The Beginning of the End
March 7th, 1954 @ 7:30 PM
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-7-54 7:30 p.m.
The title of the sermon tonight is The Beginning of the End. When we have come to this story of the life of the apostle Paul in the twenty-first chapter of the Book of Acts, we are approaching the end of his life. In this chapter, he is bound [Acts 21:33], and he stays a prisoner, a servant of God in chains, until he dies. For a brief while, possibly, he was liberated from his first Roman imprisonment, but he was soon apprehended again and went to martyrdom. This is the beginning of the end.
Now you are not aware of what I want you to do tonight. This is a long passage in the Scripture. I want us to read it responsively. Twenty-first chapter of the Book of Acts, twenty-first chapter of the Book of Acts; everybody with his Bible, Acts 21, and we’re going to read the passage responsively, all over the house. Just going to see if there is enough of you here who have your Bibles to read responsively. I will read the first, then you answer with the second. And I will read again, then you answer. The passage is long. We begin at the eighth verse of the twenty-first chapter, and go to the end of the chapter, the fortieth verse; Acts 21 [Acts 21:8-40]. All right, I will begin, and then you answer; you ready? Acts, twenty-first chapter and the eighth verse. That’s where we left off the last time. Now I begin:
And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.
And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy [Acts 21:8-9].
And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judea a certain prophet, named Agabus.
And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles [Acts 21:10-11].
And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.
Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus [Acts 21:12-13].
And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.
And after those days we took up our carriages, and went up to Jerusalem [Acts 21:14-15].
Then there went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge.
And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly [Acts 21:16-17].
And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.
And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry [Acts 21:18-19].
And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:
And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs [Acts 21:20-21].
What is it therefore? The multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come.
Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them [Acts 21:22-23];
Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law.
As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication [Acts 21:24-25].
Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.
And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him [Acts 21:26-27],
Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place.
(For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)[Acts 21:28-29].
And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut.
And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar [Acts 21:30-31].
Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul.
Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done [Acts 21:32-33].
And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude: and when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle.
And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people [Acts 21:34-35].
For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him.
And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek? [Acts 21:36-37].
Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?
But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people [Acts 21:38-39].
And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying [Acts 21:40].
And then that’s next Sunday morning’s sermon.
There hasn’t been anything comparable to the blessings that come to my life as we’ve been preaching; this is the ninth year, through this Book. We’re coming now to the end of the life of the apostle Paul. This is his fifth and final visit to the city of Jerusalem. He went up to Jerusalem after he was converted, after spending about two or three years out in the Arabian desert. “Returning to Damascus, went up to Jerusalem” [Galatians 1:17-18], that was his first visit as a Christian. They plotted against his life then [Acts 9:29], and sent him away to Tarsus in Cilicia, his home city [Acts 9:30]. Second time he went to Jerusalem was when Agabus came to Antioch and signified a great famine [Acts 11:28]. And the Christians in Antioch took up an offering for the poor saints at Jerusalem, and they appointed Barnabas and Saul to carry it to the church [Acts 11:29-30, Galatians 2:1]. That was his second visit to Jerusalem. The third visit to Jerusalem is found in the altercation over the keeping of the law of Moses [Acts 15:1-2].
There were certain Judaizers who hounded Paul’s ministry wherever he preached, saying that a man had to be Jew, and had to keep the law of Moses before he could become a Christian and be saved [Acts 15:1, 5]. And Paul said not so; a man can be saved and not be a Jew [Galatians 2:16]. A man can come out of idolatry, and out of sin, and out of wickedness, and he can do it in the twinkling of an eye, and be saved, and be saved! A man can be saved tonight just that way. He can step out in that aisle, down here to the front, and take me by the hand and say, “Preacher, by God’s grace, tonight I give my heart to Jesus,” and be saved [Ephesians 2:8]. That’s what Paul said. Those Judaizers said, “Not so, you’ve got to be circumcised, and you’ve got to keep the law of Moses, and you’ve got to worship at the temple and offer all manner of sacrifices” [Acts 15:5].
