Persecution In Jerusalem
Book of Acts Chapter 21
When we left off last week the Apostle Paul had had an emotional goodbye with the elders of Ephesus. There had been great sorrow because they knew they would never see the Apostle Paul again on this Earth.
Paul returned to Jerusalem to witness to the Jews but he also had other purposes.
Paul wanted to make known the progress of Christianity that had been made in the Gentile churches.
When Paul traveled to Jerusalem he did not know that in a few short years the Romans would completely destroy the city and the Temple.
But the Gentile churches had sent a love offering to the poor Saints in Jerusalem and Paul was delivering that support.
Paul had just recently written the Book of Roman before ending this trip at Jerusalem.
Rom 15:25 But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints.
Rom 15:26 For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.
We should remember that it was not the church at Jerusalem that had sent out the Apostle Paul it was the church in Antioch, but at Jerusalem was the first Christian church established and each missionary should report the progress of the gospel to every church they have an opportunity to attend. The Apostles were still home based at Jerusalem at this time.
The first few verses in Chapter 21 described Paul’s return home so we will begin at verse 4:
*****Act 21:4 And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.
One of the things that I noticed on this return trip was the fact that Christianity was spreading and disciples were found at every location.
At the city of Tyre, the ship that the Apostle Paul was on, was in that port for a week. The apostle and those with him spent that time worshipping and fellowshipping with the members of the church that was in Tyre.
We may not know when this church was established but we do now know that one existed.
The Apostle Paul had already been warned that “bonds and afflictions” were waiting on him if he insisted on returning to Jerusalem.
It actually seems, that the Holy Spirit was commanding Paul not to go and this may have truly been the case but what is certain is, that Paul understood that it was their earnest wish for him not to go to Jerusalem and certainly Paul would not defy the Holy Spirit in disobedience.
Actually Paul had better knowledge from the Lord to understand this than we do and his interpretation was doubtless, correct!
BUT, it is clearly understood that by this prophetic warning that Paul went to Jerusalem at the risk of his own life!
*****Act 21:5 And when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed.
Act 21:6 And when we had taken our leave one of another, we took ship; and they returned home again.
Another thing I noticed in this chapter is that, the Body of Christ “is a family organization”, including wives and children, “whosoever” trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior!
This was not the case in the other religions of that time where most women had no role in religion nor in government.
When those seven days were up the entire congregation of this little church including wives and children accompanied Paul back to the ship and when they had reached the water’s edge they all knelt in prayer.
While Paul prayed for the church, the church prayed for the Apostle Paul and then they return to their homes.
*****Act 21:7 And when we had finished our course from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, and saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day.
Ptolemais was 30 miles from Tyre and here again the ship stopped for one day and in this brief time the Apostle Paul had a chance to visit with members of the church located in Tyre.
Christianity was spreading throughout Israel and the nearby cities!
From here it seems that Paul and those with him set out on foot to Caesarea.
*****Act 21:8 And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.
Caesarea was still the seat of the Roman government in Palestine at this time.
This group of men stayed with Philip and this verse tells us that this was the same Philip who was one of the original seven chosen to serve as deacons of the church in Jerusalem.
We can only imagine this first meeting of the Apostle Paul and Philip, remember Paul had held the coats of those that had stoned Stephen.
Philip would have had to have forgiven Paul to allow him to stay in his own home!
By this time Philip had made his home in Caesarea for at least 20 years.
Act 8:40 But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.
Phillip was an evangelist, and it is very likely that is because of the preaching of Philip that the gospel had spread in this entire area.
In fact, Philip is the only person who is actually called an evangelist in the New Testament.
An evangelist is a preacher of the gospel to those who have never heard it. Philip had done this to the Samaritan. Philip had done this to the Ethiopian eunuch and to all the towns from Azotis to Caesarea.
*****Act 21:9 And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.
We can see that during this time that Philip had raised a godly an Christian family. His four daughters had been entrusted with the gift of prophecy.
It also appears in this verse that these women had chosen to remain unmarried so they could devote themselves fully to the service of God.
It is the Apostle Paul that gave us these words:
1Co 7:34 There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband.
*****Act 21:10 And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus.
Act 21:11 And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.
Act 21:12 And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.
There are many that question whether it was right for the Apostle Paul to continue with his trip to Jerusalem.
I personally think that it is very wrong to question one of God’s apostles!
These men were specifically chosen by God and for a specific purpose!
But these men were also human and as humans none of us are perfect!
It could be said that these prophetic things could be as warnings to prepare the Apostle Paul for what was coming.
The prophet Agabas did not forbid Paul to go to Jerusalem but he did tell him what to expect if he did!
Paul had met this prophet earlier and he had prophesied the coming famine that would be especially hard on the churches of Judea and this had been a fact.
God’s prophets still had to meet the same requirements of the Old Testament:
Deu 18:21 And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken?
