Journey to Jerusalem (Acts 21:1-19)

December 30, 2012

Book: Acts

Journey to Jerusalem (Acts 21:1-19)
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Scripture: Acts 21:1-19


Sermon Notes

This all happens after Paul preached his “farewell” sermon to the other Christians – so this time is very emotional.

Luke uses the first person “we” so he is obviously with them at this time.

He is the travel guide at this time, and describes the port-by-port journey of the group.

Here we see Luke’s attention to detail, as he describes the ship traveling port to port along the shoreline.

In that day, whenever someone wanted to travel by ship, they had to find an outbound one with cargo. At every port, they would have to unload cargo and reload cargo. So, over the course of those days, Paul and his group would go into town and find some disciples.

Some of those Jews were probably Helenistic – who had fled after Stephen was stoned.

v. 11 – Was this a genuine prophecy?

We do read up to this point many times that the Holy Spirit was warning Paul about Jerusalem.

Perhaps now, their own nature and consciences kicked in to warn him away – the people strongly urged him (with their own emotions) to stay away.

Yet, Paul had the inner conviction that he should go to Jerusalem and face whatever consequences.

After a week, Paul and his group were ready to continue their journey. This scene is reminiscent of his departure from Ephesus – the whole church went with him to the port and prayed with him and saw him and the group off.

Caesarea served as the main port for Jerusalem, and the Roman capital of Judea. Here, they stayed at the house of Philip – the evangelist – he was last mentioned in Acts 8:40.

Here’s an overview of Acts 8 (about 20 years earlier):

This follows the events of Acts 7 – where Stephen was stoned to death.

The Jews were so enraged at him for preaching this that they stoned him, then they laid their cloaks at the feet of Saul of Tarsus – who was in hearty agreement with the stoning. They all saw Stephen as a blasphemer and heretic – someone who taught wrong doctrine of the Law.

In Acts 8, the church was persecuted badly, the disciples were scattered and Saul (soon-to-be Paul) was arresting the Christians.

Philip went down to Samaria and preached Christ to the city, and the Spirit gave him the ability to preach with power, with miracles, with healing. Many were being saved, delivered, healed, there was great rejoicing in that city.

At the same time, there had been a magician in the city named Simon – he could do SOME magic tricks and feats, but even HE believed after witnessing these signs – he was baptized, then followed Philip around to see how he did it.

While all this was going on in Samaria (off limits to the religious Jews, and probably even the new Christians at this time – when Jesus went to the town in John 4? and spoke to the woman and revealed himself to her as the Messiah, she was absolutely surprised by his visit).

Another visit to Samaria was James and John preparing for Jesus to go to Jerusalem. They were forbidden to go through the towns, and asked Jesus to allow them to bring down fire and brimstone from heaven to destroy the towns. Jesus rebuked them and had to show them that the gospel was for all people.

Now, after all this, Philip is preaching to the despised people and God had blessed it.

In Jerusalem, they heard that the Samaritans had received the gospel, and been baptized in the name of Jesus, so they sent Peter and John down to lay hands on the believers, and pray for them, and they received the Holy Spirit with signs (as before). Simon saw this happening and offered to pay for the same “talent.” Peter rebuked him and said, “Ha, to think the gift of God could be bought with money.” Simon then asked them to pray for his forgiveness.

After this, the apostles traveled back to Jerusalem.

The Spirit spoke to Philip, said, “come to the road between Gaza and ….” There he met an Ethiopian returning home via carriage or chariot – after he had worshiped at the temple in Jerusalem. Philip noticed he was reading from the Scriptures, and offered to help him understand the Scriptures. He was reading Isaiah 53:7 – about a Lamb led silently before its shearers.

Philip, from that verse, preached Jesus to him – foreshadowing prophecies and fulfillments of those prophecies in Jesus.

The eunich then saw a body of water, and they agreed “Hey, wow, let’s get baptized.”

There they go – immersion baptism. The man looked around and didn’t find Philip anywhere, “the Spirit of God had snatched him away.” The Ethiopian was happy and went away nevertheless. Later, Philip was found in a different town.

Nowadays, 20 years later, after married with 4 daughters (with the gift of prophecy) – Paul and his group are coming to stay with him.

Philip was also mentioned as one of the Seven Deacons appointed to take care of elderly women. He’d also been faithful as an evangelist.

The Greek word for evangelist only appears 2 other times:

Eph 4:11 – this is one of the spiritual gifts.

The Body of Christ is a “BODY ministry” – it’s not just about the pastor. Evangelist is also a gift.

2 Timothy 4:5 – “Keep your head in all situations, … do the work of an evangelist…”

So, here they (Paul and co.) are at Philip’s house. There was a prophet there as well Aggabus – he had earlier prophesied about a severe famine that would happen over much of that part of the world.

Now, he came down and tied up his own hands and feet and prophesied about Paul’s imprisonment.

The prophecy was fulfilled in principle, but not in every detail. The Jews didn’t bind him, they didn’t hand him over, but rather, the Romans rescued Paul from a Jewish mob. But he was imprisoned.

Jesus’ “Journey to Jerusalem” and Paul’s “Journey to Jerusalem” were very similar.

Prophecies at that time were similar to the Old Testament prophecies – actions and words were prophecies. The prophets tore clothes, shattered pots, built models to show how kingdoms would be torn and destroyed and besieged.

So, the disciples pleaded with Paul not to go to Jerusalem, but his inner conviction was stronger than theirs and he went. He said he was perfectly ready to be “bound” for the sake of Christ.

It was important to preach to the Gentiles – even Peter who’d had the vision to do so, later wavered and Paul had to preach to him to not be so legalistic. So, Paul wanted to go to Jerusalem to cement the relationships between the Jewish churches and the Gentile churches.

Eventually, they gave up and said, “God’s will be done.”

Next, Luke starts a pinnacle chapter in Paul’s life with the words, “When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers received us warmly.” (v. 17)

Again, Luke is talked in “us” and “we” terms – this is the last time he will use these pronouns, though he does join Paul on his dangerous sea voyage later.

They met with James and the elders as he’d done earlier – when they decided that SOME things needed to be followed by the Gentiles in order to have fellowship with Jewish Christians as well.

Here, James and the elders recognize that God had guided Paul in his ministry to the Gentiles, and Luke wants to emphasize this.

In Acts 11, after Peter first preached to the Gentiles, they rejoiced and spoke to these same elders, and now here is Paul again speaking with them. This delegation is also welcomed by the brothers, and relates what GOD has done. In both instances we see the brothers giving glory to what God has done. In both cases, they welcomed Paul – they and Paul are in fundamental agreement.

He had earlier had concerns about his relationship with the church in Jerusalem – he had asked them to pray for him “that my service to the saints in Jerusalem would be acceptable.”

And here, the Jewish and Gentile portions of the church had remained united and they welcomed and accepted Paul.

The next portion of Acts is a new saga.

We’re coming up to the New Year.

“It’s a brand new day that’s dawning…”

It’s a brand New Year that’s coming – wouldn’t it be good to have assurance of salvation? If you believe with all your heart that Jesus is Lord and confess with your mouth that God raised him from the dead, you’ll be saved.

Let’s pray.