Jerusalem offering betrayal
ACTS 21: ARREST AND BETRAYAL
Warnings on the Journey to Jerusalem
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,[a] we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem. 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.
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[b] 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. 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.”
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 Mason 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. 22 What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will[c] 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,[d] except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.”
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[e] 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. 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!”
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.”
40 So when he had given him permission, Paul stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying,
The passage of Scripture that deals with Paul’s journey to Jerusalem is a difficult passage. I include it in my examination of Paul as an Apostle and the biblical basis for Apostolic ministry. The story contains a subtle nod for Apostles needing Prophets in their sphere of influence. I am of the opinion that Paul made a grievous mistake when he did not listen to the Prophets warnings to stay away from Jerusalem.
Forced by the Spirit Acts 20:16 For Paul had determined (kekrikei gar ho Paulos) past perfect active (correct text) of [krin]. This is the proper Greek word for decision making, vs. (Spirit led) pnuemata as in Acts 19:21. 22, 16 And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. Paul gave a four-part sermon to these Elders in Acts 20 as he prepared to head to Jerusalem with the offering that had been received for the suffering saints. This Spirit led summation can be seen as having a servant’s heart.
COUNTING THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP
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. 24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself,[b] 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 (Acts 20:22-24).
Paul was beginning to walk out a prophetic revelation that related to a destination, go to Jerusalem again. This leading was not a pleasant one, as it wasn’t going to end in wealth, health and happiness. He was moving toward chains and tribulation. This is a realistic appraisal of true, Apostolic ministry on Paul’s part. He was telling these Elders that leading and being an Apostle can be challenging to say the least. There will always be a price to paywhich, is why Paul states that nor do I count my life dear to myself (v.24).
GUARDING AGAINST COUNTERFEITS
And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God[c] which He purchased with His blood. 29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.31 Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears(Acts 20:25-31)
It is imperative that Christian ministers be able to discern truth from lie or deception. Deception is always trying to find its way into the believer’s circle from inside and from outside, which is why Paul says, for I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after themselves (v.29).
Former occultists were burning their libraries, and Diana of the Ephesians was on the ropes defensively because of Paul. This is why Paul warned them to be prepared for the manner of attacks that were sure to come. Some attacks would be upfront; others would be more benign, both would be damaging. John the Revelator would tell us years later about the success of these men and how well they heeded Paul’s advice, as he would record that Jesus said this about them, I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars (Revelation 2:2).
RAISING UP LOCAL LEADERS
It is safe to assume that many of the Elders in attendance would have been church planters and pastors that Paul had trained in his school at the hall of Tyrannus. Paul reminded them how he financed his ministry when he was with them, through outside support, I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me (vv.32-33). He also taught that pastors of the local church needed to be compensated for their work, as he wrote, Let the Elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and in doctrine. For the Scripture says, ‘you shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out grain,’ and, ‘the laborer is worthy of his wages’ (1 Timothy 5:18).
Acts 20:23 1 only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me through Prophets and prophecy. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race by completing the mission the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. Prophecy is the unusual ability to receive and communicate an immediate message from God. Since the beginning, the Spirit has desired to find those through whom He could manifest Himself. In creation, He “hovered” like a hen over her baby chicks (Genesis 1:2). In Numbers 11:26-30, we see Eldad and Medad prophesy in the camp of Israel. When this event was reported to Moses with a request to shut them down, he replied, would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them (v. 29)! In Joel 2:28-29, Joel is foretelling a day when prophecy, dreams, and visions will become widespread. In Acts 2:14-21, Peter says that the day which was prophesied by Joel had arrived. We now live in that day, and God is ministering the gifts to those who desire them.
Biblical prophets have always been more “forth-tellers” than “foretellers,” though at times the prophets did announce things to come (Acts 11:27-30). Sometimes they received new revelation from God, as in Acts 11:28 and 21:10-11.
Similar to the Apostles, the Prophets were preachers of God’s Word. They were responsible in the early years of the church to instruct and offer guidance to the local congregations. In the present context, prophets seem to be used of persons whose duty it was to proclaim the will of God through a word or insight that was supernatural. It would be the responsibility of the person as to how they respond to it. In this type of context, prophets may be spoken of as being “those who communicated the urgent message of God,” and the recipient of the word may be seen as being “those who confirmed that which was spoken.” Confirmation happened both through the acknowledgement and the implementation of the word. This was not the first-time prophetic words were influential in the life of Paul. Do you remember when while they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, as Paul and Barnabas were sent out?