“No,” says Paul, “a man is justified by faith in Christ, without the keeping of any law” [Romans 3:28; Galatians 2:16]. So they went up to Jerusalem, that’s the third time that he went, for the settlement of that matter [Acts 15:1-6], and they settled it [Acts 15:7-32]. And from that day until this, the Gentiles have been free; we are Christian and what we do, we do not because of any law, but because of things we want to do. Somebody says, “Why, if I believed that, if I believed that, I’d go down that aisle and join that church; and then I’d be just as wicked as I wanted to be!” Well, that’s right; he’s got the idea of the doctrine. When we give our hearts to Christ, we’re not under any law at all. We go down that aisle, give the preacher our hand, confess our faith in Jesus, walk out that door, and we’re just as wicked as we want to be; we’re absolutely free, we’re under no law at all. I go out that door and I cuss, just all I want to cuss; there’s no law to keep me from cussing, I just cuss all I want to! I go out that door and I just do all the things I want to do, just as bad and vile and villainous as it could be; I’m under no law at all. I’m a believer in Christ, I’ve been saved, and I’m free! The only thing is, I don’t want to cuss, just don’t want to, just not interested in it; just not interested in it at all. I don’t want to do all those things out there in the world; I’m just not interested in it at all. I’ve got a new heart, I’ve got a new spirit, I’ve got a new life, I’ve been saved, I’ve been converted, and I don’t like those things anymore! “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; all things are become new” [2 Corinthians 5:17].
There’s not any laws to the Christian, “Thou shalt,” and “Thou shalt not.” Man, if you’re living according to the law, you’re lost, you’ve never been saved, you have never been regenerated! There’s no law says you’ve got to love your mother to be a Christian; if you’re a Christian, you love your mother. There’s no law saying to the Christian: you ought to go to church. If you love God and you’re saved, you want to go to church! The Christian faith is something that arises like a fountain out of a man’s soul and out of his heart. Jesus said it, “Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, ye shall in nowise be saved” [Matthew 5:20]. They did what they did because they were commanded to do it; you and I do what we do because we want to do it. It comes out of love, it comes out of a great commitment, it comes out of a dedication. So Paul went up to Jerusalem that third time [Acts 15:2, 4].
Then the fourth time he went to Jerusalem after his second missionary journey; and, we just have just been told, saluted the church and went on back [Acts 18:21-22]. Then the fifth time, the last time, is this one [Acts 21:15-17]. He has an offering to make to the church [2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15]. The churches in Galatia, and the churches in Macedonia, and the churches in Achaia; all have taken up a great offering and have brought it to the church at Jerusalem through the hands of the apostle Paul.
That reminds me talking about an offering. “Preacher, do you believe you’re under the law to tithe, to give a tithe to the Lord?” No sir. I’m under no law to give any tithe to the Lord. “Well then, do you tithe?” Listen, I went to a dedication, a consecration, an ordination of deacons one time. And it was a church not in our convention; it was a different kind of a church. And they were dead set against tithing; the preacher didn’t believe in tithing, and the group of churches didn’t believe in tithing, and they were dead set against it. They thought it was a heinous and a terrible heresy to teach tithing to the people. So they gave me the privilege—I was on the ordaining council there—they gave me the privilege of asking questions to the men who were going to be ordained as deacons. So I turned to those men there, about three or four of them, out in the country, I turned to those men there, and I said, “Now you all don’t believe in tithing, do you?”
“No,” they said, “we don’t believe in tithing.”
And the preacher said, “That’s right, we don’t believe in tithing.”
Well, I said, “Why don’t you believe in tithing?”
And they said, “We don’t believe in tithing because it’s a part of the Old Testament law, and Christians are not under the law, therefore we don’t believe in tithing.”
“Well,” I said, “I have one other question I want to ask you men who are being ordained to be a deacon. Do you not believe in tithing in order to give more to the Lord’s work or less to the Lord’s work? Which is it that you don’t believe in tithing?” Well, they thought and they thought, and then they had to answer in order to show a good spirit there and to show themselves fine men.
They said, “We don’t believe in tithing because we want to give more to the Lord’s work than a tithe.”
