Monday, November 1, 2010

Acts 21 - Paul’s Destiny of Distress

Acts 21

Warnings on the Journey to Jerusalem

 1 Now it came to pass, that when we had departed from them 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.

[Verse 4 has generated some controversy. Some say this means that Paul was disobedient to the Holy Spirit in going to Jerusalem even after he had been warned of the danger. So I think we need to look at the full context of the Holy Spirit's guidance in Paul's journey to Jerusalem. First in Acts 19:21 Luke wrote "Paul purposed in the Spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem". Next in Acts 20:22-23 Paul said "And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me." So if it were true that the disciples at Tyre were used by the Holy Spirit to turn Paul from Jerusalem, then that would contradict the message given to Paul by the Holy Spirit when he said he was "purposed in the Spirit" and "bound by the Spirit" to go to Jerusalem, regardless of the danger. One thing is clear and that is the Holy Spirit had warned everyone that Paul would face trouble in Jerusalem. The question is what is the correct response to the Holy Spirit's warning? In verse 4 it says the disciples "told Paul through the Spirit not to go", the Greek word translated "through" is "dia" meaning through or because of. So because they were warned by the Spirit that Paul was in danger, they told him not to go. I think we will see a little later in this chapter, that the message of the Holy Spirit was consistent, what was different is how individuals reacted to that information.]


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.

[After 7 days all the disciples at Tyre and their families go with Paul to the edge of town, and have prayer with him, before going back, then Paul and his companions board the ship.]

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.

[Philip the evangelist is the same Philip chosen as one of the 7 deacons in Acts 6, but also preached frequently, and was the witness to the Ethiopian Eunuch. Don't be surprised that his daughters had the gift of prophecy as this was predicted in Joel 2:28-29


28 " And it shall come to pass afterward
      That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
      Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
      Your old men shall dream dreams,
      Your young men shall see visions.
       29 And also on My menservants and on My maidservants
      I will pour out My Spirit in those days.]


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

[Here you see what I was saying earlier about hearing the same warning from the Holy Spirit, but reacting differently. Agabus says Paul will be bound by the Jews and delivered to the Gentiles, all Paul's companions say "don't go" but Paul says "I am ready to be bound or even to die for the Lord Jesus". This echoes what he said in Acts 20:24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.]

Paul Urged to Make Peace

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, 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. 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 who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law; 21 but they have been informed about you 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.

[Paul meeting with pastor James and the elders at Jerusalem, shares the wonderful results of the ministry in Asia Minor, and how many disciples had been made among the Gentiles. Though there is one gospel, one Spirit, and one faith, in practice a congregation of Gentiles would have many differences from a predominantly Jewish congregation, still keeping the traditions of the Law. Paul has faithfully followed the Jerusalem decree for Gentile believers, but the rumor in Jerusalem is that in mixed congregations, Paul instructs the Jews not to follow the Law, and this has some upset.]

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. 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, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality."

[So James has crafted a careful compromise, affirming the Jerusalem decree for the Gentile converts, but affirming the Jewish traditions for converts among Abraham's children. And to illustrate this he asks Paul to participate in the purification of four men ending their Nazarite vow, and pay their expenses for the traditional offering, showing that he himself is still an observant Jew. This is not just a PR stunt or some form of hypocrisy, as Paul himself had ended a similar vow in Acts 18:18. What they were showing in Jerusalem is the way Paul really was.]

Arrested in the Temple

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.)
30 And all the city was disturbed; and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut.

[Remember the unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem were always hostile to the Apostles. These rumors of Paul abandoning the Jewish traditions give them an opportunity to strike against The Way of Jesus. Paul had been seen with a Gentile earlier in the day, so when they find him in the inner court yard where Gentiles are not allowed they start screaming that Paul has abandoned the Law and was defiling the Temple. Of course this wasn't true, but it doesn't stop them from taking Paul.]


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. 33 Then the commander came near and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; 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!"


[The mob scene that started in the temple courtyard, spilled out into the streets. News of the riot quickly reaches the commander of the Roman garrison, charged with keeping the peace in the city. You will recall during this time in history there had been several uprisings among the Jews against Roman occupation and rule, so Rome kept the peace with the vigilance of soldiers. They respond with hundreds of armed Roman soldiers who quickly gain control of the mob beating Paul. Remember there was not real cause for this riot; it was started by a rumor. So when the commander tries to find the cause of the disturbance, he can't get a straight answer, because the whole thing was contrived. The commander decides to take Paul into protective custody until the matter can be properly investigated.]

Addressing the Jerusalem Mob

37 Then as Paul was about to be led into the barracks, he said to the commander, "May I speak to you?"
He replied, "Can you speak Greek? 38 Are you not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a rebellion and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?"
39 But Paul said, "I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people."

[Rumors were not unique to the Jews, not were Jews the only ones who objected to Roman rule. The Roman commander has mistaken Paul for an Egyptian rebel who has recently lead another insurrection; so he is surprised to find that Paul can speak Greek. You will recall from his sermon on Mars Hill that Paul is well educated, and familiar will Greek history, philosophy, and theology. He speaks Hebrew, Greek, and the common Aramaic tongue. Paul's request to the commander is to be allowed to address the crowd, and make his defense to the Jews, while still under Roman protection. We will look at what Paul had to say next week.]

No comments:

Post a Comment