Faith is a potent substance. Faith positions us to see God pass over multitudes pf people just to anoint us personally. God loves to respond to our faith and to meet us in unique ways when we dare to believe Him.[7] In faith, we have exchanged the grave clothes of this world. We are now quickened with Jesus and draped with the garments of Heavenly royalty. In the words of Augustine, it is time to trust the past to God’s mercy the present to God’s love and the future to God’s providence.[8] True faith does not contradict its words by its conduct.


Have you ever taken a trip where things just don’t go the way you thought they would? Paul’s final trip to Jerusalem was not the most pleasant journey. It follows the extreme success of the Ephesus mission and the Asian expansion of the kingdom through Christ. Paul went from one of the highest highs to one of the lowest lows, as Paul’s ministry was to end abruptly, and his life would be snuffed out. FF Bruce looks at Luke’s dedication of 6 chapters to Paul’s final visit with wonder. FF Bruce’s amazement is over the use of so much space to that is focused on futility.[9] George Ladd asks then answers the reason from his perspective as he comments that, “Why does the story merit so much space? No new churches were established; no theological or ecclesiological problems solved. The importance of these chapters is found in their illustration of Israel’s rejection of the Gospel.”[10] I am going to add a new twist to the interpretation of the inclusion of these chapters that I have not read elsewhere.


Did trouble take Paul by surprise? It shouldn’t have. Back in Acts 9 at Paul’s conversion, Jesus made it clear to him about his future. God told Ananias, who was sent to pray for Saul, Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name. Now he has the prophesy of Agabus serving as an ombudsman, guiding his steps. When Paul first arrives, the brethren who were probably remnant Hellenist Believers greeted him warmly. The attitude of James and the Elders of the church at Jerusalem is an entirely different matter.


21:17-26 The James who is referenced here is Jesus’ half-brother, not the Apostle/disciple who was martyred. James was the leader of the church in Jerusalem and a member of the Pharisees. It was appropriate that Paul seek him out. This was at least the fourth meeting between these two men who represented the twin streams of Christian faith. James was the advocate of the Jewish strain, and Paul the Hellenist and Gentile variation. To say that they didn’t always see eye-to-eye, would be a mild misstatement. 

All the elders were present (pantes te paregenonto hoi presbuteroi pantes te paregenonto hoi presbuteroi). It is noticeable that the Apostles are not mentioned, though both Elders and Apostles are named at the Conference in Acts 15, and that the tone is less than warm and embracing in the current meeting of these two men. The Apostles must have been away on preaching tours, or they are identified merely as Elders in context to their work in Jerusalem. Or they decided to avoid this meeting with Paul. Nevertheless, there were differences in perspective.


Most of the Jerusalem church viewed Christianity differently than Paul. Even though they understood that they were saved by the grace of God, the Judaic Christians likely believed that they continued to be saved by keeping the Law of Moses. There are believers today who believe like the Jerusalem Jews that our good works, while not playing a role in obtaining salvation, still plays a significant role in our holding on to salvation. The answer to this dilemma is to understand that we are separated and baptized into the body of Christ by Holy Spirit’s presence, even as we empowered by Him to do the Works of the Kingdom.

 We are saved by God’s grace through faith, apart from our good works, as works are not the basis of salvation. Real faith changes us so that we can do the “Works of the Kingdom,” and good works are the proof of real faith. James wrote: “show me faith by works.” We are secured and kept by God’s Grace, not our good works. We do not lose salvation by sinning or failing to do good works because good works aren’t salvations basis. Our salvation is sealed by God based on His grace and power. Salvation doesn’t depend on me, thank you, Jesus.

Paul is now able to present the offering that had been collected for the poor believers in Jerusalem, which was his reason for going to Jerusalem: (1 Corinthians 16:1-4; Romans 15:25-27) and to fill in the leaders of the “mother church” on the events of his missionary journeys. This is what God has done (epoiasen ho theos epoiasen ho theos). Luke is making another summary statement that gathers up all the stories of what God had done during the 2nd Missionary trip. This part of the Book of Acts gives us a bright idea as to when Paul probably wrote the Epistle to the Romans, as it contains explicit statements about this trip and Paul’s plans for Kingdom expansion into Spain. He did not anticipate imprisonment or betrayal on any level. Paul had intermittently visited Jerusalem on prior occasions. However, his trips were probably like Jesus’ trips to Jerusalem before the passion and would have been conducted incognito. Many scholars view it as an oddity that there was no mention of the gift, although it would have been substantial. Paul had expressed fear over the possibility of a rejection of this offering by the Jerusalem Christians (Romans 15:30-31). Why would that be the case?

