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Acts, Chapter 21
Acts 21 (New American Standard Bible)
Key events in Chapter 21
and the group begin the journey to
- To Cos, Rhodes, Patara, past
- Seven days in
- Paul is warned no to go to
- The group sails to Ptolemais and stay there one day
- They travel to Caeseria and stay some days at house of Philip the evangelist.
- The prophet Agabus comes down from
- Paul is again begged to not go to
and his group leave for
- When they arrive, they stay with Mnasom of Cyprus
- The next day, Paul meets with James and Elders, tells them about his work
- The elders warn him that the Jews will hear
that he is in
- The elders suggest Paul take four men and take a vow with them to show his commitment to the law.
Paul does this and goes to the
Paul recognized by Asian Jews in
- The commander of the Roman cohort hears about
the disturbance in the
- Paul asks to address the commander and when he speaks in Greek, the commander realizes he has mistaken Paul for an Egyptian who had stirred up trouble earlier.
- Paul tells the commander he is a Jew of Tarsus and asks to speak to the mob.
- Chapter 21 ends as Paul begins to address the mob.
Acts, Chapter 21:
begins the last section of Luke's account of the Great Commission spread of
the Gospel witness from
8but you will receive
power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses
By the end of
Chapter 21, Paul will be a prisoner of the Roman Cohort in
Acts 21 opens
with the story of Paul's last journey to
Paul Sails from
1When we had parted from
them and had set sail, we ran a straight course to Cos and the next day to
Rhodes and from there to Patara; 2and having found a ship crossing over to
Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail. 3When we came in sight of Cyprus,
leaving it on the left, we kept sailing to
In these initial
verses of Chapter 21, Luke covers the details of the team, as they travel by
sailing ship down the coast of Asia Minor to Patara and then locate a second
vessel carrying a cargo across the Mediterranean to Tyre, which is north of
Palestine and arrange passage on that vessel. For whatever reason, Luke wants
his readers to know that the vessel did not stop in
have pondered this passage form Acts, asking if Paul made an error in the
wishes of the Holy Spirit in his insistence that he go to
Paul certainly knew that trouble lay ahead of him. Going back to chapter 20, verse 22, in his address to the Ephesian elders, he said,
22"And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me." (Acts 20: 22-23 NASV)
Paul leaves no doubt that he already knows he was heading into trouble if he went to Jerusalem and it seems unlikely that he needed any further warning from the disciples in Tyre about the potential of danger.
reasons we use to support Paul's decision, there are still the three crucial
words -- it was "through the Spirit" that they told Paul not to go
tells us that Paul's resolve to go to
21Now after these things
were finished, Paul purposed in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem after he had
passed through Macedonia and Achaia, saying, "After I have been there, I
must also see
to go to
In chapter 20 of
Acts, Luke reports that Paul went through
16For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.
Why did Paul
want to be in
There is also no
doubt that Paul, watching the developing signs of the times in his day, felt
that the time of the return of Christ was drawing very near. It seems likely
that Paul never anticipated that the period of time before the Lord's return
would be anywhere near as long as it has been. Even Jesus himself refused to
speculate that it might be a lengthy delay between his resurrection and
ascension and his return. When questioned by the Disciples, he indicated that
only his Father knew the appointed time. As Jesus said, the times and the
seasons were not for them to know. God has always expected his church, in
every age, to keep looking for the return of Jesus and Paul likely made the
mistake which many have made in the generations since his time. He likely was
insistent on reaching
nothing wrong with that part of his motive, but evidently God had chosen something
else for Paul. He had given him another ministry. Although Paul had a
5When our days there were ended, we left and started on our journey, while they all, with wives and children, escorted us until we were out of the city. After kneeling down on the beach and praying, we said farewell to one another. 6Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home again.
so the team left
7When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais, and after greeting the brethren, we stayed with them for a day. 8On the next day we left and came to Caesarea,
was now traveling in earnest toward what he believed was his duty, to be in
The Prophet Agabus
Predicts Paul's Arrest in
and entering the house of
Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, we stayed with him. 9Now
this man had four virgin daughters who were prophetesses. 10As we were
staying there for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from
This is what the Holy
Spirit says: 'In this way the Jews at
Agabus wanted to
leave no doubt as to what the Holy Spirit was saying to Paul. And so he said "If
you go on to
Agabus offered a
clear picture to Paul of what would happen in
12When we had heard this,
we as well as the local residents began begging him not to go up to
Even Paul's close associates recognized the voice of the Spirit, to which the apostle seemed strangely deaf. Still he refused to listen. In his mind all was already settled.
13Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." 14And since he would not be persuaded, we fell silent, remarking, "The will of the Lord be done!"
15After these days we got
ready and started on our way up to
17After we arrived in Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.
