Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament account of the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus—the Church—as it was written and recorded in the New Testament book of Acts. More specifically today’s passages is found in the twenty-third chapter of this New Testament book. “And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth. 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 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. But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of. Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question. And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both. And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees’ part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit of an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God. And when there arose a great dissension, the chief captain, fearing lest Paul should have been pulled in pieces of them, commanded the soldiers to go down, and to take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle” (Acts 23:1-10).
“And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: For as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome. And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. And there were more than forty which had made this conspiracy. And they came to the chief priests and elders, and said, We have bound ourselves under a great curse, that we will eat nothing until we have slain Paul. Now therefore ye with the council signify to the chief captain that he bring him down unto you to morrow, as though ye would inquire something more perfectly concerning him: and we, or even he come near, are ready to kill him. And when Paul’s sister’s son heard of their lying in wait, he went and entered into the castle and told Paul. Then Paul called one of the centurions unto him, and said, Bring this young man unto the chief captain: for he hath a certain thing to tell him. So he took him, and brought him to the chief captain, and said, Paul the prisoner called me unto him, and prayed me to bring this young man unto thee, who hath something to say unto thee. Then the chief captain took him by the hand, and went with him aside privately, and asked him, What is that thou hast to tell me? And he said, The Jews have agreed to desire thee that thou wouldest bring down Paul to morrow into the council, as though they would inquire somewhat of him more perfectly. But do not thou yield unto them: for there lie in wait for him of them more than forty men, which have bound themselves with an oath, that they will neither eat nor drink till they have killed him: and now are they ready, looking for a promise from thee. So the chief captain then let the young man depart, and charged him, See thou tell no man that thou hast shewed these things to me” (Acts 23:11-22).
“And he called unto him two centurions, saying, Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Caesarea, and horsemen threescore and ten, and spearmen two hundred, at the third hour of the night; and provide them beasts, that they may set Paul on, and bring him safe unto Felix the governor. And he wrote a letter after this manner” (Acts 23:23-25).
“Claudius Lysias unto the most excellent governor Felix sendeth greeting. This man was taken of the Jews, and should have been killed of them: then came I with an army, and rescued him, having understood that he was a Roman. And when I would have known the cause wherefore they accused him, I brought him forth into their council: whom I perceived to be accused of questions of their law, but to have nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or of bonds. And when it was told me how that the Jews laid wait for the man, I sent straightway to thee, and gave commandment to his accusers also to say before thee what they had against him. Farewell” (Acts 23:26-30).
“Then the soldiers, as it was commanded them, took Paul, and brought him by night to Antipatris. On the morrow they left the horsemen to go with him, and returned to the castle: who, when they came to Caesarea, and delivered the epistle to the governor, presented Paul also before him. And when the governor had read the letter, he asked of what province he was. And when he had understood that he was of Cilicia; I will hear thee, said he, when thine accusers are also come. And he commanded him to be kept in Herod’s judgment hall” (Acts 23:31-35).
When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the narrative of the apostle Paul in the city of Jerusalem continuing. What began in the twentieth chapter with the apostle Paul being acutely aware of the fact that he must needs journey unto the city of Jerusalem has not transitioned to the apostle Paul being present in the midst of the city. What’s more is that what the Holy Spirit bore witness within the apostle’s own spirit and what Agabus the prophet who came unto Caesarea from Judaea proclaiming the word of the Lord unto the apostle Paul was actually coming to pass. It was while speaking unto the elders of the church in Ephesus the apostle Paul declared unto them how he went bound in the spirit unto the city of Jerusalem and how although he did not know what would befall him in the midst of the city he knew how the Spirit had borne witness and testified within his spirit that bonds and afflictions abode him in every city he journeyed. What’s more is that when the prophet Agabus came unto Caesarea unto the house of Philip the evangelist where the apostle Paul was together with Philip, his virgin daughters, those travel companions of Paul and whoever else might have been there with him that he would take the garment of the apostle Paul, bind his own hands and feet with the garment and then prophesy that so too would the Jews bind the hands and feet of the owner of the garment before delivering him into the hands of the Gentiles. That which the prophet Agabus was declaring unto the apostle Paul and those who were present in the house of Philip the evangelist was that the journey of the apostle Paul unto the city of Jerusalem would indeed lead to his being bound hand and foot before ultimately being delivered into the hands of the Gentiles. Oh it is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand this particular truth for it calls and draws our attention—not only to the experience of the apostle Paul but also to the experience of his Lord Jesus.
