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Taking The Opportunity To Do Wrong

Acts 21:27-29
saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, shouting, 'Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.' (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple.) (NIVUK)

Paul had voluntarily submitted to the Jerusalem elders' request to undergo a purification vow with four local men at the Temple (Acts 21:20-24). It was an attempt to show that he had not abandoned his traditional roots in the Old Testament law, but wanted Jesus to be seen as their fulfilment. The seven-day period of the vow was almost complete when some of the religious people, who had stirred up trouble for Paul during his missionary journeys (Acts 13:50; 14:5; 14:19; 16:19; 17:5-8; 17:13; 19:26), travelled to Jerusalem for Pentecost and saw him in the Temple.

They were jealous of Paul, and angry because they felt he threatened their traditional religion. Once again they created a disturbance, drawing attention to Paul and falsely accusing him. According to them, the apostle was anti-Jew, anti-law and anti-temple. Also, some of them had seen Trophimus with Paul in Ephesus (Acts 20:4); and here he was in Jerusalem. So they claimed that Paul had desecrated the Temple by bringing a Gentile into the inner courts. But Paul was already demonstrating that those claims were lies, as was undergoing this formal vow and pay money to the Temple.

Those rabble-rousers were successful; claiming to be victims of Paul's preaching in their own cities, they attracted the support they desired. Once again, a riot was about to happen. They wanted Paul and his Jesus-preaching eliminated. They did not want their traditional religious life to be disturbed, nor the power which it gave to many people in its hierarchy. So Paul's presence gave them the opportunity they wanted to get rid of Paul and the Christians.

All sin requires a wrong desire and an opportunity to achieve it. James 1:14-16 says, ".. each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters." The wrong desire seems to be right; but it is a deception from the devil. Usually, people do not know that they are being puppets of evil. A wrong desire may lurk inactively for a long time, but when an opportunity comes the desire is automatically empowered. If believers can be deceived in this way, how much more easily can Satan tempt unbelievers to persecute Christians. So do not be surprised when people take opportunities to persecute you (John 15:20-21). And ask the Lord to help you uncover your wrong desires before they become sinful actions (Psalm 51:10-12).

Sovereign Lord. Thank You that the church of Jesus Christ cannot be destroyed, however great the persecution or opposition. Forgive me for harbouring wrong desires and taking opportunities which lead to sin. Help me to forgive those who sin against me, especially those who are motivated by their resistance to Jesus; and help me to deal with my own wrong motives before they become sinful actions. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams