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Tuesday, November 28th, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
Acts 21

Hawker's Poor Man's CommentaryPoor Man's Commentary

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Verse 1


Paul is advised by the Brethren not to go up to Jerusalem. He persists. On his Arrival there, he visits James. Soon after he is seized by the Jews. He is rescued by the Chief Captain.

Verses 1-3

And it came to pass, that after we were gotten from them, and had launched, we came with a straight course unto Coos, and the day following unto Rhodes, and from thence unto Patara: (2) And finding a ship sailing over unto Phoenicia, we went aboard, and set forth. (3) Now when we had discovered Cyprus, we left it on the left hand, and sailed into Syria, and landed at Tyre: for there the ship was to unlade her burden.

The separation between the Apostle and the Church at Ephesus, must have been very painful. The word made use of to express it, is strong; signifying being torn from each others' embraces. And what added to the sorrow, was the consciousness on both sides, that it was final. There is an affinity between faithful pastors and their people, which far exceeds the common relationships in natural life. And when death, or a separation like this, which was as death, being final, takes place, there is great cause for sorrow. The children of Israel wept thirty days at the death of Moses, Deuteronomy 34:8 . But, Reader! what a relief to the soul is it, amidst all the separations of life, and the deaths, or departures of everyone around; Jesus departs not, but is with his people forever! Oh! thou dear Lord! let the thought of this comfort and support my soul, amidst all the dead. and dying circumstances, of a world passing away. Jesus lives, and loves, and is with his people forever, Matthew 28:20 .

Verses 4-6

And finding disciples we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem. (5) And when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with wives and children, till we were out of the city: and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed. (6) And when we had taken our leave one of another, we took ship; and they returned home again.

It is very blessed to observe, how the mind of the Apostle was borne up amidst these exercises, in the forebodings of his friends, concerning this journey to Jerusalem. The Holy Ghost had witnessed to Paul, that in every city, bonds and afflictions would meet him, Acts 20:23 . But, the vision at Corinth, Acts 18:9 , had made Paul more confident. And, as Paul told the Church in the preceding Chapter, his journey to Jerusalem was by the Spirit's direction, Acts 20:22 , The intimation, therefore, of those disciples, Paul considered as only a further confirmation of what he had to expect. It is plain, that neither he nor they concluded that it was meant by the Lord to keep him back; but only to prepare him for the encounter. How gracious is the Lord in all his watchings over his people, in preparing them against the time and trials he is preparing for them! Reader! Pause a moment over what is said of the brethren, with their wives and children, bringing Paul and his company on the way, and before separating, committing each other to the Lord in prayer. Oh! What a lovely sight must it have been, to have seen the Apostle thus encircled! And do not overlook that their little ones were of the party. Yes! Those godly parents would seek for early impressions on their offspring, in teaching them to reverence the Lord's faithful ministers, from whom, under God, they owed the knowledge of divine things; and to bring their household with them to be benefitted by their prayers. Where shall we look for such a sight again, as this shore witnessed? Lord! Look with mercy on thy Church, and suffer not a prayerless spirit to be so common as it is in the present hour!

Verses 7-9

And when we had finished our course from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, and saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day. (8) And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him. (9) And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.

This Casaria in Palestine, was rendered memorable by the Lord's grace to the Gentiles, in the call of Cornelius. See Acts 10:0 and Commentary. And, it should seem, that Philip, one of the first deacons, Acts 6:5 . whose ministry is blessedly recorded (Acts 8:0 ) now resided here. The prophesying of his daughters was in perfect agreement to Scripture promise, Joel 2:28 .

Verses 10-14

And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judea a certain prophet, named Agabus. (11) And when he was come unto us, he 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. (12) And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem. (13) Then 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. (14) And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.

What a beautiful portrait might be drawn of the Apostle, in the situation here described! Yea, rather, what, an unequalled representation by that which no picture can set forth, hath God the Holy Ghost given the Church, in the Apostle's words. I am ready, (said he,) not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. Blessed saint of God! Paul had met with continual exercises to deter him from this journey. It was painful the separation from the Church, at Ephesus. He was soon after told by some, and who spake by the Spirit, that his journey would be productive of great opposition. This prophet, which came from Judaea, manifested by outward signs, in binding his own hands and feet with Paul's girdle, that so the Holy Ghost declared, the owner of the girdle should be bound, at Jerusalem. And now, the whole body of friends importuned him with earnestness of entreaty, that he would relinquish the journey. What mean ye (said he) to weep and to break mine heart? I am ready! Oh! how prepared are those whom the Lord prepares. Flesh and blood must everlastingly be unprepared. But, when the Lord animates the soul, all other feelings give way. However dear life is, yet Christ and his cause is dearer! Reader! let you and I beg of Paul's Lord, to make us more like Paul, in Spirit!

Verses 15-26

And after those days we took up our carriages, and went up to Jerusalem. (16) There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge. (17) And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. (18) And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. (19) And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. (20) And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: (21) And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. (22) What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come. (23) Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; (24) Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law. (25) As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication. (26) Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.

