Acts 21:1-16 - To Go or Not to Go - What did the Holy Spirit say?

Acts 21:1-16 – To Go or Not to Go - What did the Holy Spirit say?

Diving Deeper Lesson Outline for Acts 21:1-16

This lesson begins with some basic observations concerning the Holy Spirit’s role in Paul’s trip to Jerusalem.
After the observations, we will try to understand an apparent contradiction involving the will of the Holy Spirit.
Along the way we hope to gain further insight into Paul’s commitment to the Gospel and the humanity of his disciples.


Beginning mainly with Paul’s meeting with the Ephesian elders, the Holy Spirit made a number of proclamations using a number of people.

To Paul at Ephesus & Miletus:
Acts 19:21 - Now after these events Paul resolved (tithemi – set apart) in the (ho – the, not his) Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.”

Acts 20:22-23 - And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained (bound or compelled) by the (ho – the, not his) Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.

Paul believes it is God’s will for him to go to Jerusalem.
Apparently this is confirmed in “every city” Paul visits.

Through the disciples at Tyre:
Acts 21:4 - And having sought out the disciples, we stayed there for seven days. And through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.

The word “through” means “by means of” or “by reason of” the Holy Spirit.
Paul’s disciples apparently believed that it was God’s will for Paul to not go to Jerusalem.

Through Agabus at Caesarea:
Acts 21:10-11 - While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’ ”

Agabus’ prophecy presupposes that Paul will be in Jerusalem, otherwise it makes no sense.
So it is reasonable to assume that this prophecy, like the testimony the Spirit gave Paul in “every city”, can be taken to mean that Paul is to go to Jerusalem.

POI - This wasn’t the first time Paul had met Agabus.
Acts 11:27-28 - Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius).
As a result of this prophecy, Paul and Barnabas brought relief to Judea from the church at Antioch.
Paul, then, saw first hand the accuracy of Agabus’ prophecies.


Acts 21:12 - When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem.
And, as previously mentioned in Acts 21:4, they also said, “not to go” in response to the leading of the Spirit in them.

Acts 21:14 - And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.”

The disciples reacted to Agabus’ prophecy, no doubt also influenced by their Spirit led conviction in verse 4, by asking or telling Paul not to go to Jerusalem.
Interestingly, however, they conceded that because Paul would not be persuaded that his going must be the will of the Lord.


Acts 21:13 - Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Very similar to what he said to the Ephesian elders:
Acts 20:24 - But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

Paul made two things clear at this point.
The first relates to our current line of thought so we will unpack it first.

The first thing Paul made clear:
His main consideration was to finish the course of his ministry which was “to testify to the gospel” regardless of the consequences.
Therefore, he did not consider the Spirit lead prophecies describing his bleak future as a MESSAGE from God to refrain from going to Jerusalem.
They were merely descriptive of the cost of obedience and of finishing the mission.

If you or someone else believes they have been called by God to go or do something, the duration or legitimacy of the call cannot necessarily be called into question because of the possibility of a bad ending.
Paul demonstrated that he loved Christ and the gospel more than himself.
In view of this, our love of Christ may pale in comparison to Paul’s love.
What would it take for us to love Christ more than our life?

Now back to the main point.

Our observations thus far lead us to the following:
Apparently, the Holy Spirit lead the disciples to believe that Paul should not go to Jerusalem.
The Holy Spirit lead Paul to believe that he should go to Jerusalem.
And Paul’s adamancy about going, then led the disciples to conclude that God’s will was for him to go.

This leads us to a tough question:
Was the characterization of God’s will conveyed by the Holy Spirit to the disciples in verse 4 true or not?
If we say it was true, then it contradicts both what Paul believed (making him disobedient) and what the disciples conceded in verse 14.
If we say it was false, then why would the disciples (unless crazy) believe it to be true and act as if it were true.
And also if false, it would give us reason to doubt the accuracy of what Luke wrote.

How do we account for this apparent contradiction?

