Monday: “What God Had Done”
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We are continually reminded that in most areas of life, effective communication is the key to understanding and harmony. As we consider the church family we see that the reporting of activities and their results is a vital part of internal communication. In many churches there is much activity, but only those involved in each ministry know what is happening there. Because of this, there is a corresponding feeling among those who lead ministries that there is not much interest in what they are doing. These feelings are not surprising if leaders never share their goals and strategies with the church and never report their activities and results.

Read Acts 21:19–25. How was the church affected when they heard the missionary reports of the apostle Paul? At the same time, even amid the good reports, there were indications of division among the believers. What were those problems, how did Paul respond, and what lessons are there for us today? See also 1 Cor. 9:19–23.

Image © Jack Pardue from GoodSalt.com

Returning to Jerusalem from a missionary journey, Paul reported to James and all the elders of how God had blessed his ministry among the Gentiles. As Paul related one by one the many gospel advances, the church leaders responded with spontaneous and genuine praise to God.

At the same time, however, evidence of division and confusion existed, even amid the good news of Paul’s witnessing.

“Many of the Jews who had accepted the gospel still cherished a regard for the ceremonial law and were only too willing to make unwise concessions, hoping thus to gain the confidence of their countrymen, to remove their prejudice, and to win them to faith in Christ as the world’s Redeemer. Paul realized that so long as many of the leading members of the church at Jerusalem should continue to cherish prejudice against him, they would work constantly to counteract his influence. He felt that if by any reasonable concession he could win them to the truth he would remove a great obstacle to the success of the gospel in other places. But he was not authorized of God to concede as much as they asked.”—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the Apostles, p. 405.

Today we also struggle with division among us as to how to best reach souls. What are some of the struggles particular to the church in your part of the world, and how can you help bring about resolution?

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Monday: “What God Had Done” — 3 Comments

  1. For me Acts 21:19-25 is a very troubling text. Paul was the man of the hour for the apostolic church. Not only was he extremely well educated but he was also like a locomotive under a full head of steam and like a pit bull once he sunk his teeth into something he simply would not let go. That stubbornness was very useful and necessary in spreading the Gospel but at times it also caused a lot of problems as it did in dealing with the issue of John Mark.

    The simple fact is that while at Tyre the disciples, "told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem" (Act 21:4 NKJV) but he would not listen. Neither was it the first time he was warned of trouble:

    "And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me" (Act 20:22-23 NKJV).

    There are indeed times when the Holy Spirit will force it's will upon an individual as was the case with Jonah and Balaam but normally He will not do that. Besides, there is a point where a person's stubbornness will cause the Holy Spirit to back off which is the mechanism involved in the unpardonable sin. In spite of these problems God will work things out for the best but we can only imagine what could have happened if God's will was followed to the letter.

    The lesson this week is on reporting to the church what we have been doing and the plans we have. While we can see positive results of doing this in the Bible we also need to use some wise discretion in how we go about doing it. In Paul's case he could have sent someone else who was well thought of by the leaders in Jerusalem but Paul being Paul would not allow such a thing and rather than listen to wise counsel he thought his own wisdom was better than anyone else's and decided to lower his head and ram the wall. That stubbornness and lack of wisdom ended up limiting his missionary activity.

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    • We have to be very careful on posting comments like this, for satan is working very hard to twist and deteriorate the truth of Gods word.

      First of all______God will never force Himself to us, nor He will force us to come to Him. But God will definitely frustrated our plans not to succeed when we choose outside of His ordaining will. Note that Paul is moving day by day closer to Jerusalem, and the arrival time of Pentecost day. Over and over those desciples that Paul comes in contact with warn Paul that the Holy Spirit has told them that Paul should not go to Jerusalem. ..Now there is a question that should then come to mind, what is the spirit that is talking to all these deciples trying to keep Paul from Jerusalem? Remember that it was the Holy Spirit that told Paul to go to Jerusalem....

      Does the Holy Spirit work against itself? Obviously not. Men have a way of letting their own wishes get in the way of the Holy Spirit. They think that because they thought of this danger, the Holy Spirit placed it there. The Spirit could have placed in their mind the dangers of the place, in reference to themselves, however that same Spirit of God is directing Paul on a mission to Jerusalem. The disciple's love for Paul could have tried to hinder Paul on his journey to Jerusalem. If the Holy Spirit warns you or directs you, then do not let the words of other men, concerning the Spirit, affect you at all.

      God knows where you are, and if He has a message for you, He will give it to you. God has sent Paul on a divine mission, and if God desires that mission to be changed, it is He that will do the changing. It will not be through some other person relating what the Holy Spirit might have said to them. Rememner! that there are many spirits, and we must learn to be able to tell the difference between the Holy Spirit, and all others.

