Costly Discipleship – Part Two – Acts 21:1-26

By John Bellingham on February 2, 2014
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Costly Discipleship – Part Two

 Acts 21:1-26


– Paul’s journey to Jerusalem shows us what it means to count the cost of following Jesus Christ.  Paul models costly discipleship in two ways:  1) His Inflexibility (vv. 1-16);   2) His Flexibility (vv. 17-26)


II.  Paul’s Flexibility (vv. 17-26)

1)    The Perennial Problem of Legalism

  • a.      Legalism:  pursuing good works/ laws/ rules with the intention of earning God’s favour
  1. God’s Moral Law vs. Man-made Rules (Romans 6:1-2; cf. Colossians 2:16-23)
  2. Weak Conscience vs. Legalist  (Romans 14:1-23; cf. Philippians 3:2-3)
  • b.      Grace:  God’s unmerited favour


2)    Legalists within the Jerusalem Church had started a malicious rumour about Paul

  • a.       The relationship of Gentiles to the ceremonial law (ie. circumcision) had been settled during the Jerusalem council (cf Acts 15)
  • b.       The relationship of Jewish Christians to the ceremonial law was still a very hot issue!
  1. Thousands of ‘weaker brothers’ in the Jerusalem Church felt that they should continue to follow the Law (v. 20)
  2. A handful of ‘Legalists’ (aka Judaizers) within the Jerusalem Church wanted to discredit Paul’s ministry among the Jews


3)    James and the Elders suggest that Paul undergo a religious ritual to silence these rumours

  • a.      Paul must have agonized over this decision!
  1. Some scholars believe that Paul made a serious error in judgment here by giving in to the legalists
  2. A better explanation is to see Paul acting here in the best interest of his brothers and sisters with weak consciences
  3. Paul had no patience for legalists, but his guiding principle was always love for the ‘weaker brother’
  • b.      “The truly emancipated soul is not in bondage to his own emancipation.”  – F.F. Bruce


Application:  Has our discipleship progressed to the point where we can place the interests of others before our own liberty?  Can we love those who treat us with contempt?



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