To start:
We can say that the disciples believed the Spirit, in verse 4, was telling them that Paul shouldn’t go to Jerusalem.
We know this to be true by their attempts to keep him from going.
We can also say that Paul believed the Spirit was calling him to go to Jerusalem
We know this to be true by his not being persuaded by the disciples or the prophecy of Agabus to stay put.

We also know the following:
Acts 9:15-16 - But the Lord said to him (Ananias in Damascus), “Go, for he (Paul) is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

This is important because it lines up exactly with Acts 19:21, Acts 20:22-23 and Acts 21:10-11.
In these verses God “shows” Paul how much he must suffer.

We also know from the “Feed the Flock” lesson:
Paul was experienced in knowing the leading of the Spirit – see Acts 13:2; Acts 16:6 and Acts 20:28.

Therefore it is my opinion that Paul was correct in his assessment of the Spirits leading and the disciples were incorrect.
The disciples were being led by something other than the Holy Spirit.

If true, that leaves us with the problems addressed above:
Why did the disciples think they were being led by the Spirit?
Why did Luke make a mistake in his account of the story?

The second is the easiest to address.
The disciples believed their revelation to be from the Spirit and Luke merely represented what he and they believed and he did so accurately.
In fact, this makes Scripture even more authoritative and believable to me.
If the New Testament was a scam, this and all the other possibly condemning and embarrassing passages would have been fixed.

Now, the first can be reasonably explained using our second POI insight earlier in the lesson.
It is my opinion that the disciples confused the Spirit’s warnings of persecution to mean that Paul should not go.
And I think all of us could understand why this could be easily done.
It is a perfectly reasonable instinct for them to protect the leader of the Gentile mission – Paul.

I think further evidence for this can be discovered from the discussion of “The second thing Paul made clear” below.
There we see that Paul gave insight into the point of view of Luke and the disciples.
The view Paul describes is one that stems from personal and subjective motivations not God-centered ones.
And it is from these motivations that they drew the wrong conclusions.

In other words, they were being lead by themselves and not being led by the Holy Spirit.

Before we move to the second thing Paul made clear in Acts 20:24, we should consider a few things from what we have learned thus far.

It is worth noting here that two godly men (Luke & Paul) had a difference of opinion.
(I am assuming here that Luke, because of his later actions, agreed with the disciples in verse 4.)
Both believed they were right based on the leading of the Holy Spirit, but obviously they both couldn’t be right.
So understanding why Luke and the other disciples were mistaken will help us immensely as members of a church.
Our feelings (a subjective point of view) and potential consequences (like Paul’s persecution) are not necessarily confirmation of the Holy Spirit’s leading.
Any “leading” should be accompanied by biblically based evidences to be considered a leading of the Holy Spirit.
As well, to confirm the “leading” it should be considered in context of our Biblical Unity Principals from chapter 15; especially the one dealing with making God honoring judgments – objectivity, humility, etc.

Now the second thing Paul made clear deals with a different, but no less significant, point.

The second thing Paul made clear:
To put it kindly, Paul was not enthused with the response of Luke and the disciples towards the news that he was in fact going to Jerusalem regardless of the consequences.
He tells them they broke his heart.
The word “breaking” is “to deprive of strength for enduring trials”.
In other words, this was the complete opposite of the encouragement – parakaleo – that Paul had taught them to give.
Instead of “redirecting Paul’s affections to God” they were redirecting Paul to their fear and Paul’s coming pain.
Not only were they wrong but they were discouraging too.

A caveat: the position of this lesson is not the only explanation but it is, in my opinion, one of the more reasonable.


Acts 20:32-38 – Paul’s Economy

Acts 20:32-38 – Paul’s Economy

Diving Deeper Lesson Outline for Acts 20:32-38
The title is drawn from the sentiments Paul expounds in verses 33-35.

Paul teaches the Ephesian elders some important economic principles.
In our text today, he hits on three issues.
We will try to uncover the significance of the three.


