If you’ve ever had the experience of building something from pages of very complicated instructions, you know that in the beginning it’s often impossible to see how the finished product will come to life. As a result, you may feel the need to stray from those instructions and go your own way. If you’re working with a companion who disagrees with you, there’s going to be trouble. Do you ignore the instructions that seem to be overly complicated and explore another approach, or do you stick to the word-for-word directions? If the instructions were written by the guy next door from his memory of building the same project a year ago, you might have a legitimate reason for trying something different. If the instructions are from the manufacturer, it’s probably best to stay true to the word-for-word directions – unless you discover those instructions have subsequently been amended – in which case you follow the new version.
In chapter twenty-one of the Book of Acts, the apostle Paul returned to Jerusalem from his missionary journey knowing full well there were some who were in complete disagreement with what had been labeled “the way” of Jesus Christ (Acts 19:9, Acts 19:23, Acts 22:4). The Jews there, who had been following the complicated instructions of the Jewish law, were unwilling to change direction and follow Jesus Christ. They wanted Paul in prison, or better yet, dead. In chapter twenty-two, Paul was given an opportunity to explain in detail how he came to be a disciple of Jesus. He told the dissenting Jews that he used to be one of them, but God spoke directly to him and specifically told him everything had changed – Jesus is the way. They listened to Paul’s every word but heard nothing. Paul received amended instructions from the manufacturer but the Jews didn’t care. They were sticking to the original plans and in their view Paul needed to be permanently silenced.
“The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, “Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!” Acts 22:22 (NIV)
The Jews didn’t like including the non-Jewish Gentiles in God’s plan. They wanted to keep their exclusive membership alive and the apostle Paul was hindering their efforts. This was of no consequence to Paul; he would not turn from the way of Jesus Christ. Before he traveled back to Jerusalem he told the disciples he was well aware of the dissension there and fully intended to stick to the mission God had place before him. Paul was committed to the truth and nothing could disrupt his preaching of the gospel.
“Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Acts 21:13 (NIV)
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