As I sit here today thinking about the journey which the apostle Paul made unto the city of Jerusalem I can’t help but think about the fact that the apostle Paul would make the journey unto the city of Jerusalem where he had previously wreaked havoc upon and against the church. The apostle Paul would return unto Jerusalem where he had entered into houses and homes alike dragging men and women out before casting them into prison. It would be in the city of Jerusalem where a great persecution would break out against the church upon the death of Stephen which the apostle Paul who at that time was known as Saul of Tarsus had consented to. It would be in the city of Jerusalem where the apostles of Christ were not only threatened and bound but were also imprisoned and ultimately beaten for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus. It would be in the fourth and fifth chapters of this New Testament book we witness and behold the original apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ experiencing tremendous suffering, persecution and affliction in the midst of the city of Jerusalem at the hands of the religious rulers and leaders—perhaps even the same religious leaders and rulers who had conspired together to deliver Jesus of Nazareth into the hands of the Gentiles to be crucified. There in the midst of the city of Jerusalem Stephen one of the original seven deacons ordained and appointed from among the brethren would not only be seized and brought before the religious council but would also be falsely accused before ultimately being dragged to the place where he would be stoned to death thus becoming the church’s first martyr. Moreover it would be in the city of Jerusalem where Herod would put to death James the brother of John and one of the original disciples the Lord Jesus by the sword. Also in the city of Jerusalem Herod would imprison the apostle Peter intending on putting him to death the same way he had put James to death.
It is absolutely imperative that we recognize and understand the narrative of Jerusalem in the book of Acts for although it would be an upper room in the city of Jerusalem where the Holy Spirit would be poured upon the one-hundred and twenty who were gathered together in one accord it would also be in that city where tremendous persecution would break out. In all reality it is quite remarkable and astonishing to think about and consider how the presence of the person of the Holy Spirit seemed to bring with Him affliction, opposition, suffering and persecution. We read the words which are found in the second chapter of the New Testament book of Acts and are brought face to face with the release and outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the one-hundred and twenty and we read about the manifestation of the Spirit’s presence resulted in the addition of three-thousand souls in a single day and yet we must needs recognize that which would follow thereafter. We read of how as a direct result of the manifestation of the presence of the power and person of the Holy Spirit the brethren would have all things in common and would devote themselves to the breaking of bread, the apostles’ doctrine, to fellowship with one another as well as to hospitality and yet we fail to realize that this manifestation and work of the Holy Spirit would indeed bring with it tremendous persecution, suffering and affliction. This persecution, this suffering and this affliction would initially be present among the apostles themselves who were seized, threatened, imprisoned and beaten while the religious leaders and rulers also thought to put them to death. Were it not for the intervention and words of Gamaliel who coincidentally the apostle Paul studied under while being known as Saul of Tarsus the apostles might very well have been put to death by the religious rulers and leaders.
The more you read the words found in the New Testament book of Acts the more you must needs be brought face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the city of Jerusalem being a tremendous place of affliction, suffering and persecution—this despite the fact that it was in this very city where the Holy Spirit was released in an upper room among one-hundred and twenty souls who were gathered together in one accord in prayer. It would be in the city of Jerusalem where three thousand souls would be added unto the church in a single day and where the Lord Jesus would add unto the brethren daily such as should be saved and how at one point we learn of the number swelling to five thousand souls. In the city of Jerusalem was where Ananias and his wife Sapphira would be struck down by the Holy Ghost after lying to him about the price they sold their property and that which they brought unto the apostles. It would be in the city of Jerusalem where the Spirit’s presence would bring about tremendous power at the hands of the apostles among the saints and brethren and how they would preach the word of the Lord Jesus without fear and with great boldness. Despite the tremendous truth of the work of the Spirit in the midst of this ancient and beloved city of David we must needs recognize that almost synonymous with the presence of the person and presence of the Holy Spirit was the affliction, the suffering and the affliction of the saints and brethren. Pause for a moment and consider how it would be in this ancient city of Jerusalem where the apostles would be threatened, imprisoned and beaten while being commanded not to teach or preach the name of the Lord Jesus. This city of Jerusalem would be where Stephen would become the church’s first martyr after being stoned to death and where James the brother of John would become what might very well have become the church’s second martyr having been put to death with the sword by Herod. The city of Jerusalem would be a city where the Spirit’s person and presence would indeed be manifested, however, it would be in this city where great affliction, suffering, persecution and opposition would be manifested.
