Paul the Apostle – Wayne Barber/Part 14
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1992|
|One of the things that I want to bring home to you is how difficult it must have been for Paul. All of this is going on in Jerusalem, which you could say was his home town. He was born in Tarsus, but he was raised up in Jerusalem, educated under Gamaliel, according to the Law. I mean, here is a man who once was just like the rest of the folks who were persecuting him. But God met him on the Damascus Road, changed him completely, and renewed him. Now he is in his own home town, and all these problems are being created around him.|
Ephesians 1:1; Acts 21:30-38
Paul: The Messenger – Part 3
Turn with me to Acts 21 as we continue looking at Paul, the Man, the Missionary and now the Messenger. He was a missionary, which means he is sent out by God. He was surrendered to God and he had a message on his heart.
In the last study, 21:27-29, we saw Paul as a persecuted messenger. That’s hard to take. “You mean to tell me if I am changed by the message and I get the opportunity to share the message, I am going to be persecuted for it?” Well, many times that is the case. The Bible tells us that very clearly. This persecution was nothing new to Paul. It would be there the rest of his life. One of the things that I want to bring home to you is how difficult it must have been for Paul. All of this is going on in Jerusalem, which you could say was his home town. He was born in Tarsus, but he was raised up in Jerusalem, educated under Gamaliel, according to the Law. I mean, here is a man who once was just like the rest of the folks who were persecuting him. But God met him on the Damascus Road, changed him completely, and renewed him. Now he is in his own home town, and all these problems are being created around him.
Verses 27-29 talks about some unbelieving Jews from Asia, which is a part of Asia Minor. That’s where Ephesus is located, on the western side. They’ve come to Jerusalem, and they see Paul in the Temple. Paul is there trying to disarm some of the legalistic believers who are in the area. The message of grace has been received, but it has not yet been allowed to transform. They are still hung up with the Law. Paul simply accommodates himself to the situation, goes to the Temple, pays the sacrifice for four guys going through a Nazirite vow, and cleanses himself. He does all of these things to disarm some of the false criticism that is coming his way. He did not do them to compromise the message of grace, but to simply accommodate himself to the circumstance, to give himself an opportunity to better and more freely preach what he came to preach. These unbelieving Jews from Asia Minor see him in the Temple. They hate the message of grace, and they hate the messenger who preaches this grace.
We saw two things about them this last time. In verses 27 through 29, there are two characteristics of people who come against and persecute the message of grace and the messenger of grace. One is, they had a surface commitment. In other words, they are religious. Where are you going to find your greatest persecution when you start trying to live like God wants you to live, walking in the fullness of His power and grace? You are going to find it within the confines of what we call the church. That’s the same way it was then. These are the religious people. This is the religious crowd. This goes on inside the Temple, not the court of the Gentiles. These are the Jews. These are supposed to be God’s committed, loving people. This is where it was going on. They had surface commitment.
They had made their pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost. They always came, if they were serious and if they were committed. They had a surface commitment. There was no inward change.
Secondly, we found out they were masters at stirring up a crowd. They could mess up a one-car funeral. I mean, these people could just stir up a crowd. It didn’t matter how many people you had, they were masters at getting the people’s attention off of what the real issue was by touching certain sensitive nerves the people had. They were trying to make the people think Paul had preached against Israel, against the Law and against the Temple. They were distracting them from the real issue that Paul was dealing with.
Well, could we expect any less? In 2 Timothy 3, Paul writes to Timothy in the latter days of his life about something he has experienced from the very first moment of his conversion. He says in 3:12, “all who desire to live godly [you cannot do that apart from God’s transforming grace] in Christ Jesus will be [What?] persecuted.” It won’t come from the world. Well, yes it will, but it will mostly come within the confines of what people call religion.
Well, in this study we are going to look at Paul, the missionary messenger and kind of watch him and see what happens to him as he goes through this real intense persecution that happens inside the Temple. We are going to look at verses 30-38. I want us to pay attention to some of the things that come out in this passage that help us better understand what we might face one day in our walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.
First of all, in verse 30 we are going to see him physically abused. Now, it is one thing to talk about persecution. The word “persecuted” means “to follow after.” It’s like an old hound dog on your trail. I don’t know if you have ever coon hunted or anything like that. Well, when that coon dog gets on a trail of a coon, boy, I’m telling you, it’s just exciting. It just stays on that trail. It is relentless until it finally trees that coon.
