Our text today begins with a very different flavor than the way our story finished last week. Paul is on his way toward Rome. Why is visiting Rome important? I believe that Paul’s desire to go to Rome was driven by the desire to present Christ to the leaders of the world. Rome was the hub of the world.
He is positive that God’s perfect will for him is to appear before the authorities in Rome. But getting us to this part in the story has been a rollercoaster of events some joyous, some sad, and some almost unbelievable. The events we have studied over the last 32 weeks have covered a period of probably 25 years now. From the day in Act 1 when Jesus was taken up into heaven and today where Paul is at the church in Jerusalem a lot of time has elapsed.
The Jerusalem church was also the hub for decision making. You will remember a few weeks ago the scene was that the Gentiles were being asked to adhere to the Jewish laws and customs and follow Old Testament practices. The Jerusalem church had a meeting and it was decided at that time that the Gentile believers would not be required to adhere to Jewish customs but that they should stay away from immorality, they should not eat animals that had been used in ceremonial sacrifices to idols, and they should not eat meat that had been strangled, and stay away from meat that had not been bled out correctly. All reasonable requests that were generated here in the Jerusalem church.
Now that Paul has returned, he wants the leadership and the members of the Jerusalem church to know about the great things that God had been doing in the gentile world. This is really very good strategy when you talk about your church. Most everyone loves to hear about what the Lord is doing in your ministry.
Look at what Paul said to James and the brothers in Jerusalem: Look at what the Lord is doing as he told them one by one of the times that the Lord moved in their ministry and the response of the Jerusalem church is perfect, they all glorified God.
How do you and I celebrate the great things that the Lord is doing? Let me ask it this way: When was the last time that you sat down for coffee with someone and said Hey, let me tell you what the Lord is doing in our Life Group. Listen to what the Lord is doing in our church since we have been baptizing people, listen to what the Lord is doing in my family since we decided that He is the most important person in our lives.
I venture to guess we have strayed away from doing that. But our experiences can catapult a person who is struggling spiritually into an attitude of praise.
That’s what happens when we celebrate the wins.
When I think about celebrating the wins I personally think of the story of the prodigal son.
Celebrate the wins. Paul told about all the great things that the Lord had done.
Now it's James’ turn to talk about the goodness of the Lord. He says to Paul vs 20b, how many thousands among the Jews have believed. (This was James’ and the Jerusalem church ministry.) And, there are many here who have heard about your teaching to the gentiles that they do not need to follow the ceremonial laws and they are anxious for you to teach them.
But we still have the story of the Jews who wanted to hear from Paul. Easy Peasy. Paul recognized that to make sure these brothers were solid in their faith that he would adhere to the Jewish tradition of the vow of a Nazarite. Paul reasoned that this was another opportunity to reach Jewish people and after all Paul was 100% Jewish.