And they were lying to me, the scoundrels. If an old Jew under the law had a commandment from God to go into the temple and bring a tithe of his increase, what do you think about us who are Christians? Why, we ought to go to God’s house and do better than any old Jew ever did under any old law! “Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in nowise enter into the kingdom of heaven” [Matthew 5:20]. I’m not under any law to tithe; there’s no commandment to me about anything. I have just the commandment to love the Lord Jesus, and to love my brother, the great law and the prophets summed up, in the word and the fellowship of Jesus Christ [Matthew 22:36-39]. We’re free, we’re free. Only, “I have got a new heart, I have a new love, I’ve got a new soul, I have a new life, I have a new hope”; and that’s the way we express it. It’s a fountain on the inside of us. And what they did back there because they had to do it, we do a thousand times more or aught, because we want to do it, glad to do it.
Why, I’d feel like a dog if I took what God gave to me and spent it all on myself; I wouldn’t feel good about it. Something is on the inside; it’d hurt, it’d sting, it’d burn! I wouldn’t like it, I wouldn’t like it! And when you get close to God and you look at what God has given you, you’ll be the same way. There’s something on the inside of you that says, “What I have, a part of this I want to share with the work of the Lord.” That’s the Lord, that’s the Holy Spirit in you; that’s the thing Paul was preaching for, that was the thing he’s writing about, that’s the thing we read here in the Book. To be a Christian is a holy, heavenly thing because it springs out of the soul and out of the heart.
So he’s going up to Jerusalem at the end of his third missionary journey for the last time [Acts 21:15-17]. And you’ve got some people here that he meets. Three of them we met before. “On his way up he stopped at Caesarea, and they stayed many days in the house of Philip, who was one of the seven” [Acts 21:8, 6:5]. Wouldn’t you have loved to have been there when Paul and Philip meet one another again? You remember the last time they met? It was over there in the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts, that Saul was making havoc of the church [Acts 8:3], and Philip saw Saul stone Stephen to death [Acts 7:59-60], laid their garments at his feet, and he presided over the execution of Stephen [Acts 7:58]. And Philip was one of the seven [Acts 6:4-5]. And upon the terrible persecution that arose around Stephen, Philip fled for his life, went down to Samaria, began to preach the gospel in Samaria [Acts 8:4-12]. This is the first time Philip and Paul have met [Acts 21:8], since those terrible days when Saul was tearing up the church of the Son of God [Acts 8:3].
Did you ever see a man changed? Haven’t you? Yesterday he was a vile sinner, a blasphemer and an unbeliever; and today he’s a Christian and maybe a pillar in the church. I’ve baptized men that way. Some years ago, they were out in the world, vile and wicked; and today they’re new men in Christ Jesus! Just like the apostle Paul, breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the church of God [Acts 9:1], now sitting down with Philip, one of the seven, and talking about what God had done with them [Acts 21:8]. Think of it, think of it. When you read over there in the Book of Acts, those speeches that Saul made and that Stephen made and that Philip made, where do those speeches come from? They sound like a verbatim report, they sound as though a man had written it down who’s heard it. I want you to know, they are a verbatim report, and they are written down by a man who heard it or said it: Luke, the historian, was sitting there in that house when Paul, and when Stephen—and when Philip talked about those days of Stephen, and when Philip tells Paul about the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch [Acts 8:26-39], and when Paul tells Philip about all the things that happened to him; Luke was right there, this historian, and he was writing it down. That’s how you find it here in the Book of Acts. Ah, what a meeting that was! [Acts 21:8].
“Then in those days there came Agabus” [Acts 21”10], and we know where Agabus came from, we met him before. Agabus was that prophet up there in Jerusalem who came down telling the people about the great famine [Acts 11:28]; and here he is coming down to tell Paul that if he persists in going up to Jerusalem he will be handed into the hands of the Gentiles as a prisoner and delivered unto death [Acts 21:11]. Agabus, he was a prophet. In the church, God had set in the church first, apostles; second, prophets; third, evangelists; fourth, pastors and teachers [Ephesians 4:11]; and then other gifts. The apostolic office has ceased; there are no more apostles [1 Corinthians 15:8]. When they died in that first generation, they had no successors. There are no more apostles [Acts 1:21-26; 1 Corinthians 15:8]. There are no more prophets, not like this use of the word “prophet”; there are no more prophetic ministries like Agabus [Acts 11:28, 21:10-11; 1 Corinthians 13:8]. They were men who were specially called in the church that had no New Testament. They were called especially of the Holy Spirit, in order that the Holy Spirit might tell the church the things that were to come, and the things they were to do in view of those things that were to come. But we still have the office of an evangelist.
One of the crying shames of our generation, Dr. [Floyd B.] Chaffin, is that we’ve almost crowded out the evangelist. How we need him! How we need men of God who will go around all over everywhere and hold revival meetings and preach the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ. The office of the evangelist and the office of the pastor and the teacher we still have with us. And once in a while, somebody will come to me and say—they’ve said it ever since I’ve started preaching—“Why don’t you be an evangelist?” And I reply to them, “I’ve offered my life to God as an evangelist, to go out here without the care of a church, and just to preach the gospel wherever anybody would listen to me. But I’ve never had the consent of my heart; I’ve never felt that God wanted me to do any other thing from the time I’ve been a small boy unto this present moment. I’ve never had the conviction, the persuasion, that God wanted me to do anything else except to be the pastor of a church. I’d rather be the pastor of a church in my heart, my joy, than to be anything else in the world. And out of all the churches of the world that I’d rather be pastor of, bless your heart, it’s just like I tell Betty my wife, I’d rather have married her than any other girl in the world; and whether that’s true or not, brother, I want her to think it, I want her to think it. But I don’t have any trouble making Betty believe that, I don’t have any trouble saying that in my heart. Where are you, Betty? Are you here tonight? I hope you are. Yes sir, I’d rather be her husband than the husband of any other girl in the world. And I feel the same way about my church: I’d rather be pastor of this church, the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, than to be pastor of any other church in the world. There’s none like it, not in the earth. They’ve got a good church at Greensborough, but brother, they “ain’t” got what we’ve got. They just don’t have it, they don’t have it. They don’t have it anywhere. The only reason to live in Dallas is to go to the First Baptist Church, did you know that? Other than that, you’d might as well live in Fort Worth just as well, just as well. Oh! What a privilege, what a privilege, pastoring the church in Dallas and belonging to the First Baptist Church in Dallas. Oh, what God is doing for us!
Then they meet another old man here. You see, this is Pentecostal time, and Jerusalem is filled with people. So in order to have a place for Paul and his company to stay, why, they go up to Jerusalem with Mnason, who has a home in the city; and he’s described as “an old disciple” [Acts 21:16]. He had been a long time in the Lord. Now this isn’t a long time after Jesus died, not so very long; so he must have been a follower of Jesus in the days of His flesh, this man Mnason, Mnason of Cypress, an old disciple [Acts 21:16]. Did you ever see an old disciple of Jesus turn aside and say, “I have believed a lie”; did you ever in your life? Did you? Did you, Dr. Fowler? I never did either. I’ve stood by the side of many, many dying men; but I’ve never yet had an old disciple say to me, “Preacher, I believed a lie. I’m sorry today I went down that aisle and gave my heart to Jesus. I regret the day I was baptized and became a member of the church.” I’ve never, I’ve never, I’ve never, not in my life, heard a man say those words, never! Every time I’ve ever stood by them, they’ve always said, “Preacher, I’m getting ready for the long journey, and you don’t know how happy I am to know that I’m not crossing Jordan alone. He is with me, He is with me.”
When that pastor out there in California preached a funeral service of my old father, he said in his funeral sermon, he said, “I went to see Brother Criswell. He was sick unto death, and he was in great pain. He died of a cancer, and he was in great pain.” And the man, the preacher said, “I asked Brother Criswell, ‘How are you, Dad Criswell, how are you? And Dad Criswell replied, ‘Well, it’s a long road, it’s dark, but God is with me. And sometimes in the middle of the night, the Lord and I have a good time, have a good time.’” Then he died in the faith, like I hope to die in the faith, like you hope to die in the faith. An old disciple: sweeter today than it was yesterday; sweeter five years from now than it is yesterday; and sweeter at the end of the journey than it is five or fifteen years hence. “Mnason, an old disciple” [Acts 21:16]. Sweetest Christians we have are these old saints, who’ve fought many a battle and who know the way of the Lord in the valley of the shadow [Psalm 23:4].