That’s exactly the way the word “persecution” is used. It stays on your trail wherever you go. It doesn’t matter. I used to think that you could find a place here or a place there to serve, and you wouldn’t have any of this. No, it follows you wherever you go.
It follows that message. Flesh hates the message of grace. Religion and the message of grace don’t go along together. If you’ve got somebody who is religious and you’ve got somebody walking under the message of grace, being transformed by its power, being taught by grace as Paul says in Titus, you’ve got two different people altogether. They are hostile to each other. The one on the grace side is not hostile, but the one on the religious side is very hostile to that message.
Well, we have see him physically abused. This is the most intense persecution he’s had so far. Let’s move back to verse 27 and kind of catch up. It says, “And when the seven days were almost over, the Jews from Asia, upon seeing him in the temple, began to stir up all the multitude and laid hands on him.” We ran right by that in our last study. That puts Paul in some good company. That little phrase, “laid hands on him,” has nothing to do with when they laid their hands on their heads and the people received the Holy Spirit. That is not at all what that has to do with. The word means “to violently seize someone.” It’s also used of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 26:50 and Mark 14:46. Not bad company, Paul. They laid their hands on Jesus. They seized Him for the very same thing. Not only did he preach it, he was the very essence of the message of grace.
In Acts 4:3, Peter and John had hands laid upon them. They were seized for preaching the same message. In Acts 5:18, the apostles were seized the same way. The same phrase is used. In Acts 12:1, the believers were going around shouting about the grace of God, and they were seized. They had hands laid on them. Now in Acts 21:27, they laid hands on Paul. They seized him with violence. The word is epiballo. It means “to seize someone by the use of force and violence.” This is a rough crowd, folks. You need to somehow get into the atmosphere of what is going on. You’ve got people shouting. You’ve got people with hatred in their eyes. This is in the Temple! These are supposed to be God’s people. Listen, religious people are the most hostile, mean people you will ever be around in this world. No wonder people don’t understand; no wonder the pagan world is confused. If you get somebody who lives religious but is not being transformed by the grace of God, you’ve got one mean dude. That’s a religious person. This is going on inside the Temple by Jews who are supposed to be committed to a God that is love.
Now, let’s move on. All of this is going on in the Temple. Verse 30 says, “And all the city was aroused, and the people rushed together.” They violently seized Paul. The group from Asian Minor got hold of him, and now the whole city is aroused. The word “aroused” means “they were excited into action.” We saw in our last study how they had become one group. It is amazing how something like this can unite a whole crowd. Some of them don’t even know each other. All of a sudden, they’ve got a common purpose. All of a sudden they are united, and it is an angry mob that is coming after Paul.
The verb there is in the aorist passive. I thought that was interesting. The aorist tense, of course, means it happened, but the passive voice means they were motivated to be that way. They didn’t excite themselves, something excited them. What excited them? Those angry, unbelieving Jews from Asia Minor. Even the believing Jews became a part of this crowd. Man, they are moving towards Paul. They have seized him with violence, and now the whole city is aroused. Where there were many people in the Temple, now they are together as one.
Maybe somehow you still don’t understand the intensity of this situation. As I studied this passage I thought, “That’s odd. Paul’s is in his home city, and all this violence takes place. When I was playing college basketball, we had a point guard that was real hot-headed. We knew that. Everybody knew that. We just sort of humored him. It was always a very volatile situation with him playing. Whenever he was on the floor, look out. Somebody would give him an elbow, and he was just about to explode. He was always looking for a fight.
One night it had already been real tense in the first half. Several times there had been confrontations between our point guard and their point guard. The second half began. We hadn’t been playing but for about five minutes, and I heard the biggest, most awful racket behind me. I stopped and looked back. Our point guard was sitting on the chest of the other guard, and had his arms pinned so he couldn’t move them. He was just hitting him in the face as hard as he could hit.
The next thing I remember in that whole situation was a mob was formed. They didn’t know each other, but it was amazing how that one incident automatically united the whole group. What used to be a crowd now is an angry mob. If you’ve never been a part of something like that, you don’t understand what’s going on here. The intensity of a mob is incredible. The fear that automatically begins to excite itself from that is something that if you haven’t experienced, you don’t want to experience while we are living on this earth.
