The Platform of Bonds & the Podium of Afflictions

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 book of Acts by the physician Luke. More specifically today’s passage is found in the twenty-fifth chapter of this New Testament book. “Now when Festus was come into the province, after three days he ascended from Caesarea to Jerusalem. Then the high priest and the chief of the Jews informed him against Paul, and besought him, and desired favour against him, that he would send for him to Jerusalem, laying wait in the way to kill him. But Festus answered, that Paul should be kept at Caesarea, and that he himself would depart shortly thither. Let them therefore, said he, which among you are able, go down with me, and accuse this man, if there be any wickedness in him. And when he had tarried among them more than ten days, he went down unto Caesarea; and the next day sitting on the judgment seat commanded Paul to be brought. And when he was come, the Jews which came down from Jerusalem stood round about, and laid many and grievous complains against Paul, which they could not prove. While he answered of himself, neither against the law of the Jews, neither against the temple, nor yet against Caesar, have I offended any thing at all. But Festus, willing to do the Jews a pleasure, answered Paul, and said, Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things before me. Then said Paul, I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged: to the Jews have I done no wrong, as thou very well knowest. For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar. Then Festus, when he ha conferred with the council, answered, Hast thou appealed unto Caesarea? Unto Caesar shalt thou go” (Acts 25:1-12).

 

            “And after certain days king Agrippa and Bernice came unto Caesarea to salute Festus. And when they had been there many days, Festus declared Paul’s cause unto the king, saying, There is a certain man left in bonds be Felix: about whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me, desiring to have judgment against him. To whom I answered, It is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have license to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him. Therefore, when they were come hither, without any delay on the morrow I sat on the judgment seat, and commanded the man to be brought forth. Against whom when the accusers stood up, they brought none accusation of such things as I supposed: but had certain questions against him of their own superstition, and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive. And because I doubted of such manner of questions, I asked him whether he would go to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these matters. But when Paul had appealed to be reserved unto the hearing of Augustus, I commanded him to be kept till I might send him to Caesar. Then Agrippa said unto Festus, I would also hear the man myself. To morrow said he, thou shalt hear him” (Acts 25:13-22).

 

            “And on the morrow, when Agrippa was come, and Bernice, with great pomp, and was entered into the place of hearing, with the chief captains, and principal men of the city, at Festus’ commandment Paul was brought forth. And Festus said, King Agrippa, and all men which are here present with us, ye see this man, about whom all the multitude of the Jews have dealt with me, both at Jerusalem, and also here, crying that he ought not to live any longer. But when I found that he had committed nothing worthy of death, and that he himself hath appealed to Augusts, I have determined to send him. Of whom I have no certain thing to write unto my lord. Wherefore I have brought him forth before you, and specially before thee, O king Agrippa, that, after examination had, I might have somewhat to write. For it seemeth to me unreasonable to send a prisoner, and not withal to signify the crimes laid against him” (Acts 25:23-27).

 

            When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the continuation of the apostle Paul being bound after being seized and come upon in the city of Jerusalem. You will recall in the twenty-first chapter of this New Testament book how the apostle Paul made his way unto the city of Jerusalem that he might be there in time for the day and feast of Passover. What makes the journey of the apostle Paul to Jerusalem so incredibly unique when you take the time to consider it is when you realize that as he spoke to the elders of the church in Ephesus he declared unto them how he would no more see their faces again. That time he spent with the elders of the Ephesian church would be the last time any of them would ever see his face for he knew his journey would take him unto the city of Jerusalem. It would be when speaking unto the elders of the church which was at Ephesus the apostle Paul warned them—not only of that which would come in among them after his departure but also what awaited him as he prepared to make the journey unto the city of Jerusalem. Upon speaking to the elders of the Ephesian congregation the apostle Paul spoke unto and declared unto them how after his departure savage and grievous wolves would enter in not sparing the flock and would introduce false doctrines and heresies. The apostle Paul knew and understood that in the wake of his departure there would be false teachers, false prophets and even false brethren who would enter in and even rise up from among them that they might seduce men and women after their own doctrines. The apostle Paul recognized and understood that after his departure from the city and church of Ephesus there would be great danger that would come upon them which they would have to combat—a danger which even Jesus Himself spoke about when instructing the apostle John to write unto the angel of the church of Ephesus. It would be Jesus Himself who would declare how the Ephesian church could not bear those which were evil and tried those which said they were apostles and were not but were liars. Furthermore Jesus would go on to speak of the Ephesian church how they hated the deeds of the Nicolaitans which He also hated thus indicating the savage wolves which the apostle Paul spoke of.