LUKAN CLUES ABOUT A NAUTICAL BACKGROUND
How that I Shrank Not (Acts 20:20, 27). (‘hhs ouden hupesteilamen hös ouden hupesteilamen). Luke uses an old verb which means to draw under or back. It was used for drawing back or drawing down sails on a ship. This is one of many examples of Luke using Nautical terms in his writings, which afford us clues to his background and experience. Paul had recently been on the sea, so this may be a metaphor. But it is not necessarily so as the direct middle here makes good sense and is frequent, to withdraw oneself, to cower, to shrink, to conceal, to dissemble as in Habakkuk 2:4 and quoted in Hebrews 10:38, but the just shall live by his faith. Demosthenes o used it to shrink from declaring out of fear for others. Paul learned that real faith could not be fazed by rejection (Acts 20:19 & 22-23; John 15:20).
He said (autos eipi) (20:35 RSV), or more strictly, “he himself said.” The Evangelists do not record this saying of Jesus, and Paul received it from oral tradition. The speech of Paul to the Ephesian Elders “has impressed on it the mark of Paul’s mind, its ideas, its idioms, and even its very words are Pauline. This led Alford to observe that we have probably the real report of the words spoken by Paul. “It is,” he remarks, “a treasure-house of words, idioms, and sentences peculiar to the apostle himself.” It pays attention to look out for the little things. Acts 20:18, 1 Corinthians 11:1, Ephesians 5:1-16.
Paul brings a warning to the church that savage wolves will seek to devour faithful saints. We must never forget there is an enemy, trying to devour dedicated believers. The enemy is not too interested in the lukewarm, half-hearted, neither-in-nor-out Christians because he has them where he wants them. Paul warns that savage wolves will distort the truth to draw sheep away. If we don’t devour the Word, then we will be devoured. The scheme or tactic of the savage wolves is to have you believe that you are smarter than the Bible when it comes to life’s issues and decisions. Our reply to the claim we can be more intelligent than the Bible is that the Bible is the final and ultimate authority in our life. Submit and surrender your life to the values and principles of the word of God, andyou are sure and confident to walk in the blessing of God.
ADIOS AMIGOS Acts 20:13-38
It has been suggested Luke more than likely took shorthand notes of the message. Galen wrote that his pupils took his medical lectures in shorthand, so we know that there was a method for shorthand in existence at the time. Of all the messages that are recorded in Acts, this message contains the most of Paul and the least of Luke’s interpretation or research. It uniquely reveals Paul’s verbal ideas. Paul is transported from the 1st Century into ours through this address; Paul is no longer a man of nineteen centuries ago, he is a man of today. He speaks as we speak and feels as we feel, or instead as we hope we would speak and feel. Paul’s life was one of chaos at times.
Acts 21 and 22 could be subtitled: Paul’s Miraculous Mess. We have seen Paul minister and heard him speak to the Jews in Antioch and Pisidia, to the uneducated pagans at Lystra, and to the cultured Greeks in Athens, as Dr. Luke painted a canvas that illustrated the trials and tribulations of the early church with his words. Scripture also allows us to see him plead for his life before the Jewish mob in Jerusalem, address the Roman governor Felix in Caesarea, and the Jewish Herod Agrippa in Caesarea, and at last to the Jews in Rome.
But here Paul embosoms himself to the preachers of the church at Ephesus where he had labored for three years. Paul satyed at Ephesus longer than with in any other area, and where he had varied experiences of prowess and persecution. It was in Ephesus where Paul opened his Seminary. Now Paul opens his heart to these men in ways he doesn’t open up to more than any other group. It is Paul’s Apologia pro sua Vita. He will probably not see these men again, and so the outlook and attitude are similar to the farewell discourse of Jesus to the disciples in the upper room (John 13 to 17). He warns them about future perils as Jesus had done. Paul’s words will repay any preacher’s study today.
vv. 17 & 28 Give us conclusive statements as to the role of biblical Elders as Pastors. The Elders of the church tous presbuterous täs ekklésias tous presbuterous täs ekklésias). The passage in Acts identifies men that Paul calls Bishops (episkopous episkopous) in v. 28. Paul also does this term in Titus 1:5, 7, which describe the same office, the reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, where both termspresbyters and Episkapos are used (presbuterous, ton episkopon).
