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 ACTS 21

THE MOST UNUSUAL VIEW OF PAUL IN BIBLE!

join us for this study of paul's strengths ... and weaknesses!

 

 

 A Preacher in his Study

 

 

LESSON 1:

Paul was human!

And the Bible is such an honest book that it presents its greatest Apostle just like he is!  (Weaknesses as well as strengths!)

In fact it does that with every one of its characters!

Adam was a perfect man ... until he sinned!

Noah was godly too ... but he got drunk!

Abraham is the "Father of the Faithful" ... but he lied about his wife to protect himself!

Joshua was a mighty leader ... but he died with his work unfinished!

Nehemiah was a Revivalist ... but he had a temper!

Jeremiah was a great Prophet ... but he accused God of deceit!

Job is a supreme example of faithfulness ... but even he had to repent of some rash words!

And David the King ... well, you know about him.

In every case ... including Paul's ... mankind fails the Lord!

In fact, there is only ONE perfect Person Who ever lived!

That's Jesus!

So ... in our Bible Study from Acts 21 we shall see not only some great strengths of Paul's character ... but also a glaring weakness!

There's what I'm thinking.  If God used those great Believers (admittedly, stronger than  most of us) ... even with their scars and failures and shortcomings ... maybe he can use you and me as well!

Stay with us for a few lessons and see what I mean ...

                                                                                    --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 2:

Now when I speak of Paul's "weaknesses" or "mistakes" I am not referring to anything he wrote in Scripture!

The Apostle, being the author of 14 (if one includes Hebrews) New Testament Epistles, spoke under the direct INSPIRATION of the Holy Spirit of God and that material is inerrant (contains NO mistakes)!

I believe the Bible to be a perfect Book!

But, after all, Paul as a man was human.

And as a human he was subject to error in his daily life. 

He himself even says such things as:  "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not."  Then he honestly adds:  "For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do."  Plus this:  "I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me."  And read this:  "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"  (These verses are all from Romans 7.)  It seems to me that Paul readily admits the possibility of error on his part!

Again, he's human.

And let me quickly add this.  This series of Bible studies is NOT designed to criticize Paul!  On the contrary, it will show his great dedication to the cause of Christ Jesus!

Our time in the Word here will however show that all believers are apt to make mistakes and errors ... yet God forgives and restores by His marvelous Grace!

1st John 1:9, a verse that's probably often mis-applied, is written to Christians and says:  "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Are you ready?

Lord willing, more tomorrow.

                                                                                --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 3:

The Apostle Paul was saved by God's marvelous Grace!

The record of this great event is found in Acts 9.

Once Paul was saved, God told another Believer (named Ananias) this critical fact about our new Christian:  "He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel."  Acts 9:15

Paul would preach the Word unto the Gentiles!

Here's the first "hint" about Paul's future ministry.

Again in Acts 13 Paul and Barnabas themselves (while in Antioch Of Pisidia on their first missionary journey) said this:  "For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth."  Acts 13:47

There's the second "hint!"  Paul is to be a preacher to the Gentiles!

Then five chapters later, having had the Gospel rejected by the Jews in Corinth, Paul clearly said this:  "Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles."  Acts 18:6

That third "hint" is pretty obvious!

Then in his great Galatian Epistle Paul said things like this:  "But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)  And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision."  Galatians 2:7-9

Paul was to preach primarily to the uncircumcised, the Gentiles ... while Peter would specialize with the Jews! 

Then later when Paul was giving his testimony in Acts 22 a couple of other critical facts surface.  Paul himself says that the Lord told him to ... "make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me."  Acts 22:18

The Lord didn't want Paul to spend a lot of time in Jerusalem!

Again God speaks:  "Depart (from Jerusalem): for I (the Lord) will send thee (Paul) far hence unto the Gentiles."  Acts 18:22

It just seems that God's Will for Paul was that he preach the Word to the non-Jewish world!

And we know what Paul thinks about "God's Will."  He describes it in Romans 12:2 as that "good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."  Wow!

So ... things seems to be settled!