 

            As the apostle Paul spoke unto the elders of the Ephesian church you will find that he not only prepared them for his departure and the infiltration of false prophets, false teachers and false brethren who would enter in among them as savage wolves in sheep’s clothing. Moreover the apostle Paul also spoke unto the elders of the church in Ephesus concerning his journey unto the city of Jerusalem and that after his departure from them they would no more see his face. The apostle Paul knew and understood how the Spirit bore witness and testified with his spirit that bonds and afflictions abode and awaited him in every city whereunto he came. Although the apostle Paul did not know or understand what awaited him in the city of Jerusalem he knew that he was going up unto the city bound by the Spirit. It was the very Spirit which Jesus had sent from the eternal Father in heaven who would lead the apostle Paul unto the city of Jerusalem to fulfill that which was before him. Although the apostle Paul did not know what awaited him in the city of Jerusalem he did in fact know that it was the Holy Spirit of the living God who testified and bore witness that bonds and afflictions awaited him in each and every city he journeyed unto. This is important to recognize and understand for it would be in the twentieth chapter we begin to recognize and understand the journey the apostle Paul would make unto the city of Jerusalem and how that journey would ultimately change the trajectory and path of his life. Having already completed apostolic and missionary journeys the apostle Paul would now come unto the city of Jerusalem where he would experience perhaps a greater measure of that which the Lord Jesus had spoken unto Ananias which he in turn revealed unto the apostle while he was yet still Saul of Tarsus.

 

            In the opening verses of the twenty-first chapter of this New Testament book you will find the apostle Paul and those companions who were with him landing at Tyre and finding disciples there who they tarried with for seven days. It would be while there at Tyre the apostle Paul would hear from the disciples who were there at Tyre that he should not go up unto the city of Jerusalem.  The disciples through the Holy Spirit would indeed and would in fact speak unto the apostle Paul and speak to him of not going up to Jerusalem. Scripture does not speak to nor does it mention the response of the apostle Paul to the words which these disciples spoke unto him and how after those seven days had been accomplished they departed and went on their way. It would be there on the shore when the disciples of Tyre came with their wives and children and knelt down on the ground upon the shore and prayed as they sent Paul and those companions with him on their way. The apostle Paul and those who were with him would continue their journey toward the city of Jerusalem and would eventually come unto Caesarea and unto the house of Philip the evangelist which was one of the seven. This man named Philip had four virgin daughters which prophesied in the company and presence of all those who were present in the house until a prophet from Judaea by the name of Agabus would come unto the house with a prophetic word specifically for the apostle Paul. Scripture reveals how a certain prophet from Judaea named Agabus came unto the house of Philip the evangelist and upon entering into the house took Paul’s girdle and bound his own hands and feet before declaring the Holy Ghost testified and bore witness that the Jews which were at Jerusalem would bind the man which owned that girdle and would deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. Those who heard the words of the prophet Agabus would beseech the apostle Paul not go up to Jerusalem only to hear the sorrow which filled the heart of the apostle. The apostle Paul would respond to the words spoken unto him concerning those in the house weeping and breaking his heart and that he was not only ready to be bound but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.

 

            By the time we come to seventeenth verse of the twenty-first chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we find the apostle Paul and those who were with him finally arriving and coming to the city of Jerusalem. The day after coming unto the city of Jerusalem the apostle Paul went in with those who were with him unto James and the elders of the church which were present together with him. Upon entering in among James and the elders the apostle Paul saluted them and declared unto them what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. Those who heard the words which the apostle Paul spoke unto them concerning the ministry among the Gentiles glorified the Lord for the wonderful things He had wrought among the Gentiles. With this being said, however, we also discover and find the brethren which were at Jerusalem going on to speak unto the apostle Paul how many thousands of Jews there were which believed and were all zealous of the law. Such Jews were informed of him and how he taught all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. It is important for us to recognize and pay attention to the words found in this passage of Scripture for the words we see here bring us face to face with the apostle Paul being further informed of the Jews’ presence in the city of Jerusalem at that time—specifically those who believed—and how they had heard of the words which the apostle Paul had taught among the Gentiles in the cities whereunto he traveled as well as among the Jews which were present there in those cities. The Jews in Jerusalem which believed had heard reports of the apostle Paul teaching men and women to forsake Moses saying they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk after the customs which Moses had spoken.

