Acts 21:17-21 (HCSB)
17 When we reached Jerusalem, the brothers welcomed us gladly.18 The following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.19 After greeting them, he related one by one what God did among the Gentiles through his ministry.20 When they heard it, they glorified God and said, “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law.21 But they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to abandon Moses…
It’s been a while since we’ve looked in Acts together in our Catalyst email, but here’s where we left off. Paul’s missionary journey has taken him full circle, back to where everything started: Jerusalem. The church in this capital city was the first ever (see Acts 2) and was the flagship of the fleet. The Jerusalem church set the standard for all others.
Naturally, Paul the missionary gives a report to James and the elders of the church. As we have read from Luke’s historical account in Acts, Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles had been a huge success. So as Paul described these accomplishments, James and the elders responded by praising God.
I believe you can tell a lot about a person’s relationship with God by observing their reactions to others.
- For instance, what is your response when someone is blessed by God? Do you become jealous and ask, “why not me?” Or do you rejoice with them in their blessing?
- What’s your response when someone stumbles? Do you secretly think: “I knew it was too good to be true…,” “I knew they weren’t as holy as they pretended to be…”?
- What’s your response when someone had the wrong impression of you? Do you feel the need to defend yourself…to prove you’re right?
I think God’s answer to these would be confidence: being confident in the God we serve, and confident in who he has made us to be. When you know God intimately and love him, you are confident in that love. James wasn’t jealous of Paul’s success – as if God’s blessings are in limited supply. Nor were James and the Elders secretly hoping Paul would stumble – that would be bad for everyone. Paul, too, was confident. The Apostle’s ministry to the Gentiles was being mischaracterized – but he didn’t become defensive. He simply moved ahead…confidently.
Hebrews 10:35 (HCSB)
35 So don’t throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.