Acts Devotionals

The Jerusalem Council (Part 2)

As a rector of a Church it was my duty to present an annual report of what happened in the life of the Church from my perspective, but then others also gave an update on the ministry or ministries they were responsible for. For me there were times of joy giving reports because of Gospel strides that were made, yet at other times it was painful to realize we made little progress during the year that passed. Right here we find a huge tension. Some years there was progress and other years there was not. But is this accurate? Just because I could not see visible signs of progress does not mean there was no progress! Do we see the progress the yeast makes when the bread mixture is covered with a rug and hidden in the pantry? A lesson to learn is that Gospel progress is not always externally visible. Here in the USA houses are not built with bricks and mortar. They are stick houses. Once the foundation is laid, a wooden frame is erected. Then it is sealed on the outside with weather proofing and the external shell made from a tin like material is put on with a roof. They add doors and windows and from the outside it looks completed … yet inside work needs to be completed … which seems to take longer that the outer shell. As one drives past we cannot see the inside work (yeast) being completed, but after a few weeks you go inside and it looks so beautiful. Just because things don’t seems to be progressing does not mean the Gospel is stagnant … it is at work all the time. Please read again:

Ac 21:19 Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. 21 They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. 22 What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, 23 so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. 24 Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. 25 As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.” 26 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.

1) Mission Report.

Ac 21:19 Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

Two preliminary matters …

(i) Paul’s greeting. Read his letters and see how he always greeted the Churches, directing their focus to God and His salvific grace and love. I say this because I believe as he greeted James and the elders of the Mother Church in Jerusalem, he would have used the same “godly greeting” as he would have done to the Churches he wrote to. It was his character to do so. As God’s people, do we just arrive at Church, sit down, participate in the worship service and then leave? Or do we arrive, greet the beloved in Christ warmly because Jesus is in our midst?

(ii) His ministry. Though Luke uses words that tend to say the mission operation was Paul’s, there are two sides …

(a) He was set apart by the Lord Jesus to minister to the Gentiles.

(b) Yet knowing Paul, he would never claim title to the ministry as his. He knew it was God’s work and he equally knew that without the missionary team, what was accomplished would never have reached the magnitude of success. Pastors, teaching elders and ruling elders … and even those who are part of a Church Plant must never lay claim to the “plant” as their Church. Rather, we ought to remember we live and serve Jesus under His rule. He dispenses the Holy Spirit to help and support us as well as use fellow believers in Gospel work. This means that the Church is always God’s! It is His work! Can we ever forget:

Ac 20:28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood

Now let’s consider … reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles. One wonders how long this took. The word “reported” means “to recount” and the words “in details” means everyone one of many”. We can use our imagination here because the Holy Spirit saw fit not to allow Luke to mention everything said.

(1) Missionary team. We have seen Luke’s account of how the team members were gathered, who ministered where and how others moved around with Paul. He seemed to have a unique method of drawing good people to himself for Gospel ministry.

(2) Travel, expenses and tent making. Travel, distance and costs together with accommodation and food for the missionary group must have been huge. Yet he was not lazy or shy to roll up his sleeves, return to tent making with Pricilla and Aquila to sustain the work. By God’s grace, this is still the same today. Some Christians and converts are generous in supporting the works and manpower.

(3) Hardship, persecution, beating and opposition from both Jews and Gentiles. I feel Luke under reports on the extremities of what Paul and the missionary team when through. Consider Paul’s personal account:

2 Cor 11:23 been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.

(4) Support from civic leaders, with souls being saved from amongst the Jew, Gentiles as well as pagan religions.

(5) There were Church plants in many countries.

(6) Elders were appointed.

(7) Discipleship programs were introduced together with regular preaching and evangelism. I have just skimmed the surface. Rightly so, we read:

Ac 21:20 When they heard this, they praised God.

All Kingdom advancement and development results in God getting all the glory!

Father, the days of Paul and his missionary team were dynamic resulting many inroads into “all the world” for Your Cause. How we long that You do this again and again. Amen.

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