 

            What we find even here in the midst of the city of Jerusalem is essentially another word of warning and caution concerning the thousands of Jews which were present in Jerusalem who believed. James and the brethren which were present in the city of Jerusalem would speak unto the apostle Paul concerning these believing Jews who were informed of the apostle Paul and his teaching and would demand an account and answer for the words which he taught and preached in the cities whereunto he came. The brethren which were at Jerusalem declared unto the apostle Paul that the multitude must needs come together for they would undoubtedly hear that he had come. The brethren would then speak unto the apostle Paul and instruct him to take four men from among them who had a vow on them. They instructed the apostle Paul to take these four brethren and purify himself together with them and be at charges with them that they may shave their heads that all may know those things they were informed concerning him are nothing. The brethren which were present in the city of Jerusalem sought to instruct the apostle Paul in means to demonstrate unto the Jews which believed in the midst of the city of Jerusalem that he walked orderly and kept the law. Moreover James and the brethren which were there at Jerusalem would go on to declare how concerning the Gentiles they wrote and concluded that they observe no such thing save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled and from fornication. The apostle Paul would heed the words which were spoken unto him by the brethren which were present in the midst of the city of Jerusalem and would to exactly as they. Luke goes on to write how the apostle Paul would take the men and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification until an offering should be offered for every one of them.

 

 

            As you come to the twenty-seventh verse of this particular chapter you will find the beginning of that which Agabus the prophet from Judaea had spoken unto the apostle Paul in the house of Philip the evangelist. It would be upon coming to this particular portion of Scripture we find how after the seven days were almost ended the Jews which were of Asia saw the apostle Paul in the temple. What’s more is that when the Jews saw the apostle Paul in the temple they would stir up all the people and lay hands upon the apostle Paul just as they had done in the cities in Asia whereunto the apostle Paul had come. Oh as you read the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts beginning with the thirteenth chapter you will find specific examples and accounts of the apostle Paul coming unto certain cities which were present in the regions whereunto he traveled and how the unbelieving Jews which were present in those cities would not only blaspheme themselves but would also resist and oppose the apostle Paul and his teaching. Moreover these unbelieving Jews would incite the crowd and mob against the apostle Paul as they would stir them up like a hornet’s nest that had been shaken and disturbed. This is perhaps no better seen and witnessed than in Thessalonica, Corinth and Berea when we find the Jews which were present in Macedonia and Asia raising themselves up against the apostle Paul because of the words and teaching which he had proclaimed among them—both unto the Jews and the Gentiles. Oh we must needs recognize and understand this particular truth and how incredibly significant it is for the apostle Paul would not only preach that in Christ circumcision availed nothing but the apostle Paul would also declare that in Christ men were not justified by the Law which was given by Moses but by faith in Jesus Christ according to the free gift of God. Moreover it is when you read the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were in Corinth you will find the apostle Paul declaring unto them how they were the temple of God and of the Holy Ghost.

 

            We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how incredibly important it is for the Jews which were present in the midst of Asia would hear the words which the apostle Paul would teach unto and among the Jews and Gentiles and would be greatly offended with them because he seemingly preached against the Law of Moses as well as the rite of circumcision. What makes this all the more intriguing when you take the time to consider it is when you consider the fact the apostle Paul did in fact teach and preach how that in Christ neither circumcision nor the Law availed anything. The apostle Paul would teach and preach unto both Jews and Gentiles alike that man would and could not be justified by the law nor was circumcision required for men to be saved. This was what made the previous journey which the apostle Paul made unto the city of Jerusalem so incredibly unique for it would be there in Jerusalem where certain of the Pharisees which believed would teach that unless men and women were circumcised they would and could not be saved. What’s more is that the main and underlying reason the apostle Paul came unto Jerusalem at that time with Barnabas was because there were those who had come unto the church in Antioch teaching how unless a man or woman was circumcised they could not be saved. After a great dispute and dissension had broken out in the midst of the brethren which were present at Antioch it was determined that Paul and Barnabas should go unto the apostles and brethren which were present at the city of Jerusalem to discuss this matter more fully and completely.

