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Fellowship in Praise

Acts 21:17-20
When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters received us warmly. The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: 'You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law.' (NIVUK)

Paul's long journey to Jerusalem was over. Paul did not know exactly how he would be accused by the religious leaders and handed over to the Gentile authorities (Acts 21:10-11) but his priority was to see the believers and encourage them that God's Word was powerful and had been received in what is now Cyprus, Turkey and Greece. The Christians, who had their own struggles (Romans 15:26), were delighted to welcome Paul and his team and to hear how God had turned the hearts of many Gentiles to trust in Jesus.

Their response was to praise the Lord. Each detail of the journey was described (which may well have been recorded by Luke to confirm his own observations, when he was with Paul, and the reports of others). That should give us great confidence in the reliability of the Acts narrative. The report contained so many miracles, rescues, and answers to prayer that the listeners were in awe of what God had done, and stimulated their praise.

When Paul's report was complete, James (the half-brother of Jesus) and the other elders told of what God had been doing in Jerusalem. Despite persecution and hardship, many thousands of Jews had also believed in Jesus. These people, who previously were obsessive about their religious practice, had found liberty in Christ. So the gospel had reached into the hearts of Jews and Gentiles alike: Jesus brought them together in fellowship and praise (Galatians 3:28).

God's Word is powerful and can change the heart of anybody who welcomes Jesus as Lord. Sharing such testimonies is an important way to encourage and envision other believers. As you tell your personal story of how you encountered Jesus and trusted Him, your believing friends will be encouraged in their faith – and as they share the story of their encounter with Jesus, you will find that you have much more in common with them than you might have thought. When you see or hear of what God has done the only right response is to praise Him and learn to trust Him more.

Father God. Thank You for gathering so many different sorts of people into Your family. Forgive me for the times when I have been so focussed on what I am doing that I ignore all that You are doing, and fail to see a much bigger picture of Your family. Please help me to be interested to find out what You have done in other people's lives; and be willing to share my own testimony so that You will use it to encourage others. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams