Acts 21:1-16 Messy New Covenant Fellowship

Acts 21:1-16

Paul’s Journey to Jerusalem with Messy New Covenant Fellowship

Ezekiel 36:25-27

“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

Jeremiah 31:33-34

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

The glorious promise of the New Covenant of the gospel of the kingdom promises the removal of a heart of disobedience that is unloving to God in order to replace it with a new heart that loves God and wants to obey and has his truths/laws written on it.

The New Covenant promises the Holy Spirit to dwell in each person.

The New Covenant promises that each one will know the Lord and that our sins will be forgiven to never be remembered again.

That’s good news!

We see the fulfillment of that promise in Acts 2 when the Spirit is sent by the Lord Jesus as he said he would do and a New Covenant community is born.

In this community, there is no longer one priest to whom all look, but now all know the Lord, sons and daughters prophesy, young men see visions, old men dream dreams, the whole covenant community is empowered and gifted to advance the cause and everyone outside the kingdom who calls on the name of the Lord is saved and brought in to be sons and daughters.

We now live in that “end of time” season. We live in the “restoration of all things” and this time is marked by the fact that all of God’s people know him and can walk with him closely.

However, each person knowing God and walking with God can create some challenges that require discernment, unity, love, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control and perhaps a letter or two from an old crusty apostle (Bible/Paul’s letters to help reign in and lead and instruct Spirit-filled communities) to keep things in order and guide present and future life together under the word of God.

We, together in fellowship (think RL groups), can mix Spirit led insight and personal longings that are not sin, and that can lead to conclusions by multiple people that are opposite.

Such is the case in our text today with Paul and those who follow Jesus who minister alongside him.

Paul addressed this kind of life together in 1 Corinthians 12-14. A Spirit gifted community that has to navigate the waters of Spirit enablement and “flesh” and love for one another that subjects itself to authority, mission and unity.

It would be so much easier to just have a “Gentile” system of small group/community life that lord’s power down through chains of command and the underlings just smile and wave and depend on the group’s teacher to tell everybody what to do.

But Jesus said that the great are servants, the last are first.

In the kingdom all of Jesus’ people are given complementing gifts and the way forward in community is to love patiently, kindly, not being envious, not boasting, not arrogant or rude, not insisting on its own way, not irritable or resentful, but rejoicing in the truth, bearing all things, believing all things, hoping in all things and enduring all things (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

We get a sample of that kind of life together under the Word as Paul journeys to Jerusalem to deliver the aid to the church that he has collected and as he lives life in New Covenant fellowship while on that journey.

What do we see? What does it mean?

An Early Look at New Covenant Community: The believers had differing interpretations of what they were hearing, they submitted to one another in love, and the church commend all to the will of the Lord in peace

Notice: It was clear that the Spirit was telling them all that hard times awaited and some interpreted that as Paul should not go.

Acts 20:22-23; 21:4, 10-12

It is interesting that here, as in Caesarea (10–12), believers received through the Holy Spirit some indication about what was about to happen to Paul. In both cases, however, the human interpretation of this divinely granted insight, while understandable, was wrong: they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. Paul correctly relied upon the insight granted to him, and the other believers had to reinterpret their own prophetic insights to fit with that. When the Holy Spirit warns that something is going to go wrong, it is not necessarily the case that he is saying the attempt should not be made.[1]

This should be a warning that even if we are shown that a ‘door will close’, it does not necessarily mean that we should not attempt to go through it. Some must have thought that Paul was being disobedient to the clear leading of the Spirit, but Paul had the courage to stand firm and would not be dissuaded. In the end, everyone could agree on the formula The Lord’s will be done, and thus they parted.[2]

  • You will, as a group, have insights for each other and are going to have to wade through what those all mean and how to apply those insights.

It was clear that Paul understood hard times awaited but that he should go.

Acts 20:22-23

  • Paul in no way wavered on getting the offering to Jerusalem.
  • Paul didn’t rebuke his friends for having a contrary opinion.
  • Paul did express his love for the church in the fact that their begging him to not go was breaking his heart.
  • Paul reaffirmed his desire to lift up the name of Jesus.