 

            If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand concerning the opposition the apostle Paul faced and encountered in the various cities he journeyed unto it is that the Jews took great offense to the words and teaching which the apostle Paul preached concerning the Law and circumcision. It is actually quite remarkable and astonishing to read the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts for within it we find the apostle Paul preaching and teaching unto and among the Jews and Gentiles how men and women were not justified by the Law nor according to the works of the Law. For the apostle Paul men and women were justified by faith in the Lord Jesus and it would be in the epistle written unto the Romans the apostle would write that if a man confess with their mouth the Lord Jesus and believe with their heart the Lord Jesus was raised to life again on the third day by the Father they would be saved. The apostle Paul believed and understood the wages of sin was death but the free gift of God is eternal life. The apostle Paul taught and preached unto men and women—both Jews and Gentiles—that they were not justified by and according to the Law of Moses nor according to the works of the Law. In fact the epistles written unto the saints which were at Rome as well as which was written unto the churches which were in Galatia were specifically written with this language contained within them. It would be when writing unto these dear saints the apostle Paul would emphatically declare and proclaim unto them that man is not justified by the Law which was given by Moses nor could man be justified by the works of the Law. For the apostle Paul man was justified by one thing and one thing only—faith in the Lord Jesus according to the free gift of God.

 

            I am absolutely and completely convinced if we wish to understand the tremendous opposition and resistance the apostle Paul experienced in the midst of the city of Jerusalem we must not only recognize and understand the words which he taught among the Jews and Gentiles but also that which he would write in the epistles which would be sent unto the saints and brethren. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for only to the degree and measure we recognize and understand this can we not only understand the opposition the apostle Paul faced from the Jews in the cities whereunto he journeyed on his missionary journeys but also the resistance and opposition he faced and experienced in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. There is not a doubt in my mind we must needs pay careful and close attention to the words which are found in certain of these epistles written by the hand of the apostle Paul for it is the words and language contained therein we are brought face to face with that which would have been so offensive to the Jews which were present—both in the cities whereunto the apostle Paul had come as well as the Jews which were present in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. I am convinced we must needs recognize and pay attention to these words for the words which the apostle Paul would teach and preach would be welcomed and received with joy and gladness among the Gentiles who would be invited to experience the free gift according to faith in the Lord Jesus. For the Gentiles the words and teaching of the apostle Paul would be welcomed and embraced for they could experience salvation according to the free gift of God found in Christ Jesus—and not only according to the free gift but also according to faith. For the apostle Paul neither the law given by Moses nor circumcision availed anything in the sight of the living God for only faith in the Lord Jesus would indeed be that which would truly bring salvation to those who believed as it was written in the Scripture—“The just shall live by faith.” It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the epistles written by the apostle Paul concerning salvation being found according to grace alone according to the free gift of God and faith in the Lord Jesus:

 

            “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no different: For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he that God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith. Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law” (Romans 3:21-31).

 

            “Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall b called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also. Are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:1-6).

 

            “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked no uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. 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 though the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: neverhtless 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 2:11-21).

 

            “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Have ye suffered so many things in vain? If it be yet in vain. He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it be the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham” (Galatians 3:1-7).

 

            It is absolutely necessary we recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for within them we encounter the teaching and preaching that set the apostle Paul at odds with the unbelieving Jews which were in the cities whereunto he journeyed. The words and language found within these passages bring us face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the apostle Paul’s teaching and how the apostle Paul believed that a man was not justified by the works of the Law nor was circumcision required for a man to be saved. That which we find in these two epistles brings us face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding the words and language the apostle Paul taught and preached among the Jews and Gentiles in the cities whereunto he had come. It was the words which the apostle Paul taught and preached concerning the law and circumcision that placed him at odds with the unbelieving Jews which were in Asia and would ultimately cause him to Jerusalem from Antioch earlier on within his life. It would be the apostle Paul and Barnabas who would come unto the city of Jerusalem after certain Jews came unto the church at Antioch and began teaching that unless men and women were circumcised they would and could not be saved. We have great need to recognize and pay close attention to this particular truth and reality for it highlights and underscores the tremendous opposition the apostle Paul faced in the cities whereunto he journeyed throughout. Macedonia and Asia. Virtually the entire narrative of the life and ministry of the apostle Paul contains accounts of the apostle Paul experiencing tremendous opposition from the Jews in the various cities whereunto he journeyed as the Jews took great offense with the words he taught and preached. The Jews took great offense to the picture the apostle Paul was painting for both Jews and Gentiles which believed for those Jews and Gentiles who believed in the Lord Jesus would recognize that salvation comes through faith alone in the Lord Jesus and believing that God the Father raised Him from death to life on the third day.