In verse 33 Paul says, “I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel.”
This is easy enough to say, but it speaks to something profound about coveting and echoes the 10th commandment.

Ephesians 5:5 - For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
To covet is to be an idolater.

James 4:2a - You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.
To covet is to fight and quarrel.

Ecclesiastes 5:10 - He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.
To covet money brings no satisfaction, but only a black hole of never having enough.

Matthew 6:24 - No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money
If to covet is to be an idolator, then we idolize or serve what we covet.
This is why Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and money.”

Hebrews 13:5 - Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
To covet (love) money is to say you do not trust in God.
Contentment in what you have is the proper response to God and His love for us.

Paul’s interest in all he did was not his gain but the gain of Jesus Christ and the Gospel.
Here Paul is clearly saying this attitude also applies to his finances.
Paul is not indicting money itself, but our relationship with it.
Covetousness reaps only more vice and impedes our relationship with God.
And for the Ephesian elders, it would be a dreadfully poor example to the flock.


The second principle Paul deals with is that of working for a living.

In verse 34 Paul says, “You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me.”
While in Ephesus for three years, Paul worked to provide his needs and even the needs of his disciples.

We also have other evidence of Paul’s work ethic.

Acts 18:3 - and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade.

1 Corinthians 4:11-13 - To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

1 Thessalonians 2:8-9 - For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.

POI – Interestingly, this last verse reveals Paul had a right to be accept help or be paid for his work for them.
But, Paul did not accept money from churches where he was currently working.
And as he made clear, he refrained from doing so to set an example to them.
For as he said to the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 10:23-24:
“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. 24 Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.

POI – It is interesting to note that Paul, however, did accept financial help from churches he had previously planted.
Philippians 4:15-20 - And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.

2 Corinthians 11:9 - And when I was with you and was in need, I did not burden anyone, for the brothers [Silas & Timothy Acts 18:5] who came from Macedonia supplied my need. So I refrained and will refrain from burdening you in any way.

We are to work.
It takes the burden off of those that might support us and it sets an example for others.


The third principal involves the giving of what is yours to others.

In verse 35 Paul says, “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.”

The obvious question here is, “Who are the weak”?
The Greek word is astheneo.
The word elsewhere is translated sick, ill and invalid.
Being any of these can put you into financial need and even poverty.
Being “weak” is not the lack of food or clothing but the lack of means to secure food or clothing.
Paul here says that we work hard that we may help these “who are weak”.

In fact God, when speaking of the abominations of Jerusalem to Ezekiel, says:
Ezekiel 16:49 - Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.

Jesus himself said this:
Matthew 25:35-40 - For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

POI - It goes without saying that astheneo is not the only thing that can lead to poverty…corruption, natural disasters, etc. can also bring about a “weak” or impoverished condition.

Who are not the "weak"?

Idleness is not “weakness”:
2 Thessalonians 3:6, 10-12 - Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us…10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.

Paul gives a command to not feed the idle.
Clearly, the idle to whom Paul said “let him not eat” are not what he would consider “weak”.
Not to mention, this seems to be a pretty harsh command.

Who is this person Paul is describing?

It helps first to understand that we are to work:
Genesis 3:19 - By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground,…

And that God is dissatisfied when we can and don’t:
Proverbs 21:25 - The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.

So we can now see who Paul is describing.
The word "idleness" denotes a soldier who is walking disorderly and out of step with the ranks.
In his specific usage of it, it is describing an able-bodied person who is walking “out of step” (not working) with the “ranks” (God’s intent) due to laziness.

This both confirms that working for a living is part of God’s plan for humanity and that idleness not only causes societal problems but is also disobedient to God.

The word "busybodies" denotes one who appears busy but is engaged in “trifling, needless, useless matters.”
In other words, they are still “out of step” even though they appear to be working.

Is Paul’s command as harsh as it sounds?

One reason for this command is that the lazy can cause systemic societal problems.
In the words of John MacArthur, “The results of a welfare culture are visible for all to see - family breakups, immorality, crime, hopelessness, meaninglessness, and bitterness."