The next thing I knew, the crowd was coming our way. They were pouring out of the stands coming after us. We are outnumbered 3,000 to 1. What are you going to do? I looked for the coach, and the coach was saying “Get off the floor. Get off the floor.” He’s not helping us. He’s running to the locker room door. Next I looked for a policeman, and the only one I could see was laying on the floor. Somebody in the band had hit him with a trumpet. The whole place just went crazy. Never in my life have I been a part of an angry mob.
Now we think of a crowd, “Oh, the crowd was upset with poor little Paul.” No, they violently seized him. They are dragging him out. Under Jewish law, if you have defiled the Temple—and they had accused Paul of that falsely—you are under the penalty of death. They have taken the law in their own hands, and they are taking Paul out to kill the man. I mean, this is all because of one thing: because he loved Jesus and has been transformed by the message of grace.
You see, we can’t seem to relate to that, can we? I talk to people all the time who the biggest persecution they go through is when their air conditioner goes off in their church in the summer time and they have to sit in the heat and not have that air blowing on them. I mean, come on folks, we need to understand that we’ve got a piece of cake. We are talking about hostile people. I’ll tell you, I’m not a prophet nor the son of one, but I believe that down the road, it is going to get similar to what Paul faced before the Lord Jesus comes back for His church. We are going to find out what people are made of. We are going to find out who the people are who really love the Lord Jesus Christ.
Well, I know you want to know the end of the story. The only thing I remember is swinging at anything that moved. I saw the coach go to the locker room. I’m headed to the locker room. I’ve got a few people to go through, but I don’t remember any problems from it. It was a very violent situation.
So you begin to get the idea of what it means to be in a crowd that has now turned into a mob and how that unified them. They have come after Paul.
Well, it goes on to say what they did to him. Verse 30 says, “And all the city was aroused, and the people rushed together; and taking hold of Paul [here we go. That’s the same term. They now have him], they dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut.” They had a system we don’t quite understand. They had their own police force just like the civil law had their authorities. The Levitical Temple police slammed that door shut. It had to have been them. When that door was shut, buddy, it was their police that shut it. They slammed it as he was taken into the Court of the Gentiles.
When you come out of the Temple, you are in the Court of the Gentiles. It’s almost as if something is being said here that really isn’t being said in the text. It is, but it isn’t. It’s not there in print. It is kind of like they are saying to him, “Get out of here, you Gentile lover. This Temple is for true Jews. You are not one of us. Now just get out of the place.” It was that old ethnic thing of “Oh, look who we are. I’m a Jew. So who are you? Are you a Gentile?” Paul’s message had turned to the Gentiles. That is one of the reasons these Jews from Asia Minor hated him so badly. They knew that he had preached the same message of grace, not only to the Jews, but to the Gentiles.
Verse 31 goes on to say, “And while they were seeking to kill him.” They were seeking to kill him. This is a very hostile situation. What we are seeing here is he is physically abused. Now, wait a minute. Hold on. Hold on. What does this do to your theology? I mean there are people today that preach, “Hey, listen, all you’ve got to do is just address the devil, and he’ll get away from you.” Well, why didn’t he do that? Paul’s done it before. We’ve already studied that. He addressed the devil in one man, and the devil left. Another man tried to copy him, and the demons said, “Hey, wait a minute. We know Paul; we know Jesus; but who are you?” They stripped the clothes off the man and ran him out naked.
Why didn’t Paul just “name it and claim it”? Why didn’t Paul just come out there and say, “Hey, demons, get out of that person and leave me alone”? Because, you see, who needs a demon when you’ve got people who are religious? You’ve got something even better. The devil doesn’t even have to fool with them. Just send them in and let them do their work. They will do all the damage and division they can possibly do. I don’t know why in the world we relegate everything to a demon. Paul is in a situation with religious people.
Folks, it’s the same thing in the 20th century. Get somebody who is religious, lives by a system, and defends those things that man can do and ask God to bless. Then get a person who walks by grace, daily dying to himself, and you’ve got one war that is going to go on between those two people. The religious one does not want to give up what they are doing because somehow they think it is earning them a better place in the kingdom. The one living by grace knows they don’t deserve anything anyway. They just want to see God honored and glorified in their life. Religious people are the most hostile, mean, rude people you will ever be around on the face of this earth.