 

            When we come to the twenty-first chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we encounter and come face to face with the tremendous truth that the opposition and resistance of the Jews would indeed continue even after the apostle Paul came unto the city of Jerusalem. It would be Agabus who would come unto Caesarea and unto the house of Philip the evangelist and would prophesy that the man who owned the girdle wherewith he bound his hands and feet would be bound by the Jews in Jerusalem and delivered into the hands of the Gentiles. Agabus did not and would not reveal the nature and cause for such resistance and opposition, however, he would nonetheless reveal unto the apostle Paul that bonds awaited him in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. This same prophet from Judaea who had prophesied a great dearth which would come upon the face of the earth earlier on in the ministry of the apostle Paul would not return a second time and emphatically declare how the apostle Paul would indeed be bound in the city of Jerusalem before being delivered into the hands of the Gentiles. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it brings us face to face with the tremendous truth concerning this journey unto the city of Jerusalem and how it would bring about the final leg of the life of the apostle Paul. The words which we see here in this chapter bring us face to face with the apostle Paul’s final visit unto the city of Jerusalem as upon his departure from the city of Jerusalem unto Caesarea he would never see the city again. Not only this but the apostle Paul would never see the Temple of the Lord which stood in the midst of the city of Jerusalem nor would he see any of the buildings which the disciples had spoken unto Jesus of in the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel written by the apostle Matthew.

 

            We must needs recognize and pay close attention to the words found in chapters twenty-one through twenty-five of the New Testament book of Acts for the words contained therein bring us face to face with the tremendous opposition the apostle Paul would face in the midst of the city of Jerusalem as the Jews would raise themselves up against him. What’s more is that in the twenty-first chapter it almost seems and appears that the resistance and opposition of the Jews in Asia would indeed follow the apostle Paul unto the city of Jerusalem although I would dare say the Jews did not journey unto the city of Jerusalem with the idea the apostle Paul would be present in the midst of the city. Luke writes and records how the resistance and opposition the apostle Paul would face in the midst of the city of Jerusalem would come from the Jews which had dwelt in Asia who undoubtedly came unto the city for the day of Pentecost. The Jews which came from the cities of Asia where the apostle Paul journeyed would see and recognize him in the midst of the Temple which was present in the city and would immediately stir up the crowd of people against him. Upon seeing the apostle Paul in the Temple they would immediately stir up all the people and lay hands on him as they cried out that this was the man which taught all the people everywhere against the people, and the law and against this very place. That which we find in this passage of Scripture is truly remarkable and astonishing when you take the time to truly consider it for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding the Jews’ resistance against and opposition of the apostle Paul because of his teaching concerning justification and salvation. The Jews in Asia heard the words which the apostle Paul preached unto Jews and Gentiles alike and how he had preached salvation is come through faith in the Lord Jesus alone and cannot come through works of the Law. Moreover the Jews which were in Asia would hear the apostle Paul preach that in Christ not even circumcision avails anything for true circumcision was that of the heart.

 

