About Jesus Steve Sweetman
Chapters 21:1 to 21:36
can see how emotional everyone was when Paul and his friends left the
Ephesian elders. In verse 1 Luke says that "after we had torn
ourselves away from them (the elders) we put out to sea".
I've said it many times before, but Paul took his ministry
seriously. He gave his whole,
heart and soul to it and those to whom he served.
We see that again here with the use of the words "torn".
If you are interested in seeing the heart of Paul, 2 Corinthians is
a good place to begin. That
letter clearly shows us, ore than any of Paul's writings, how he felt
concerning those to whom he served.
took Paul and those men with him a couple of different ships, but they
ended up in
verse 4, while in Tyre, these disciples urged Paul "through the Spirit"
best way to answer this question is to acknowledge that Paul was indeed
led by the Holy Spirit to go to Jerusalem as seen in Acts 20:22, yet we
also need to note that in every city Paul went there were prophetic
warnings of hardship and imprisonment for him when arriving in Jerusalem.
(Acts 20:23) Back in Acts 9
when Paul first met Jesus he was also warned about such things.
We must then understand this present urging by the disciples of
of the above being said, we should remember that the Greek
verse 5, once the ship was ready to sail again, Paul and his fellow
workers boarded the ship, but not until all of the disciples, including
wives and children gathered for prayer at the sea shore.
This looks very much like what we saw in the last chapter when the
that they all knelt for prayer. Kneeling
for prayer seems to be a fast fading prayer posture these days, but while
growing up in Evangelical circles, kneeling was common place.
Kneeling in prayer, at least as I see it, was a posture of
humility. It's like bowing.
Today, we either stand or sit, both of which don't seem to be a
humble posture in my thinking.
verses 6 and 7 we note that Paul and his friends then continued on their
trip. They first met with some
brothers at their first stop. Again,
we see the word "brothers" and not the word "church".
It's all about relationships in Jesus, not the organized structure
verse 8 we see that Paul and his friends end up in
says that Philip was "one of the seven".
This is in reference to Acts 6 where seven men were chosen to
organize the distribution of food to the Greek Christian widows.
tradition states that Philip ended up living and preaching the gospel in
read more about Philip you'd need to read Acts 8.
verse 9 we note that Philip had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. Luke
did not call these women prophetesses.
There is a difference between one who has a ministry of a prophet
and one who simply prophesies.
verses 10 and 11 we see Agabus once again, who did have the ministry of a
prophet. We saw him in Acts 11:28 where he foretold of a famine. Agabus
spoke a prophetic word to Paul with accompanying actions.
He took Paulís belt and tied his hands and feet and said,
"The Holy Spirit says, 'in this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind
the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles'".
Once again, this is one of those prophetic warnings Luke has
mentioned a number of times now. This
prophecy might have been the clearest yet.
Paul would fall into a trap set by the Jews and handed over to the
Gentiles in fulfillment of the Word of the Lord that came to him at his
conversion. Paul would indeed
preach to the Gentile authorities, but he'd do it while in prison chains. That's
far from a glorious way to preach the gospel of Christ.
in the other instances, in verse 12 the disciples pleaded with Paul not to
was Paulís response? In
verse 13 he says, "Why are you weeping and breaking my heart?
I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in
also see the inner workings of Paulís heart.
He asks, "Why are you breaking my heart".
Paul was a man of deep emotion and feelings for his people.
His heart was often broken because things they said and did.
We especially see this in his second letter to the Corinthians.
The Corinthians just ripped his heart apart, and here, although
these disciples had good intentions, their words were ripping his heart
apart as well.
sure Paul understood what was going on here.
These people had very fond feelings for him.
They didn't want to see him hurt in any way, yet for Paul, being
hurt, if that was God's will, was no big deal.
He felt that these disciples should have had the same mentality,
that is to say, whatever happens in the process of doing God's will should
be understood as God's will. So,
let's not get down and discouraged about it.
then records that when these people could not dissuade Paul, they gave up
trying and said, "the Lordís will be done".