The word “Elder” as applied to Christian ministers first appears in Acts 11:30 in Jerusalem and then reappears in 15:4, 6, 22 in connection with the apostles and the church. The “Elders” along with “Deacons” constitute the two classes of officers in the early church. Ignatius helps us to see that the earlierportion of the second century is where the subordination of the office of Bishop over the Elders developed, but Lightfoot has been demonstrated that this was not so the case the first century.
Each city, as in Jerusalem, Philippi and Ephesus, had some “Elders (Bishops)” in what was understood to be the one great city church. Paul gives a remarkable message to preachers with all the earmarks of Pauline originality as shown by the particular Pauline words, phrases, ideas current in all his Epistles including the Pastoral Epistles (testify, course, pure, take heed, presbyter, bishop, acquire, apparel). Luke heard this address as he probably heardthe addresses in Jerusalem and Caesarea (Acts 21 to 26).
28 Overseers (episkopous). The term overseer denotes the official function of the elders, but not in the later ecclesiastical sense of Bishops, as implying an order distinct from Presbyters or Elders. The two terms are synonymous. The elders, by their office, were overseers who were called to feed the flock of God (poimainein/shepherd) (Matthew 2:6). The word embraces more than feeding; as shepherd signifies all that is included in the office of a pastor: tending and shepherding. The word of God is the Good Shepherd’s message. In Acts, it is estimated that the word of God is used 169 times to preach or teach.
Paul would have used the Old Testament, the “kerygma,” which was the preaching of Jesus, some of the non-canonical writings, possibly the Essene material and the early Apostlic letters. The foundation or roots of what Paul and others in Acts said was always the word of God and revelation of the Holy Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 2:13 and we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.
The Word of God was the ultimate and final authority. This was the biblical conception of Eldership, not the current format devised by Calvin. If we want to be Christians with a real authentic church, we need to be a community of believers that tells the whole truth and then lives by the veracity of faith. The church as it was meant to be, was a community of saints who valued the word of God as their ultimate and final authority. Church, when it is as God intends it to be, doesn’t think it is smarter than the Bible. I love what Smith Wigglesworth said about this very topic: “Some people read the Bible in Hebrew, some people read the Bible in Greek, but I read the Bible in the Holy Ghost.”
LIVING LARGE Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again (Acts 20:25). We could call this the anatomy of a high impact life, as it shows us what it takes and what we are to expect to be an enforcer of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God simply put, is the expression of the eternal rule of God demonstrated through His children’s reign. I like to call it God’s Rule and God’s Reign. It is partially seen as us putting into practice the rules of the future age that is yet to come now.
This is important, as Jesus defined the present age as being evil and under the devil’s temporary rule. The reason signs and wonders (the miraculous) are important is they are the most effective weapons at our disposal. They are the marks or signs of Kingdom presence and the Kingdom’s King, Jesus. To understand Jesus view of ministry, you must realize Kingdom. The reason for this is Jesus conviction that he had a real enemy who ruled over a real Kingdom: the devil. The purpose of the devil is simple: to thwart the redemptive purposes of God. Jesus purpose is to negate the works of the devil in humanity. This lets us see that the theology of the Kingdom is a theology of Cosmic Conflict, fought over human souls.
Matthew 12:22-24 is a crucial illustration of this point. Jesus has issued a holy call to arms. Our battle isn’t a civil war. We aren’t supposed to be fighting other ‘children of God,’ nor are we to become caught up in a cosmic civil war that expresses itself in the form of dualism that sees God and the devil fighting on an almost equal footing. Thisis a conflict that pits us, the saints, against the powers of evil as we fight over the ownership of souls. It is us, the church, taking on a prophetic mindset, using the equipment Jesus has provided for us as we ‘do the stuff’ of the Kingdom.
All of this implies that there is a war being waged whose end is inevitable, but whose battles are yet to be determined, particularly in the outcome. Just as Jesus was sent to demolish the stronghold of the enemy, we are sent to continue to do battle and defeat the enemy in the ongoing fight. It is crucial to also comment on our authority, as it relates to our ability to fight effectively. Initially, God gave dominion over creation to man within the Garden existence. With the fall into sin, we abdicated our worship and our obedience to the devil. Jesus actions against the devil’s Kingdom and His imputation of authority to the church is a present demonstration of the future reality, the already/not yet syndrome. Because we have been authorized as God’s agents of redemption, we can put His heart on open display as we work the works of the Kingdom.