There can be no
doubt that Paul was committed to whatever would happen in
accounts say that Jesus steadfastly set his face to go to
When Paul refused to be persuaded his friends said, "Well, may the will of the Lord be done." It is striking that this is the statement people make when they do not know what else to say. Evidently Luke and the others were saying "Lord, it is up to you. We can't stop this man. He has a strong will and a mighty determination, and he believes this is what you want. Therefore, you will have to handle it. May the will of the Lord be done."
And so the team
including some disciples from Caesarea, departed for the house of Mnason of
Paul and the
team were received gladly at the house of Mnason. As always, the will of the
18And the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 19After he had greeted them, he began to relate one by one the things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20And when they heard it they began glorifying God; and they said to him, "You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law; 21and they have been told about you, that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.
The second day
Paul was in
His report was
well received, but there was a problem that occupied the thoughts of those in
Rather, he pointed out to the Jews that the Jewish laws and traditions were symbolic, a picture that pointed toward Christ. The very rituals they were performing and the sacrifices they were offering were all foretelling them of Jesus. Jesus' coming had fulfilled, and filled out, the picture that the Old Testament sacrifices had drawn. Thus, in the very process of carrying them out, the Jews were simply retelling themselves of the coming of the Lord Jesus.
In Paul's mind this was the function of the Jewish rituals. They were reminders of what the Lord Jesus had come to do, and had done. All through the book of Acts Luke shows Jewish Christians going into the temple and offering sacrifices, just as the Lord himself had done. There was never a suggestion by Paul that they should have stopped, or that what they were doing was wrong or improper for them to do.
James Responds to Paul
22"What, then, is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come.
23Therefore do this that we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; 24take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law. 25"But concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote, having decided that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication."
James knows that
the Jews in
26Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purifying himself along with them, went into the temple giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, until the sacrifice was offered for each one of them.
And so Paul did as James suggested. In doing this, Paul was following his own announced practice. He said that when he was with the Jews, he became as a Jew; when he was with the Gentiles, he became as a Gentile; and when he was with the weak, he limited himself and became as weak as they -- all in order that he might reach them on their level, through the medium and culture to which they were accustomed. He was simply declaring again the freedom he had in Christ. He was free -- free to live as a Gentile among the Gentiles, free to live as a Jew among the Jews, free from the Law, but free also to keep the Law.
So he honored the Jewish practice of purification, willing to become as a Jew, along with the others, in order that he might clear up a misunderstanding which had a totally false basis.
Paul Seized in the
27When the seven days were almost over, the Jews from Asia, upon seeing him in the temple, began to stir up all the crowd and laid hands on him, 28crying out, "Men of Israel, come to our aid! This is the man who preaches to all men everywhere against our people and the Law and this place; and besides he has even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place." 29For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple.
interesting that Paul's problems in
There is no
doubt that they were still upset by what had happened in
Now, Paul's presence
30Then all the city was
provoked, and the people rushed together, and taking hold of Paul they
dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. 31While
they were seeking to kill him, a report came up to the commander of the Roman
cohort that all
report here is a dramatic and stirring account of a dangerous occurrence in
The actions of the Roman solders did not reduce the anger of the Jews any at all. Luke reports that they followed the solders all the way to the Barracks. Eventually the mob grew so violent that the solders were forced to pick up Paul and carry him.
Luke continues with an amazing account that shows the courage of the apostle. Paul now makes a bold request of the centurion:
37As Paul was about to be
brought into the barracks, he said to the commander, "May I say
something to you?" And he said, "Do you know Greek? 38"Then
you are not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a revolt and led the
four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?" 39But Paul
said, "I am a Jew of
40When he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the stairs, motioned to the people with his hand; and when there was a great hush, he spoke to them in the Hebrew dialect, saying,
It is remarkable that Paul would ask permission to speak to the violent mob which had just been ready to beat him to death. Evidently Paul recognizes this as his opportunity to address the Jews. In his heart, he is determined to speak to his nation. Out of the urgency of his love for them he wants to be the instrument to reach this stubborn crowd in the cause he has devoted his life to accomplish. So he seizes the only opportunity he has, hoping the Lord will give him success and asks to speak to the mob.
The Commander of the Cohort is startled when Paul addresses him in Greek, because this Roman officer thought he knew who Paul was. He thought his prisoner was an Egyptian who, according to Josephus, a year or so earlier had led a band of desperate men out to the Mount of Olives, promising them that he had the power to cause the walls of Jerusalem to fall down at his command. He was unable to deliver on his promise, and the Romans had eliminated the rebels who followed him, killing most of them, but the Egyptian leader had escaped.
But when he heard his prisoner speaking in Greek he knew that Paul was not the person he thought he had captured. And so, impressed by something about the apostle, the tribune lets him speak to this crowd. Amazingly, when Paul indicates with his hand that he wants to speak, a great hush falls.
This ends Chapter 21
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