What we see here is that the Jerusalem church was trapped between its commitment to the Gentile undertaking on the one hand and its Jewish traditions on the other. In his defense, Paul had argued that the Gentile believers owed a debt of thanks to the Jews, as they had become participants in their spiritual blessings. Therefore they needed to give generously. The task of collecting the offering and the goal of preaching in Spain as a destination is recorded in Romans 15.  We read therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. 1 will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles 10 obey God by what I have said and done by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. (Paul’s Plan to Visit Rome) I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while. Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there.


20 How many thousands (posai muriades posai muriades). James is alluding to a major dispute among the Judaic branch of Christianity, saying that there are both 1,000’s of Judaic believers and that they do not like Paul’s teachings. By presenting this line of theological disputing utilizing Judaic reasoning, James is implicating Paul at worst, and alluding to religious improprieties at best. Muriades is translated as ten thousand (Acts 19:19), and it has been translated as an indefinite number like “myriads.” Luke records their sentiment as to Paul’s position, which may very well explain Agabus’ apocalyptic prophecy, as they were All zealous for the law (pantes zelotai tou nomou pantes zélötai tou nomou). James is bluntly telling Paul that there are a lot of Jewish Christians who live with an appreciation for the lawsand traditions that were the earmarks of the Jewish faith.

Concerning the translation of the word zealous (zelotai), we should probably render it as in English Zealots (substantive), rather than zealous (adjective). The word zealot is from zelow (zeloo’), which means to burn with zeal or to boil. The Greeks used zelotas (zelotas) for an imitator or an admirer. There was a party of Zealots, which developed from the Pharisees following the Maccabean revolt. The Zealots were a group of what would be called the “hot-heads,” who brought on the war with Rome and Jerusalem’s subsequent siege and ransacking from 66-70AD. One person from this party, Simon Zelotes (Acts 1:13), was in the number of the twelve Apostles/disciples.

The Judaizers are identified as being zealous, and they rankled under Paul’s success and power in spreading the Gospel among the Gentiles, giving Paul great distress in Galatia and Corinth. The Judaizers were busy working against Paul in Jerusalem also throughout Judea. It was their goal to undo the harm done by Paul and the Gentile Christians abroad while Paul was in Jerusalem. Paul’s gathering of the prodigious collection from the Gentile Christians and subsequently bringing it with him to give to the delegates from the churches seems to be an affront to their dignity and pride. 

James spoke in the presence of the other Jerusalem Elders. It is likely that James was speaking at their suggestion. The comments let Paul in on the actual situation hat he was facing with the charge of teaching against Moses, which was tantamount to blasphemy. The passage says, “That you are teaching all the Jews among (kata kata) the Gentiles apostasy from MosesParthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.” Luke is referring to all the Jews of the dispersion and the major cities in the Roman world where there were large Jewish enclaves established, as referenced in Acts 2:9). 

The crux of the matter revolves around the word apostasian (apostasian apostasy), a late form (1 Maccabees 2:15) for the earlier apostasis (2 Thessonians 2:3 for apostasia). In the minds of the leaders of the church at Jerusalem, this is the heart of the matter. It was a much more severe charge that trumped the previous question at the Conference about the status of Gentile converts in Acts 15. Paul brought the issue of the Gentile problem to the Jerusalem Council over the contention of the Judaizers. But here it is not just the Judaizers who were challenging Paul. The Elders of the church in Jerusalem became advocates of the Judaizers position with James as their spokesperson.  James became the advocate who argued on behalf of the church as a whole that was willing to challenged Paul.

Think about this with me, Paul, with his call to the Gentiles would never be greeted warmly by true Jewish believers, who were zealous both for their countrymen and their traditions. There were also many Jewish believers in Christ who were being swayed away from the message of grace, as prejudices were being instilled into their minds by irresponsible people intent on the destruction of the principle point of Christian faith: Salvation by Grace through Faith plus Nothing. I think Luke is telling us that Paul and his missional message were being viewed with suspicion by the church at Jerusalem, as their heritage affiliation made them prejudiced to the full freedom Christ had bought, and that they were through with Paul and his message. This would explain Peter’s qualified defense of Paul in his Second Epistle, where he says that: Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:14-15). We are by no means immune to the prejudices of the day in which we live. We need to look no further than our nation’s history of civil rights, and the fact that many professing Christians were on the wrong side of the equation, to know that this is true.