The narrative of the church as presented and found within the book of Acts is one that is actually quite remarkable and spectacular when you take the time to think about it for this narrative does in fact include the manifestation of the person and presence of the Holy Spirit and at the same time the Spirit’s presence would also bring with it affliction, suffering and persecution. We dare not miss and lose sight of this and how incredibly important it is for we would like to think that the presence of the person and power of the Holy Spirit means healing, signs, wonders, miracles, speaking in tongues and the like in the midst of the brethren. While it is indeed true that the presence of the Holy Spirit does in fact bring with Him healing, signs, wonders and miracles as well as boldness to preach the word and name of the Lord Jesus it is also true that the Spirit’s presence also brings with it tremendous persecution, suffering and affliction. In fact there are multiple examples and occurrences found within the New Testament book of Acts where the city of Jerusalem would be a breeding ground and hub for persecution, affliction and opposition against the word and name of the Lord Jesus. From the apostles who were seized, imprisoned, threatened and beaten to the death of Stephen the church’s first martyr the city of Jerusalem would be a breeding ground for tremendous suffering and affliction at the hands of both the religious leaders of the Jews as well as the Jews themselves. Moreover it would be in the midst of this ancient city where James the brother of John would be put to death with the sword and where Saul of Tarsus would wreak havoc against the church by dragging men and women out of their homes before casting them into prison.
If you continue reading in the New Testament book of Acts you will find the single greatest threat to the original apostles of Christ as well as unto the apostle Paul and the church itself was not only the religious rulers of the Jews but also the Jews themselves. In fact both the city of Jerusalem as well as the Jews themselves would be synonomus with the affliction, persecution and suffering of the apostles and brethren of Christ. You cannot read the words which are found in this New Testament book and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth that the city of Jerusalem would indeed be the breeding ground of persecution against and of the church of Jesus Christ. This same city where the religious leaders and rulers continually sough for occasion to put Jesus to death and this same city where the religious leaders would even seize Jesus stealthily in the night before bringing Him secretly into a meeting that was convened in the dark of the night would be the same city where His apostles and body would experience suffering and affliction for the sake of His name. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for there is something to be said about this tremendous truth of the city of Jerusalem and how it was in the city of Jerusalem where the Lord Jesus Himself was killed and crucified and now it would be in that city where His apostles and His followers would themselves face persecution, suffering and affliction. Oh there is something to be said about the narrative of the city of Jerusalem as being present in this New Testament book for it calls and draws our attention to the powerful truth surrounding this ancient city which was known for its history of persecuting the righteous and those who proclaimed the word of the Lord. In fact what we find in the New Testament book of Acts is but a manifestation and extension—not only of what the Jews and religious rulers and leaders would do unto the Lord Jesus but also what their fathers themselves did unto the prophets who prophesied unto them in the name of the Lord. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the New Testament gospel narratives written by the apostle Matthew and the physician Luke concerning the persecution of the Jewish fathers of the prophets of old:
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the rightesous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zadcharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have vathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:29-39).
“Woe unto you! For ye build the seuplchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them. Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres. Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute: that the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; from the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation. Woe unto you, lawyers! For ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered” (Luke 11:47-52).
“The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee. And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. Nevertheless I must walk to day, and to morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which. Killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Luke 13:31-35).
The words which we find in these three passages of Scripture bring us face to face—not only with the tremendous persecution of the righteous and the prophets whom the Lord sent but also its direct connection to the city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was indeed that ancient city where the fathers of those present during the days of Jesus stoned and killed the prophets. Moreover in the wisdom of God He proclaimed how He would send unto them prophets and apostles and how some they would stone while others they would kill. As if this weren’t enough it would be in the four New Testament gospels where we find the ultimate manifestation of the iniquity of the fathers in persecuting and putting to death the prophets being found in the death of the Son of God. While it would indeed be at the hands of the Romans Jesus would be died for crucifixion was a method of Roman torture and while it was true that the cross was an instrument of death used by the Romans it would not be the Romans themselves who would be held guilty and responsible for the death of the Lord Jesus. Scripture makes it very clear that it was the fathers of those present during Jesus’ day who would persecute and kill the prophets and it would be the religious rulers, leaders and people during Jesus’ day who would be guilty for putting to death the eternal and only begotten Son of God. It would be the religious leaders who would bring Jesus bound unto Pontius Pilate demanding He be crucified and yet it would be the Jewish mob which was present there in the midst of the city of Jerusalem who would cry out and demand His death and crucifixion. In all reality it would be the fathers who would be guilty of stoning and putting to death the prophets and yet it would be this generation who would be guilty of putting to death the Lord Jesus who was the eternal and only begotten Son of the Father. It would be this generation who would not only be guilty of but also held responsible for putting to death the Lord Jesus as well as the sin(s) of their fathers in stoning and putting to death the prophets. Consider if you will the parable Jesus spoke about those in the vineyard who would not only put to death the servants of the master but also the son whom the master would send:
“Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: and when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us k ill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserable destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet” (Matthew 21:31-46).
“Then began he to speak to the people this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time. And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty. And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out. Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him. But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them? He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others” (Luke 20:9-16).
It is absolutely necessary we recognize and pay close attention to the words presented in this parable for at the very heart of this parable is the knowledge and declaration that the husbandmen whom the Lord Jesus spoke about were the fathers of the Jews and religious leaders and rulers of that day. The vineyard could either be interpreted as the city of Jerusalem or as the land of Israel itself which was given as an inheritance unto the descendants of Abraham. It was the fathers of those which were present in that generation which stoned, beat and killed those whom the living God had sent—namely, the prophets whom the Lord sent rising early in the morning to proclaim unto them their sins and to call them unto repentance. It was the Lord Jesus who would declare unto the scribes and the Pharisees that their fathers were guilty of stoning, wounding, persecuting and putting to death the prophets of old who were sent by the eternal and living God. Although there were four-hundred years of silence between the time of the prophets until the time of John the Baptist the Father would purpose and determine to send unto them His only begotten Son thinking they might receive and honor His Son. What would happen instead is those of that generation would spitefully entreat the only begotten Son of the living God and would put Him to death. What’s more is that within the four gospels there would be another death of one of the righteous as Herod Antipas would have John the Baptist whom he had imprisoned on account of Herodias his brother Philip’s wife beheaded there in the prison. Jesus wouldn’t be the first of the righteous which was put to death in the city of Jerusalem or during the days in which He walked upon the earth for John the Baptist would also be put death—this despite the fact that John the Baptist would only be put to death because of the manipulation of Herodias who operating under the spirit of Jezebel would convince her daughter to ask for the head of John the Baptist.
Oh before I delve any further into the narrative surrounding the apostle Paul I can’t help but be reminded of the words which Jeremiah the prophet spoke unto those during his day in the court of the Temple. If you turn and direct your attention to the seventh chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah you will find the prophet standing in the court of the Temple while he was still free to move about throughout the city of Jerusalem as he proclaimed the word of the Lord. I am absolutely convinced we must needs recognize the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for it helps serve as a background and backdrop for what is presented in the New Testament book of Acts concerning the apostles and the brethren of the Church of the Lord Jesus. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the seventh chapter of this prophetic book beginning with the eighth verse:
“Behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; and come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the Lord. But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel. And now, because ye have done all these works, saith the LORD, and I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not; Therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by my name, wherein ye trust, and unto the place which I gave to you and to your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh. And I will cast you out of my sight, as I have cast out all your brethren, even the whole seed of Ephraim. Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee. Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger. Do they provoke me to anger? Saith the LORD: do they not provoke themselves to the confusion of their own faces? Therefore thus saith the LORD God; Behold, mind anger and my fury shall be poured out upon this place, upon man, and upon beast, and upon the trees of the field, and upon the fruit of the ground; and it shall burn, and shall not be quenched” (Jeremiah 7:8-20).