Study the scriptures with me. Religious people, and by that I mean those that are Baptist— Now hold it. I’ve said that twice now. I’ve got to make sure I clarify what I am saying. I mean those who are Baptist for Baptist sake, when it becomes the end and not the means. That’s what I am talking about. That’s why we are in the Baptist faith right now. The reason we are in it is because of their doctrinal stand, not because of their missions program. I am excited about their missions program, but the reason I am in it is because of their doctrinal stand. We believe the Truth is without error. We believe the church is autonomous. We can hear from God as the priest to the believers is supposed to be able to do. We don’t have to hear from Nashville. We can hear from God. That’s why I stay in it. I want to tell you, there are some people who are not in it for that reason, folks. They are in it because that is the only claim to fame they’ve got. “I’m a Baptist.” I’d much rather be a blood-bought person saved by the grace of God. When we get to heaven, there are not going to be any Baptists, folks. There are going to be people covered by the blood of Jesus. That’s going to scare some people half to death. When you get somebody hung into something like that, that’s their system. I’m trying to show you something. I am not being vindictive. I know the circumstances. I am just trying to show you. The same things are going on today that went on with Paul. It just hasn’t quite got as hostile.
However, a few years ago in Dallas, Texas, it got hot, didn’t it? Many of you were there with us when Dr. Charles Stanley was running for the President of the Southern Baptist Convention. I never will forget that morning. I got up about 5:00. These guys I go with like to get up early. We were trying to get a seat so we could be in the main hall. I’ll never forget it as long as I live. I was up next to the door. I have never been around more rude, crude and hostile people in my entire life. It made me ashamed to tell anybody that I was a Baptist. They almost forced me through the door. There were two small children who had somehow gotten between me and the door. There wasn’t much room, so they had to be little. I didn’t even know they were there until we started going in. I looked down and almost mashed them. I just picked them both up and carried them in because the crowd was literally pushing me through the door to try to get a seat so they could be in there to give their two cents worth about what they thought about the inerrancy of God’s Word in our convention.
You say, “Oh, people aren’t like that. You’ve just had some bad experiences in your life, and you are a little bit hurt and upset when you get to talking about things like this.” You think so? You start living the message of grace, friend, they’ll eat your lunch. A religious person hasn’t got a clue as to the message of grace. He’ll fight it until his death. They are doing it here. They did it to Jesus, and they did it to the apostles. They’ll do it today. People who are hung up in a system are not being transformed by the message of a person and God’s grace in their life.
Well, this is all in the Temple. Isn’t it amazing what God’s “people” do, and they call themselves believers in God. These are God’s religious people. They can’t stand it when they hear the transforming power of God’s grace. They’ve been earning their way in. They are making their living off of it. All of a sudden, you are telling them that everything they’ve done for all these years will not get them into the kingdom of heaven? “Man, we have wasted our time.” They throw it all back in your face.
Well, he was physically abused. I hope that doesn’t happen to you. Paul was physically abused. Why? Because he loved Jesus and wanted to tell his people about the message that transformed him. All of this takes place inside the Temple with the Jewish religious people. Physically abused.
Secondly, I want you to see how he is providentially delivered. Oh, this is the part I’ve been hurrying to get to. This thing has got a hold on me, and I can’t turn it loose. You’ll follow this all the way through Acts 28. How he is providentially delivered? Do you think God doesn’t know what’s going on? Listen, the Lord Jesus said, “They persecuted Me, didn’t they? They are going to persecute you. Don’t sweat it. Man, blessed are you when you are persecuted for My name’s sake.” “Blessed” means “fully satisfied.” Jesus says, “Don’t sweat it. I’ve already overcome the world. I’m far ahead of you. I know what’s going on in your life.” God is fully in control of what’s going on here.
As we go on down in verse 31, it says, “And while they were seeking to kill him, a report came up to the commander of the Roman cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion.” Now, you’ve got to go back to Acts 19:21 to recall that God has already compelled him to go two places. We’ve already looked at it several times. He knows that God has told him, “You are going to go to Jerusalem, and you’re going to go to Rome.” You’ll see this come back into play when he has a shipwreck later on. Verse 21 says, “Now, after these things were finished, Paul purposed in the spirit [that word “purposed” means he put something down deep into his heart and set it into motion] to go to Jerusalem after he had passed through Macedonia in Achaia, saying, ‘After I have been there, I [What?] must also see Rome.’” That’s not a travelogue. “Oh, I want to see Rome.” No! “I have to go. God has compelled me to go. God’s told me I will go.”
