When Things Changed
When did it become a practice to worship on Sunday, the first day of the week, rather than on the Sabbath (Saturday)? The transition happened in these early days of the church. When the disciples gather to share a meal or hear Paul teach, it was on Sunday. They also remember the Lord’s death and resurrection, which also happened on a Sunday. Under Jewish rules, the Sabbath was the important day, but now we celebrate a living Christ on Sunday. And now people followed God in a new way in churches.
Paul spent a week with the followers of “the Way” in Troas and then hit the road again. Paul wanted to walk as much as possible, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ to everyone they met along the way. They stopped in Miletus, the port of Ephesus, because Paul wanted to meet with the elders of the new church there.
Imagine them gathered in that harbor town, the mighty Aegean Sea behind them, the lights of Ephesus in the distance. Paul realizes this is the last time he’ll be with these men, so he takes his time sharing his heart with them. He has given them the whole Word of God to make sure the people will be spiritually fed. “Now,” he says, “I’m going to Jerusalem and God’s Spirit tells me chains and suffering wait for me there. I don’t count my life as something I need to save. I’m willing to lay it down for Jesus” (Acts 21:19-24).
Paul warns the Ephesian elders that as soon as he leaves, wolves will want to devour the sheep. The church will be attacked in sinister and subtle ways from the inside, like termites, eating away their foundation.
“I’m putting you in God’s hands,” Paul said. “He’ll give you whatever you need and all His grace to do His will” (20:32).
Then it was time to say goodbye. These people love Paul and he loves them. They knew they won’t see him again in this life. They pray together and then bravely walk Paul to the ship back to Israel. After a tender goodbye, they hug Paul and entrust him to God.
By the end of the first century, millions of believers filled the Roman Empire. And Paul loved and was loved by thousands.
Now back on Israel’s soil, Paul and his team walked the coastal road to Caesarea. They visit with Philip the evangelist, literally “one who announces good tidings.” The Holy Spirit reveals to Paul several times what will happen in Jerusalem and asks him again if he’s willing. Paul is not only willing to be bound but also to die for Jesus.
The Jerusalem church welcomes Paul with a glorious reception. He is a veteran missionary, bearing in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Paul first visits with James (Jesus’ half-brother), the leader of the Jerusalem church. Paul described to James how God had worked among the Gentiles and Jews in Europe and Asia and everyone listened with delight and gives God the glory.
Then things went a little wrong. One group twisted Paul’s words and accused him of teaching that believing Jews didn’t have to keep up Moses’ Law. Paul taught that in Jesus, we are the same. Both Jew and Gentile are saved only and alone by the grace of God through Jesus Christ.
Now Paul faces a dilemma. He must clarify that there is only one church in Jesus Christ, not a Jewish church and a gentile church. A Jew who comes to Jesus Christ does not stop being a Jew. In good faith, then, the Jewish believers ask Paul to join four Jewish men in a vow. Paul goes along with it because he wants to win their hearts. But as he knew ahead of time, there was trouble ahead.
And it didn’t take long for Paul to step right into it.
Next, when Paul stepped into trouble.