            Before I continue on any further in this writing concerning the tremendous trial and testimony of the apostle Paul in Jerusalem as well as in Caesarea I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the truth which the apostle Paul preached concerning Abraham. If you read and consider the words which are found in the epistles written unto the saints at Rome as well as the epistle which was written unto the churches in Galatia you will find the apostle Paul preaching and declaring that not only was Abraham their father justified according to faith before circumcision had been given but Abraham was also justified before the living God without and apart from the Law. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s the tremendous truth surrounding Abraham whom the Jews preached as their patriarch and father of their heritage and lineage and yet how Abraham was justified before the living God without and apart from the Law as well as without and apart from circumcision. The apostle Paul sought to demonstrate unto both Jews and Gentiles alike that Abraham was justified by faith before and in the sight of God without and apart from the law and circumcision thus indicating that Abraham was not only the father to the Jews but was also the father of faith to them who believe and were born according to the Spirit. For the apostle Paul Abraham was the perfect example of one who was justified according to faith outside of, apart from and without the Law and circumcision for circumcision would not come until after Abraham believed and it was counted unto him as righteousness. Moreover, Abraham was justified before and in the sight of the living God before the Law was ever given unto Moses by the LORD atop Horeb the mountain of God in the wilderness. Oh it is with this in mind I invite you to consider the awesome and powerful truth surrounding Abraham being justified in the sight of the living God apart from the Law and without circumcision—not only as it was written in the Old Testament book of Genesis but also in the epistles written unto the saints of Rome and the churches in Galatia:

 

            “After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abraham: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:1-6).

 

            “What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose. Iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? For we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? When he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: and the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised. For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. Therefore it is of faith, that I might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:1-25).

 

             “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, forseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Curses is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God,  it is evident:  for, The Just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receiv ethe promise of the Spirit through faith. Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For it the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for it there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come we are no longer under a schoomaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:6-29).

 

            There is a great need to recognize that which is written in these two passages of Scripture for when the apostle Paul taught and preached that both Jews and Gentiles were justified by faith without and apart from the Law of Moses and circumcision he appealed to Abraham himself. The apostle Paul appealed to Abraham who was the father to the Jews as well as to the faith of the Gentiles who believed and emphatically declared concerning Abraham that he was justified before and in the sight of the living God without and apart from the Law and without and apart from circumcision. If you turn and direct your attention to the fifteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis you will find the declaration that Abraham believed and it was counted unto him as righteousness—not only before the seed of the promise was actually fulfilled and given unto him but also before the right of circumcision was given unto him. What’s more is the Law which was given unto Moses atop Horeb the mountain of God in the wilderness would be given centuries after Abraham believed God and it was credited unto him as righteousness. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for this was the stumblingblock the Jews could not overlook and get beyond as they could not and would not come into alignment and agreement with the truth surrounding Abraham being justified by faith without and apart from the Law and apart from circumcision. The Jews professed themselves to be the descendants of Abraham and rightfully so they were, however, what many failed to recognize and understand is that Abraham was just as much the father of faith and of the Gentiles as much as he was the father of the Jews themselves. That which made Abraham the father of faith and the father of the Gentiles was his being justified by faith without and apart from the Law and circumcision as he believed and the LORD counted unto him as righteousness. Essentially it might very well be said Abraham was the first to truly live and flesh out the words found in Scripture concerning the just living by faith.

 

            As you come to chapters twenty-one through twenty-five you will find the apostle Paul being seized and come upon by the Jews as those Jews in Asia who took great offense to the words which he preached had now brought their offense unto the city of Jerusalem. It’s actually quite unique and astounding when you consider the fact that the Jews vehemently opposed and resisted the apostle Paul in the midst of the city of Thessalonica and so severe and sore was that opposition that the disciples and brethren would send him forth from Thessalonica unto Berea. The apostle Paul would indeed come unto Berea and would preach and teach in the synagogues of the Jews the very same things he had preached in Thessalonica. When the Jews which were in Thessalonica heard the apostle Paul was in Berea and taught and preached in the synagogues they came unto Berea and stirred up and created controversy and chaos round about Paul in that place as well. Eventually the apostle Paul would depart from Berea and would come unto Athens before ultimately coming unto the city of Corinth where he would spend a year and a half teaching, preaching and laboring among those who were present in the city. That which we find here in these chapters is the continued resistance and opposition of the Jews toward and against the apostle Paul as they would now bring that opposition unto the city of Jerusalem. What’s more is that it would be in the city of Jerusalem these Jews of Asia would stir up the whole city against the apostle Paul as being one who taught against the Law, against the Jews themselves, and even against the very Temple in which they had found and come upon the apostle Paul.