God's will for Paul ... to work with the Gentiles!

Yet, as we shall see tomorrow (Lord willing), Paul had "trouble" abiding by that Will of God!

He seemed to keep wanting to return to the city (Jerusalem) which God told him to leave!

Now, I know Paul's motives are good!

But disobedience with good motives is no less disobedience!

Wrong is wrong!

And even the greatest Apostle of all had trouble realizing that.

We do too!

I'll guarantee you that some of us reading these lines today are right now battling some issue over God's Will for our lives!

Is God calling me to preach?

Shall I marry him or her?

Is that College right?

Which Church most needs our help?

Is this job hindering my spiritual growth?

I've failed God so miserably!  Can He ever use me again?

Well, Paul's life definitely shows us some great lessons about God's Will!

And the consequences of missing it!

And how God's Grace overrides our errors!

Stay with us now ... with an open Bible in you hand!

                                                                       --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 4:

The heart of the idea is seen clearly in John 3:16 --- "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

For God so loved the world ... that He did something to keep them from perishing!

And that something involved His Only Begotten Son Jesus!

Loving lost sinners!

Paul the Apostle had a case of such "love" too!

Except his love was perhaps not to just all sinners ... but to a specific group, the Jews!

Let me show you a "proof text" or two.  In Romans 10:1 he writes --- "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved."  He longs to see Israel saved!

Then earlier he said this:  "I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.  For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh: who are Israelites ...."  Romans 9:1-4

Paul's "passion" was for the Jews to find Christ Jesus as Saviour and Lord!

Their lost condition caused him continual sorrow and great heaviness!

He would have even been willing to die and go to hell himself ... if that fact would have brought Israel to true soul salvation!

And in Paul's travels, at least in each city where there was a Jewish synagogue, he and his team went there first ... to preach the Gospel!  For one of many examples read Acts 17:10 --- "And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews."

He even often wrote things concerning the Gospel like this ... "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."  Romans 1:16

Don't you just admire such love for sinners?

How like His Lord who came "to seek and to save that which was lost."  Luke 19:10

Yet ... and here's the point of today's Lesson ... with all that love for Israel, God sent Paul to preach primarily to the Gentiles!

Out of the Apostles' own mouth comes these words:  "For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth."

In fact, let me give you the whole context of that statement.  The Jews have (again) rejected and actively opposed the Gospel ... so Paul and Barnabas reply:  "But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, 'It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.  For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.'"  Acts 13:45-47

Paul, lover of Israel, sent to the low-down Gentile "dogs!"  He is to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ to the heathen!

What an unusual "twist" of irony!

Paul the pure blooded Jew, "circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee ... touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless," now a preacher to the nations of the world!

Isn't it amazing what God has done to get the Gospel to us old sinners?

Not the least of which was this "surprise" move in the life of the Preacher named Paul!

And thus, being obedient to the heavenly vision, Paul set out to preach the Gospel "where Christ was not named!"   (Romans 15:20-21)  That is, to the Gentiles!  To the uttermost parts of the earth!

Oh, how we Americans (or Canadians or Australians or Westerners anyway) ought to praise God for His marvelous Grace to us!

He has literally altered the natural course of history to bring us the Good News!

Preaching to the old Gentiles certainly was not Paul's idea!

In fact, the Lord had to "keep him on task" time and time again! 

He often naturally veered back to the Jewish camp it seems!

Sometime today, worship and thank Him for sending you the Gospel ... pure and powerful!

I feel like shouting along with the Old Testment prophet:  "What hath God wrought!"

Amen!

                                                                             --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 5: 

Listen to Paul as his theology is stated again and again throughout his Epistles. I particularly mean his "soterology," his beliefs about salvation.

Romans 3:23 --- "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."   By ALL he means both the Gentiles and the Jews!  See Romans 3:1 --- "What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?"  Then he concludes --- "What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin." (Romans 3:9) Then he "caps" it all by saying that the Jewish Law does nothing to save a lost soul!  "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin."  Romans 3:20

Then, Paul, if all men are sinners, Jews and Gentiles ... and if the Law does not (and cannot) save ... what is the Way to Eternal Life?