Deu 18:22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it
Agabus was very careful to declare that this warning had come to him from the Holy Spirit!
Agabus also left little doubt that Paul’s trouble would come from those certain Jews that had been so much of a problem to the early church!
It would be from the hands of these men that the Romans would take custody of Paul!
All those with Paul tried to convince him there was no need for him to go to Jerusalem but Paul would not be persuaded.
*****Act 21:13 Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.
Act 21:14 And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.
Again we see that Paul felt it more important to take his life into his own hands “for the good of the church” than to yield to the legalistic Jews of Jerusalem.
Ever since the conference that had happened in Jerusalem earlier, trouble had been brewing and those legalist Jews had been following Paul causing havoc it to the church.
Paul felt like it was time to take a stand in Jerusalem and he felt he had to do this personally!
And certainly the Lord’s Will, will always be done!
*****Act 21:15 And after those days we took up our carriages, and went up to Jerusalem.
Act 21:16 There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge.
Paul loaded up his luggage and went to Jerusalem but he did not go alone. Not only did those go that traveled with Paul which included Luke, but also many disciples of Caesarea and even one man named Mnason who had a home in Jerusalem for them to stay.
This would be a journey of 65 miles that would take three days by foot and two days if they had animals.
BUT, Paul had many friends to encourage him along the way to Jerusalem!
The city would be full of pilgrims for the festival but Paul would not have to find a place to dwell.
*****Act 21:17 And when “we” were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.
We can see with that word “we” again that Luke was still with the Apostle Paul at this time.
Paul had brought a great love offering to the brethren at Jerusalem and he received a warm welcome from the church.
*****Act 21:18 And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.
Act 21:19 And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.
There may have been many things that had changed since Paul’s last visited Jerusalem but James, the half brother of Jesus, was still head of the church.
We can see that even the leaders of the church rejoiced when they learned of Paul’s successful ministry among the Gentiles in Europe and the many other places where the church had been established.
BUT, James and the Elders of the Church were very aware that many Jewish Christians, “babes in Christ” had suspicions against Paul because he preached differently from the law of Moses.
Paul knew of this type:
1Co 3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.
1Co 3:2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.
1Co 3:3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
*****Act 21:20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:
James and the Elders of Jerusalem had agreed many years before that Paul should be the minister to the Gentiles.
Gal 2:7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
But there was still great rejoicing from what they have heard!
Paul gave a full and accurate account, not what he had done, but what the Lord had gone through his ministry.
1Co 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
As soon as Paul had reported these things he was informed of how legalism was spreading through the church by these who were rejecting God’s “Grace”.
*****Act 21:21 And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.
Act 21:22 What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come.
There is no doubt that these were false charges spread by the Jews who had opposed Paul in the cities of Asia!
As we will see many of the same Jews had also come to Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost and had stirred up the citizens when they saw Paul there also.
*****Act 21:23 Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them;
Act 21:24 Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law.
Here we see that James and the elders had come up with a strategy that showed that the apostle Paul did also obey the Jewish law.
But this strategy would fail!
Paul was asked to associate himself with certain Jewish believers who had taken a Nazarite vow. Paul was even asked to pay the expenses involved in this Jewish ritual.
We will find out in the next few verses that these people would actually use Paul’s attempt to a appease them to bring their false accusations against him and get him arrested.
We may ask did the Apostle Paul keep the Jewish rituals?
We should only use the words of the apostle Paul to answer this question!
1Co 9:19 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.
1Co 9:20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
1Co 9:21 To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law.
1Co 9:22 To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
1Co 9:23 And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
Paul was not concerned so much concerned whether the plan would work, because Paul was willing to do whatever it took so that others could come to know Jesus.
BUT, This did not include sin in anyway, in any form, or in any fashion!
*****Act 21:25 As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.
These enemies of the church and of Paul were saying almost the same things they had said about the Lord Jesus Christ and even of Stephen.
The same lie, that said that Paul was teaching the Jews to forsake the laws and customs given by Moses and the fathers!
James and the elders were not worried about what Paul taught the Gentile believers because the relationship of the Gentiles to the law had been settled at that conference in Jerusalem that had taken place earlier.
These elders of the church at Jerusalem were mainly concerned that Paul’s presence in the city might cause division or disruption among the thousands of Jews who had confessed to believe but were still babes in Christ.
We know that old customs are hard to change and in reality we know that the Book of Hebrews was a special letter written to the Jews to explain the relationship between the old and the new covenants.
The Book of Hebrews was written to the Hebrews to tell them to stop being Hebrews, but it was not until the city and the Temple were destroyed in A.D. 70, that traditional Jewish worship ceased.
We also know that Paul did warn the Gentiles not to get involved in the Jewish religion!
*****Act 21:26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.
We can see that Paul reported to the priest the next day and shared in the purification ceremony but he himself did not take any vows.