 

            It’s actually truly intriguing to read the words which are found in these chapters for what would begin with a revolt of the Jews in the midst of the city of Jerusalem outside the Temple would ultimately lead the apostle Paul to stand trial and give testimony before the Jews themselves. It would be there outside the Temple of the LORD in the midst of the city of Jerusalem the apostle Paul would stand and give defense of the grace of the Lord Jesus within his life and how he was once a Pharisee who zealously persecuted the church of God which was at Jerusalem and even sought letters obtained from the high priest that he might journey unto Damascus and bring bound those whom he found of the way that he might cast them into prison. The apostle Paul would speak unto all the Jews concerning his own testimony of the grace of the Lord Jesus in his life and would find himself under the protection of the chief captain of the band lest the Jews put him to death without him actually being found guilty of any crime(s) or offense(s). It’s absolutely phenomenal to read these chapters and see the hand of the living God upon the apostle Paul—not only that he might bear witness concerning the Lord Jesus before governors, kings and rulers alike but also that he might bear witness concerning the Lord Jesus in Rome. In fact within these chapters you will find the Lord Jesus appearing unto the apostle Paul in a vision by night instructing him to be of good cheer and to not be afraid for as he had borne witness and testified concerning him in Jerusalem so also must he testify concerning him in the city of Rome. In fact when the apostle Paul was asked if he would go back unto the city of Jerusalem to stand trial and be judged he would appeal to Caesar—a request that would be granted.

 

            Perhaps the question I can’t help but ask and wonder is whether or not the apostle Paul appealed to Caesar rather than accepting being brought back unto Jerusalem to stand trial and be judged because of the word which the Lord Jesus had spoken unto him. I can’t help but wonder whether or not the apostle Paul appealed to Caesar knowing that such an appeal would all but guarantee his being brought unto the city of Rome to stand trial before Caesar and the court in the capital city of the Roman Empire. The apostle Paul recognized and understood that he must needs testify concerning the Lord Jesus in Rome just as he had done in Jerusalem and I can’t help but wonder if the sole purpose for the apostle being bound in the first place was that the word and name of the Lord Jesus might be preached and proclaimed before kings, governors, rulers and leaders during those days. Up until that point the apostle Paul had not borne witness of nor testified concerning the Lord Jesus and yet what we find here in these chapters is the apostle Paul in his chains and in his bonds bearing witness and testifying concerning the Lord Jesus in the hearing and presence of the rulers of that present age. Consider how the apostle Paul would stand before Annas, Agrippa, Festus, Felix and others as he would bear witness concerning the Lord Jesus and what He had done in his life. The apostle Paul held back absolutely nothing when speaking before and unto the rulers of that present age for it would be through his bonds he would bear witness and testify concerning the Lord Jesus. Much like the apostle Paul and Silas would bear witness concerning the Lord Jesus through their bonds and chains in the Philippian jail which would ultimately result in the jailor and his entire family believing and being baptized so also would the apostle Paul continue to preach from a place of bonds.

 

As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding our being unable to do things in freedom what we are called to do in bonds and chains. The apostle Paul would indeed teach and preach concerning the Lord Jesus in freedom as he would journey throughout the various cities in Asia and Macedonia, however, there was something about being in bonds and something about sacrificing his freedom on the altar of teaching and preaching the Lord Jesus that accomplishes much more than what he could have thought or imagined. Oh that we would realize and understand just how incredibly powerful this truth truly is and how it directly applies to our lives. More often than not we are looking to serve God in freedom, in convenience, in comfort, in quietness, in peace and in rest and yet there are times when more can and more will be accomplished through affliction, through trials, through opposition, through suffering, through persecution, through troubles and anything else we face. We must remember that although David spoke about lying down in green pastures and being led beside still waters he also spoke of being led through the valley of the shadow of death and having a table prepared for him in the presence of his enemies. There are far too many times we are looking for the still waters and green pastures and we completely neglect and ignore those times when the Lord has purposed and ordained us to walk through the valley of the shadow of death and even sit down in the company and presence of our enemies that His will and His purpose might be accomplished in the midst of the earth. There is a great need within our hearts, our souls and our minds to truly recognize and understand that we have not been promised a life filled solely and entirely with quiet and still waters and green pastures and that there can and will be times when we are going to walk through the valley of the shadow of death and even sit down in the midst of our enemies that the word, the will and the work of Almighty God might be accomplished and fulfilled within and through our lives. The question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we trust the living God in the valleys of the shadows of death and in the presence of our enemies as much as we trust Him in the green pastures and beside the still waters.

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