Listen to him again:  "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."  (Romans 6:23)  See here that salvation is a "gift!"  Not a physical operation (circumcision) or a certain diet (Mosaic ritual) or worshipping on a certain day (the Sabbath) or any other legal requirement!

Rather one is saved "by grace through faith!"  (Ephesians 2:8-9)  "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."  Amen!  Jesus is The Way to Heaven!

Paul indeed became the Apostle of the Grace of God!

He preached that the new birth occurred to one who experienced:  "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation."  (Romans 10:9-10)  Or to the one who "believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, and was saved" as a result of that trusting faith.

But the Jews, many of them anyway, hated Paul's grace message! 

Opposition to the Apostle arose from Jewish quarters nearly everywhere he went!

They stood for the "Law" ... while he stood for the "Grace" of God.

Paul even wrote whole Epistles combating forms of Judiaism.  He insisted that grace, and grace alone, saves lost sinners.  They must be washed in the Blood of Jesus ... plus nothing, minus nothing!

Therefore this great Preacher refuted circumcision as a form of attaining higher spirituality!  He did not support the dietary laws of Moses. He certainly began worshiping on the first day of the week, the day of Jesus' Resurrection.  He no longer practiced animal sacrifices ... after all, the Supreme Sacrifice had died, the precious Son of God!

He even refused to place his co-workers under Jewish restrictions!  (Titus for example in Galatians 2:3-5.  "But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised: and that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: to whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.")  Paul staunchly defended his Christian liberty!

Therefore we conclude ... Paul was a proponent, THE New Testament proponent of salvation as God's Gift ... not as something earned!  He therefore opposed and battled various form of Jewish legalism.  (Some wrongly believed the Law of Moses saves lost souls!  Others just believed that once saved you had to keep the Law to stay saved!  Still others believed that the Law neither saved nor kept one saved ... but that obeying it made one much more spiritual!  All three groups are wrong!  And Paul proves them wrong in his Epistle to Galatians!)

After all this having transpired, one would believe that Paul would be through once-for-all with Mosaic Law and troublemaking Jews (though perhaps relatively few in number) and trips to Jerusalem ... rather concentrating on his God-given ministry of reaching the Gentiles!

Gentiles ... whom he was growing to love dearly!  Listen to what he said about them in Romans 15:15-16 where he is concluding his Epistle (maybe the greatest ever written)!  "Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God, that I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost."

That verb "offering up" means to bring face to face into the Presence of God!  It is a technical term used by priests as they do their spiritual work!  Paul just said that every old lost Gentile that gets saved under his ministry he mentally pictures as an "offering" he carries to the Throne of God, laying it before the Saviour in adoration, love and worship!

That's beautiful, Paul!

Yes, he is the Apostle to the Gentiles, all right!

BUT there is a problem!

And we will examine it tomorrow, Lord willing!

                                                                                 --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 6:

What a great example of Christianity Paul the Apostle lived!

Of course he himself said that he didn't live that godly life ... but Christ Jesus lived it in him!  Listen:  "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."  Galatians 2:20

The liberals and skeptics today say that Paul in reality "invented" Christianity. That he made a lot of claims about Jesus that just were not true, things Jesus Himself did not teach!  (Some even go so far as to say that Paul asserts Jesus' deity ... but that Jesus never claimed such!  They are wrong!  Listen to Jesus: "I and my Father are one."  Or ... "Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?" John 10:30 and John 14:9)

Paul was a true "giant" in the Faith!

The very moment he got saved ... he said to Jesus:  "And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?"   Acts 9:6  (What obedience!)