Basically they simply threw their hands up in the air, somewhat
frustrated, and said only what they could say.
"Godís will be done".
What else could they say at this point?
Paul would not change his mind.
Paul was ready to leave, some people from Caesarea accompanied Paul and
his fellow workers to Jerusalem. By this time the number of
people with Paul was fairly large.
verses 14 and 15 we note that upon arriving in Jerusalem Paul and the
others stayed at the house of a man named Mnason, who was an early convert
and who also came from Cyprus. This man might well have
been one of the visitors to
verses 17 and 18 Paul and his company finally arrive in Jerusalem. Note that Paul and the
brothers with him were warmly welcomed by the brothers in Jerusalem. This is noteworthy.
Much has been said about Paul's ministry to the Gentile world.
At times there were tensions between the Jewish Christians and the
Gentile Christians. Besides
that, all those who came with Paul were Greeks. It
would only be natural for Paul to be concerned how the Jewish Christians
being in town a day they all went to visit James and the other elders.
The specific mention of James, and then the elders, makes many
people feel that James was the lead elder, or, head elder in Jerusalem. As stated earlier in this
commentary, one might presume that James was the head elder, but nowhere
does the text specifically say this. Some
feel that James structured the
James is the half brother of Jesus.
He's commonly known as James the Just. For
this reason the believers in Jerusalem, including the elders, might have esteemed James above other men.
This does not mean that James himself considered himself above
other men. I doubt if he did.
In the minds of others James might have been a lead elder, but in
James' mind he might well have considered himself just one of the elders.
I say this to point out that I am still am not convinced, as others
are that James was a lead elder. The
same would apply to the Apostle John in
is present at this meeting and says that Paul recounted all of the good
things that the Lord did among the Gentiles in detail through his
ministry. I suggest that this
might well have been one very long meeting.
We saw Paul preaching all night in the last chapter.
This meeting could have been an all day meeting.
Once you get Paul started it might be hard to stop him.
for some reason does not say anything about the collection of money for
the poor famine ravaged Jewish Christians in
verse 20 we note that the result of what Paul said was mixed.
Luke says that they "praised God" for what Paul said, but
on the other hand they also told Paul that thousands of Jews were becoming
Christians as well. It was
almost as if they could not take a back seat to Paul.
Paul was leading many Gentiles to the Lord, but on the other hand,
they were leading many Jewish people to the Lord too, and they wanted Paul
to know this. I'm sure Paul
would have been very glad to hear this news.
the elders wanted Paul to understand that there were still problems
concerning his teaching among these new Jewish Christian converts who had
a different way of thinking than Paul concerning the Law of Moses.
That certainly wasn't new. The
problem was concerning what Paul taught abut the Law of Moses, something
that Paul would have believed was settle back in the Acts 15 conference.
verse 21 the elders told Paul that all of these new Jewish converts are
zealous for the Law. They also
said that these Jewish Christians have been informed about Paul's teaching
that Gentiles didn't have to live according to the Law of Moses and that
the Gentiles didn't have to circumcise their children.
should notice a couple of things hear.
These elders, including James, are expressing a concern about the
new Jewish converts who are zealous for the Law of Moses.
It is my guess, and only a guess, that these elders had just as
much concern about this issue as the new Jewish converts.
Why this would be, especially in light of the Acts 15 conference is
unknown to me. Either these
elders didn't pass on the decision made in Acts 15 or else they did but it
wasn't accepted by the new converts, or, they still had trouble with the
Acts 15 decision.
the words "turn away" in the NIV.
The elders were telling Paul that he was causing the Gentiles to
"turn away" from the Law of Moses.
There are a couple important things to note here.
One thing to note is that the Gentiles were never subject to the
Law of Moses in the first place.
They never were under the Law to turn from.
The second, and I believe a real important point, is
the Greek word "apostasia" is translated as "turn
away" in English in the NIV. This
word means "to defect or revolt".
