Ready to Die for Christ

Ready to Die for Christ

“Ready to Die for Christ”

(Acts 21:1-36)

Series: The Church on Fire!

Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD

First Baptist Church Henderson, KY

(5-25-08) (AM)


  • Take your Bibles and open to Acts, chapter 21.


We are entering into the final section of the book of Acts.  Paul is finishing up his third missionary journey and is heading back toward Jerusalem.  We know that the key verse to the book of Acts is Acts 1:8 where Jesus says, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.”  Today we are charged with the same commission, taking the Gospel to our city, across the states, and across the seas.  So Paul is across the sea, he’s in Asia Minor where he has just giving a heartwarming last sermon to the Ephesians and he is making his way back to the city of Jerusalem.


  • Stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.


1Now it came to pass, that when we had departed from them (the Ephesians) and set sail, running a straight course we came to Cos, the following day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. 

2 And finding a ship sailing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail. 

3 When we had sighted Cyprus, we passed it on the left, sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload her cargo. 

4 And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem. 

5 When we had come to the end of those days, we departed and went on our way; and they all accompanied us, with wives and children, till we were out of the city. And we knelt down on the shore and prayed. 

6 When we had taken our leave of one another, we boarded the ship, and they returned home. 

7 And when we had finished our voyage from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, greeted the brethren, and stayed with them one day.

8 On the next day we who were Paul’s companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. 

9 Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied. 

10 And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 

11 When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’ ” 

12 Now when we heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem. 

13 Then Paul answered, “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 


  • Pray.




I had a strange dream Friday night and awoke yesterday morning still mentally reeling from the images and emotions that came from a dream that seemed so real.  I dreamed that fires in our neighborhood ravaged our street and homes were violently being engulfed by flames, including ours.  I dialed 911 and we all escaped injury but all we had was something like a Little Red Rider wagon and some food or something.  Everything else was gone.  We walked along a path with other now homeless people out into the darkness.  It was a really strange dream.


Michele wondered why I had dreamed that and I told her I had already psychoanalyzed the situation.  I lit a candle Friday back in my little study area and the flame was sputtering kind of high as I was going out of the room.  I remembered thinking, “Man, it’d be bad if I burned the house down.”  Well, you know, that’s all it takes for your brain to go to work.  It takes an incident like that and places it in the “Dream Queue” for the evening.  Your brain can’t wait till you go to sleep so it can twist it into something bizarre like dreaming about your house burning down!


But that dream was a vivid reminder that we Christians have a natural tendency to cling too tightly to things that won’t last: furniture, computers, cars, comforts, our houses, and that we sort of live under the assumption that we’re just going to have this stuff forever and that we’ll never have to give it up.  If you’ll allow me to put it this way, it’s like we’re living for this world.  We’re living for this world.


Now the Apostle Paul shames me.  I read about a guy who really has nothing, who reminds us of what our Lord said about those who follow Him.  In Luke 9:57-58, “someone said to Jesus, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.”  And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”  So Jesus adds, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God (9:62).”


That’s Paul.  He has put his hand to the plow.  He is not looking back.  He says in the last verse we read a moment ago, verse 13, “I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”  Man, I don’t know about you, but I want to be that kind of person.  I want to be that.  I want be in this world, but not of this world.  I don’t want to be a hypocrite.  I don’t want to say, “Jesus, You’re my Lord” and then get all bent out of shape if something happens to my stuff.  I don’t want to live for this world.  I want to live a life of complete surrender.  I want to be able to say, “I am ready to die for the name of the Lord Jesus.”


Well if we want that kind of life, if we want the joy and liberty of what it means to live a life of complete surrender to the lordship of Christ, ready to die for the name of the Lord Jesus, there are a few things we’re going to need to know about Christian living.  Number one:


I.  Christian Living may involve Suffering (1-14)


Now I know that’s something we don’t like to hear.  We want to avoid suffering and we should avoid it when we can, but there are sometimes in doing the will of God when we simply cannot avoid suffering.  And the truth is, if we desire to live a life of complete surrender to the lordship of Christ, we will face suffering.  The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:12, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”  And Jesus says in John 16:33, “In this world you will have tribulation.”  We endure suffering because we live in a fallen world.  Bad things really do happen and they really do happen to the best of us.  They happened to Paul.  Let’s look at the text.


We read the first few verses earlier.  They recount the travels of Paul from one seaport to another.  And then verse 4 says that there are some disciples at the city of Tyre who “told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem.”  The Holy Spirit had revealed to these Christians at Tyre that Paul should not go to Jerusalem.”  They knew that trouble was on the horizon.  Well, Paul knew that, too.  He had said earlier, back in chapter 20, in Acts 20:22-23, “I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.”  Paul could say, “Look, Christian living may involve suffering.  I’m ready for it.”