So they come to James, they come to James [Acts 21:18]. We met him before. James is the brother of the Lord Jesus, and James is the pastor of the church, and James is a Jew, and he’s very zealous for the law [Acts 21:18-20]. And this is a Jewish church. Do you remember, when I preached about Antioch I said there were two great centers of Christianity: one was at Jerusalem, a Judaistic Christianity, and it died when Jerusalem was destroyed. The new capital of the Christian faith was Antioch; Gentile Christianity, and that’s the Christianity that we have today, came from Antioch [Acts 11:26]. Now Paul is in a different world; these are Jewish people, they don’t know anything else except to keep the law [Acts 15:1]. They’ve trusted in the Lord Jesus, they’ve believed in the Lord Jesus, but they are still Jews, and they are rearing their children up to be Jews.
So when Paul comes to Jerusalem, why, this man James, he says, “Do you see how many myriads of Jews there are who believe, and they are all zealous of the law?” [Acts 21:18-20]. That’s a special party that brought about the destruction of Jerusalem, these “zealous of the law. And they have heard that you teach Jewish people that they are not to be Jews any more [Acts 21:21-22]. Now,” says James to Paul, “we have four men who have taken a Nazarite vow” [Acts 21:23], their hair is uncut. “And when they end their Nazarite vow” [Acts 21:24-26]—and you can read all about this in the sixth chapter of Numbers, how it is, how they acted, what they were to do, the offerings they were to make at the end of their Nazarite vow; this is a Nazarite of faith [Numbers 6:1-21]. John the Baptist was a Nazarite for life [Luke 1:15], Samson was for life [Judges 13:5, 16:17], Samuel was for life [1 Samuel 1:11]; this is Nazarite vow that a man would take, say, over a period of thirty days, and he leaves his hair uncut and his beard uncut; and at the end, why, he goes to the temple and he shaves his head, and his hair of separation is burned there on the altar [Numbers 6:18]; but he must make an offering according to the sixth chapter of the Book of Numbers [Numbers 6:19-21]. And there were many poor people who could not make that offering; couldn’t buy a little lamb or buy some turtledoves in order to make the offering and be rid of the Nazarite vow, and so it was considered a very holy thing and pious for well-to-do people to come, and to make those offerings for the poor.
So they said to Paul: You come, and take these four men who are Nazarites, and you be one with them. And you shave your head too with them, and you pay for their offerings, as well as for your own [Acts 21:23-24]. And then when people see you, why, they will say, “Why, this man, he keeps the law like the rest of us keep the law. He’s a Jew like we are a Jew, only he believes in the Lord Jesus also.”
Now that troubled me, so I had to read a little bit over here in the Book. And it says over here in the ninth chapter of the first Corinthian letter:
For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I become as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without the law, as without the law. . . that I might gain them that are without the law. To the weak become I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
[1 Corinthians 9:19-22]
So Paul, being a Jew already, when they wanted him to go through those temple sacrifices [Acts 21:23-24], he said, “I will do it, if it will convince my impressionable enemies that I don’t teach Jewish people to circumvent the law of Moses; and as for the Gentiles, we’ve already said they are free” [Acts 21:25]. So he agreed to do what James suggested. And with what effect? Paul goes up to the temple and there he is, with a vow of a Nazarite, associating himself with those four other men, and giving himself to the orthodox ritual services of the temple [Acts 21:26]. You would have thought those enemies of Paul would have come along and looked at him and said: “Why, look at that man, look at that man! This is the man about whom you said such terrible things. This is the man whom we falsely accused. Why, he’s in the temple itself, he’s as orthodox as we are. Come, let us put our arms around him; let us say, ‘Brother, shake our hand, we said the wrong thing about you. We’ve been mistaken.’”
Is that the way they did? No sir, no sir! You listen to me; when you have impregnable enemies, you can never live holy enough to please them, never. They’d rather you were in hell than in heaven. And no matter how you try, you will never win their hearts or their confidence. And when you try to order your life according to an implacable enemy, you’re going to fall into all kinds of bitterness, all kinds of disappointment, and all kinds of trouble. Brother, don’t do it, don’t do it.