Jesus literally became "everything" to him!  So much so that he said:  "For to me to live is Christ."  (Philippians 1:21)  Later he added:  "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory."  (Colossians 3:4)

And oh, how he suffered for Jesus' sake:  "Are they ministers of Christ? ... I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;  in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the ...."  2 Corinthians 11:23-28

He lived such a pure life that he could truly preach things like this:  "Abstain from all appearance of evil."  1st Thessalonians 5:22 

His character reflected nine great spiritual characteristics:  "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance ...," which is the "fruit of the Spirit!" Galatians 5:22-23

He even could claim:  "And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men."  Acts 24:16

And at what is perhaps the most "telling" time in any man's earthly life, as Paul neared the end, he thundered:  "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:  Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."  2nd Timothy 4:6-8

And yet ... all that being so ... the great Apostle was still human!

He on occasion lost his temper, splitting from Barnabas over a young man named John Mark:  "And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus."  Acts 15:38

He once got a little careless with his tongue:  "Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law? And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God's high priest? Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people."  Acts 23:3-5

And he, even Paul, had his own little "besetting sin" also! 

(If you will today read the next Lesson in this Bible Study Series, you will better understand what I mean.  It follows this Lesson immediately.)

Yes, again I say ... Paul was human!

He realized what a failure he was as far as his "flesh" was concerned!  Listen to him:  "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not."  Romans 7:18

He learned that godly Christian living is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit!  That's why he said:  "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."  (Romans 8:2)  Then a little later he continues:  "And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the (Holy) Spirit is life because of righteousness."  Romans 8:10

In fact it was Paul who warned us:  "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."  Hebrews 12:1-2

Here's what I'm saying today:  If Paul had to fight such battles ... surely we shall too!

And if the Holy Spirit gave Paul the victory ... He can do the same for us as well!    Paul again ... "But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."  1st Corinthians 15:57

Here's the "key" ... really the answer to everything in the Christian life:  "Christ in you, the hope of glory."  Colossians 1:27

Yes, there are two "natures" residing in every Christian.  An old sin nature (not yet eradicated) ... and a New Nature imparted by God when we were "born again."  These do battle with each other ... and the stronger one wins!  It's critically important that we Believers feed the New and starve the old!  That's how we grow in the Christian life!  In other words:  "Be filled with the Spirit." Ephesians 5:18

Or ... "Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh."  Galatians 5:16

And ... "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit."  Galatians 5:25

Amen!

Herein I find great encouragement.

                                                                                 --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 7:

The great Apostle Paul did have some weaknesses in his Christian life!

The most glaring (carefully recorded in the inerrant Word of God mind you) deals with the Will of God for his life!

We have already established in this series of Bible studies that God called Paul to go to the Gentiles.

And to stay away from Jerusalem.

And that he would only suffer hardship and persecution at the hands of the Jews.

Paul at first seemed fine with this.

He obeyed.

He became a great Preacher of the Grace of God!

He taught us the Law of Moses could save no one!

It could not even help save!

Nor was it the avenue to a Spirit filled life!

It was just a "school-master" to bring us to Christ!

It showed us how very far short we came in reaching Godís righteous standards!

And the Paul who withstood the legalizers and false teachers of his day broke new ground as a spiritual trailblazer, teaching salvation "by grace through faith!"

He even refused to circumcise Titus, a young preacher boy who got saved!

He publicly rebuked Peter for withdrawing from fellowship with some new Gentile Christians when certain Jews arrived from headquarters!

BUT Ö something happened!

One day Paul began to change!

He determined he was gong back to Jerusalem, even after the Lord had told him to get out and stay away from that city!

His motives were good in returning.

He wanted to see Israelites saved by Godís Grace too!

But disobeying God Ö even in order to do something good Ö is still a sin!

Hereís how this "chain" of disobedience developed:

Paul, who refused to circumcise Titus (in spite of the Jews), did circumcise Timothy Ö  to please the Jews!  Acts 16:1-3

Then Paul decided to take a "vow" (a Jewish legalistic vow) and shaved his head (not a New Testament "Grace" requirement at all) in order to go to Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Pentecost!  Acts 18:18-21

Once that decision was made ... Paul nearly quit preaching to the Gentiles and thought only about Jerusalem, Jews and Judaism!

