Religious disputes are as old as the human race. Often those seeking to defuse a dispute only increase its intensity. That's what happens when Paul arrives in Jerusalem.
Jewish-background believers are disputing with Gentile-background believers over the role of circumcision and the Law. The Jews believe that, because Christianity flowed out of Judaism, Gentile believers should embrace Judaism as a completion of their faith. Paul's trip to Jerusalem brings the controversy to a head. James and the elders suggest that Paul demonstrate his respect for Judaism by taking the vow of a Nazirite and by paying the fees of the Nazirite vow for four poor Jewish people.
Paul's fulfillment of this Jewish custom backfires. A riot ensues when unbelieving Jews see Paul in the temple and assume that he has brought Gentiles beyond the court of the Gentiles and into the temple itself, desecrating the temple. The Romans break up the riot and arrest Paul before the crowd can kill him. Paul sees the gathering of the crowd as a great opportunity to share the gospel and asks permission to address the crowd. He tells his story.
Paul's telling of his story offers a number of helpful truths about how to share your spiritual journey:
Sin causes a dispute between God and man. Religion cannot settle that dispute; only the gospel of Jesus Christ makes peace--but it must be accepted. It does not leave people comfortably neutral. Paul shares His story, and it causes an uproar. The gospel of Jesus Christ does that.
How does Paul begin his defense? What does he share that turns the crowd totally against him? What does this reveal about their prejudice?
What does Paul understand about the outcome in Jerusalem? How does the Lord intervene on his behalf to accomplish His plan? What does this reveal about God?
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