There are two places now he knows he is going, Jerusalem and Rome. They are trying to kill him. They can’t kill him; he’s indestructible until God is finished with him. Now that doesn’t mean he couldn’t be hurt. I didn’t say he couldn’t be abused. He cannot be killed until God is through with him. He does die a martyr, but he doesn’t die a martyr before he accomplishes two things God says he is going to accomplish. “You are going to go to Jerusalem, and you’ve going to go to Rome.”
What happens here in verse 31? Automatically the Romans soldiers are called in. “Somebody called the cops!” I mean, there was a big riot going on inside the Temple! Isn’t it tragic when things happen in religious circles where the government has to get involved? Somebody called and told them. It says in verse 31, “And while they were seeking to kill him, a report came.” How do you think it got there? They didn’t have telephones. Somebody took off and went to tell them. “Man, you won’t believe what those Jews are doing down there in the Temple.”
Well, look what happened? It says the commander of the Roman cohort was told “that all Jerusalem was in confusion.” The commander of a cohort is a commander of about 600-1,000 troops. It varies depending on who you are reading. It says in verse 32, “And at once he took along some soldiers and centurions.” A centurion was a non-commissioned officer, usually responsible for about 100 soldiers. So he took along some non-commissioned officers and some soldiers and ran down to them. When they saw the commander and the soldiers, the people stopped beating Paul. I imagine Paul said, “Whew, I’m glad to see you guys! I was born in your country.” They didn’t know it, but they were right in God’s hands. Just before the people killed him they showed up. The fierceness, the violence of the crowd, had drug him down there, outside the Temple. Somebody has called the local civil authorities.
The two most dominant groups were the Jews and the Romans. The Romans were the civil law. They were in power at this time. Well, the commander comes down. The people see all these policemen and soldiers running forward, and they stop beating Paul. The tense for “beating Paul” is in the present tense. They had just been beating him and beating him and beating him and beating him, and somebody said, “Go get the cops.” They came, and they stopped beating him. “Oh, that was just coincidence, Wayne. Don’t you understand that? You put everything into supernatural terms. You put everything under God’s sovereignty.” Yeah, I know. I am going to keep on doing it until the day I die, because you can’t put it anywhere else. God is still in control. Understand this. Coincidence is when God decides to remain anonymous. He’s in control, folks, and He’s in charge of the situation. They send the Roman troops down, and the people stopped beating Paul.
Now it tells what happened to him in verses 32 and following. It says in verse 32, “And at once he took along some soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them; and when they saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.” Verse 33 continues, “Then the commander came up and took hold of him.” Everybody is taking hold of Paul, the unbelieving Jews from Asia Minor, the crowd and now the Roman soldiers. I guarantee you, he’s glad that the Roman soldiers have got him right now: “and ordered him to be bound with two chains.” That’s very literal. They bind him with two chains.
What has Paul done? He was submissive to the elders. He is simply doing what they asked him to do, and now he is being bound with two chains. The commander began asking who he was and what he’s done. He’s asks the crowd. Now you’ve got to ask yourself a question. If you don’t read any further, you will miss the point. Why did the Romans run down so fast? Why were they so quick to get to the Temple? There was a reason. Over in verses 37 and 38 they began to find out that this was not who they thought it was. Verse 38 says, “Then you are not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?’” Now that’s telling you something. Why was it that they took off real quickly? They’d been looking for this guy, this man who was the leader of a group of Jews. He was called an Egyptian, but he was a Jew by birth. They were looking for him because this man had caused all kinds of problems in the area. They thought Paul was the man. When they heard all of this confusion they ran immediately down there thinking they had finally caught him. Then they discovered they haven’t got the right man.
Josephus gives a little help on this. He’s a Jewish historian. He says this man referred to here was an Egyptian, but he was born a Jew. History records that he had a following of assassins. The reason they were called assassins was they wore these long robes and they would carry these little small daggers around with them. They would get in a crowd. They’d walk up to somebody, stab them, and the guy would fall down. Then they would say, “Hey, somebody come and look. Somebody has fallen down here. Somebody has been hurt,” as if they were the ones who found them, not the ones who did it. They were called the assassins, and this man was their leader. This man told them, “I am going to take you out to the Mount of Olives, out to the wilderness, and when I get out there, I am going to speak and the walls of Jerusalem are going to fall down.” The Romans found out about it. Felix, one of the leaders of the Romans, found out about it and attacked that group when they got to the Mount of Olives. Well, they captured most of them, but this particular leader of the band got away.
So, all of Rome had been looking for this guy everywhere they went. Immediately when they hear of all the ruckus in the Temple, created amongst the Jews, they immediately ran down, thinking they had the right man when in fact, they had the wrong man. So this is the situation you need to understand. Why is it they were so quick to run down there when they heard about it? Well, verse 34 goes on, “But among the crowd some were shouting one thing and some another.” Now here’s where the crowd plays right into God’s plan. I mean, God is in control of this. They are shouting as they seize this man. “What have you done?” One guy would shout one thing and another guy would shout another. You know how it is if you’ve ever been in a business meeting. It’s just like that. People are shouting one thing and another. It’s total confusion.
Now watch: “and when he could not find out the facts on the account of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks.” That proved to be a providential deliverance of Paul. You see, God’s all over the scene. As a matter of fact, through the very Romans that take him there God’s already started the plan to get Paul to Rome. When he gets in the hands of the civil authorities that’s how he gets to Rome. I guess Paul never understood that it would take being under arrest to go to Rome, but at least he is going to get to Rome. God said, “You are going to go to Jerusalem.” God said, “You are going to go to Rome.” Paul knows that. Paul doesn’t understand that he’s going to be in a riot. He doesn’t understand that he’s going to be beat half to death. He doesn’t understand he’s going to be in a shipwreck. We haven’t gotten there yet, but he knows he’s going to get to Rome. God has already started that.
Verse 35 says, “And when he got to the stairs, it so happened that he was carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob.” Talk about a providential deliverance. They chained him. He can’t do anything anyway. Then they pick him up and carry him out. It probably wasn’t this way, but there is humor in hindsight. Looking back, can’t you see him smiling at the group as he goes by? “You thought you were going to kill me.” However, the Roman soldiers get him, protect him and carry him out. Hey, wait until later to see what he gets. There is a plot to kill him. Not only does he get carried out by the Romans here, hundreds of Romans soldiers escort him out of town later on. You are going to see that later. That’s why I told you not to miss any of this series.
When God says, “You are going to go to Rome,” you are going to go to Rome. That’s the key. Do you believe that you are indestructible as long as God is still using you in your life or do you still have so many questions about the sovereignty of God that you don’t understand His permissive and His perfect will? There are still a lot of people that struggle with that. “Oh no, it could have been so much better if the devil hadn’t gotten involved.” Oh, come on! God’s got the devil on a leash and don’t you ever forget it. He can only do what God allows him to do. Whatever He allows him to do somehow always works for His eternal purpose. That frustrates the stew out of the devil. One of these days when he’s pitched over into lake of fire, I want to be the last one to hit him right in the mouth before he goes in.
It’s only going to take one little angel to come down and throw him into the abyss, and every one of us are running around like a chicken with our heads cut off just scared to death because of the devil. God is in control. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Yes, there’s a devil; yes, there are demons; but don’t put your eyes on them. You put your eyes on Jesus. When you are dying to self, they haven’t got a chance to get to you if God doesn’t allow it somehow. It will work in His purpose.
Well, they get to the barracks finally, after they carried him out, bless his heart. In verse 36 we read, “for the multitude of the people kept following behind crying out, ‘Away with him!’” That doesn’t mean take him away; “Kill him” is what they are saying. Finally in verse 37 it says, “And as Paul as about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the commander [this was when they discover something about him], ‘May I say something to you?’ And he said, ‘Do you know Greek?’” Evidently he spoke to them in Greek. “Then you are not the Egyptian.” That’s when they discover he is not the Egyptian, because the Egyptian didn’t know how to speak Greek. They knew that about him, evidently. “But Paul said, ‘I am a Jew of Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no insignificant city; and I beg you, allow me to speak to the people.’” Do you think it’s by accident that Paul, a man who was a Roman and also a Jew, was picked by God to carry the message of grace to the Jews and to the Romans? Oh, what a coincidence! Folks, if you could understand how much God is in control, it would bless your socks to the point that you would just start praising Him, and you’d just forget all your worries and all your anxieties. God is in control.