This is a very strong word here.
I believe it implies that these elders believed Paul was, or, at
least was becoming an apostate, which would mean he was falling away from
the faith. The same Greek word
is used in 2Thessalonians 2:3 concerning the great falling away prior to
the appearance of the anti-Christ. For
Paul, and for James as well albeit for different reasons, this accusation
was very serious.
also that the issue was over Paul teaching that the Law was no longer
applicable to the Jews as well as Gentiles.
They didn't say that Paul shouldn't have taught this to the new
Gentile Christians. Their
major concern was Paul was teaching this to Jews.
You might remember from the Acts 15 conference that even Peter got
up and told those in attendance that Jews are saved in the same way that
Gentiles are saved, and that's through the grace of Jesus and not the Law
verse 22 the elders ask Paul what they should do because these new Jewish
Christians would soon learn that he is in town.
They never really gave time for Paul to answer.
They already had things planned out.
verses 22 to 24 the elders come up with a plan that would show the Jewish
converts that Paul indeed still respected and lived according to the Law
of Moses. Paul agreed to this
plan. You might ask why Paul
agreed to this plan. In 1
Corinthians 9:20 to 23 you see where Paul says that to the Jew he becomes
a Jew, and to the Gentile he becomes a Gentile.
This would be the way Paul lived in order to win people to Jesus.
He would not undermine the basics of the gospel, yet in secondary
issues he could compromise. This
wasn't a matter of hypocrisy. It
was simply a matter for Paul, even important things like circumcision,
wasn't important. So,
compromise on such issues was no big deal.
was the plan the elders put forth as seen in verses 22 to 24.
There were four men in their congregation that participated in a
vow. Now if you were a Jewish
man entering into a vow, you took that very seriously and there were
certain things you had to do to carry out this vow to its end as
stipulated in the Law of Moses. One
of these things was to close off the vow with sacrifices and to shave
their heads. The hair was
actually burned on the altar.
the temple in Jerusalem
there were three outer courts. There
was the court of the Gentiles, the court of Jewish women, and the court of
Jewish men. In one corner of
the court of the Jewish men was a place where sacrifices would be made
concerning vows. Of course,
this cost money and the plan was that Paul would go with these four men
and pay the cost. He'd be seen
in the temple observing the Law of Moses which was supposed to make
simply paying the cost of this vow, the elders told Paul to participate
along with the four men in this Jewish custom.
The way the text reads it suggests to me that this was more than a
suggestion made to Paul. Our
English version in verse 23 says, "Do what we tell you".
That sounds like a command. The
Greek text confirms this.
question that arises in my mind is; "did Paul really live in
obedience to the Law, which was the intended perception the elders wanted
the Jews to see"? I
donít think he did, at least in the way these elders would interpret
living by the Law. I think
what Paul had in mind in agreeing with this plan was somewhat different
than what the elders had in mind. The
elders wanted to show the Jewish converts that Paul obeyed the Law of
Moses just as they did. What
Paul had in mind was simply to keep the peace, because in reality, he did
not obey the Law of Moses as these Jewish Christians did.
believe that the elders plan was somewhat manipulative in the fact that
Paul really did not live his life in accordance with the Law.
You might even call this plan a bit deceptive.
Was Paul then participating in this manipulative and deceptive
plan? I doubt if Paul thought
of it in that way or else I don't think he would have agreed to the plan.
Again, I think Paulís end goal was to keep the peace, not to
manipulate the Jews into believing something that was not true.
verse 25 we note that the elders, and again, James would have been involved
in this, reminded Paul of the Acts 15 letter that had been distributed
among the Gentile believers. This
tells me that the elders believed the Gentile believers only had to obey
the four points mentioned in this letter, which by the way, all concerned
relationships. If the Gentile
believers could do that, then the Jewish believers could have fellowship
with them. It's my thinking
that these elders believed the Gentiles didn't have to obey the Law of
Moses but the Jews had to. I
believe Paul thought that both Jew and Gentile did not have to obey the
Law of Moses for the purpose of getting saved and for the purpose of
staying saved. If the Jewish
believers wanted to obey all the Law or parts of the law because it was
their tradition apart from salvation, Paul would have had no real problem
with that. That beings said, I
believe a careful study of Galatians 3 shows that Paul firmly believed
that the Law of Moses did not have to be obeyed for any reason.