BOUND FOR GLORY Acts 21:1-14
WHY APOSTLES NEED TO LISTEN TO PROPHETS: A DISTRESSED APPEAL
20:16, 22 Our stories compelling interest began in the previous passage. And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there Compelled by the Spirit (Acts 20:16). Paul had determined (kekrikei gar ho Paulos [krinö]) Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia. This is the proper Greek word for decision making, vs. pnuemata/Spirit led as in Acts 19:21: After all this had happened, Paul decided (pneumata) to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. “After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome also.”
21:4 Finding the disciples there, we stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit, they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. Through the Spirit (dia tou pneumatos) Holy Spirit had already told Paul that bonds and afflictions awaited him in Jerusalem (20:23) I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace. In Joel 2:28-29, Joel is foretelling a day when prophecy, dreams, and visions will become widespread. In Acts 2:14-21, Peter says that the day which was prophesied by Joel had arrived. We now live in that day, and God is ministering the gifts to those who desire them.
The Spirit’s message caused the believers concern. The disciples were shown prophetically that trouble waits for Paul, and they interpreted the Spirit’s message differently. The early church listened to the voice of the Spirit in making decisions. How many Western Christians are functioning atheists, leaning on their understanding, wisdom and common sense to make decisions? Because we as the Church have not been secure in our identity, merely blending into the world?
PROPHETIC WARNING: STAY OUT OF JERUSALEM
People were prophesying that Paul should not set foot in Jerusalem. Despite this warning Paul felt it was still his responsibility (20:22) to press on and go to Jerusalem, and see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there. Nothing had changed in his heart. Evidently, Paul concluded that the prophetic action of Holy Spirit as just being informational with a dose of warning, with the disciples at Tyre giving it the form of a prohibition and living in the realm of being a directional prophetic word. To Paul, duty called louder than warning even if both were the calls of God. Donald Grey Barnhouse wrote, “95% of knowing the will of God consists in being willing to do it before you know what it is.” That seems to be the basis of Paul’s obstinate stand.
A DYNAMIC DISPLAY 7-11
Acts 21:9 the same man had four daughters, which did prophesy (parthenoi propheteusai parthenoi propheteusai). Their action demonstrates further the fulfillment of Joel 2:28 and the outpouring of Holy Spirit in Acts 2:18.
On a side note, the ‘Philip and his daughter’s’ passage is a problematic one, as it creates real conflicts for those who do not allow women to preach. This is especially true for those who take a non-Charismatic approach to the interpretation of Scripture. The reason for this is the word prophesy usually referred to preaching with conviction. If women are not allowed to preach, why is this in Scripture, without the women being severely rebuked? The problem also relates to Charismatic’s who don’t permit women to hold office or to minister, as you cannot prophesy without speaking, and the position of Prophet is an acknowledged one here with Agabus and the girls, as in Ephesians 4:11.
These women were not necessarily an order of virgins, but Philip had the honor of having in his home four virgin daughters with the gift of prophecy. It was more than ordinary preaching (19:6), and Paul placed prophecy above the other gifts like tongues (1 Corinthians 14:1-33). The prophecy of Joel (2:28) about the sons and daughters prophesying was cited by Peter and used to validate the events of the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17). There was also Anna the prophetess in the temple (Luke 2:36) besides the inspired hymns of Elizabeth (Luke 1:42- 45) and Mary (Luke 1:46-55).
It appears that there was an order of women prophets who were recognized as official ministers. There were Old Testament prophetesses like Miriam, Deborah, Huldah. This idea of women in ministry in the early church is a consistent note with Luke, as Luke appreciated the services of women for Christ, which is often shown in his writings (Luke 8:1-3, for instance) before this incident. A word of advice for women, “if you think you are too small to make a difference, try spending the night in a closed room with a mosquito (An old African saying).”
Acts 21:10 As we tarried More days (than we expected), a certain prophet named Agabus (prophetes onomati Agabos prophetes onomati Agabos). Agabus was a prophet like the daughters of Philip, who had already made an appearance in Scripture in connection with the famine that was predicted by him (Acts 11:28). Biblical prophets have always been more “forth-tellers” than “foretellers,” though at times the prophets did announce things to come (Acts 11:27-30). Sometimes they received new revelation from God, like Acts 11:28, and 21:10-11.
The Prophets were like the Apostles were both preachers of the Word of God. Both were also responsible in the early years of the church to instruct local congregations. In the present context, prophets are used of persons whose duty it was to proclaim the will of God through a word or insight that was supernatural. It would be the responsibility of the person as to how they respond to it. In this type of context, prophets may be spoken of as “those who communicated the urgent message of God,” and the recipient of the word may be seen as “those who confirmed that which was spoken” both through the acknowledgement and the implementation of the word.