Neither to walk after the customs (mede tois ethesin peripatein mede tois ethesin peripatein). The charge was enlarged to cover all the supposed infractions Paul had committed and to give credence to the enemies of the erstwhile Apostle. The Judaizers were making Paul out to be an enemy of Jewish life and Jewish teachings. It is interesting to note that the same charge had been made against Stephen when a much younger Saul (Paul) was the leader of those who was opposed to Christianity (Acts 6:14): “Will change the customs (eqnhe ethne, is the word used here) which Moses delivered unto us.” I have often wondered if some of Stephen’s friends and relatives may have been prompting some of the current actions against Paul. At any rate, it seems that the original charge that was leveled against Paul was that the Jews cared more for Moses than for God was true. The Jews were secretly persuading some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God (Acts 6:11).”

They have been informed concerning you (kataqesan peri sou katachathésan peri sou). This is a first aorist passiveindicative of katexeo (kataexeo). It means to sound down (kata), to resound, re-echo, or to teach orally. We get our word echo from the Greek transliteration. The attack by the Judaizers was a challenge to Paul and his teaching about grace’s power. These same people had raised issues against Peter. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him (Acts 11:2) and Paul: Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers, unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved. Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said; the Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses (Acts 15:1, 5). The Judaizers had failed in their attacks on Paul’s world campaigns. Now they try to undermine him at home. In Paul’s long absence from Jerusalem since Acts 18, the Judaizers had a free hand, and they seem to have had great success in prejudicing the Jerusalem Christians against Paul. Their criticism was working.

ARRESTED ACTS 21:23-30 Paul’s attitude toward the Law and Politics Paul wasn’t concerned with changing culture and customs, denying his heritage; he was concerned with proclaiming the Gospel. We must be careful, or we can concern ourselves with outward appearances and miss the grace of God.

I want to stop for a moment and review Agabus’ prophecy in light of its inclusion in the text. As you know, I had commented on the prophecy earlier. It is important to issue guidelines for personal prophecy and the need of the receptor to accept or reject it, as prophecy is often not intended to be a binding guide. Although I hold this to be true, I am developing a new perception of this incident with Agabus. C. Peter Wagner questions Agabus as a prophet by questioning the accuracy of his word. He points out that the prophecy as it was recorded had two points: l) The Jews at Jerusalem are the instigators who bind the owner of the belt, and 2) it is the Jews who deliver Paul into the hands of the Gentiles. Wagner says that Paul is bound by the Romans, not the Jews, and the Jews had no intention to hand him over to the Romans.[11] Instead, they wanted to murder him. According to any interpretation that sees the Jerusalem churches actions as benign, Agabus was more wrong than right. With Luke’s repeated focus on significant details that he would view as important to Paul’s legal defense while excluding details that frustrate many of us, this doesn’t make sense.


On a personal note, I have been fascinated with the Dead Sea Scrolls for years, and I think that the Community at Qumran had a vast influence on the early church, with many of these scholars becoming Christians. I believe their work makes an allowance as to how such a prolific body of writings that became known as the New Testament could be produced so rapidly. The Dead Sea Scrolls let us see an internal argument among the Desert Community’s adherents, as there were righteous and unrighteous teachers who were referenced in their apocalyptic writings. I think the real answer lies not in the division between the Priesthood and Jesus, as some have advocated, as the Community rejected the Priesthood carte blanche. Instead, it probably revolves around the dispute between James and Paul, Judaic Christianity and Hellenistic Christianity, Law or Grace.

Let me bring another item into the light. It is essential to understand the issues that existed in Jerusalem. Josephus reports that this was a time of turmoil, as it was shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome (66-70AD). Jerusalem was full of political upheaval, with lots of uprisings and Jewish nationalism, all put down by Governor Felix. Religious intrigue and conflict were not seen as beneficent for the Romans, who were known to allow for the betrayal of a leader of a sect for the good of the nation: Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, you know nothing at all! 50You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish. ” 51He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus vvould diefbr the Jewish nation, 52and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one (John 11:45-54).

Returning to Wagner, he asserts that we can explain this prophecy by arguing that the details may not be right with the prophecy while still being accurate (somewhat).[12] I am beginning to dispute this position, which seems to be consistent with an assumption that the Elders were innocent in Paul’s arrest. The almost accurate prophecy only works with the Elders innocence. 

I now think that a proper view for interpreting this passage sees Agabus as being prophetically correct, so Luke includes the prophecy with its two assumptions intact. Luke editorialized at times to make his points. Therefore, it is nonsensical to assume that he would add a primarily false prophecy in the narrative. This does not make biblical sense. Nor does make legal sense when a Legal Brief is being prepared for the Defense.