Dr. Adrian Rogers described the potential for problems like this:
“What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, they my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.”

Secondly, we find that this command is not a form of punishment, per se, but an attempt at restoration.
Most believe that Paul’s intent here is best summed up in the word’s of Solomon:
Proverbs 16:26 - A worker’s appetite works for him; his mouth urges him on.
In other words, when they get hungry enough they will rejoin the work force as they should.

The weak are not those who lack food or clothing but those who lack the means to secure food or clothing.
The idle are not the weak; they are those out of step with God's purpose (working) and are therefore disobedient to God.
So there is a clear difference between the “weak” in need and the “idle” in need.
The first we are to help, the second we are to withhold help (as Paul teaches) so that they might be restored to a working frame of mind (as Solomon illustrates).

But all of this naturally leads me to another question.


“God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them.” - Bono (Singer from the band U2)

Granted, this statement is tinted with pantheistic characteristics, but Bono rightly places an obligation on those of us who can help to actually help.
However, when he says, “if we are with them” what does he mean?
We as Christians must take our cues from Christ on how to be "with them".
We have learned from Paul who the "weak" are as opposed to the "idle".
And we have learned from Jesus & Paul that we are to help the weak.

But is there more to it than this?
Does the Christian have an even greater responsibility than the one Bono alludes to?
After all, the world can only offer physical food.
Jesus says there is another kind of food people need.

John 6:55 - For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.

John 6:35 - Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst…”

John 6:9-51 - Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

So, without question, if we give physical food and do not give the food that gives eternal life we have come up short.

In fact, Jesus makes this so very clear in the following:
John 6:26-29 - “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

The world elevates the physical above the spiritual – as if the spiritual does no good.
Jesus’ words make certain to us that from His perspective the “Word of Life” is the more important food.

The world, in its disdain for Jesus, may ask this, “How does the Gospel help a starving child?”

How do we respond to such a question?
Honestly – if the church has not helped feed the “weak” we have failed in a calling Christ has placed on us.

After all, James asked the same question:
James 2:15-17 - If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But we are also never to be shamed into thinking that feeding with "the bread of life" is useless!

So again, we must do both!

As Randy Alcorn says, “God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving” [The Treasure Principle (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah, 2001], 71).


Acts 20:25-31 - Feed the Flock

Acts 20:25-31 – Feed the Flock
Diving Deeper Lesson Outline for Acts 20:25-31
The title is drawn from Paul’s charge to the elders in verse 28.

Paul leaves the elders of Ephesus with a charge in verse 28 – “pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock…to care for the church of God.”
This is the “what” of Paul’s final words to the Ephesian Elders.

The idea behind “care for the church” is to shepherd the flock.
The flock, of course, is the Ephesian Christians under the elders care.

Peter, under direction of the Holy Spirit and in unity with Paul, gives the same charge:
1 Peter 5:1-3 - So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; * not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not • domineering over those in your charge, * but being examples to the flock.

This charge literally means “provide the pasture” for the sheep and “feed” the sheep.
What is the pasture they are to provide and what is the food it will contain?

The food:
Matthew 4:4 - But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’
Jesus tells us the word of God is the food His sheep need.

The Pasture:
A pasture is a hedged in or set apart area where the sheep can feed in safety and without inside or outside threats.
The pasture and all it entails enables the sheep to “grow” and “reproduce” – be sanctified and evangelize.
Therefore I think the pasture may be both the church body itself, the relationship between the sheep and the relationship between the elders and the church body.
A church body that is biblically unified and has a sound relationship with itself and its elders is in fertile pasture.
And in a safe and fertile pasture the flock can be fed the “whole council of God”.
So this understanding of the pasture implies that the elders responsibility is to not just feed the sheep and provide the pasture but to also keep the pasture fertile.

Now that we understand the “what” we can examine the “why.”
Of the 4 reasons Paul gives, the first two deal more with the existential and the second two deal more with the metaphysical – the real world why and the theological why.