I am absolutely convinced we must needs pay close attention to the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for it helps serve as the backdrop and foundation for what we find in the New Testament book of Acts beginning with the twentieth chapter. It is in the twentieth chapter of this New Testament book we find the apostle Paul declaring unto the elders of the Ephesian congregation that he went bound in the spirit unto the city of Jerusalem not knowing what would befall him in the city. The apostle Paul knew that the Spirit testified and bore witness unto him that in every city he went bonds and afflictions would abide him and were appointed unto him. In all reality the apostle Paul was no stranger to suffering, to affliction, to persecution and to being shamefully entreated for in many places he journeyed he would suffer tremendous persecution at the hands of the Jews. Beginning with the ninth chapter of this New Testament book we find the apostle Paul’s first encounter with the Jews who sought to kill him for after his conversion he would preach and reason from the Scriptures that Jesus is indeed the Christ and the Son of the living God who suffered and was put to death. From the time the apostle Paul was in the city of Damascus all the way to the time the apostle Paul was present in the city of Jerusalem for this final time he had experienced and would experience tremendous persecution at the hands of the Jews. Time and time again within the New Testament book of Acts we read of the Jews seeking to put him to death—and not only seeking to put him to death but also creating chaos, disorder, confusion and riot around the apostle Paul. It would be in Thessalonica, Corinth and Berea where the unbelieving Jews who were moved with envy would create as much confusion, chaos and discord around the preaching of the apostle Paul.
Oh there is something to be said about that which we find in the New Testament book of Acts for what we find within this New Testament book brings us face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the apostle and the opposition and resistance he experienced at the hands of the Jews. What makes it truly interesting is when you think about the fact that the apostle Paul’s greatest threat and greatest danger came not from the Gentiles unto whom he had been sent but from the Jews who were his own countrymen. Even when writing unto the Corinthian saints in the second epistle he spoke of the dangers which he faced at the hands of his own countrymen time and time again. By the time the apostle Paul came unto Jerusalem this final time he had already suffered many things at the hands of the unbelieving Jews who would blaspheme and oppose themselves. The apostle Paul would experience a tremendous amount of persecution at the hands of the Jews as they would even stone him at one point and leave him supposing him to be dead. Of course the scripture reveals how the apostle Paul would get up after being stoned and left for dead and would continue preaching the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus. How absolutely incredible it is to read the words which are found in this New Testament book for what is present in it is a tremendous picture of the suffering, the affliction, the opposition and persecution the apostle Paul would experience at the hands of the Jews. Now what we find is the apostle Paul being bound in the spirit as he would make his journey unto the city of Jerusalem. The apostle Paul would go bound in the spirit unto the city of Jerusalem where the fathers of those in that generation had wounded, stoned and killed the prophets. Moreover it was in the city of Jerusalem where the religious leaders and rulers had accused Jesus before delivering him into the hands of the Gentiles to be put to death.
In all reality it is quite astounding when reading the words found in the New Testament book of Acts for what we find within this book is a powerful description of the apostle Paul suffering immensely at the hands of the unbelieving Jews. Now what we find is the apostle Paul making his way unto the city of Jerusalem not knowing what would befall him save that bonds and afflictions abide him. Agabus would indeed prophesy and proclaim unto the apostle Paul that the Jews would bind him hand and food before delivering him unto the Gentiles and I can’t help but get the strong sense that what is found here in these chapters is the apostle Paul following in the footsteps of his Lord and Master Jesus. There is something to be said about the words and language found in these chapters for they bring us face to face with the apostle Paul not only following in the footsteps of his Lord and Master but also experiencing a measure of the suffering and affliction the Lord Jesus faced in the city of Jerusalem. The brethren and disciples thought to keep the apostle Paul from going up unto the city of Jerusalem but the apostle Paul was resolved and purposed within himself—not only to be bound but also to give his life as a drink offering before the Lord. When the brethren which were present at the house of Philip the evangelist began weeping when they heard the prophetic word spoken by Agabus the apostle Paul asked them what they meant by weeping and so break his heart. The apostle Paul would also go on to declare unto them that he was not only willing to be bound but also to be put to death. The apostle Paul considered not his life to be dear and precious unto him that he might save it for he viewed his life as being a gift and offering he could offer unto the Lord for his purpose. In all reality I would dare say the apostle Paul viewed his life as the single greatest gift he could give and present unto the living God as an offering and sacrifice. For the apostle Paul his life was nothing more than that which he would willingly and voluntarily lay down for the sake of the word, the name and gospel of the Lord Jesus. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints of Rome as well as the words which are found in the third chapter of the epistle written unto the Philippian saints:
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Romans 12:1-3).
“Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 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; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Ye doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing” (Philippians 3:1-16).
It is absolutely necessary we recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for the words presented here bring us face to face with the apostle Paul’s willingness to lay down his life as a sacrifice and offering unto the Lord. For the apostle Paul his life was meant for one thing—to be laid down as an offering unto the Lord Jesus Christ. Whether this meant the apostle Paul would be stoned, or imprisoned, or despitefully entreated, or shamefully treated, or flogged, or even put to death his life was nothing more than that which he had been given of the Lord to lay down upon the altar of sacrifice and service. LAYING DOWN YOUR LIFE UPON THE ALTAR OF SACRIFICE AND SERVICE! Beginning with the thirteenth chapter of this New Testament book we find the apostle Paul continually laying down his life upon the altar of service before and unto the Lord Jesus as He would devote and commit himself to the effectual and fervent preaching of the word and name of the Lord Jesus. The apostle Paul would not only journey unto Macedonia but also unto Asia and other parts of the known world round about Judaea, Samaria and Galilee that he might preach and proclaim the word and name of the Lord Jesus. The apostle Paul would devote and commit his entire life in Christ to preaching the word and name of the Lord Jesus as he labored and toiled among those to whom he had come and was sent. You cannot read the words found in this New Testament and not come face to face with the apostle Paul continually devoting himself to the laying down of his life on the altar of service for the sake of the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus. The apostle Paul viewed his life as being a single offering which would and could continually be given unto the Lord upon the altar of service that His name and gospel might be preached among the Gentiles. For the apostle Paul his life in Christ was entirely and altogether meant to serve one purpose and one purpose only—to be laid down as an offering upon the altar of service before the Lord Jesus. The apostle Paul viewed his life as being an offering which he had to present unto the Lord Jesus as he would preach His name and gospel in whatever city, village, town and region he would journey unto. The apostle Paul recognized and understood that he only had one life in Christ and that life must needs be spent in sacrifice and service before and unto the Lord Jesus.
It has often been said that we only have one life to life and yet I am convinced that such a statement—though it is indeed true in part—only paints part of the picture. It is indeed true that we only have one life, however, I am convinced that what we must needs focus our attention on is not merely the one life we have been given but the one life we have in Christ. We could very well allow ourselves to get caught up in the idea that we only have one life to live and yet there are countless men and women who lived a portion of their lives outside of and apart from the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are those among us who had a life prior to the life they now have in Christ and that part of that life was not lived for the sake of the knowledge, the word, the name and the gospel of the Lord Jesus. In all reality there are two different parts to the lives which men and women have among us—that part of their life which I will refer to as “B.C. or Before Christ” and that part which I will refer to as “A.D. or Anno Domani or After Christ.” We cannot deny the fact that we only have one life to live and that none of us is offered anything beyond this single life we have been afforded and provided by the Lord Jesus. With this being said I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the late C.T. Studd wrote in his famous poem entitled “Only One Life.” It is in this poem C.T. Studd emphatically and passionately declares that only one life will soon be past and only what’s done for Christ will last. I am absolutely and completely convinced we must needs recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in this poem for they help us to understand the truth surrounding this one life we have—and not only this one life we have but also this one life in Christ. I firmly believe that while it is indeed true we have but one life which was given unto us during our generation it is our life in Christ which can and will truly last. It is not our life prior to Christ that ultimately matters but rather our life in Christ and how we live that life that truly matters. This is what lies at the very heart of the words the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Philippi for the apostle Paul declared unto them how he considered all those things which were once gain to him—all those things which described his life before Christ—as dung and loss for the sake of the knowledge of Christ. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the poem which was written by C.T. Studd for it perfectly describes that for which we have been called to and that which the apostle Paul lived and believed within his own life:
“Two little lines I heard one day, traveling along life’s busy way. Bringing conviction to my heart, and from my mind would not depart; only one life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
“Only one life, yes only one, soon will its fleeting hours be done; then, in that day my Lord to meet, and stand before his judgment seat; only one life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last”