Conclusion: There is a clear display of love for one another, each obeyed what they knew and they trusted the Lord to determine what should come about

Acts 21:13-14

  • Awaiting difficulty should not be interpreted as “don’t go through with the plan.”
  • They did not come to agreement. They submitted to one another peacefully.
  • No one sought to “win”, everyone sought good for the other.
  • No one compromised what was “right”. Do not buy into the fellowship killing lie that your insight is “truth” and everyone else’s insight is not in line with the truth. Unless there is a clear Scriptural mandate being abused, then one must be careful in applying “truth” to their insight. We should not confuse or application of truth with the truth itself.
  • Everyone had good intentions and everyone believed the best of each other.

How do we obey?

  1. Recognize it is no contradiction for us to hear from the Spirit and the Word and come to differing conclusions on what to do with that truth.
  1. We must all be convinced with a clean conscience having been informed by the Word and the Spirit as we walk with the Lord and each other.
  • This is not a negative. This is a positive. This kind of community causes us to 1. Believe the best about each other and each other’s intentions 2. Submit to one another in love 3. Obey what we believe based on how Holy Spirit is moving our conscience 4. We can still be together and unified although not in conformity with each other’s individual practices.
  1. Watch out for manifestations of the “flesh”

Galatians 5:18-26 (ESV) “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

  1. Let love for each other point us toward what we believe is good for each other and leave room for any good way to be chosen.
  • Its one thing if a person chooses clear sin. Its another thing when people choose one of 2 or 3 good options.
  • Our love for each other should compel us to be gentle and open with each other.
  • Our love for each other should compel us to not share everything on our hearts but only what lifts up. It’s selfish to share everything just so you can get it out when that information may hurt or cause doubt. This is called restraint.
  • Our love for each other should cause us to pray that regardless of the tactics chosen that the Lord’s will would be done in spite of our tactics.



[1] Conrad Gempf, “Acts,” in New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, ed. D. A. Carson et al., 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1099.

[2] Ibid., p. 1099.

“Mashing On” a Very Important Topic

I want to introduce you to one of my favorite preachers, writers, speakers. His name is Bryan Loritts. Bryan wrote “Right Color Wrong Culture”. I would suggest you get it and read it. Bryan Loritts

As a white man in the south who has a black child I have learned some lessons through learning to see issues from a host of perspectives. This has been good. More importantly, the bible has taught me to see issues from God’s perspective, and that is what is true. These two have created a desire in me to see the church be multi-ethnic. This is an essential to being a New Testament church, I believe.

Ephesians 2 tells us that God has broken down a hostile wall of division between Jew and Gentile making one new man out of the two. The kingdom of Jesus is not segregated, rather it is unified and in its unity it is gloriously diverse ethnically.

According to the data, the majority race in our nation by 2050 will not be white people, therefore, if the homogenous church wants to grow and thrive, it has to figure out how to diversity ethnically.

Here are two reasons: 1. God’s word. 2. A little reality check on population and the implications.

I’d like you to listen to Bryan speak at this past year’s ERLC conference. Give it a listen and see what the Spirit says to you.

Paul’s Final Charge to Ephesus

Acts 20:17-38

Paul’s Final Charge to Ephesus


NOTE: Blogs written on Sunday are notes that go along with the preaching of our worship service. Not everything spoken appears in the notes and not everything in the notes will be said in the sermon. The notes are a guide, so use them to your benefit and enjoy.


Paul has invested blood, sweat and tears in the work of the gospel.


This glorious good news that God has provided rescue from the curse of the rebellion that has caused all of creation to break, and it brought about the death of man and his death toward God.


God has sent his eternal Son, Jesus, to come and live perfectly to take on himself the guilt of sin and receive the punishment of God through his death on a Roman cross, be buried and on the third day rise to secure salvation for all who will repent and believe this good news.


Jesus ascended to the Father where he sent the Spirit to take up residence in and empower and gift all those who believe this good news thus marking them as his adopted children, heirs of God.