Binding (Acts 21:11)
Luke vividly uses three successive images to describe the dramatic action of Agabus, using a familiar form of prophecy, the employment of symbolic deeds (1 Kings 22:11; James 2:2; Jeremiah 13:1-7; Ezekiel 4:1-6). Agabus acts out a prediction, which was meant to drive the point home. Agabus took Paul’s linen belt from him, bound his own feet and then hands, and pronounced that this is what would happen to the owner of this belt when he ventured to Jerusalem.
DELIVERANC EOF A DIFFERENT KIND
Agabus was just in Jerusalem and had to know the feeling there against Paul, and it is apparent that Holy Spirit prompted him to speak prophetically, connecting the dots. Agabus words “shall deliver (paradosousin paradosousin)” were dominant. Like the words of Jesus about Himself and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again (Matthew 20:19), Paul was going to be “delivered” into the hands of the Gentiles.
Figuratively, Paul was bound by that belt, bound and determined! And based on this prophecy, people, including for the first time Paul’s traveling companions, plead with him not to go to Jerusalem. Some people think that this prediction coupled with the one at Tyre (Acts 21:4). Both were not intended to prohibit him from going, but they were meant to put his courage to the test. When Paul qonquered the test, it deepened and matured Paul’s courageous faith. Others think that Paul missed the intention of God and made a colossal mistake. I am one who holds that Paul made a huge mistake as an Apostle. Paul did not listen to the Prophets, and he paid the price with a shortened ministry.
Not to go up (tou mé anabainein tou mé anabainein) The idea was: “We tried to persuade him from going up.” On the way to the Diet of Worms, Spalatin begged Luther not to go on. Luther said: “Though devils are as many in Worms as tiles upon the roofs, yet thither will I go.”
This dramatic warning of Agabus came on top of Tyre, and finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem (21:4) and Paul’s confession in Miletus, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me (20:23). It is a small wonder that Luke and the other messengers together with Philip and his daughters joined in a chorus of dissuasion to Paul. Is Paul obstinate, ignoring the counsel of his friends foolishly, or is he being focused, determined to obey the Spirit of God regardless of the consequences? Do we blame Paul or admire him? Did he get what he had coming to him when Paul made it to Jerusalemand what was predicted came true? Or did he suffer in well doing, something that we’ve said can often be a lot of those who truly follow Christ? Godly people can be wrong (v. 4, 12). Oswald Chambers, in My Utmost for His Highest, wrote, “To choose to suffer means there is something wrong; to choose God’s will even if it means suffering is a very different thing. No healthy saint ever chooses to suffer; he chooses God’s will, as Jesus did, whether it means suffering or not.”
FAITHFUL DETERMINATION (A Determined Apostle) 21:12-14
READY TO DIE (21:12)
Luke creates a parallel between Paul’s commitment and the level of commitment that Jesus exhibited. In both cases the Jews were hostile; the victim was to be handed over to the Gentiles, and both were to suffer. Like Christ, Paul remained committed to doing what he believed to be God’s will. While this comparison highlights Paul’s heroism, it reminds us that we too are called upon to follow Jesus’ example. Paul’s willingness to die at Jerusalem is like Jesus on the way to Jerusalem for the last time. “He set his face to go on to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51).” Later the disciples will say to Jesus, “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there (John 11:8)?”
MARKERS FOR WISE DECISION MAKING
None of us has perfect knowledge. The Bible will never misdirect (2 Timothy 3:16-17). There was no New Testament in those days; God supernaturally worked in the Book of Acts, of necessity, through means that are sadly less common today. Pray for the Spirit’s wisdom. Listen to wise counsel. Without counsel, plans fail, but with many advisers,they succeed (Proverbs 15:22). This is good, general advice. What about common sense? Don’t ignore it. Don’t sanctify it. Common sense isn’t necessarily an excellent guide to use in doing God’s will. Irrationality is no virtue.
We should use the faculties God has given us, but with that said, sometimes obeying God will not look like the reasonable, rational thing. Ultimately, we answer to God. And let me quickly add, we respond to a gracious God. Romans 14:1-4 is where Paul suggests that we shouldn’t spend so much time judging others and the decisions that they make. Preferably, we are to understand that they answer to God. And can I say one other thing? There’s a difference between a dumb decision and a morally wrong one. Often, we don’t have clear, specific guidance from God in the arena of a non-moral choice, and yet I fear some people feel like they’ve failed God if some decision they make doesn’t work. Remember the only difference between dumb choices and wrong ones is that God is a God of grace in all our options.