In verse 29 we find this reason for Paul’s charge - “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock...”

So part of keeping the sheep fed and the pasture fertile is to protect from outside threats and corruption to the pasture.

Who are the wolves?
Matthew 7:15 - “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

2 Corinthians 11:13-1 - For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.
14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.

Matthew 24:11 - And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.

The wolves are convincing hypocrites.
They deceitfully posses an authority from God or Scripture.
They are very good at teaching their deceit and because of this “lead many astray.”
All wolves bring tension, stress and distraction (or worse) to the pasture interrupting the feeding cycle.

How will they devour?
It takes more than the aforementioned for them to be successful in their deceit, however.
It also requires a sheep that resists its responsibility to feed (learn and study) on the word provided by the shepherds!
A malnourished sheep is the first target of the wolf or lion; it is any easy meal.

In 2 Thessalonians we have a perfect example of this at work.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 - Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed…

Here we see that the flock at Thessalonica was deceived into thinking they had missed Christ’s return.
They were deceived by a man (or group) that claimed to be speaking on authority of Paul and even presented a counterfeit letter to them from Paul.

But then Paul reminds them of something:
2 Thessalonians 2:5 - Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?
In other words, they bear some responsibility because of their inattentiveness to the truth of God’s word that Paul personally taught them.

The wolves deception can always be found out by the truth of Scripture.
Scripture is the straight line and their line will always seem crooked in comparison.

In verse 30 we find this reason for Paul’s charge - “and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.”

So part of keeping the sheep fed and the pasture fertile is to protect from inside threats and corruption to the pasture.

Your own people:
2 Peter 2:1 - But false prophets also arose among the people, just as • there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

Galatians 2:4 - Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in — who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery…

James 3:14-16 - But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.
15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

The insiders are apostates who teach heresy and even deny Christ.
The insiders are infiltrators presumably of Satan who seek to fool us into thinking we are still slaves to sin.
And sometimes the insiders can be fellow brothers corrupt with selfish ambition.
All spoil the fertile pasture even if, in the case of believers, they don’t intend to.

How they “draw away”:
Clearly, they will “draw away” the same way that the wolves will devour except that it might be more subtle.
Paul also gives tells Timothy other ways the insiders may corrupt the pasture.

1 Timothy 1:3-7 - As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

And as referenced in James above, the impetus for much of this can be selfish ambition.
This is certainly why Paul also told the overseers from Ephesus to watch out for themselves also.

In verse 28 we find the first reason for his charge – “… the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.”

Holy Spirit made you:
What does this mean that the “Holy Spirit has made you”?
Did the Holy Spirit appear at a business meeting and nominate these men?
How did the the Holy Spirit make his will known?

The Greek word for made is tithemi.
This word is related to the English word tithe in that it can mean to “deposit in a bank” but it is not the word for tenth.
It also can mean “to set apart” money, ideas or even food to serve.
But in our text it denotes a set of circumstances which were “caused to be” or in which they were “caused to experience.”
In other verses this word is translated as “arranged”, “appointed”, “fixed” and “destined”.
So from this we can say that Paul intends for us to understand that these men were elders because the Holy Spirit set in motion the events in their lives to bring this experience about.
We can also literally say that God “tithed” these me to the church to be overseers.
However, this does not necessarily exclude the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit via His spoken word or other means.

This understanding can be useful with understanding other verses too.

Acts13:2 – While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart • for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
Acts 16:6 – And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.
We see in these examples, the Holy Spirit set apart Barnabas and Paul as missionaries and forbid Paul to go to Asia.
Now when we encounter verses like these, we have a general idea of how the Holy Spirit “made” these things so.
It would seem that if something were so, Paul understood that “so” to “be” because the Holy Spirit made it that way.
Paul’s God is a very big God!

So because it was God’s will that they were elders and he “tithed” them to the church for this purpose, they had a responsibility to God to carry out Paul’s charge.

In verse 28 we find this reason for Paul’s charge – “… which he obtained with his own blood.”

