Paul into legalism.

Thousands of Jews were under the Law rather than the filling of the Spirit and the grace of God. They were ignorant of the mystery doctrine of the Church-age. These pastors have been maligning Paul personally, and their goal is for Paul to join them in their legalism, and sadly enough, he is actually going to do it. Again, we read in ACT 21:21, “And they have been told about you.” The verb “told” is the aorist passive indicative form of katecheo, which is katechetesan, meaning to have something firmly taught, to be indoctrinated, and to be instructed, and it even means to roar. They roared against the Apostle Paul and his teaching of grace. They discredited the grace teacher because they did not understand grace. “That you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses”The word “forsake” is apostasian, the origin of the English word “apostasy.” Paul was not using the Law as a way of life. The Mosaic Law was given to Jews in the Old Testament as a way of life; however, it is not a way of life for the Church-age believer. This is what they accuse Paul of teaching in ACT 21:21, “telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.”

Paul should have now given a dissertation on grace, but he is already out of the geographical will of God. Once you’re out of the geographical will of God, it will be just a matter of time before you’re out of the viewpoint will of God (what God wants you to think), and then the operational will of God (what God wants you to do). When a believer is out of the geographical will of God, it is shocking to observe his volitional decisions. Notice what they say next to Paul,ACT 21:22-24, “What, then, is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. Therefore do this that we tell you. [They are ordering Paul to do this; this is not a request or a suggestion.] We have four men who are under a vow; take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses in order that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law.” The advice of these pastors in Jerusalem is both dishonest and blasphemous, and Paul should have avoided these pastors and avoided the Temple in Jerusalem. There comes a time when we should not be around certain types of people.

Paul was warned three times to stay away from the city, and he refused the warnings. When a believer allows his emotions and feelings to rule, he refuses good advice and takes bad advice. Paul refused the good advice to stay out of Jerusalem, and he took the bad advice to go into the Temple and offer the vow. This is the reason he will go to prison for four years. He came to Jerusalem outside the geographical will of God. When he enters the Temple to make a vow, he will be out of the operational will of God. God never authorizes any believers to compromise doctrine by offering vows; they are simply an act of legalism. For Paul to take a vow is to renounce everything that he has been teaching about the grace of God.

“Take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses in order that they may shave their heads”The word “purify” is the aorist passive imperative form of the verb hagnizo, which means to receive purification or to make oneself clean. When they went into the Temple, they would declare their intention to take a vow and meet certain conditions. First of all, they had to let their hair grow until their vow was over. Secondly, they had to go on a certain diet, a semi-fasting or ascetic diet. Thirdly, they had to come up with a large financial offering within 30 days. This is why they made their vow public, hoping that some rich man with a guilt complex would pay their expenses. This purification system included the Nazarite vow of NUM 6:1-8. Paul must let his hair grow, abstain from all wine and good foods, and become an ascetic. At the end of the 30 days, he is to present himself in the Temple with his money, followed by the shaving of his hair and burning it on the altar. In effect, they were telling Paul that after this vow, the Jerusalem pastors and the thousands of legalistic Christians would finally accept him. The pastors at Jerusalem figure that Paul can afford the expense for these four men. So they say in ACT 21:24, “Take them and receive purification yourself along with them.” This great man of grace fell for this because of sentimentality and emotionalism. Every blessing Paul ever had, he received from doctrine and grace, and now they want him to try to earn his blessings by making a vow.

What was Paul’s motivation in all of this? It was his emotional attachment to Judaism. It has been said that one never separates entirely from his background, and Paul’s background was Phariseeism. Paul also failed to apply doctrine to the situation; he knew the doctrine but failed to apply it, as in JAM 4:17, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.” Paul failed to apply doctrine because he was too emotional. When people become too emotionally involved with their problems, they fail to apply doctrine at the right time. Paul forgot that love must be directed toward doctrine first and not toward people first. Paul loved those at Jerusalem, but they did not love him. Paul got loyalty and love confused. His love for doctrine should not have been compromised by his love for people. Since doctrine was the issue here and not love, Paul should have followed his own advice of GAL 5:1,“It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”

For a more detailed study, order tapes 0190-1233 to 0190-1235.

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