To view the prophecy as correct, however, means we have to accept a more nefarious position, one that includes a deliberate betrayal of Paul. This means that Paul is handed over to the Romans bound by the actions of the Jerusalem Elders. I think it is appropriate to see the Temple visit as a set up that was intended to have Paul arrested following his very public appearance on the Temple grounds. Once again, the Apostles need to be aware of the Prophets words about direction and protection. 

It is probably important to note that Paul had done more for the kingdom than any of these men regarding influence, conversions and churches started. The Judaizers understood that if he were left unchecked, his teaching would change the complexion of Christianity, separating it from its Jewish restrictions and nationalism. When Paul was confronted, he did not display his illustrious resume and boast in his accomplishments in an unseemly manner. 


Although I will not undertake an examination of the parallels that exist between the Crucifixion of Christ and the imprisonment and abuse of Paul is striking. Though Paul’s attitude toward Jesus would undoubtedly have been much like John Baptist’s, I’m not worthy to tie His shoes; it still is interesting how Paul’s treatment mirrors what happened to Jesus. Their shouts of “away with him!” were almost identical to what the Jews cried out to Pontius Pilate about Jesus in Luke 23.

 Under the circumstances, and with the allegations before Paul, it is hard not to wonder if their call to have Paul go to the temple was what sparked the riot that led to his arrest. It is also important to see how the Jews immediately threw Paul outside of the temple Gates and quickly shut the Gates behind him, preventing the Apostle from reentering the temple Grounds. If Paul had been allowed to regain entrance into the Temple, he could not be executed, as the grounds were sacred. Once Paul had been thrown out of the Temple, his enemies could incite a mob to stone him to death for blasphemy. 


It is also entirely possible that the events that led to Paul’s betrayal and arrest would have bled into the eventualmisguided revolt against Rome. One of the historical events that lend itself to this thought of influence in the rebellion is the way James the brother of Jesus died during the revolt. Tradition tells us that James was taken to the highest Pinnacle of the Temple by the Priests, which is the likely place where the devil took Jesus to show him the Kingdoms of the earth and threw James to his death. It is an interesting hypothesis. 

Many people call Paul’s actions compromise and failure. I do not. I think it was betrayal on the part of the Jerusalem Churches Leadership, as many of them were Paul’s ‘Judaizers.’ Although it seems that Paul failed to heed the advice of the Prophets, Paul nevertheless would rightly expect not to be treated in such a dastardly way from the Jewish brethren in Jerusalem.  It is hard to dismiss the fact that Paul could have been set up because he would have stood out in the crowd as he accompanied four bald men.


One of the most notable characters in the Bible who was at one time sincerely wrong was Saul of Tarsus who became known to us as the Apostle Paul. At one time this high-ranking Pharisee considered Christians to be heretics and followers of a false Messiah. Saul thought it was his solemn duty before God to destroy both Christians and their movement. His supernatural encounter with the risen Christ let to his sudden conversion and his complete change of life. For a man as well-educated, as Saul was, it was going to take more than a logical argument or the testimony of others to alter his views and way of life. 

Often for the educated, only a divine encounter with Jesus power can bring about change. It had been 20 plus years since Paul had lived in Jerusalem. From that time forward, Paul had only visited Jerusalem occasionally. The average Jew on the street, though likely aware of the “treasonous blasphemer” known as Paul, would probably not have recognized him if they saw him. But this was the feast of Pentecost, and Jews from all over Asia would make the pilgrimage back to the holy city, and many of these Jews would quickly recognize the man whose preaching had turned their world upside down. Now Paul makes a defense for his behavior and the great cause he was now a part of, the purpose of Christ.


21:27-36 Notice who is causing the ruckus. It was the Jews who had caused Paul significant problems during his time in Asia Minor. It’s likely that some of the instigators were Jews from Ephesus, men who had hassled Paul during his ministry there. They had bided their time until an opportunity arose, as Paul made his way into the temple to pay for the fulfillment of the final Nazirite vow. These Jewish agitators saw Paul and seized this opportunity with a well-calculated cry. Their challenge was a combination of “treason” and “blasphemer,” was designed to arouse both the patriotic and religious sympathies of their fellow Jews. Imagine a Muslim shouting “Allah Akbar” and attempting to burn a flag at a President Donald Trump Rally and you get something of the picture. The anger that must have consumed the hearts of pious Jews who viewed Paul as a heretic and the lynch mob that formed would have taken Paul’s life then and there had it not been for Roman soldiers who intervened.