Peter also makes this point:
1 Peter 1:18-19 - knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

Paul repeats the concept to the Church at Corinth:
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 - You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

“Obtained” in verse 28 carries with it the idea of gaining and preserving.
So what Paul is emphasizing is that the Church – the flock, the pasture, the overseers – the whole thing – was gained for us by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, you (the overseers) and you (the flock) have a responsibility that is not to be taken lightly.

In my opinion, I think it can be said (using “remember” as discussed a couple of weeks ago) that we are to “Remember the Church purchased by the blood of Christ.”
Remember, as we discussed then, means “to recall it, with a focus on responding in an appropriate manner”.
So in this case Paul’s charge to the overseers is what that response is to consist of.
What is our response, the flock, to be in the flock/shepherd metaphor?

Paul charged the overseers to watch out and care for themselves, the flock and the church.
He advised this because there are those outside and inside the church that seek to corrupt the church and devour or draw away its members.
He also taught the overseers they are to carry out this charge because they were “made” by the Holy Spirit and because Christ gave his blood for the church.

This responsibility of the overseers is one that we (the flock) should understand and be sympathetic to.
Our leaders answer to God for how they perform this charge.

In light of this, I think we can better understand the following:
Hebrews 13:17 - Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

A further implication of Paul’s charge involves the family.
We as the spiritual leaders, in my opinion, are accountable before God for the “pasture” that is our family.
Do we keep the relationships biblically responsive?
Do we teach our families God’s word?
We were “made” by the Holy Spirit the husband and father to our children, and God calls us to respond to this responsibility in much the same way the elders are to respond to Paul’s charge.


Acts 20:7-16 - A Sunday Sabbath?

Acts 20:7-16 - A Sunday Sabbath?
Diving Deeper Lesson Outline for Acts 20:7-16


In our text today, we have the subtle introduction of Christians observing and Paul’s endorsement of a Sunday Sabbath.
Verses 7 and 11 reveal them partaking in the Lord’s Supper and Paul preaching and teaching the Word of God.
This change flies in the face of well over 1000 years of Jewish tradition.
And this change raises a question about Paul.
Namely, why would Paul, who compromised for the good of the Gospel on behalf of the Christian Pharisees, and who had Timothy circumcised, observe the Sabbath on Sunday?

Also, Sabbath is used 57 times in the Gospels, 9 times in Acts and only 2 times in the remainder of 32 books of the NT!
The 9 times in Acts are mostly used in conjunction with Paul speaking the Gospel at a synagogue on the Sabbath.
This absence of the presence of the word Sabbath also raises a question.
Did Paul and the NT Christians’ view the observance of the Sabbath as unimportant?

In order for us to get a handle on these questions, we need to examine what the Sabbath is and Jesus’ view of the Sabbath.

What’s the Sabbath what was God’s intent for the Sabbath?
Genesis 2:1-3 - Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. 2 And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

It is the day God “rested” after creation.
And because he chose it and “rested” on it, it was set apart as holy.
“Rested” denotes not a God who was worn out and needed a nap.
But it denotes a God who, through His spoken Word, completed His purpose to create “the heavens and the earth” and was satisfied and lodging in this fact. (Satisfied & Lodging are both translations of the Hebrew sabbat.)
In fact the word “rested” can be defined as to “be in a state of favorable circumstances.”
God’s resting = God’s purpose (creation) was accomplished and he was satisfied!

Exodus 20:8-11 - “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

The Sabbath is the 4th commandment.
We are to remember it which means to “to recall it, with a focus on responding in an appropriate manner”.
In other words, we are to recognize God’s accomplished purpose and respond in thanksgiving and worship.
And as we will see, JESUS is part of that purpose!

Isaiah 58:13-14 - “If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; 14 then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

The Sabbath day is not to be about us but God.
We will be blessed when we observe the Sabbath.

Now that we have a basic understanding of the Sabbath, we now need to examine Jesus and the Sabbath to get an idea of what he said it was and what man had made it.