If it were up to him, he'd lay it all aside when it comes to
salvation and maintaining one's salvation.
place of the Law of Moses in the life of a New Testament Christian is one
very misunderstood issue even today. I've
written much on that subject so I won't say anything more here.
There is a debate whether James and the elders sided
with the Jewish converts or Paul in this case.
Some suggest that they sided with Paul.
I'm not convinced of that I suggest that they could well have been
siding with the Jewish converts. They
might well have been deflecting their own position on this matter by
saying it was the concern of the Jewish converts.
section ends in verse 26 where we see that Paul did what the elders told
him to do.
7 days of ending this vow between these four men was coming to a
conclusion. In verse 27 and
following we see that certain Jews from
should understand that the riot that follows is based on an assumption.
The Asian Jews did not actually see Trophimus in the temple courts.
They only assumed he was there because they had seen him earlier
with Paul. These Asian Jews
were looking for some way to get Paul arrested, even if they had to
manufacture something, which they did here.
temple had three courtyards. One was for Gentiles.
One was for Jewish women, and, one was for Jewish men.
verse 28 we see that the Asian Jews told the crowd at the temple that Paul
taught all men everywhere against their people and their law and this
temple. Besides this, it was
said that Paul had brought Greeks into the temple courts which has defiled
this holy place. This was
enough to stir up this Jewish crowd.
this point the plan of the elders had backfired.
Remember, James and the elders wanted Paul to go through a Jewish
vow in order for the Jewish Christians to think he had not forsaken his
Judaism. Well, because of
this, this riot began and Paul will be arrested.
I think that James and the elders were out of the will of God to
make Paul participate in what I see was a deceptive plan.
It turned out bad for Paul, but, in the long run, God used it for His
Jews accused Paul of four things. They
were, speaking against the Jews, speaking against the Law, and speaking
against the temple, and bringing a Gentile into the courts of the temple.
The first three accusations are understandable from the Jewish view
point, although not exactly accurate.
Paulís understanding of the Law was that it had been replaced by
the grace of God and trust in this grace. His
understanding of the temple was that God did not live in temples made by
men. His understanding of the
Jews is that the real people of God are people who trust in Jesus, whether
Jew or Gentile. The Jewish
people (not Christian Jews) understood this to be blasphemy.
verse 30 and following we note that when the news of Paul spread, people
from all over
should note that right beside the temple was the headquarters of the Roman
army. There was a tower that
overlooked the whole temple area. The
Roman soldiers could keep on eye on all the activity around the temple
from their vantage point.
verse 33 the Roman guards arrested and chained Paul with two chains.
They thought that he was the cause of this riot.
The captain of the guards tried to figure out why the crowd was
beating Paul so he asked them what the problem was.
He got conflicting answers. Like
many people we've seen in previous riots before, many people didn't even
know why they were rioting. Since
the Roman captain could not get a clear answer he had Paul sent to the
is interesting to note that Paul was chained with two chains as Luke says
in verse 33. If you remember
the prophecy by Agabus, he tied both his hands and feet with Paulís belt
which symbolized what would happen to Paul when he arrived in
during the process of taking Paul to the barracks the crowd did not stop
its violent behaviour as seen in verses 35 and 36. The
soldiers had to literally carry Paul because they could not get him
through the crowd of rioters. They kept shouting, ďAway with himĒ,
reminding me of the crowd shouting ďcrucify himĒ, when they arrested
Jesus. Once again, Paul found
himself in the midst of turmoil, something he was told by Ananias would
happen back in Acts 9 when he gave his life to Jesus.