DECISIONS THAT MAY NOT BE CORRECT
What do you do when the will of God involves doing something that will cost you? We see the answer in the life of the apostle. Paul was a man bound and determined to follow Christ at all costs for Jesus Glory and honor. We understand that when he says, “I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Are you bound and determined to do the will of God in your life, regardless of what may come your way?
CROSSROADS (TROUBLE WITH THE MISSION) Acts 21:14-36
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. 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. True faith does not contradict its words by its conduct.
MISDIRECTION AND CALCULATIONS GONE AWRY
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. 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.” 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.
JAMES: THE NON-APOSTLE
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.
JUDAIC FAITH VS GRACE FAITH
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.
ARTICULATED AND FALSELY CHARGED (ACTS 21:20b-22)
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 Moses. Parthians 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. 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.
ESSENE INFLUENCE ON THE EARLY CHURCH
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). 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.
PAUL’S ATTITUDE TOWARD CHRIST
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.
UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF REVOLTS AND SEIGE
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.
ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT ACTS 21-22
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.
A VIOLENT OUTBREAK
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 2, remember 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.
31-36 A TURBULENT ARREST
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.
UP TO NOW
The Way (19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14) Paul’s determination was so profound that only a radically supernatural transformation could change his viewpoint. As Paul recounted the events of his conversion (22:6-9; 9:1-6), there is a sense that Paul felt ashamed about this part of his life. It was undoubtedly in his mind when he pictured his former state as “a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious … the first of sinners (1 Timothy 1:13-15).” This personal testimony straight from Paul’s pen showed the lengths that Paul went in his zeal for Judaism.
Acts 22:16 and now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his namebaptisai or baptism is causative, not a passive action. It could read, we would get you baptized. 1 Corinthians 10:2tells us to submit yourself to baptism. It is possible I suppose, as in 2:38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit to take these words as teaching baptismal remission of sin or salvation by means of baptism. However, to make this position, in my opinion, is a complete subversion of Paul’s vivid and picturesque language. Just like takes baptism as the picture of death, burial, and resurrection, baptism shows others about what had already happened when Paul surrendered to Jesus on the way (22:10). Baptism illustrates the washing away of sins by the blood of Christ. It is part of our witness and testimony. Furthermore, most of the references about baptism refer to being filled with the Spirit. Our sins are dealt with as Holy Spirit invades us at conversion. This makes sense, as conversion brings with it a spirit made alive, no longer being dead because of sin.
Acts 22:21-22 Then the Lord said to me, go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles (ego eis ethna makran exapostelo se Egö eis ethnä makran exapostelö se). In the Greek, this is considered to be a future active of the double (ex, which means out, apo, which means off or away), and it uses a compound of exapostello (Apostle), or Apostle being placed away. Being sent is a common phrase in the Koiné language of the New Testament, mainly as used by Paul and Luke (Luke 24:49). Acts 22 contains a repetition of the commissioned mission that was articulated by Jesus and the call of Paul that was given by God in Damascus through Ananias (9:15). Paul had avoided using the word Gentiles in his speech to the Jews on the Temple steps, but at long last, the word Gentile had to come, and it proved to be “the fatal word.” The crowd had listened to Paul raptly until this moment where he said, Gentile. Paul’s words were like a spark in a fireworks factory or a match placed on gasoline. The explosion of pent-up indignation broke out worse than before (21:30).
Acts 22:24 the commander ordered Paul to be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and questioned in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this. Flogging was the type of secondary torture that was applied to Paul by the use of whips (mastixin mastixin), as in Hebrews 11:36, some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. This was the beginning of an inquiry by torture (inquisition), and it was contrary to Roman law: Non esse a tormentis incipiendum, Divus Augustus statuit, or don’t begin with torture, a Statute of Augustus.
DOUBLE TROUBLE AND DUAL CITIZENSHIP
Acts 22:23-28; Philippians 3:20; Romans 13:14; Acts 4:19-20, 5:29
When we use man’s governing systems to define or reproduce Heaven, we’ve started down the path of implementing an inferior system. Heaven will not conform to humanity or replicate an inferior system. Heaven must be the source.Citizenship carries both privilege and responsibility. That revelation of citizenship needs to find balance concerningGoverning authorities (Romans 13:1-7). The secular government offers assistance as God’s servant, not in a conscious sense, but as it serves His purposes. Any human government must enforce a minimum level of justice, or that government would collapse. For instance, if criminal behavior goes unpunished, societies would collapse.