Jesus and the Sabbath:
Matthew 12:6-8 - I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
(Hosea 6:6 - For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings).
Matthew 12:11-12 - He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
Mark 2:27-28 - And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

The Sabbath is God’s day and because Christ is God it is also Christ’s day.
The Sabbath is more about the “Internals” than the “Externals”.
The Sabbath and common sense are not mutually exclusive.
The Sabbath is a day for man to use for God’s purpose, not a day for man to serve himself.

Mark 3:1-5 - Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart,

A Sabbath focused on the externals, like that of the Pharisees, corrupts the Sabbath and hardens the heart.

Luke 13:13-17 - And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God. 14 But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17 As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.

A Sabbath focused on the externals, like that of the Pharisees, leads to hypocrisy or is a result of hypocrisy.

John 7:21-24 - Jesus answered them, “ I did one work, and you all marvel at it. Moses 22 gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If on the Sabbath a man receives circumcision, so that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because on the Sabbath I made a man’s whole body well? 24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

A Sabbath focused on the externals, like that of the Pharisees, no longer finds its meaning and fulfillment in the work and purpose of God but in the misguided puporses of man.

Summary - from Jesus we learn:
The Sabbath had been corrupted and had lost its purpose with the Pharisees.
It became man-centered and about them - Jewish law had over 39 classes of forbidden work on the Sabbath.
There can be no observance of the Sabbath with a hard heart (Internals) no matter the work rules followed (Externals).
Proper Sabbath remembrance involves not just the absence of man-centered action but also the presence of a right heart!

So now I think we can answer the 2 questions posed at the beginning.

Why would Paul observe the Sabbath on Sunday & not Saturday?:
We learned what the Sabbath was, what it was made for and what it had become.
We know enough about Paul to know that Jesus and the Gospel were to be elevated in all he did.

John 20:1 - Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.
We know that Christ rose from the dead on Sunday.

1 Corinthians 15:13-14 - But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.
We know that for Paul Christ’s resurrection is a if not the foundation of our faith.

Colossians 2:16-17 - Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
We know that for Paul it was not the day, but the God and His purposes behind the day that are the thing.
And the purpose for the all the diets, festivals and the Sabbath pointed to and have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

So an answer to this first question is Paul observed the Sabbath on Sunday because God’s intent for the Sabbath was fulfilled in Jesus Christ on a Sunday with His resurrection.
To do otherwise would be a failure to recognize that Christ was the point from the very beginning.

J.V. McGee puts it as follows: Under the old creation the seventh day was the important day, the Sabbath day. That belongs to the old creation. On the Sabbath day Jesus was dead, inside the tomb. On the first day of the week He came forth. We meet on that day because we are now joined to a living Christ. That is the testimony of the first day of the week.

Christ is the sinners new creation and that is a “favorable circumstance” to rest in!

Did Paul and the NT Christians’ view the observance of the Sabbath as unimportant?:
We learned from Paul that it was Christ, the Messiah, and His resurrection that gives the Christian Sabbath meaning.
Hebrews 4:9-13 - So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. 11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
We know that NT Christians saw Christ as The Sabbath Rest.
In other words, Christ’s resurrection enabled us to be “in a state of favorable circumstances” – SALVATION.

So quite the contrary, the observance of the Sabbath is all the more important for Paul and the NT Christians.
For the Christian, to “remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” is done through the "rememberance" and worship of Jesus Christ!
And knowing that Christ is our Sabbath rest, we see that in fact that this “Sabbath” (Jesus) appears in the NT 531 times.

As we look back our text we see this about Paul’s Sunday Sabbath Service:
Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection was celebrated through partaking in the Lord’s Supper.
Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection was celebrated through the preaching and teaching of His word.
Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection was celebrated by Paul’s demonstrating that death has been overcome because Christ had overcome it.
And so this is what we do today.
And this is why the writer of Hebrews exhorts us not to forsake gathering together for this very purpose!