There’s an old saying: “You don’t have to explain to your friends, they don’t need it; there’s no need to explain to your enemies, they won’t believe it.” Order your life according to God. Do the best you can, walking in the presence of the Lord, and you will find those that are open-hearted, those that will love you, those that will receive you, will rejoice in you; and you will find that the people who bitterly hate you will never change, no matter what you do. Don’t be discouraged, don’t be abashed, don’t hesitate, don’t stagger; you go right ahead. There are some people who will never be convinced; they don’t want to believe in you, they wouldn’t rejoice in any success that you made, they wouldn’t thank God for any victory God gave you. The more you succeed, the more they hate you. The better off you are, the more implacable becomes their bitterness. Don’t foul up your life by trying to live in the circle and the circumference of those that dislike you; don’t do it. There are worlds of people who will pray for you, worlds of them who will rejoice in you, worlds of them who will put their hearts into the ministry and into the task. God will see you through. God will see you through.
And here’s the apostle Paul trying to prove himself orthodox to an anonymous bunch of Jews who didn’t want to believe in his orthodoxy! So look at their cry. While Paul is there in the temple trying to do this thing to please them that he might win their hearts [Acts 21:26]—they had seen one Greek, Trophimus, in the city with the apostle Paul [Acts 21:29]—and they cry and they say, “He has brought Greeks,” plural, one Greek becomes a bunch of Greeks [Acts 21:28], they’d seen that one Greek with Paul on the streets of the city, they say, “He has done that, brought them into the temple!” [Acts 21:29]. Isn’t that what they say? No matter what you do or how you try, they take what you do and what you try, and then they turn it around and they twist it, and they say all manner of things, just like they did here with Paul. “He has brought Greeks,” plural, “into the temple” and they just saw him with Trophimus, an Asiatic Greek, on the streets of the city [Acts 21:29].
So they take Paul, and they drag him outside of the Court of Israel into the Court of the Gentiles, and they close the door of the Court of Israel, and they begin to beat him to death; hit him with their fists, stamp on him with their foot, throw a rock at him, any way to beat him to death! And the people began to cry, “Help, help, this is the man, this is the man trying to destroy this holy place” [Acts 21:30-31]. And so while they were doing that, the Tower of Antonio was on the north side of the temple, way tall, and it was an insult to the Jews because the soldiers up there in the temple could look down into the Jewish courts; and when those watchmen on the Tower of Antonio looked down into those courts and saw that terrible riot going on and the people crying and screaming and beating somebody to death; the chiliarch—translated “the captain,” the colonel of the band—he gathers his cohorts and his centurion and they rush down the stairway into the area and so rescue Paul. And he thinks that this Paul is an Egyptian who leads the band of iscarii —that’s the Greek word, iscarii—they were professional murderers [Acts 21:30-38]. In a great crowd, like at Pentecost, if you had somebody you didn’t like, you’d get in touch with an iscarii, and he’d take a dagger and put it under his toga; and as they’d walk in the vast crowd, he’d pull out that dagger and put it under the fifth rib of the man that you hated, and the man would fall down dead in a pool of his own blood, and nobody’d have any idea who’d stabbed him. And that thing grew until it became a political band. And that’s what this chiliarch thought that Paul was the leader of; he was the leader of the iscarii—the dagger men, the murderers, the hired men—who killed; he thought Paul was the head of that band [Acts 21:38].
And Paul said something to him in the Greek language, in the Greek language [Acts 21:37]. Now Greek was the language of culture and of education, and when the chiliarch heard Paul speak in the Greek tongue, he said, “What? Canst thou speak Greek? Art not thou that Egyptian that headed that band of iscarii ?” [Acts 21:38].
“Oh no,” said Paul, “no sir! I am a Jew of Tarsus, capital of Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city” [Acts 21:39]. How many times did you ever hear Dr. Truett, if you ever heard him very much, say that about Dallas? “A citizen of no mean city…And I beseech thee, sir, suffer me to speak unto the people.” And he suffered him [Acts 21:39-40]. So where the steps lead up into the Tower of Antonio, to that maddened crowd below, Paul reaches out his hand, stretches forth his hand, and he began to speak to them. And when they heard that he was speaking in the Hebrew tongue, in the Aramaic language, there was a great silence [Acts 21:40]. And Paul begins the defense of his life [Acts 22:1-5].
