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Bible Commentaries
Acts 21

Box's Commentaries on Selected Books of the BibleBox on Selected Books

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A Strange Compromise In Jerusalem


Paul knew that storms would rage in his life when he reached Jerusalem. However, he was determined to do what he believed to be the will of God. He wanted to preach the gospel to his fellow Jews. He would have that opportunity in Jerusalem at Pentecost.

The spread of the gospel in the early days of the church was a beautiful thing. Where ever Paul went he found small groups of Christians serving the Lord. It is wonderful to travel from place to place and find others that are a faithful part of the church of Christ. You can find people all around the world that share the same mind of Christ as you.

At the house of Philip a prophet, named Agabus "took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles." It was not unusual for Old Testament prophets to dramatize their message.

The arrival of Paul at Jerusalem presented the church with a problem. Act_21:17-26 provides one of the most perplexing sections of scripture in the Bible. It is amazing that the entire church in Jerusalem had become involved in "Law keeping." The text says, "they are all zealous of the law." When the law was lifted from the back of Gentiles it was lifted from all Christians. I can see no way that James and Paul were innocent in this matter although they likely acted out of ignorance. James should have told those Jewish Christians that neither he, nor Paul were Law keepers. No one should keep the Jewish Law. It has been abolished with the death of Christ.

This business of the vow had taken Paul into the Temple several times. Some Jews from Asia accused Paul of bringing Trophimus, a Gentile, into the Temple. This would have been very unlawful. There was an uproar and Paul was dragged out of the Temple. He was arrested and bound with two chains.

As the soldiers were attempting to get Paul inside the castle he asked for permission to speak to the mob. He was a man of both conviction and courage. When Paul turned to speak complete silence fell on the mob. In the next chapter we will hear his words.

Verses 1-16

Paul would not retreat Act_21:1-16 : Paul knew that danger awaited him in Jerusalem. But he would not retreat. He took ship and quickly passed through Coos, Rhodes, and Patara. At Patara they changed to another ship bound for Phenicia. They saw Cyprus as they sailed on to Syria. The ship landed at Tyre to unload. They spent seven days with the brethren there. Paul received more warning about the danger he faced in Jerusalem.

As was often the case when the missionary team departed there was fellowship and a service of prayers offered to God. Afterwards the brethren returned to their homes and Paul and his company got on the ship again. The journey by ship ended at Ptolemais. There were some Christians there that the brethren spent a day with. Their next stop was at Caesarea. Philip, the evangelist, one of the first deacons lived there. Philip had four virgin daughters that did prophesy. They did not preach or explain scripture in public assemblies; for women were not allowed to do so. They were simply endowed with the gift of being able to foretell future events.

The same Agabus that had predicted the famine in Act_11:28 now predicted that Paul would be bound by the Jews and delivered to the Gentiles. The brethren believed the prediction and tried to persuade Paul not to go to Jerusalem. "Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." ( Act_21:13 )

Verses 17-26

Compromise about the Law Act_21:17-26 : When Paul and his companions reached Jerusalem he went to visit James, the Lord's brother. He reported how that God had received many Gentiles into the kingdom. There was still a great deal of confusion among Christians as to their relationship to the Law of Moses. Paul taught that no one is justified by the Law. However, many thousands of Jews which believed were all zealous of the law.

Paul was accused of teaching the Jews that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk after the costumes of the Law. He was told that there would be a meeting to discuss this matter. James suggested that Paul help four Jewish brethren keep their vows to prove that he was a keeper of the Law. We must become all things to all men but still one cannot help but be amazed at James' suggestion and at the fact that Paul would go along with it. Surely both of these great and good men did what they believed to be right under the circumstances. But, at best this was a tragic compromise.

Verses 27-36

Slanderous charges against Paul Act_21:27-36 : Paul was in and out of the Temple several times to perform the ritual suggested by James. Afterwards, "the Jews which were of Asia said, "This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place."

An uproar caused Paul to be taken by force out of the Temple and the Temple door was closed. They also were about to kill Paul. Finally the chief captain of the military heard about the riot. He and some soldiers came and bound Paul with two chains and took him away. The captain was confused about what was going on so he took Paul to the castle for further investigation. "The people followed after, crying, Away with him." This was the result of the compromise.

Verses 37-40

Paul faced an angry mob Act_21:37-40 : As Paul was being pushed toward the Temple he asked for permission to speak to the mob. The chief captain was surprised that Paul spoke the Greek language. He thought Paul was an Egyptian. In the case of both Paul and the Egyptian there was an uproar among the people. The Egyptian caused that riot but Paul was not to blame for this one.

Paul simply identified himself saying, "I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people." He was given permission to speak. He had spoken Greek to the captain. Now he speaks in the Hebrew language to the people. In Act_22:1-30 we will hear what he said to them.

Bibliographical Information
Box, Charles. "Commentary on Acts 21". "Box's Commentaries on Selected books of the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/box/acts-21.html. 2014.
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