Acts 21:20b-26 – Submit & Accommodate the Weak – Part III
See last weeks lesson and review the snares of cultural baggage such as our American individualist “faith filter”.
From that lesson we learned:
Being zealous for the wrong things is a result of a weak faith.
A weak faith is informed by and manifests itself through our cultural baggage.
Our cultural baggage creates for us a “faith filter” by which we respond to the Bible.
Our faith filter as Americans is Individualism.
George Kateb, in his book The inner ocean: individualism and democratic culture, provides a great summary of the cultural baggage of American individualism:
He says individualism produces “a movement toward allowing individuals to make up their world as they go along. That is a principle aspect of individualism, and the hidden spring of self-centered behavior.”
He says that an alternative to this individualism is submission.
And to the individualist, “such submission in itself diminishes the people who endure it.”
One way submission diminishes the individualist is that it limits him from the satisfaction “intrinsic to the effort to make up the world as one goes along.”
One further insight from one of our church missionaries on the limitations of individualism:
You will not succeed on your own, but as you carry the power of God through your church. – N.
His insight, informed by both his “collective” not “individualistic” Arab cultural background and his experience as a Muslim missionary, flies directly in the face of American individualism.
We, of course, would agree with N., but deep in our hearts we still want to succeed “on our own”.
To paraphrase George Kateb, ultimately we don’t want to be diminished by submission.
We simply have a mental and cultural bent against submission, but we must seek to purge its influence.
This leads us to the second reason Paul complied with James & the elders request.
1) WHY HE DID IT – SUBMISSION – THE “FOR JAMES & ELDERS” REASON
Paul obliged James and the other Elders request in Acts 21:23-24 because he was submitting to their authority.
Or to put another way, he was submitting to God’s will.
The Bible makes God’s will in this regard very plain.
As we examine His will, it will not be hard for us to see how it is at odds with our American individualism.
Hebrews 13:17 – Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Hebrews is telling us to “trust, yield to & suffer yourself to be persuaded by” and “resist no longer” your pastors.
They are accountable to God for how they lead and pastor us and we are accountable to God for our submission.
Titus 2:15-3:2 – Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. 1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.
“Submissive” here is a picture of troops arranging under the command of a leader to accomplish a purpose.
Is also literally means that we are to “yield to our leaders admonition or advice”.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 – We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.
“Over” here denotes that they “superintend” and “preside over” us.
It is the same word used in 1 Timothy 3 where Paul teaches that a qualified elder or deacon is to “manage” their children and keep them submissive.
2 Corinthians 10:8 – For even if I boast a little too much of our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be ashamed.
And yes, the pastor/teacher does have that authority and they aren’t to be ashamed of it.
1 Peter 5:4-5 – And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.
This is literally a comparison between the “not as superior” and their relationship to the “superior” – the elders.
This phrase, “be subject”, means that the “not as superior” are to “yield to” or “to obey” the “superior”.
POI – Peter gives us insight into how our pastors are to lead.
And as Hebrews revealed, they will no doubt be accountable to God to do as Peter teaches.
1 Peter 5:1-3 – So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
John Piper provides further insight for us:
“I think “domineering over” (katakurieu) means using power without a servant heart, and trying to sway people without setting an example for them, and exerting influence for the enhancement of one’s own status and ego—not for the glory of Christ and the good of the people. This command should make them tremble with the weight of spiritual responsibility, rather than gloat over the right to rule.”
Piper, J. (2007). Sermons from John Piper (1990-1999). Minneapolis: Desiring God.
POI – Is there occasion to disobey our pastor/elders?
After explaining the 1 Peter 5 passage, John Piper goes on to argue that a pastor/elders shortcoming in this area does not negate the will of God for us to obey them.
He states explicitly that “Now none of this nullifies Hebrews 13:17.”
In fact, teaching twisted things to draw away or teaching a false gospel is the closest the Bible comes to giving a green light to disobedience.
Acts 20:29-30 – I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.
Galatians 1:8-9 – But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
Verses such as these are very specific:
They show an elder speaking Biblical corruption and angels or anyone preaching a contrary gospel.
Using these verses as examples, John MacArthur says:
“Unless the shepherds ask the sheep to do something that is unscriptural or sinful, the sheep ought to obey and submit to the shepherds’ leadership”
MacArthur, J. (2002). 1 & 2 Thessalonians (174). Chicago: Moody Press.
An example of how our “faith filter” tries to justify our rebellion when it is not warranted:
We look for personal fault in those who are in authority over us and then rationalize that they are not worthy of our submission because of their fault.
So God’s will for us is to submit to, yield to, obey and resist no longer our pastor/elders.
It is to this Biblical principal that Paul yielded and it is to this that God expects us to yield.
In fact, Hebrews says it is to our advantage to do this so that our pastor/elders can lead us with joy!
More comments about the effects of cultural baggage in light of what we have learned the past 2 weeks:
We are called by Paul to renew our mind.
Romans 12:2 – Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
This “testing” is not a subjective testing but a leveling of our crooked thinking and experience against the perfectly straight line of God’s word.
Our misplaced zeal, our weak faith, our faith filter, all influenced by our cultural baggage, need to be leveled against God’s word.
So, one way we renew our mind is to submit all of this to God’s truth.
And in so doing we have to jettison our cultural baggage!
To do otherwise is to be disobedient to God and remain enslaved to our self-interests and cultural baggage.
Oswald chambers gave us some insight into how failing to do this can be problematic.
It is quite possible to be living in union with God through the Atonement and yet be traitors mentally. It is easy to be traitors unless we are disciplined along the lines that Jesus taught, viz., the need to submit our intellect to Him as He submitted His intellect to His Father. – Chambers, O. (1996, c1947). Biblical ethics. Hants UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott.
THE RENEWED MIND OF A CHRISTIAN WILL NOT BE “DIMINISHED BY SUBMISSION” BUT BE “BLESSED BY SUBMISSION.”