Jesus has sent his church with this good news to disciple the nations by going, baptizing and teaching obedience to Jesus.


This work of the kingdom has cost Paul a great deal. The gospel of the kingdom is always free to the receptor and never free for the giver. The gospel cost the Father his Son, cost the Son his life and costs us who take it the price of laying down our agendas and priorities and even our lives by taking up the cross to follow Jesus in obedience.


Paul has received the love of God and therefore loves those whom he has served by bringing them the love of God.


What we get to see in our text today is Paul’s passionate final teaching opportunity for his Ephesian children in the faith.


Paul is going to summarize his ministry in a threefold manner: 1. Paul’s reflection on the past, 2. Paul’s instruction for the present and, 3. Paul’s teaching for the future


What do we see? What does it mean?


Paul reflects on the past 20:18-21, 26-27, 31, 33-35

  1. Paul reminds Ephesus of his uncompromising work 20:18-21, 31

Paul did not “shrink”, referring to the lowering of a sail, from declaring anything profitable. A relevant word since they were on the coast and he had been on board ships making his way to Jerusalem.


Verse 20 is not a prescriptive strategy. This is Paul’s practice of Deuteronomy 6:4-9, and evidence that he views this church as his children in the faith.


Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (ESV) “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”


  1. Paul reminds them of his faithful work 20:26-27

Paul did not pick and choose his favorite passages. Paul gave the Ephesians everything.


  1. Paul reminds them of his unselfish work 20:33-35

Paul’s unselfish work was to be imitated.


They were to help those who were weak not shut them out or shut them down because it is better, according to the Lord Jesus in Matthew 10:8, to give than receive.


(Note: if you look up Matthew 10:8 you will read this: “Matthew 10:8 (ESV) Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.”


Luke is exegeting Jesus’ teaching that you got it free, so give it out free.


Blessed meaning the mark of having the fullness of God, so to give away is evidence one has all of God they can handle and they have to be a giver. Don’t think mere money. Think like the text, power from God to do supernatural work. Thus, helping the weak as Luke records Paul teaching.


But the purpose of this “note” is to draw your attention to the fact that Luke is referring to Matthew. So, Matthew was already in writing or done. Thus, we have evidence the gospels are earlier not later and this is a big deal in manuscript studies and accuracy.)


Paul instructs the Ephesians for the present 20:22-25, 28, 32

  1. Paul explains how the Spirit has made clear that difficult challenges are ahead 20:22-23


  1. Paul explains how the goal is to complete the mission not save his own life 20:24


  1. Paul instructs the leaders to keep themselves in check and lead the church well 20:28

How are they to care for the church? Look back at verse 27 then forward to verse 39-30.


  1. Paul commits the church to God and his word containing the message of his grace 20:32

This grace is “able”…powerful (dunamai) to build up and give the inheritance.


Paul instructs the Ephesians about the future 20:29-30

  1. Paul warns them about false teachers that will come from without 20:29


  1. Paul warns them about false teachers that will come from within 20:30


Matthew 7:15-20 (ESV) “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”


How do we obey?

  1. We must be people who love well.


  1. We must never “lower the sail” when it comes to teaching the “whole counsel of God”.


  1. Let’s be a church of givers not takers.


  1. Let’s commit to finish the mission given without flagging in passion for the missisn.


  1. Pastors, interns and future leaders, care for the church by teaching and protecting from false teaching by holding to the word of the gospel.


  1. Hide the word deep in your heart so you may not sin and so you can know the wolves from the sheep.


  1. Deal harshly and swiftly with the wolves and love the sheep.

The One New Man

It’s black history month, and my wife inspired me with her bulletin board she made at her school (Jennifer is a guidance counselor) for black history month with bios and pictures etc., to do some posts this month that are in line with black history month.

Also, my baby son (really he’s about to turn 12 so not a baby but will always be my baby), is African-American, and we work hard to teach about African-American history and important figures and culture. So, this is a bit near and dear to my heart. So, I hope you learn some things and are challenged a bit.

This right here! And thank you to Pastor Joseph Colston for sharing this with me…This video below really says so much, but we’ll focus on one aspect…multi-ethnic or “trans-ethnic” church. Usually when I have conversations with people about multi-ethnic church, or as Pastor Crump says, “trans-ethnic” church, folks have a tendency to hear me saying that they are supposed to lose their culture. They don’t hear the actual biblical mandate I’m trying to communicate. I’ll confess it could be me and an abject failure to make Ephesians 2 and the implications clear, that we are to learn the culture of the kingdom and be diverse while unified in the kingdom as the one new man (see Ephesians 2). We can be who we are in Christ while being transformed while being the one new man who is made up of many cultures in unity and, we can do this together. We have to begin to make practical sense out of Ephesians 2…Just like we have to make practical sense out of the Great Commission applied to every Christian. We must hear and obey not merely hear. Jesus said that house will fall down when hit by hard stuff.

A fascinating post would be mining out why people fear loosing their cultural identity and an unwillingness to learn the culture of the kingdom of God. But I’ll have to do that later. For now…

We simply don’t have a framework for this in our post-Christian southern bible belt mentality, and we don’t read our bibles well enough to glean it from the text, although it’ll poke you in the eye if you pay close enough attention. It’s all over the Manual.

This video is loaded with oodles of good stuff from how to best strategically plant a church and, pertinent to this post, working toward being a trans-ethnic church.

Enjoy and be challenged.

Do Not Be Silent…Sing to the Lord

Many folks have been participating in the 21 Days of Connection and seeking the Lord for a multitude of things. This is good and right and worthy of our participation, but we are not finished. As you wind down this 21 days, don’t give up in seeking Lord and by all means make sure that we give the Lord thanks as we offer our worship for his grace to us.

  1. Make sure you have been keeping a journal of what you have been asking the Lord for.
  2. Take note in your journal of how the Lord has met you and kept you and made himself known and delivered you and grew your faith and on and on and on.
  3. Whatever you do, don’t skip out on gathering with the church on Sunday. Gather to sing to the Lord in thanksgiving and worship of King Jesus.
  4. Gather with anticipation of how the Lord would be exalted among a bunch of people desperately seeking the Lord and not as a bystander observing but as a participant bringing great praise to Jesus. Be ready to be an instrument used by the Spirit to uplift and encourage someone in the faith as an active participant. He may send someone to you. I’m really anticipating the energy produced by walking the Spirit to be too legit to quit (Hammer reference). Be ready for a full-bodied worship experience.

In light of anticipating a cool worship experience, I’d like to wrap up with a little exhortation about the singing part of worship. Worship is more than singing but worship no doubt includes singing. One particular verb in its imperative form shows up 45 times in command  for God’s people to sing to the Lord. There are other words translated “sing” that show up as well in the imperative form. In fact the command to sing shows up over 100 times. The point is that singing to the Lord is a command.

Singing to the Lord is not an option. It’s an obedience issue. 

God himself is the singer. Zephaniah 3:17 reminds us that the Lord exults over us and shouts over us and does so with loud singing. God scream sings over his people (I scream sing because I do not sing well, so I scream sing loudly in hopes that God enjoys me trying to be like him in singing loudly and faith that my effort is received and rewarded as purchased in the gospel for me). So the command to sing to the Lord is a command that image bearers who now know the one in whose image they are created are to reflect back to God the joy he shows in them.

One who refuses to sin is one who has not understood or does not care that God delights in his people. Can that person truly be saved? To be saved is to know God, be rescued from God’s wrath, to have a new heart and new desires that the Spirit puts in that new heart. One of those new desires is to obey the Lord, and if the Lord commands we sing, then it’s not optional. So, if the desire is not there then is the heart transformed? I can’t answer that question in this post, but it’s a question one has to ask. If a person won’t worship in song have they been transformed by the gospel?

When you gather Sunday, make sure you have recounted how God has been faithful and come ready to obey the command to sing to the Lord with the gusto God sings over his people in Zephaniah 3:17, hear the word preached, respond in obedience and go out to keep obeying daily. God will be glorified and your joy in him will be increased.

I’m adrenalized to gather with my family, TRC, this Sunday.