He refused to go see the Ephesians on his trip southward, requiring them to come see him nearer the coast as he traveled.  Here his said his final "good-bye."  Acts 20:16

In fact watch the Apostle sail by preaching opportunity after preaching opportunity as he rushes to the forbidden city!  "And we sailed thence, and came the next day over against Chios; and the next day we arrived at Samos, and tarried at Trogyllium; and the next day we came to Miletus."  Acts 20:15 (He had a case of "next day- itis" I believe!)

Then the real "warnings" begin!

Admonitions to stay away from Jerusalem!

We had best wait until tomorrow to study further. 

Paul might have been just a bit "stubborn" here!

He was going ... no matter what!

Have you ever been there, friend?

Have I?

Oh, how we all need to learn the great lesson of obedience ... obedience to the Will of the Lord!

Out of Paul's own mouth (from his own inspired pen really) come these words:  "Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God."  Romans 6:13

"Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?"  Romans 6:16

"I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness."  Romans 6:19

Again, using Paul's words ...  "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?"  Acts 9:6

May we ALL live by those words!

Submissively so!

Amen!

                                                                      --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 8:

His name was Gedaliah.

That means "Jehovah is great!"

We meet him near the end of Jeremiah's long ministry.

After the nation of Judah had fallen into the hands of the wicked Babylonians, King Nebuchadrezzar appointed Gedaliah governor over the cities of Judah.  Only a handful of the poorest of the people remained anyway.  The rest had been taken into captivity!

Jeremiah, given a choice by the Babylonians, decided to go back to Judah and spend the rest of his days there. 

However, due to carelessness on Gedaliah's part, it was not to be!

Here's the record of what happened at Jeremiah's "release."  It's found in Jeremiah 40:6 --- "Then went Jeremiah unto Gedaliah (the new governor) the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and dwelt with him among the people that were left in the land."

No sooner had the poor people gathered around their new leader ... that a new "enemy" appeared!

A man named Ishmael ... along with his associates.

But we soon learn that Ishmael has come with deadly intentions!

Listen to this warning God send Gedaliah:  "Moreover Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were in the fields, came to Gedaliah to Mizpah, and said unto him, Dost thou certainly know that Baalis the king of the Ammonites hath sent Ishmael the son of Nethaniah to slay thee? But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam believed them not."  Jeremiah 40:13-14

The governor was warned ... but he believed not!

Those who loved Gedaliah even offered to protect him from the enemy!  "Then Johanan the son of Kareah spake to Gedaliah in Mizpah secretly, saying, Let me go, I pray thee, and I will slay Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and no man shall know it: wherefore should he slay thee, that all the Jews which are gathered unto thee should be scattered, and the remnant in Judah perish? But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam said unto Johanan the son of Kareah, Thou shalt not do this thing: for thou speakest falsely of Ishmael."  Jeremiah 40:15-16

This is Gedaliah's second opportunity ... but he again said no!

Then it happened!

Assassination!

"Now it came to pass in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah the son of Elishama, of the seed royal, and the princes of the king, even ten men with him, came unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and there they did eat bread together in Mizpah.  Then arose Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and the ten men that were with him, and smote Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan with the sword, and slew him, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land."   Jeremiah 41:1-2

Gedaliah is murdered ... even after being warned so clearly about this wicked Ishmael!

And that's not all. 

Because of Gedaliah's insensitivity, many others died too!

"Ishmael also slew all the Jews that were with him, even with Gedaliah, at Mizpah, and the Chaldeans that were found there, and the men of war."  Jeremiah 41:3

Then he killed dozens more two days later!

In fact, a whole chain of bad events started at this point!

At what point?

At Gedaliah's refusal to heed the "warnings" God sent into his life!

Christian friend, has God even sent you a warning?

Why, His Word is full of them!

And (since this is Sunday) as you listen to good anointed preaching, the Holy Spirit will "warn" you time and time again about weaknesses in your life!

The question is ... do we heed our warnings and correct the problems?

Or do we, like Gedaliah, ignore them?

Or maybe we accuse the messengers ... like Gedaliah foolishly did ... to his own harm!  He said to his friends, "For thou speakest falsely of Ishmael."  Jeremiah 40:16

As we go to church today, let's listen carefully!

