August 6th, 2017 | Chad Gardner
If money weren’t an object and you knew you couldn’t fail, what passion would you pursue?
Mother Teresa was a nun with meager resources. But she felt compelled to serve the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, India. When asked how she would build an orphanage with only three pennies, she simply said, “With God and three pennies, I can do anything.” She could have called a “Time Out” and waited until she had more resources, but she chose “Today, Obey” and went on to impact the world.
When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly. On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs. What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law. But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.” Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for each one of them.
From Acts 21:15-16, we learn that the disciples Paul is traveling with are likely Hellenistic Jews. They stay with Mnason of Cyprus who is accustomed to their culture. Paul and his companions are welcomed gladly. He meets with James and the church leaders to share what God has done on their journey. Everyone is praising God over Paul’s news, but there is a problem.
When something great happens… problems follow.
Some in Jerusalem were under the false impression that Paul was teaching others to abandon the law and ignore the observance of Jewish customs. Paul had been set free from the law through Jesus Christ. He was not bound by tradition, but still observed Jewish customs. When the church elders addressed this issue, he humbly submitted to their authority.
In the new structure of the church, elders provided leadership so the apostles could devote themselves to prayer and the Word, so as to fulfill their passion and calling. This is God’s design for the church.
- Apostles (Acts 4)
- Elders (Acts 6)
- Apostles and Elders (Acts 15:2)
- Elders (Acts 21:18)
Paul impacts tons of people then submits to the elders, because they have authority over him.
Although Gentiles were free from Jewish customs, the church elders sent instructions so as not to be a stumbling block for Jews. Paul’s desire here is to unify the whole body of Christ. The instructions the elders asked Paul to follow did not go against his conscience or core convictions.
1 Corinthians 9:19-22
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.
“As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.” Romans 14:1
“Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” Romans 14:13
Paul could have chosen “Time Out”. He could have argued with the elders and undermined their authority, causing discord in the church. Instead, he chose “Today, Obey.” He followed the pattern God had set. He obeyed God by submitting to the leaders’ authority, and brought unity through compromise.
As we seek to follow Christ, we have a choice: Today, Obey or Time Out. The Spirit wants us to choose to obey now and follow his lead. The flesh and the enemy want us to resist and call a time out. What choice will you make?