Acts 21: 18-40

Written by kathleen on Jan 17, 2016 in - No Comments

Acts 21: 18-40 


 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.

Notice it doesn’t really say that the apostles were there Peter isn’t named or John or any of the others, only James.   It could be by this time, the apostles had gone out spreading the gospel throughout the world.  James was in charge of the church in Jerusalem, so Paul goes in to meet with him and the elders of the church.

As Paul arrives in Jerusalem there were already problems in place and he just became a target despite what he wanted to do.

First there was conflict between, Jews, Gentiles and Christians which there had always been conflict between the Jews and the Gentiles. The Jews felt that because they were God’s chosen people; they were superior to those around them and the Gentiles resented it.

Then there were the Romans who felt that they were superior because they were ruling over the Jews.

Added to this in the last 20 something years there were the growth of Christianity which was a rival to the beliefs of the Romans, with their pagan gods, and the Jews with their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah and loyalty to the law.

This was a city where tensions ran deep and as Paul arrives he steps right into the middle of it just because of who he is; he’s managed to offend the groups that were opposing each other in Jerusalem. They didn’t like each other, they didn’t agree on much, but they agreed that they didn’t like Paul.

By verse 20 The Elders tell him “now, we’ve got a problem!”  There are a lot of Jews now that believe here in the church.  They are still following the customs of Moses.

They hear that you are telling the Jews that are out there in the different parts of the world, they don’t need to circumcise their children and they don’t need to follow the Jewish customs.

We know that Paul wasn’t preaching that the Jews should not circumcise their children or turn their back on the law; he was simply saying that because Christ had come and fulfilled the law that those rituals were no longer necessary for salvation.

Besides that; his teaching was aimed at the Gentiles; he was teaching that the church should not require the Gentiles to be circumcised in order to come into the church.

Part of the problem was; part of these accusations contained a small mount of truth. It was true that Paul was teaching that salvation was now by grace through faith and not by keeping the law.

Now the leadership of the church of Jerusalem are going to ask Paul to more or less comprise his position.

He and they knew that the Jewish rituals did not and could not make a person righteous. (Just as people today believe their good works will make them righteous enough to go to heaven)

But there were many Jews in the church who believed in Christ; but were still following the old customs and rituals of the Jews.

So James and the leadership come up with a plan.

22 What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will 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.

For fear that Paul might create a real division in the body of Christ there in Jerusalem they ask Paul to go through the purification rites.  And to sponsor four guys who also wanted to take this Nazirite vow.

Therefore everyone could see that he’s not only keeping the law, but also that he is leading people in doing the same thing; hoping that if he does this then the people who are lying about him will stop.

So Paul changed his position by the way of love.  Rather than arguing, and creating a scene, he consented to do it according to his philosophy he shared with the Romans

(Romans 12:18) live peaceably with all men as much as you are able.  

1 Corinthians 9:19-21 Paul also said, I have become all things to all men that I might gain the more.  To the Jew I became as a Jew.  To those who are without the law, I became as one without the law, yet not the law of Christ.

That was the driving force in his life, to reach people for Jesus Christ.  (What is more important than this?)

So Paul says; if this will further the cause of the gospel of Christ, sure I’ll go through the purification rites.  I’ll sponsor these guys.

With Paul’s decision to go along with the plan they also told Paul, 25 But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.”

In other words, we recognize that the Gentiles don’t have to do this.  But, Paul you are a Jew and the Jews are going to expect you to abide by these rituals and customs of the law.

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. (most likely a peace offering)

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 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

If you were to go into the temple, the outer court was the court of the Gentiles.  Inside of that was the court of the women.  And inside of that was the court of the men.

Then you entered into the place of the sanctuary and ultimately the high priest into the Holy of Holies.

Around the court of the women there was a wall.  It had little signs hanging on the wall warning the Gentiles not to enter into this next area because if they dared to go beyond it they were responsible for their own death!

They were to stay out in the court of the Gentiles.

The Jews would actually kill a Gentile if they would go beyond the court of the Gentiles!

 So the accusation is that: Paul is speaking against the temple, against the Law of Moses throughout all of Asia.

And that he had brought a Gentile in to the temple, which of course was not true. But they accused him of that anyway!

 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.

One thing that Rome would not tolerate and that was rebellion and they dealt very severely with it!

Any officer of the Roman army who allowed a rebellion was also dealt with very severely. So the captain came down with the soldiers.  And when the mob 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. So they arrested Paul.  He was bound, each hand to a Roman soldier.

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.

(Agabus was correct in his prophesy)

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?”

About the year 54AD, there was a man who came from Egypt who gained a following of people.  And this man passed himself off as having supernatural powers.

And so he took a group of people over to the Mount of Olives.  He had convinced them that from the Mount of Olives, he by his powers, could break down the walls of Jerusalem.

And so here he was with four thousand men waiting for the walls to crumble.  Then the soldiers came after them and the men were killed.

But this guy had gotten away.  So the captain figured that he was the same Egyptian.  He had come back again; that’s why he asked–Aren’t you that Egyptian!

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,

22:1“Brethren and fathers, hear my defense before you now.” 2 And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent.

Here he is, the hour of glory the moment he has been living for.  This was his opportunity to share with the Jews in Jerusalem the gospel of Jesus Christ!

It’s interesting– there must have been something special about Paul when he was filled with the Spirit.

Here were all of the people as the soldiers were taking him up to the Antonio fortress, they’re crying, kill him, kill him, away with him!

Just as they had done with Jesus!

And now as Paul stands up he waves with his hands.  Silence!

And suddenly they are all very silent and attentive, ready to listen to what Paul has to say.

And so he begins to speak to them in Hebrew.  This is it.  His opportunity the moment he has lived for!

Next week we will find out the result!

What is the moment you live for?

All through these chapters Paul was unstoppable; he didn’t let physical persecution or emotional struggles stop him. We’ve seen him, beaten, stoned, imprisoned, lied about and it doesn’t stop him. He was unstoppable.

Checking church history that is the theme of the entire early church, not just Paul, these people were stoned, beaten, crucified, imprisoned, driven out of their homes, the list goes on and on, and yet they kept on preaching the gospel they were so unstoppable.

These facts should be so inspiring and yet here’s my problem, so many times as I look at the church in America we are so stoppable.

Let me ask you this question; are there things that stop you?

I’m talking about the things that when we think about it these people would have thought they were so trivial.

Things like people might not like us; they might say bad things about us; they might think less of us.

These 1st century church people had a burning desire to see people come into the kingdom and know God.

That was Paul’s focus; It wasn’t just that he knew that Heaven awaited him, but that he knew that everyone else could be there too and that the alternative was real bad.

Let’s not leave here today allowing anything to stop us from sharing Jesus!!

There’s one stipulation about sharing Jesus with others and that is you have to know Him and the salvation he has provided!