God may have a "warning" for us!

If so, don't neglect it!

                                                                              --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 9:

Paul, in Acts 21, had some "warnings" sent his way I believe!

"Warnings" NOT to go to Jerusalem, but to continue his Spirit anointed preaching to the Gentiles!

Here's our "text" today.  It begins with a description of their sea journey southward.  Luke, who obviously was with Paul, says:  "And it came to pass, that after we were gotten from them (the weeping Ephesian Christians), and had launched, we came with a straight course unto Coos, and the day following unto Rhodes, and from thence unto Patara: And finding a ship sailing over unto Phenicia, we went aboard, and set forth. Now when we had discovered Cyprus, we left it on the left hand, and sailed into Syria, and landed at Tyre: for there the ship was to unlade her burden."  Acts 21:1-3

While the ship unloaded ... Luke adds:  "And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days!"  Acts 21:4a  (Much could be said about this sentence!  In a new city with 7 "free" days on their hands?  That's just not like Paul!  Notice there's no record of his preaching a single sermon to these Gentiles!  No time to start a Church!  Paul has to hurry to get to the City (Jerusalem) God told him to stay away from!  "Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me."  These were the Lord's direct words to Paul in Acts 22:18.)

BUT watch what occurs next!

"And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem. And when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed.  And when we had taken our leave one of another, we took ship; and they returned home again."  Acts 21:4-6

Paul just got "warned!"

See that this "warning" came from godly Christians, in fact ... disciples!

Also realize that they spoke "through the Spirit!"  (Capital "S" means Holy Spirit of God!)  "... who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem." 

And the message:  Do NOT go to Jerusalem!

But Paul, not heeding the warning, sails on!

That's so unlike the great Apostle, who well know how to take a "no" from the Lord!

For example, the "thorn in the flesh" episode!  2nd Corinthians 12:7f

Or when he was seeking God's will as to where to plan his second preaching tour!   Read Acts 16:6 --- "Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia."  See that?  The Holy Spirit said NO and Paul obeyed!

And read the very next verse too:  "After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not."  Again, a God- sent NO, which Paul also respected and followed!

God said NO twice ... because He had a better plan!

"And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas.  And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.  And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them."  Acts 16:8-10  (And God's plan here led to the great ministries at Philippi and Thessalonica and Corinth and Ephesus!)

But the Acts 21 warning we've studied was ignored by Paul ... his "stubborn" will had already decided to go to Jerusalem ... no matter what!

And Paul paid dearly for rejecting this warning. 

He may have never got out of jail after his soon-coming Jerusalem arrest!

Our Lesson today:  Heed God's warnings!  Obey the promptings of the dear Holy Spirit in your life!

God's NO today ... means He has a better YES tomorrow!

Do what He says!

                                                                              --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 10:

I will admit that Paul the Apostle was an unusual man.

Many unique things happened in his life, especially after he was saved!

But perhaps one of the most peculiar situations of them all occurred in Acts 21:10-13.

There we read these words written under divine inspiration.

Doctor Luke, one of Paul's traveling companions, records it for us.

"And as we tarried there (in Caesarea) many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. And when he was come unto us, 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.  And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.  Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus."

Paul had determined to go to Jerusalem!  He already knew full well that God had commanded him to depart from that city ... yet he was determined to visit there again!  (The Lord had told Paul ... "Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning Me."  We learn about this early event in Paul's Christian life from his "testimony" in Acts 22:18, a testimony given in Jerusalem while Paul was under arrest!)

