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Jerusalem: Facing Criticism     Acts 21:17-29, 39     Aug. 17, 2008

Traditions are difficult to put away. The Jewish people held to many traditions whose foundations began with Old Testament direction. However Jesus fulfilled and superceded many of these traditions. Paul faced criticism because He guided people to follow Jesus without requiring some practices of the Old Testament.
The work of Jesus on the cross did away with these practices, but some Jewish believers wanted to require Gentiles to accept these practices when they acknowledged Jesus as Lord.

1. The . . Preparations For Facing Criticism. 21:17-24

A. Prepare Through The Announcing Of . . Praise Before Facing Criticism. 21:17-20a
17 When we reached Jerusalem, the brothers welcomed us gladly.
18 The following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 19 After greeting them,
he related one by one what God did among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 When they heard it, they
glorified God and said,

B. Prepare Through The Recognition Of . . Prejudice Before Facing Criticism.. 21:20b-22
"You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous
for the law. 21 But they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to
abandon Moses, by telling them not to circumcise their children or to walk in our customs. 22 So what is to
be done? They will certainly hear that you've come.

C. Prepare Through The Attempt To . . Pacify Before Facing Criticism.. 21:23-24
23 Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have obligated themselves with a vow.
24 Take these men, purify yourself along with them, and pay for them to get their heads shaved. Then
everyone will know that what they were told about you amounts to nothing, but that you yourself are also
careful about observing the law.

        In this portion of the text notice how Paul received praise for what God accomplished through his ministry. In addition also note some believers allowed their prejudices to surface in a desire to protect their traditions; rather than truly praise what happened through Paul's ministry. The leaders desired to reach some kind of compromise and thus pacify the Jewish believers and through this further establish Paul's ministry. Leaders today may learn from this example. There is nothing wrong with compromise unless one compromises scripture.

2. The . . Provisions For Facing Criticism. 21:25

A. The . . Decision About The Provisions. 21:25a
25 With regard to the Gentiles who have believed, we have written a letter containing our decision. . . "

B. The . . Details of The Provisions. 21:25b
". . .
that they should keep themselves from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from what is
strangled, and from sexual immorality."

        Will Gentile believers of the New Testament be offended because the Jewish believers want to place Old Testament practices, and traditions upon them? Probably! So the early church leaders made a decision to direct all believers to refrain from certain practices offensive to Jewish believers. After the decision was made by the leaders, Acts 15:22 indicates the approval of the entire church. So the details were sent to all the churches and it created harmony. This kind of action shows a democratic form of government in the church. It seems to me that this is a basis for the Baptist way of governing the church. It is the kind of government most Baptist Churches practice.

3. The . . Purification For Facing Criticism. 21:26-29

A. The . . Announcement Stated About The Purification. 21:26
26 Then the next day, Paul took the men, having purified himself along with them, and entered the temple, announcing the completion of the purification days when the offering for each of them would be made.

B. The . . Antagonism Stirred About The Purification. 21:27-29
27 As the seven days were about to end, the Jews from the province of Asia saw him in the temple
complex, stirred up the whole crowd, and seized him, 28 shouting, "Men of Israel, help! This is the man
who teaches everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this place. What's more, he also brought
Greeks into the temple and has profaned this holy place." 29 For they had previously seen Trophimus the
Ephesian in the city with him, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple complex.

        The leaders of the church wanted to eliminate opposition to Paul's ministry. Can that be done without compromising the teachings of Jesus or the principals of what became the New Testament? A project for Paul and some other men to announce a act of purification became their plan. Paul announcement stirred up the antagonism of several Asian Jews who made their own announcement. It included false claims but it served their purpose. The plan of the church leaders did not meet with success.

4. The . . Plea While Facing Criticism. 21:39

A. Paul's . . Roots Form The Basis For His Plea. 21:39a
39 Paul said, "I am a Jewish man from Tarsus of Cilicia, a citizen of an important city.

B. Paul's . . Request From The Basis Of His Plea. 21:39b
". . . Now I ask you, let me speak to the people." HCSB

        Paul used the facts of his Jewish upbringing, "his roots," to begin his attempt to get himself of the hook.
He made a request to speak to the people in order to present his plea. You must read additional verses to get the rest of the story. His ability to speak the GREEK, and Hebrew languages certainly proved beneficial. As he made his plea he move toward sharing his testimony of how his life was so completely changed. Paul wanted to glorify the Lord even if he had to face criticism. Paul always gave glory to the Lord for what He did in his life. Amen? Amen!