Costly Discipleship – Part Two
– 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
- God’s Moral Law vs. Man-made Rules (Romans 6:1-2; cf. Colossians 2:16-23)
- 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!
- Thousands of ‘weaker brothers’ in the Jerusalem Church felt that they should continue to follow the Law (v. 20)
- 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!
- Some scholars believe that Paul made a serious error in judgment here by giving in to the legalists
- A better explanation is to see Paul acting here in the best interest of his brothers and sisters with weak consciences
- 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?