Now for my sermon. When I preach at these evangelistic conferences, preachers come up to me and say, “Preaching through the Bible? Preaching through the Bible? What in the world do you say?” I say, “Listen here, I don’t pace up and down the floor of my study wondering what am I going to say. I pace up and down the floor of my study wondering, O God, am I going to live long enough to get it said before I die, am I?” There’s so much, there’s so much! I want to make a little short appeal here, and then I’m through.
Paul is like his Master. The Lord Jesus set His face to go to Jerusalem to die [Luke 9:51]. The Holy Spirit witnessed in every place that Paul went: “If you go to Jerusalem, you go to imprisonment and to death” [Acts 20:23-25]. But Paul, like his Master, set his face to go to Jerusalem [Acts 20:22]. What I wanted to preach about tonight was first this: because I’m a Christian doesn’t mean I’m thereby liberated, excused, free, dismissed from the trials and the tribulations and the sorrows of this world. Lost people have cancer; God’s people have cancer too. Before I came over here to this study, a blessed woman came to see me, saying, “The doctor says I have three months, a year at the most”; a devout Christian. Doesn’t mean you won’t have sorrow and trouble and heartache; Christians have sorrow and trouble and heartache just like lost people. The difference is, when the nighttime comes, if you’re a Christian you’ve got a song in your heart, and you’ve got a praise on your lips. When they beat Paul and put him in jail and the blood dried on his back, being a Christian he prayed, sang praises to Jesus [Acts 16:25]. It just means that in the valley, and in the trouble, and in the bonds, and in the heartache, we’ve got Somebody who sees us through. That was one of the words I wanted to preach about.
And the second one was this: because I’m a Christian I ought willingly and gladly to take a sacrificial place in the kingdom and patience of the Lord Jesus. Gladly, I say, and willingly, I ought to go over to that chapel and pray, I ought to. I know there’s a thousand other things I might want to do, but I ought to pray. I’m a Christian. I ought to come down here to the pastor’s study course next week, beginning the fifteenth; and I ought to take a name from his hand and knock at the door. I know the people out there in the world, they’re having a big party that night, they’re having a big to-do that night, and they’re in a thousand different places that night, I know, I know. And we could put our lives some other place, but I’m a child of God, and I ought to pray and I ought to do the work of the kingdom of Jesus. Paul set his face to a great sacrificial oblation for the Lord Jesus; and as a Christian it’s our highest privilege to do the same: to offer unto God a burning heart and a yielded life. “Lord, I could do a lot of other things, but I’m not; I’m going to do this. Lord, I could go a lot of other places; but I’m not going, I’m coming here.” Lot of things to employ my time, but I’m not going to do it that way; I’m going to give it to Jesus, I’m going to give it to Jesus. That’s what it is to follow the Lord. Like the apostle Paul did, though it meant in prison and bonds and death. A Christian, living a triumphant life, gives his whole life, and soul, and time, and eternity to the Lord Jesus. And that’s our call in His blessed name, in His blessed name.
Would you take your life out of the world, and would you put it in the hands of God? Would you? Would you take your life out of the extraneous, peripheral of the things that tug and pull and woo and send us away? Would you come back to the heart of this thing, the true destiny for which God made you? Would you put it by our side, in Jesus? Would you do it tonight? In that balcony, from side to side, from any place, somebody you, would you step out into that aisle, down here by my side, and say, “Pastor, here I come; tonight I’m giving my heart and my life to the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:9-13]. And in the fellowship of this church, in this precious communion of saints, I want my life to count for God; and I’m devoting it to Him”? Would you do it now? “Pastor, I’m coming on confession of faith.” “I’m coming by baptism” [Matthew 28:19]. “I’m coming by letter.” “Here’s my family, we’re all coming,” or one somebody you. While we make appeal, and while we sing, and while our people prayerfully wait before the Lord, would you make it now? Anywhere, anywhere, while we make appeal, “Preacher, here I come, and here I am,” while we stand and while we sing.