In addition to what I have already observed, on the subject of Paul's giving in to Jewish customs, upon this, and the like occasions, (See Acts 18:23 and the Commentary on that place,) I would only detain the Reader to remark here, how much this temporizing Spirit produced the very reverse of what it was intended. From what motive it was that the Apostle was prevailed upon to comply with their advice, is not said: but, from Paul's general conduct on this subject, there can be no doubt, that it was foreign to his own sentiments. Let the Reader consult but his Epistle to the Galatians, and especially Galatians 2:11 to the end, and Galatians 5:1-6 , and he must conclude, that the Apostle's heart was not in this business. And, is it not probable, that the proposal made by those friends at Jerusalem, arose from their having heard, that Paul had done the same thing at Cenchre? So that a departure in one instance, only makes way for another. And even our friends, as we here discover, take advantage therefrom of our weakness. Precious Jesus! where shall we look for perfection, but to thee? thou holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens! Hebrews 7:26 .

Verses 27-40

And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, (28) Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men everywhere against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place. (29) (For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) (30) And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut. (31) And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. (32) Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul. (33) Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done. (34) And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude: and when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle. (35) And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people. (36) For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him. (37) And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek? (38) Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers? (39) But Paul said, 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. (40) And when he had given him license, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying,

I do not think it necessary to detain the Reader, with any particular observations, on this history. The sacred Writer hath given it to the Church, in a very interesting Manner, as is here recorded, and it can need no comment to explain. But, taking it altogether, in one collected point of view, I would beg the Reader to remark with me, how very graciously the Lord was watching over his faithful servant the whole time, to screen him from the death one class of enemies intended for him, and from the scourging about to be laid upon him by another. The sight of the Roman captain terrified the Jews, who were about to kill Paul. And, after this, (as the next Chapter relates, Acts 22:26 ) the Centurion was frightened, who at the command of the Roman Captain had bound Paul in readiness for scourging, when he found Paul was a Roman. And these things were connected with a third preventing providence, namely, Paul being permitted to speak to the people; and thereby not only gaining time to rescue the Apostle from their violence at that moment, but affording an opportunity of relating his wonderful conversion, under the Roman authority, thus protecting his person, before his countrymen the Jews. All these are very striking circumstances in proof, how the Lord Jesus watched over his servant, in so critical a season: and though permitting the Apostle, for wise purposes, to be so sharply exercised! yet still overruling the whole, as should ultimately promote the Lord's glory, and Paul's welfare.

Reader! it is blessed to observe, how astonishingly at times, the Lord manifests the sovereignty of his power, in the deliverance of his people. When the enemy seems to triumph with an high hand, and all hope for the moment seems to be gone; how suddenly, and unexpectedly, the Lord then appears for them, and displays his strength, in creature weakness. We have numberless examples of the kind in Holy Writ. Jacob's distress concerning his brother: Genesis 32:0 . The Church: Exodus 3:0 . The three children in Babylon: Daniel 3:0 . But perhaps none more striking, and suited to this of the Apostle, than what is recorded of Israel, in the times of the Kings. It is said, that the Lord saw the affliction of Israel that it was very bitter, for there was not any shut up, nor any left, nor any helper for Israel. And the Lord said, that he would not blot out the name of Israel from under heaven: So he gave them a gracious, and unlooked for deliverance, by the hand of an unworthy instrument, even Jeroboam, the son of Joash, 2 Kings 14:26-27 . And thus was it with Paul. The Jews on one hand, and the Roman power on the other; all foes to Paul. But, when the Lord works for his people, he works beyond all creature strength, against all creature probabilities, and against all expectation of human foresight, or contrivance. And, whether the Apostle alluded to this instance, or to any other, I will not determine; but certain it is, he had in view circumstances so particularly trying, that in his apprehension, all expected deliverance was over from human attempts, when he said: We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves; but in God, which raiseth the dead, 2 Corinthians 1:9 . And, blessings of every kind are doubly sweet, when the Lord's hand in the appointment is discernible, and the Lord's power is manifested in creature weakness, Genesis 22:14 ; Zechariah 14:7 .

Verse 40


READER! what a sweet prospect is here shewn, to the ministers and congregations of the faithful, in the representations of Paul and his companions, going about in their visitation of the different Churches? The imagination cannot conceive anything equally lovely! And, though private Christians do not, because the Lord hath not called them to it, in their sweet societies and meetings, exercise any ministerial function with each other; yet are they both taught, and exhorted, by such examples, to have all their assemblings together, opened, and closed in prayer. And, when the Lord, who is in the midst of them, according to his own most sure promise, pours out upon them a Spirit of prayer, so that they commend each other to the Lord, the very place where they are assembled is sanctified, whether on the shore, or in the house: blessings are implored for those going away, and for those that remain behind; and the sweet union of Christ's love forms them one in Him, that whether absent froth each other, or present, they are accepted in Jesus!

How unpromising soever the removal of our friends may appear, though like Paul, bonds, or imprisonment await the believer; this reflection is always full of comfort: the Lord's people must be the Lord's care. That Scripture should never be forgotten: Yea, he loveth the people; all his saints are in thy hands. Oh! then, how sweetly one of the Apostles reasoneth upon it: Casting, saith he, all your care upon him, for he careth for you. Let Paul be at Ephesus, or Jerusalem; let the Lord's people he at home, or abroad; the consciousness of Jesus being with them, secures all. How wonderfully were all the circumstances of evil, made to minister to greater good, in his instance. The Jews would have killed him. The Roman power would have scourged him. But, the Lord puts a hook in the nose, and a bridle in the lips of both; and God shall be glorified by his servant's preaching a sermon to them, and which they shall hear. Reader! observe these things, and then remember that sweet promise: All things work together for good, to them that love God, to them who, are called, according to his purpose.

Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Acts 21". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pmc/acts-21.html. 1828.
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