      PAUL LIVED BY THIS MOTTO "To Live is Christ and to die is Gain". Those diciples that told Paul not to go to Jerusalem, not only they where trying to preserve their lives, but also they were straight cowards!. God needs bold men and women today to finish His work.

      God cannot use a COWARD!!!!.

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      • Sabbath, I am thankful that you have raised these questions because I think they are worth discussing.

        Paul certainly was ordained to take the Gospel to the Gentiles but that doesn't mean that he was perfect and the only righteous person in the churches he helped raise. There is something to be said in the counsel of many. It doesn't always work but when you have a stream of Christians who are not in the party going to Jerusalem warning Paul about danger then it is something to consider. Even Ellen White concerning what the elders at Jerusalem asked him to do stated that, "But he was not authorized of God to concede as much as they asked" {AA 405.1} So I believe there was a problem in the decision that was made.

        I may be wrong as I have been at times in the past but I can't remember a text that says specifically that the Holy Spirit told Paul to take the gift to Jerusalem himself. The only one I can find anywhere like that is, "When these things were accomplished, Paul purposed in the Spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, 'After I have been there, I must also see Rome'" (Act 19:21 NKJV) which is somewhat vague as to who said what and Ellen White does not seem to add any clarity on the matter. If there is any other then I need to humbly admit that I was wrong and that I was indeed foolish to make a comment such as I have made.

        I would also like to quote from Ellen White's book Acts of the Apostles in the context of Paul's stay at Tyre, Caesarea, and Jerusalem in order to clarify a few things.

        At Tyre, where the ship was unloaded, they found a few disciples, with whom they were permitted to tarry seven days. Through the Holy Spirit these disciples were warned of the perils awaiting Paul at Jerusalem, and they urged him "that he should not go up to Jerusalem." But the apostle allowed not the fear of affliction and imprisonment to turn him from his purpose. {AA 396.2}

        Paul's attitude was always one of sacrifice for Christ and His cause but I do not believe his decision to do what he did was wise.

        While Paul tarried at Caesarea, "there came down from Judea a certain prophet, named Agabus. And when he was come unto us," Luke says, "he took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles." {AA 397.2}
        "When we heard these things," Luke continues, "both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem." But Paul would not swerve from the path of duty. He would follow Christ if need be to prison and to death. "What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart?" he exclaimed; "for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." Seeing that they caused him pain without changing his purpose, the brethren ceased their importunity, saying only, "The will of the Lord be done." {AA 397.3}

        The disciples at Tyre were not the cowards - the leaders in the Jerusalem church were. What the disciples were doing at Tyre was counseling in wisdom in the same way that the disciples at Ephesus would not permit Paul to enter into the theater (Acts 19:30) for obvious reasons.

        And he could not count upon the sympathy and support of even his own brethren in the faith. The unconverted Jews who had followed so closely upon his track, had not been slow to circulate the most unfavorable reports at Jerusalem, both personally and by letter, concerning him and his work; and some, even of the apostles and elders, had received these reports as truth, making no attempt to contradict them, and manifesting no desire to harmonize with him. {AA 398.1}

        This was the golden opportunity for all the leading brethren to confess frankly that God had wrought through Paul, and that at times they had erred in permitting the reports of his enemies to arouse their jealousy and prejudice. But instead of uniting in an effort to do justice to the one who had been injured, they gave him counsel which showed that they still cherished a feeling that Paul should be held largely responsible for the existing prejudice. They did not stand nobly in his defense, endeavoring to show the disaffected ones where they were wrong, but sought to effect a compromise by counseling him to pursue a course which in their opinion would remove all cause for misapprehension. {AA 403.1}

        The brethren hoped that Paul, by following the course suggested, might give a decisive contradiction to the false reports concerning him. They assured him that the decision of the former council concerning the Gentile converts and the ceremonial law, still held good. But the advice now given was not consistent with that decision. The Spirit of God did not prompt this instruction; it was the fruit of cowardice. {AA 404.1}

        I believe the problem we so often have is that we tend to see God's people in the Bible as little perfect angels and don't realize that Paul like all the rest was very much like Elijah, "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours" (James 5:17 NKJV). Those people had problems the same as we do. They did not always do what they should have done or the way they should have done it and I believe that Paul going up to Jerusalem was one of those times. Even if he went up and refused to do what the elders counseled him to do, according to the leading of the Spirit, it would have only added to the charges already made against him and would have prejudiced the brethren further.

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