So Paul and his crew continue on their journey and they come to Caesarea.  Verse 8 says they “entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven.”  Remember back in Acts 6, Philip was one of the first deacons.  He was the guy who went to Ethiopia and led the Ethiopian eunuch to Christ.  You may have wondered, “Whatever happened to that guy?”  Well, apparently he settled down and got married because the Bible says in verse 9 he had four virgin daughters who prophesied.  That is, they spoke the truth of God as they ministered to individual people.


Then we read again about this guy named Agabus.  We met him before back in chapter 11.  He had prophesied before about a great famine that was coming.  So here he is again.  Read again what he does there in verse 11:


11 When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’ ” 


So then everyone’s eyes turn to Paul and they’re like, “Paul, you can’t go to Jerusalem, man!  They’re going to bind you and turn you over to the Gentiles, the Romans.  You’ll die!”  You see that there in verse 12:


12 Now when we heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem. 


Now watch this.  Look again at Paul’s response, verse 13:


13 Then Paul answered, “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 

14 So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, “The will of the Lord be done.” 


The Christians back at Tyre and now the Christians here in Caesarea are like, “Paul, trouble lies ahead.  You may die!”  And Paul is like, “Look, I know that.  I’m ready.”


Now I find this really interesting.  Some say that Paul shouldn’t have gone to Jerusalem because the Holy Spirit revealed to these other believers that Paul was going to be arrested and really endure some suffering.  But Paul knew that was coming.  He had said as much.  And I think this points up a recurring challenge we Christians face today.  The believers who were trying to get Paul to stay away from Jerusalem are like believers today who think of Christianity as a lifestyle that shouldn’t include suffering for the name.  Paul, however, represents Christians who understand from the get go that Christian living may involve suffering so rather than retreating from it, we should be ready for it.  Christian living may involve suffering.  Everyone say, “Christian living may involve suffering.”  Christian living may involve suffering.


See it’s easy to be a Christian until faced with the possibility of suffering.  I mean, what if God calls your son or daughter to the mission field in China?  Your son or daughter says, “I know that God has called me to minister in China.  I must go.”  Or, “God has called me to this job on the other side of the country.”  How would you respond?  Truth is, we may feel inclined to do as the believers in Tyre or Caesarea did.  You know, “Paul, look: I’m not sure you really know what you’re getting into.”  But I love Paul’s response!  He says, “I am ready not only to be bound,”—he’s like, “that’s nothing!”—but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”  With that kind of radical commitment to Christ, that kind of complete surrender, is it any wonder God used this guy in such an amazing way?!  God will use you and me that way, too, if we let go of the stuff of this world and cling only to Christ.  We’ll live the abundant life He wants us to live.  Christian living may involve suffering.  Number two:


II.  Christian Living may involve Slander (15-25)


That is, people may slander us, say false things about us.  How do you deal with false accusations?  Jesus said in Matthew 5:11 that people will, “revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely.”  How do you deal with slander?  It happened to the Apostle Paul.  Let’s read about it there in verses 15 and following.


15 And after those days we packed and went up to Jerusalem. 

16 Also some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us and brought with them a certain Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we were to lodge. 

17 And when we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. 

18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James (that’s James, the half-brother of Jesus, the leader of the church there in Jerusalem.  Some of you have been told that Peter was the first leader of the church, but the Bible teaches that it is James.  We saw that back in chapter 15), and all the elders were present. 

19 When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 


By the way, I love the way that’s worded there in verse 19.  Paul told in detail those things which God had done, which God had done through his ministry.  This isn’t, “Look, what I have done.”  It’s, “Look what God has done through me.”


20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are (that is, here in Jerusalem) who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law; 

21 “but they have been informed about you (we might add, “misinformed”) that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. 


Now, Paul had not been teaching that.  He had not been teaching all the Jews to forsake Moses.  The first thing Paul would do when entering a new city was to go to the Jewish synagogue and worship there and teach from the Old Testament, pointing people to Jesus Christ.  He had great respect for the Jewish customs.  And Paul He had not been telling them not to circumcise their children.  In fact, remember that Paul had Timothy circumcised before he took him along on his missionary journey so that Timothy wouldn’t be an offense to the Jews.  Paul had been teaching that one is not saved by doing those things, but he had nowhere taught the people to forsake their Jewish heritage and customs.  So it was slander.  It wasn’t true.  How does he deal with this?  Well, the believers there in Jerusalem have a plan.


22 “What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come. 

23 “Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow (that’s a Nazarite vow.  You can read more about this in Numbers chapter 6.  It was a Jewish custom, a Jewish way of indicating complete consecration to God for a period of time symbolized by shaving the head and not drinking alcohol and so forth)

24 “Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law. 