Getting back to our verses for today ... on the way to Jerusalem (traveling by ship) Paul and his company had to stop (when the ship did) for various reasons. At Caesarea, in the deacon Phillip's house, the confrontation described above occurs.  "And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him."  Acts 21:8

A prophet named Agabus had a message for Paul.  One which he had traveled many miles to deliver!  (The only other mention of his name is in Acts 11:28, where he correctly prophesied about a coming famine!)  "And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus."  Acts 21:10

Acting out his sermon, Agabus took Paul's large (wide) ornamental "belt" (girdle) and tied his own hands and feet (as best he could) and declared that whoever owned that piece of clothing (Paul) would be restrained in Jerusalem (by his enemies among the Jews) and turned over to the Romans for prosecution!  "And when he was come unto us, 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."  Acts 21:11

Now Agabus' reputation was so great that immediately Paul's whole company (including Luke) begged him to change his plans!  To NOT go to that city!  Luke says:  "And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem."  Acts 21:12

Then Paul, ignoring the Lord's earlier instructions, ignoring the previous warning in Acts 21 (Lesson 9), and now apparently ignoring the Holy Spirit's promptings ... determines to go anyway!  "Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus."  Acts 21:13

And Paul's traveling brethren, already knowing his stubbornness, responded just as Luke writes ... "And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done."   Acts 21:14

The Lord probably has me writing this today because someone reading these lines (a Christian mind you) is battling the will of the Lord!

He has told you to do something and you are rebelling!

Or He has instructed you NOT to do something and you don't like that at all!

Hear me today.

Paul would have been much better off to have obeyed the dear Lord (and many others whom God sent to him with the same message) and STAYED OUT of Jerusalem.

There he (Paul) went back on his word!

He placed himself back "under the Law!"

He undermined the Grace of God which he had preached so eloquently for years!

He got into a riot.

He would have been "torn to pieces" by a Jewish mob ... had not the Romans arrested him!

And we are not able to positively (by the Bible) prove that he ever got out of jail again ... the rest of his life!

He disobeyed God!

Friend, do what God is telling you!

He know best!

                                                                           --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 11:

The Apostle Paul, having ignored several warnings from the Lord, has gone to Jerusalem anyway!

Luke records in Acts 21:17 --- "We were come to Jerusalem!"

Now look at what was required of Paul once he got there.

He bows down to James' every wish!  This James was much more "legally" oriented than Paul!  By "legally oriented" I mean dependent upon the Law of Moses!

This is the James of whom Paul earlier said of "them which were of reputation" in "Jerusalem" ... "these who seemed to be somewhat, whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person: for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me!"  Galatians 2:1,2,6

Paul then allows himself to be placed under a legalistic Jewish Mosaic vow! This is in order to prove to the Jews that ... "Paul walkest orderly and keepeth the Law!"  Acts 21:24  (Paul no longer kept the law!  He even says that at times he ate meat sacrificed to idols!  He worshipped on Sunday!  He refused to circumcise his young preacher boy Titus!  He preached salvation apart from the Law ... and solely by Grace through Faith in the shed Blood of Jesus Christ!)

He went into the Temple ... "Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them."   Acts 21:26  (This is the Temple of which the Lord had rent the veil half in two ... when Jesus died!  God had left that place!  Paul taught us where the real temple is now ... "Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own." 1st Corinthians 6:19

Yet Paul forgets all this!

Then the Jews lie about Paul ... falsely accusing him ... and start a riot ... trying the have the Apostle killed!  "And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place."  Then ... "And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut.  And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar."  Acts 21:27-28, 30-31

They were "beating Paul" and yelling "away with him" and would have "pulled him to pieces!"

Paul ends up being put under arrest by the Romans and staying that way for years ... if not the rest of his life!

What consequences!

What a price to pay!

Oh, that Paul had obeyed those God given "warnings!"

Now if as great a man as Paul suffered for disobedience ... what about you and me?

Need I say any more?

My advice to each us us today ... simply quoting John 2:5 ... is "Whatsoever He saith unto you, do it."

                                                                       --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

LESSON 12:

The Apostle Paul was an exceedingly wise man!

He learned his lessons quickly!

After being so determined to go to Jerusalem ... even after God told him to get out of that "dangerous" place ... Paul got himself into a great deal of trouble!

Here's what God told Paul on his first trip back to Jerusalem after he got saved.  I'm getting my information from the lips of Paul himself now.  "And (I, Paul) saw Him (the Lord) saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me."  Acts 22:18

And after being told again and again by the Lord that his "call" was to the Gentiles ... that his ministry was to the "uncircumcision" ... Paul still determined to return to Jerusalem, cutting short his great third missionary journey!

In Acts 21 twice the Lord sent Paul a message like this:  DO NOT GO TO JERUSALEM!

And twice in retort Paul said:  I AM GOING ... NO MATTER WHAT!

But, when he got to the forbidden (for Paul) city .... things went "bad" in a hurry!

Paul reverted to the Law of Moses, allowing James to say that Paul now "walked orderly and kept the Law!"  Acts 21:24

Paul took a further vow and entered the Jewish Temple to obey Old Testament legislation!

While there, he was falsely accused, causing a riot!

He was nearly killed by a mob of attacking Jews, barely being rescued by the Roman army in the area.

He was jailed and stayed that way for years ... maybe even the rest of his life!

Paul's trip to Jerusalem, made in the face of God's repeated warnings NOT to go, ended in disaster!

Did Paul (Brother "go to Jerusalem at any cost" himself) ever learn his lesson?

Did he ever determine that he needed to STAY OUT of that city?

Yes, I think he did!

Months and months after his arrest ... Paul was one day being interrogated by Festus, the Roman Puppet.  He was asked, Do you want to return to Jerusalem ... and face your accusers in trial?  "But Festus, willing to do the Jews a pleasure, answered Paul, and said, Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things before me?"  Acts 25:9

Paul must have thought:  "Go back to Jerusalem again?"

No Sir!

Instead the Apostle decided it was to ROME he must go!

He appealed unto Caesar!

"Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar's judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest.  For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar."  Acts 25:10-11  (Paul knew that would involve a trip ... to Rome ... away from Jerusalem!)

No more Jerusalem for Paul!

It's on "to the uttermost part of the earth," Rome!

See what I mean?

Paul learned that Jerusalem was NOT for him!

He learned to obey God's promptings and leadership given through the precious Holy Spirit!

Now I call that being a "wise" man!

No doubt someone today has stopped here to study a bit ... someone who is also saying "no" the the Lord on some matter!

Listen to me this Tuesday in May.

You had best say YES to your Saviour!

Those refusals can only lead to one place ... trouble and discipline and hardship!

And yes, obedience also leads to only one place ... blessing and peace and contentment with the Will of God!

Christian, save yourself a lot of needless suffering.

Do what HE says!

Pray what little Samuel did many years ago:  "Speak, LORD; for thy servant heareth."  1st Samuel 3:9

You will be glad you did!

                                                                                --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

 

THE FINAL LESSON:

Yes, Paul was not above God's Hand of discipline in his own life!

After all, we believe it was Paul who wrote these very words:  "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." Hebrews 12:6

The Book of Acts ends abruptly ... perhaps due to Paul's "stubbornness" in going to Jerusalem (against God's will) at any cost!

BUT ... here's what I want to emphasize today:

In the midst of Paul's defeat ... God creates VICTORY!

In Paul's greatest valley ... God builds His tallest mountain!

From a jail cell ... at first in Jerusalem and then in Caesarea and finally in Rome itself ... Paul begins what would become his greatest ministry!

He wrote the great Epistle of Ephesians from jail!

He also wrote Philippians from jail!

He wrote Colossians from jail!

He wrote Philemon from jail!

He wrote 2nd Timothy from there too!

(And maybe 1st Timothy and Titus as well.)

God, while Paul was confined, gave him his widest outreach of all!

He did his best work in prison!

Paul was "bound"  ... but "the word of God was not bound."  2nd Timothy 2:9

Talk about God's Grace!

"Where sin (Paul's rebellion) abounded, Grace did much more abound." Romans 5:20

Now ... that's not a license to sin!

Far from it!

Paul suffered much through those last years!

BUT it is a triumphant symbol and proof of the marvelous overcoming GRACE of God!

Praise HIS dear Name!

                                                                                 --- Dr. Mike Bagwell

 

MAY THE LORD BLESS YOU ABUNDANTLY FOR YOUR DILIGENT BIBLE STUDY!

 

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