“Only one life, the still small voice, gently pleads for a better choice bidding me selfish aims to leave, and to God’s holy will to cleave; Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last”
“Only one life, a few brief years, each with its burdens, hopes and fears; each with its clays I must fulfill, living for self or in His will; only one life ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done Christ will last”
“When this bright world would tempt me sore, when Satan would a victory score; When self would seek to have its way, then help me Lord with joy to say; Only one life ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last”
“Give me Father, a purpose deep, in joy or sorrow thy word to keep; Faithful and true what e’er the strife, pleasing thee in my daily life; Only one life ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last”
“Oh let my love with fervour burn, and from the world now let me turn; Living for thee, and thee alone, bring thee pleasure on thy throne; Only one life ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last”
“Only one life, yes only one, now let me say, Thy will be done; And when at least I’ll hear the call, I. know I’ll say ‘twas worth it all; Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last”
ONLY ONE LIFE ‘TWILL SOON BE PAST, ONLY WHAT’S DONE FOR CHRIST WILL LAST! We dare not miss out on the incredible significance that is found within this poem as well as this central phrase which lies at the very heart of it. In all reality if we wish to understand the words the apostle Paul spoke unto elders of the Ephesian church, as well as the words he spoke unto those present at the house of Philip the evangelist and in the third chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Philippian saints we must needs recognize and acknowledge that he lived his entire life in Christ after this manner. The apostle Paul knew that only one life will soon be past—this life which he lived in the natural and physical realm—and that only what’s done for Christ will last. This is the underlying message surrounding the words which the apostle Paul spoke for he recognized and understood that his life in Christ was entirely and altogether intended on doing everything for and unto the glory of Christ. The apostle Paul lived his entire life in Christ doing that which pleased Him and that which was done for His name, for His glory and His fame. With this being said, however, we must recognize and understand the fine line that exists between that which we think we are doing for Christ and that which we are simply doing in his name. You will recall the words which Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount concerning the many who would come to Him in that day saying, “Lord, Lord” and he would profess and declare unto them He never knew them. What’s more is Jesus would also refer to them as workers of iniquity despite the fact they would profess and confess that what they did they did in His name. Oh I am absolutely convinced that there is going to be a lot which has supposedly and allegedly been done in the name of the Lord Jesus throughout the generations and yet much of it was done by those who worked iniquity. Even more there is a vast difference between allegedly doing things in the name of Jesus and actually doing the will of the Father. It was Jesus who said that only those who did the will of His Father who was in heaven would enter into the joy of the kingdom. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:13-23).
Oh dear reader it is absolutely necessary we recognize and understand the vast difference that exists between allegedly and supposedly doing things in Christ’s name and actually doing things for Christ. In all reality I would dare say there are a number of men and women who think and even perceive they are doing things for Christ and yet they are doing nothing more than engaging in works done in His name but not according to the will of the Father. I am absolutely convinced that there is an intrinsic link and connection between doing the will of the Father and that which we do for Christ as we live our life in and for Christ. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that we have indeed been given one life in the physical and natural realm and what we do in this life both in Christ and for Christ is what will last. The apostle Paul recognized that he had but one life in the physical and natural realm and how that life was now found to be in Christ. There was a period of time when the life which he lived in the flesh he lived unto himself according to what he thought pleased the living God and yet his perspective changed when he experienced new life in Christ. In all reality this is precisely what is meant when the apostle Paul wrote in the fifth chapter of the second epistle written unto the Corinthians concerning those who are in Christ as well as the words which he wrote in the epistle written unto the churches in Galatia concerning being crucified with Christ. In fact I would like to call and draw your attention to these words and how they are intrinsically tied to the words the apostle Paul spoke unto the Ephesian elders and those who were gathered together at the house of Philip the evangelist in Caesarea:
“For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live. Unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 4:14-20).
“But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. 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. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Galatians 2:17-21).