There was a balustrade or a small wall that blocked access to Gentiles from entering the Holy Place. There were signs placed all along this wall warnings in Greek and Latin that specified “No Trespassing” for Gentiles. The pretense that the Jews used to stir up the crowd was that Paul had brought a Gentile beyond the Court of the Gentiles into the Temple, where space was reserved for Jews alone. Paul was undoubtedly thinking of this wall that separated Jews and Gentiles when he wrote, in Ephesians 2remember that at one time you Gentiles were separated from Christ, But now in Christ Jesus … he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility… that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.


Claudius Lysias was the commander of a cohort, which was part of a Roman legion that numbered around 1,000 men. The cohorts were quick to stop any disturbance in the city that they either found or were called to dispel. There were probably 200 soldiers that went to rescue Paul based on the plural use of Officers and Centurions. Each Officer would have been in charge of around 100 men. The Tribune was a Commander of Roman troops, and the main operative marching order for Romans when they were in Territories that Rome had influence, occupied or not, was “keep the peace at all costs.” Paul was spirited away by the Roman soldiers, with the screams of the mob crying for his blood echoing in their ears, reminiscent of a mob scene many years earlier. Then he speaks from the barrack steps.


Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.” This phrase my defense means “here is my apology to you at this time.” The term apologia (apologia/apology) was not the same as our use of the word for apologizing for an offence. Apology included the original sense of defense for his conduct, his life, which is where we get our term Apologetics. Apologia is an old word that derives from apologeomai, which can mean “to talk oneself out of a charge or to make a defense.” Apologia also occurs in Acts 25: 16; 1 Corinthians 9:3, 2 Corinthians 7:11; Philippians 1:7, 16; 2 Timothy 4:16; and 1 Peter 3:15. Paul uses apologia again in Acts 25:16 like a hero in his defense against the charges made by the Jews from Asia. 

Paul is suspected and has been charged with being a renegade from the Mosaic Law and now with specific acts of treason connected with the alleged profanation of the Temple. Paul switches from speaking in Greek to Aramaic and recites the facts that were connected with his change from Judaism to Christianity. The facts make the most cogent argument. He tells the story of his zeal for Judaism in the persecution of the Christians and shows why his change came. Then Paul gives a summary of his work among the Gentiles and why Paul came to Jerusalem. Paul gave the people his answer to the charges that he had desecrated the Temple, became an enemy of the people of the land, and that that he was against the Law of Moses. Paul’s oratorical skills were put to good use as he spoke to the mob.

22:3 just as zealous for God as any of you are today or being zealous for God (zealotes huparchon tou theou zealotes huparchon tou theou). Zealous is not an adjective. It is a substantive that is used for a zealot, which is the same sense that was used by James of the thousands of Jewish Christians in Jerusalem (21:20). The term is also the same one that is usedof Peter (Acts 3:13; 5:30) and Stephen (7:32). Paul claims whatever freedom he demanded Gentile Christians to be personally “be a zealot for God,” as any of you are today. In Paul’s conciliation, he went to the limit and sided with the mob in their zeal for the law, mistaken as they were about him. Paul can be seen as being generous by interpreting their fanatical frenzy as zeal for God.

22:3-9 How much of Paul’s youth took place in Jerusalem (26:4) is not known, although we suspect that this is where he was educated, and as I have said, it was where Paul was identified as the rich young ruler. The verb translated brought up is from anatrepow anatrephoo, which also means “educate.” One of Paul’s mentors was Gamaliel (5:34). Paul’s point here is obvious. He had been thoroughly committed to the Law and to eradicating Christianity. Instructed (pepaideumenos pepaideumenos) this was an old verb that meant to train a child (pais pais). 

Of our fathers (patroiou patroiou) Fathers is an old adjective that is taken from pater, here and in Acts 24:14 in the New Testament. Pater means that there is a descending action from father to son. This is especially true concerning property and the familial privileges that come from inheritance. 

21:3 Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. Under Gamaliel means “at the feet of Gamaliel (pros tous podas Gamaliel pros tous podas Gamaliel).” Rabbi’s usually sat on a raised seat with his pupils seated in a circle around him on the ground or lower chairs. Paul was raised up under Pharisaic Judaism as expounded by Gamaliel, a man who was considered one of the bright lights of Judaism. Gamaliel lived in a select group of seven Rabbis who was given the Jewish teachers supreme title of Rabban (our Rabbi). Rabbi, which means my teacher was the next title for a teacher, with Rab (teacher) serving as the lowest title. 

When we take all of these dynamics into consideration, it should not surprise us that Paul would say, “to me, to live is Christ (Philippians 1:21).” This is what Jesus said: “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master.” For me and for all of us, to live is Christ. Paul took this to mean persecution, ridicule, imprisonment, and even death. This leads us to ask ourselves, “how do we respond?” There can be only one right answer: Jesus Christ.

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