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. Love Your neighbor (Romans 13:1-7). We are earthly citizens, and Heaven bound travelers. Citizenship is both a privilege and a responsibility.
And Paul said, but I was born a citizen. Then immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him; and the commander was also afraid after he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him. The next day, because he wanted to know for certain why he was accused by the Jews, he released him from his bonds, and commanded the chief priests and all their council to appear, and brought Paul down and set him before them (22:28-30).
I have lived before God (pepoliteumai toi theou pepoliteumai toi theoi). This is a perfect middle indicative of politeuopoliteuo, which is an old verb to that means to manage the affairs of a city (polis) or a state, to be a citizen, or to behave as a citizen. The idea of National citizenship was a Greek and Roman ideal, not a Jewish ideal. Paul tells us that he had lived as God’s citizen, as a member of God’s commonwealth. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:20). Our heavenly citizenship is not natural; it is supernatural. Heavenly citizenship comes by faith (1 Peter 1:3). All of us become new creatures through faith in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). AW Tozer once said that “any faith that must be supported by the evidence of the senses is not real faith.”
23:3-4 Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law? “4 And those who stood by said, “Do you revile God’s high priest? ”
God will strike you God did strike him; an assassin killed Ananias during the Jewish war. Ananias was angered by Paul’s self-assertion of importance to God’s purposes and plans while on trial before his judges. This act of striking a prisoner was illegal and peculiarly offensive to a Jew at the hands of a Jew. Paul could have used better self-control. Smiting the mouth or cheek is a strangely irritating offence and one not uncommon among the Jews. This fact gives points to the command of Jesus to turn the other check, to him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either (Luke 6:29). The comportment of life is significant to our ability to cause others to glorify the Kingdom and the King we represent. Jesus told us we are to let your light shine before all men (Matthew 5:16). Paul undergirded this statement by saying TO his readers that they are responsible to liveblamelessly in order to be shining lights in a sin darkened world (Philippians 2:15-16). Citizenship does carry a responsibility to allow the light (phanerosis phanerosis) of the Lord to shine for men to see the greatness of the LORD.
23:5 Then Paul said, “I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, you shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people. The high priest may not have had on his official dress as the meeting was called hastely by Lysias. Paul’s extended time of being away from Jerusalem is a likely explanation for his lack of recognition of Ananias. The probability of Paul’s failing eyesight may have prevented Paul from seeing who was seated on the official seat that belonged to the High Priest. Another way of explaining it is to say that Paul was so indignant, even angry, at the command that he spoke without considering who it was that gave the order. The Greek allows this idea also. At any rate, Paul recognizes immediately the justice of the charge that was leveled against him. Paul was unwitingly guilty of exhibiting irreverence toward the High Priest. Exodus 22:18 (LXX) shows why it was improper conduct and Paul confesses his fault. The rebuke was deserved. Jesus did not threaten (1 Peter 2:23) when He was smitten on the cheek (John 18:22). Paul protested against the act of being hit, and he did not turn the other cheek.
23:6-10 But when Paul perceived (gnous de ho Paulos gnous de ho Paulos). Paul was quick to see that his cause was futile before the Sanhedrin as a combined body. It became clear to Paul that it would be was impossible for him to get a fair hearing. Paul then proceeded with great tact by seeking to bring the two parties of the council into collision with each other by creating political discord. Paul used the motto “divide and conquer.” The needs of THE KINGDOM are advanced by using the tools of this kingdom.
Part of our responsibility is to live with a good conscience. Let me take you back to a phrase from verse 1; I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. Paul’s claim seems to lack tact, and it appears to contradict his confession as being the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:13-16). But that depends on one’s interpretation of good conscience. The word (suneidosis suneidosis) means joint-knowledge in the Greek. It is a late word from sunoida, to know together, and is common in the LXX, the Apocrypha, Philo, Plutarch, the New Testament, and the Stoics, and ecclesiastical writers. The word just means we have an awareness of our thoughts (Hebrews 10:2), or of our self, both in strength and weakness. With this in mind, we make the distinction between right and wrong (Romans 2:15), with approval or disapproval based on our conscience.