He and the men had to wait seven days and then offer the prescribed sacrifices!
This plan seemed to be the wise thing to do but it did not work!
Instead of bringing peace it caused an uproar and the Apostle Paul ended up as a prisoner.
This fulfilled the prophecy that had been told him by Agabas!
*****Act 21:27 And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him,
Act 21:28 Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place.
These Jews were from Asia and most probably from Ephesus!
1Co 15:32 If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.
These,”Beast of Ephesus” saw the Apostle Paul and began crying out for others to help them hold to him.
They accused Paul of four things which were all false.
1) They said that Paul taught all people everywhere to be against the Jews, which was a lie.
2) They said that Paul preached against the law of Moses, which was another lie.
3) They said that Paul preached against the Temple as a place of worship, another lie.
4) They said that Paul had polluted the Temple, and the holy place, by bringing non-Jews into a courtyard that was restricted to Jews only, “Again another lie”!
*****Act 21:29 (For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)
The proof, that at least some of these Asian Jews were these Ephesians, is the fact that they had recognized Trophimus who was also an Ephesian.
Paul had brought several Gentile Christians with him to Jerusalem from various cities.
These Jews had not actually seen Trophimus inside the Temple complex but they merely assumed, without any basis at all, that Paul had taken him into one of the courtyards to desecrate the Temple grounds.
This is something that the Apostle Paul would have never done!
*****Act 21:30 And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut.
Act 21:31 And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar.
There had been many Jews who had traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of Pentecost.
This mob apprehended Paul and were dragging him away from the Temple and probably taking him into the Court of the Gentiles, were they would determine what to do with him.
The doors of the Temple were shut and this turmoil was kept outside the Temple complex!
This leaves any doubt that this mob intentioned to kill the Apostle Paul. They had not chosen stoning, but to actually beat him to death!
However, this uproar was noticed by the Roman military commander of Jerusalem.
And, a “band” of Romans would be approximately 500 soldiers.
*****Act 21:32 Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul.
Act 21:33 Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done.
We should remember that these Roman soldiers were garrisoned at the Fortress of Antonio, which was very near the Temple and their job was to keep watch over such disturbances.
More than one Centurion is mentioned in this verse and each Centurion would have under his control, at least 100 soldiers, so we can see there were at least 200 soldiers that had been dispatched to stop this riot.
History tells us that during these festivals in Israel the Roman garrison were always on alert.
For Paul to be bound with two chains would normally mean that each arm was attached to a different soldier.
SO, The beating of Paul was stopped.
*****Act 21:34 And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude: and when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle.
Act 21:35 And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people.
Act 21:36 For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him.
When the Roman captain had control of the situation he asked this mob what Paul had done.
“This was a mob” and mobs usually have no answers to such questions!
It became apparent to this commander that he needed to take Paul to a place where he had control of the entire situation.
But when they came into the steps leading to the citadel, Paul’s chains slowed him down so much because of the beating he had already had, that the soldiers had to bodily carry him to this entrance of the fortress.
That phrase “away with him” meant that they wanted Paul executed, and they would have been pleased to kill Paul themselves if they had been permitted to do this.
This sounds a whole lot like what had taken place in the time of Jesus!
Joh 19:15 But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him.
*****Act 21:37 And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek?
At the entrance to the citadel there evidently was a porch or balcony. The soldiers intended to take Paul inside the building but he was able to ask the Roman commander a question first.
Paul spoke to this officer in Greek. So, This officer realized that Paul had to be a more learned and a cultured person that he had first thought.
*****Act 21:38 Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?
There had been a false prophet who was an Egyptian and had a large following when Felix was governor of Judea.
Felix with his army, had dispersed his following, but the Egyptian “who was considered a terrorist” had escaped!
Act 21:39 But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people.
Paul now informed this Roman commander by stating that he was a Jew from the city of Tarsus in the province of Cilicia.
The Romans were well acquainted with the city of Tarsus and this commander would have had knowledge of any recent troublemakers from that region.
Paul informed this Roman officer that he was not a terrorist and only asked if he could be allowed to address the Jews at this time.
*****Act 21:40 And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying,
That word “license” means that Paul was granted permission to speak. So Paul stood at the head of the steps leading to the entrance to the Citadel and faced those that were attempting to kill him.
And when this crowd became quite enough for him to speak Paul began speaking to them in Hebrew.
Paul had already impressed this Roman soldier with his ability to speak the Greek language.
But the custom of the Jewish elders was to speak in the Hebrew.
It is clear that Paul was about to say some things that these Romans would not understand.
Aramaic is an offshoot of Hebrew and this would be the language that was normally spoken in Jerusalem though at this time there would be many visitors that spoke Greek.
Paul was directing his testimony to a specific group of people!
But we are not going take time today to go into what Paul said as that will be in our next lesson.
Then let’s pray!