25 “But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing (they don’t need to keep the Jewish customs), except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.” 


You’ll remember that last part about the Gentiles from Acts 15.  But here’s the point: these believers in Jerusalem are like, “Paul, there are a lot of non-believing Jews here in the city spreading false accusations about you.  They are slandering you.  They are saying that you are preaching and teaching that people should just do away with the Old Testament and forget about what Moses teaches.  So we’ve got a plan: if you’ll go into the Jewish Temple with these guys who have taken this Jewish vow, and you pay their expenses so they may shave their heads, it will show these Jews that you’re a good guy and you’re okay with the Jewish customs.”  And we’ll see in a moment that Paul agrees to this and he does it.


Now get this: how could have Paul responded?  He’d been slandered.  They had said false things about him.  How could he have responded to their false charges?  Full of pride, he could have dug-in and said, “I’m not doing that!  I didn’t do anything wrong!  Let them come and apologize to me!”  Right?  He could have done that.  Is that how you would have responded?

Paul is like, “Okay, whatever it takes.  I’m well aware of the fact that I live in a fallen world and sometimes we’re misunderstood and sometimes we’re slandered.  Whatever!  I just want to see unity in the church.”  I love that!  Paul doesn’t dig-in.  He humbles himself and carries on.  When you live a life of complete surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ, you can live that way.  You’re not surprised by suffering and you’re not surprised by slander.  Christ’s power lives in and through you and you don’t allow yourself to get emotionally entangled in the false charges that people speak against you.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”


Christian living may involve suffering.  Christian living may involve slander.  Number three:


III.  Christian Living may involve Sacrifice (26-36)


That is, Christian living may mean that we have to actually die for the Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul was ready for that.  He had said as much back in verse 13 and remember from last time back in chapter 20, verse 24?  He had said, “I do not count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy.”  If called to do so, he’s ready to die for Christ.  That nearly happens in the remaining verses here.  Let me just read them.


26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each one of them. 

27 Now when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, 

28 crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” 

29 (For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) 


So this riot breaks out and Paul is falsely accused of even bringing a Gentile into the Jewish Temple.  He had not, but you see there in verse 29 the Bible says that they “supposed” he had.  Well they had supposed incorrectly.  Paul knew better.  No Gentile was allowed into the Jewish part of the Temple.  It was a crime punishable by death.  So these unbelieving Jews are not interested in the truth that just shout all the louder and the riot grows.


30 And all the city was disturbed (the population of Jerusalem is about 60,000, but during Pentecost as many as 500,000 people were in the city); and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut (the doors were shut so that Paul’s blood would not defile the temple.  They were planning to kill him as the next verse indicates).

31 Now as they were seeking to kill him, news came to the commander of the garrison that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. 

32 He immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them. And when they saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 


So the crowd there is just wailing on Paul, beating him with one punch and one kick after another until this local law-enforcer shows up, a commander with two soldiers and centurions, that is rulers of a thousand troops.  When they show up, the crowd stops beating Paul.


33 Then the commander came near and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains (remember a certain prophecy by a guy named Agabus?); and he asked who he was and what he had done. 

34 And some among the multitude cried one thing and some another. So when he could not ascertain the truth because of the tumult, he commanded him to be taken into the barracks. 

35 When he reached the stairs, he had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob. 

36 For the multitude of the people followed after, crying out, “Away with him!” 


And the idea is, “Kill him, kill him,” as the New Living Translation has it.  Paul had been beaten within a hair’s breadth of his life.  He has nearly had to sacrifice his life.  But remember?  He was ready for this.  He knew that Christian living may involve suffering, may involve slander—and yes, if necessary—may even involve sacrifice.


How did he do it?  How was Paul empowered to live such a surrendered, sold-out life to the Lord Jesus Christ?  He had received the Gospel.  He was ready to die because he had already died.  And he was ready to die because someone had died for him.  As he wrote in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”


It’s the Gospel that gets us through difficulties.  We sang it earlier in the hymn: “Tho’ Satan should buffet, tho’ trials should come, let this blest assurance control, that Christ hath regarded my helpless estate, and hath shed His own blood for my soul.”


When you and I understand what the Gospel means, Christians, that God has saved us from an eternity in hell that we might be forgiven of our sins and live forever with him in a wonderful place called heaven we won’t live for this fallen world.  We won’t buckle and give-in and flinch in the face of suffering.  When bad things happen in this world—when the marriage is on the rocks or the job is taken away or the house burns down—we’ll flee to the cross and preach the Gospel to ourselves and live by faith in the Son of God, who loves us and gave Himself for us.


  • Stand for prayer.

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