Let me give a word of caution taken from Scripture about the human conscience, as we tend to make too much of it at times. Our conscience is not an infallible guide. It acts according to the light that it has (1 Corinthians 8:7, 10; 1 Peter 2:19). Our conscience can become contaminated (Hebrews 10:22), and it can be evil (poneras poneras). We must keep this in mind when we try to understand Paul’s description of his motives, even as a persecutor. We think he intended to say to the Sanhedrin that he persecuted Christians as a conscientious (though mistaken) Jew and Pharisee, just as he followed his conscience in turning from Judaism to Christianity. Paul was saying that he always lived up to the revelation that he knew, even when it was proven to be a wrong revelation. This is a sharp disclaimer against the charge that he was a renegade Jew, a man who opposed the Mosaic Law, the Jewish people, and the Temple in Jerusalem. Paul addresses the Sanhedrin as an equal and has no “apologies,” in our sense of the word, to make for his career as a whole, The golden thread of consistency runs through Paul’s life, as a good citizen in God’s commonwealth.
Heavenly citizens need to be good citizens on earth. This means that we live as subjects in the countries we reside in, submitting to the leaders and the laws of the land. As hard as this can occasionally be, we have to acknowledge that governance is God ordained and reflects His order. Part of our responsibility encompasses honoring those who enforce the law and keep the peace, both the police and the military. Every believer shares a common gift possession, we are all dual citizens, here on earth (natural), and Heavenly (supernatural) (1 Peter 2:9-14). Our Heavenly citizenship puts us in a position where we now understand that we are unaffected travelers, members of a caravan passing through the earth. Thisis why we see Jesus coming to encourage Paul in his “dark night of the soul.” But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.
Even in chains, Paul was continuing in his commissioned task of serving as an ambassador for Christ. Like Paul, we are all called to be ambassadors for Christ’ Kingdom here on earth (2 Corinthians 5:20). Our ambassadorship includes the need to call others into the state of reconciliation, as reconciliation is the only way anyone becomes a citizen of Heaven. Even when life seems to bring us our greatest disappointments Jesus has a way of showing up. God doesn’t act according to our restrictions.
God or Caesar. We have obligations to render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God (Romans 13:6). Christians have held from the earliest years that when a secular law violates an explicit commandment of God, the believer is to obey God. We are called to render respect to those who hold office and to pray for them (Romans 13:8; 1 Timothy 2:1-3). It is essential to understand that our prayers for our leaders can be contributors to our ability to live in peace. Are all governmental decisions to be blessed and condoned within our faith? Absolutely not. Are we to disagree civilly? Absolutely.
What are we supposed to do when our Heavenly responsibilities conflict with our earthly governments? This is important, as worldly governmental decisions do not always line up with the advancement of the values of Heaven. Paul’s dilemma was founded on this problem. But Peter and John answered and said to them, whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. 20 For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard, but Peter and the other apostles answered and said: we ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 4:19-20; 5:29).
The early Apostolic community faced this dilemma, as the governing community of Israel was in stark opposition to the church. The Jewish legal authorities had tried to legislate, intimidate and prosecute believers into silence. Peter and John were wanted men when they entered the Temple and were confronted by the man who was born lame. As the Kingdom of Heaven’s blessing was released, there was no higher contrast than the resultant outcome. The lame man walked, leaped and praised God (Acts 3:1-8). In a time of great darkness, deception and persecution, the release of the miraculous provided the contrasting differences between the Kingdom of darkness and the Kingdom of God.
This miracle did not mean a free pass for the men who dared to believe God for more. The civil authorities were enraged by the demonstration on their turf, and a genuine confrontation was engaged in, which resulted in the arrest of the Apostles. The civil servants demanded a complete cessation of all activities and proclamation by these men.
These actions led to a decisive point on the part of the disciples: honor the obligations to Heaven above the restrictions of earth, regardless of the cost. This is the high cost of Gospel adherence when the stage is set for conflict. Our obligation to proclaim and produce works of grace supersedes the restrictions or the submission of ungodly edicts or actions.
 Lightfoot, J.B., The Apostolic Fathers, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids MI, 1980
 Chambers, Oswald, My Utmost For His Highest, Discovery House, 1992
 Bruce, FF, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, Eerdman’s, 1977
 Ladd, George Eldon, A Theology of the New Testament, Eerdman’s Publishing Co., Grand rapids, MI, 1974
 Wagner, C Peter, The Acts of the Holy Spirit, Regal, 2000, pp. 504-8
 Wagner, C Peter, Acts of the Apostles, Regal, 200, p455-65
 Robertson, Grammer, p. 808
 Silk, Danny, unpublished message