That is one of the things I’ve always loved about our church. So many people ask me all the time, “When are you going to build? What are you going to do?” I don’t know. That’s not my problem. I don’t go to bed at night and worry about it. I go right to sleep. I’m just with the elders to try to discern what we believe God is leading us to do. We bring it before you, not to vote, but for you to sense the same thing we are doing when it comes to a big step that we are taking. From that point on, we move together. Are the results our responsibility? No, sir. They are not ours. Were they Paul’s responsibility? No, sir. They were not Paul’s. What God initiates, God anoints. Where God guides, God provides. He does it Himself. That’s the key.
“Oh, I didn’t know that was involved in the message of grace.” Yes! Why in the world do you think you are so stressed out? Just get on your knees before God and trust Him, learn to listen to Him and let Him take the rest of the things in your life.
Well, Paul was the messenger. Ephesians 1:1, “Paul, an apostle.” That means a man sent forth with a message of Christ Jesus by what? By the will of God. If God wills that Paul be an apostle and preach a message of grace, and God wills for him to go to Jerusalem and God wills that he go to Rome, he is going to go to Jerusalem, and he’s going to go to Rome. How is he providentially delivered from an angry mob? The soldiers themselves came, got him and carried him to the barracks. God said, “It’s not time yet.” Just like Jesus when He was on this earth, He said, “The hour is not yet come.” In that designated time when God is using you, you are indestructible until He is finished with you. After that you aren’t guaranteed a thing, because we know that Paul is later martyred for the Christian faith. Even that was in God’s time, not in his own time.
He says in verse 39, “I beg you, allow me to speak to the people.” Paul has got something to say. Paul is standing on the stairs and motioning to the people with his hands. Now who are we talking about? We are talking about an angry mob who is so angry they can’t even talk straight when the commander tried to ask him who he was and what he had done. “And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the stairs, motioned to the people with his hand; and when there was a great hush, he spoke to them in the Hebrew dialect.”
You need to do some study on that phrase “a great hush.” My son has really blessed me. He has been doing some studying on that. You know, one of the things about that phrase is the fact that when he raised his hand to the people, it was like a divine act happened from heaven. The people just supernaturally hushed because God was in control of a man. God’s got something to say. What Paul says here to the whole city of Jerusalem is his testimony of the gospel of grace. God had orchestrated the circumstance to where he could not have had it any other way. He couldn’t have sat in a committee meeting and planned a revival meeting in a local church there and had any better response. Out of persecution, God got the message of His grace to the whole city, and they divinely hushed to hear what He had to say.
Don’t be frightened when we talk about persecution, because God is providentially in control. It doesn’t mean that you are going to have to go through some of this. You can expect one thing. You can expect a religious crowd to give you fits until Jesus comes back. Anybody who has rejected the message of grace cannot stand to be around it. They’ll have to fight it with everything in them. It’s funny. The very thing they are fighting is the very thing they are looking for. That’s why we need to be persistent and go right on. If it breaks through, folks, it’s incredible what takes place in an individual’s life.
Well, you say, “Brother Wayne, what about all these people who are fleshly and religious? What are we going to do about that?” Look at Lamentations 3:22-24. Jeremiah wrote Lamentations. Jeremiah was more concerned about this same mentality of these Jews than Paul was. It was a little different then, because now grace had come on the scene. Jeremiah was just really concerned about the people’s rebellion, even under the law. I want you to see the great message of hope for people. If you want to know what your flesh is like, study Israel. Any time you study Israel, it is a picture of the vine of flesh in the Old Testament. You want to know what your flesh is like? Look at how Israel acted. Look how God had to treat them. Verses 22-24 are a great word of hope. This is what keeps me going. A lot of people come against me, you and others are religious, but you still have to believe that God can break through and do a new work in their life. It says, “The Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Thy faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore, I have [What?] hope in Him.’”
The one thing that keeps me plugging—and ought to keep you plugging—is that our hope is in Him. What can He do that man cannot do? He knows how to handle those people who are religious. He knows exactly how to handle them. One day He is going to judge them if they don’t turn to the message of grace. He also knows how to take care of those who are His in the midst of very difficult and very dangerous and very hostile situations. So, there is physical abuse but also providential deliverance. God is in control of what’s going on in your life.
I wonder if you are going through a real valley right now because people in your family or people you work with can’t stand it because of your joy of the message of grace. They just violently want to react against you. Take heart. You are in good company.