IF ANY MAN BE IN CHRIST! I AM CRUCIFIED WITH CHRIST! THE LIFE WHICH I NOW LIVE IN THE FLESH! Oh we must needs recognize and understand the tremendous significance that is found within these words for when we read these chapters in the New Testament book of Acts we find the apostle Paul not only willing to live his life in the flesh preaching and teaching the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus but also in laying down his life for an offering. What’s more is that I would dare say the apostle Paul viewed his life as far too small an offering to present unto the Lord—even through and even in the midst of laying it down. The apostle Paul recognized that the single greatest treasure he had to present unto the Lord was his physical body which is why he wrote unto the saints of Rome to present their bodies unto the LORD as living sacrifices which were holy and acceptable in His sight. There is something incredibly powerful about this for when you come to these chapters of the New Testament book of Acts you will find the apostle Paul presenting his body as an offering before the Lord in an entirely different way. Within and throughout his missionary journeys the apostle Paul would lay his life down as an offering unto the living God—not only through preaching the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus but also through his willingness to endure suffering, affliction, hardship, persecution and the like. In fact the apostle Paul actually rejoiced and boasted in his afflictions and sufferings in this life and viewed them as the means with which he would honor and glorify the living God. That which we find here in this particular portion of Scripture is the apostle not merely willing to endure hardships for the sake of the gospel but we find the apostle Paul being willing to be bound and even lay down his life for the word and sake of the Lord Jesus. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this as at the very heart of it is the apostle Paul being crucified with Christ and living the life which was in the flesh in Christ. The apostle was indeed a new creation and had become a new creation from the time he encountered the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus.
As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the apostle Paul’s recognition that only one life would soon be past and only what’s done for Christ will last. After the apostle Paul encountered the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus and was baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit the entire trajectory of his life would be radically altered and the hunter would now become the hunted. That one who had previously unleashed so much havoc and chaos against and upon the church would now be on the receiving end of tremendous affliction and opposition—primarily from his own countrymen the Jews. In many cities, towns and regions where the apostle Paul journeyed the single greatest threat to the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and to himself personally would in fact come from the Jews and it would be the prophet Agabus who would emphatically declare and proclaim unto him that if he journeyed unto Jerusalem he would be bound and ultimately handed over to the Gentiles. What makes this all the more intriguing is when you consider the fact the apostle Paul could have avoided the city of Jerusalem at all costs and thus saved his life, however, the apostle Paul knew that doing so would not have been living his life for the sake of Christ. The apostle Paul could have listened to those who entreated him not to journey unto the city of Jerusalem and yet had he done so he would have been acting contrary to the words which his Lord spoke concerning those who wish to save their lives in this life will lost them whereas those who lose their lives in this life will gain them. The apostle Paul viewed his life as being that one single gift which he could and was more than willing to offer before and unto the Lord Jesus as a living sacrifice. For the apostle Paul journeying unto the city of Jerusalem was not only a means of glorifying the Lord Jesus but it was also a means of laying his life down as an offering before and unto the Lord.
The apostle Paul knew what awaited him at Jerusalem and that bonds, afflictions and even death might meet him there in the city and yet much like Abraham who was instructed to go to mount Moriah which was the ancient mountain of Jerusalem did not avoid it when asked to sacrifice his only son as an offering so too would the apostle Paul not avoid the city. Just like the Lord Jesus knew that upon journeying unto the city of Jerusalem he would be betrayed, he would be handed over to the religious leaders and would suffer many things at their hands before being delivered unto the hands of the Gentiles who would scourge and crucify Him so also would the apostle Paul make his own journey unto the city of Jerusalem. What we find here in these chapters is the continued opposition and resentment of the Jews who had not only rejected the Lord Jesus Christ and delivered Him up to be crucified but now they were raising themselves up against the apostle Paul who was a servant of the Lord Jesus. In fact one might even say that what the apostle Paul experienced in the city of Jerusalem was very much similar to that which the Lord Jesus experienced for just as the Lord Jesus was bound by the Jews and delivered unto the Gentiles so too would the apostle Paul be bound by the Jews and delivered unto the hands of the Gentiles. What makes this most interesting and remarkable is when you consider the fact that the apostle Paul would journey unto Jerusalem—not to lay his life down in that city but that he might ultimately journey unto Rome. What’s more is that the journey which the apostle Paul took unto the city of Jerusalem would not mean the end of his life in the midst of that city but that from that city he would ultimately journey unto the capital city of the Roman Empire—Rome itself. Oh that we would read and consider the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and truly ask ourselves if we are living our lives in the flesh for the sake of the Lord Jesus recognizing that only what’s done for Christ will last.