Paul is greeted “gladly” by the first group he meets as he arrives in Jerusalem but the welcome is not so warm as he meets with James and the elders the next day. Paul tells them of his success with the Gentiles and they glorify God but the conversation immediately shifts to the accusations that Paul has been teaching against the Law of Moses. We can do everything right and still find ourselves defending our actions as Paul did. Someone suggests that Paul pay the fees for four poor Nazarites as he himself goes through purification and this seems like a good way to satisfy public opinion. But before Paul can complete the four days, others stir up the crowd so much that the Roman Tribune takes Paul into custody. Paul is allowed to speak and he begins telling the history of his life and ministry.
The Brothers Welcomed Us Gladly
In Acts 21:17 “the brothers welcomed us gladly” and this is “the disciples generally, as distinguished from the official reception recorded in Ac 21:18”.1
Here there is no mention of the offering Paul has gathered “Given the importance placed on the collection from the Gentile churches by Paul himself (cf. Rom. 15:25–32; 2 Cor. 9:12–15), it seems strange that Luke makes no mention of it being delivered here (though cf. 24:17). However, as previously suggested, his failure to highlight that aspect of Paul’s journey to Jerusalem may be because the collection did not have the effect that Paul intended”.2
It is important to recognize the shift that has happened in Jerusalem. This begins the next day in a more formal meeting where, as described in Acts 21:18 “Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present”. And as we would expect, begins to give a report, an account of his actions. In Acts 21:19 “he began to relate one after the other the things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry”.
In Acts 21:20 “when they heard this, they began to glorify God” and this is the response we might expect from them. But then they continue with “And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many ten thousands there are among the Jews who have believed, and they are all zealous adherents of the law”. And they then continue further in
Acts 21:21 And they have been informed about you that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles the abandonment of Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or to live according to our customs.
And then they ask in
Acts 21:22 What then is to be done? Doubtless they will all hear that you have come!
One who analyzed the times, “Witherington outlines the volatile religious and political situation in Jerusalem in AD 57 and says, ‘marching into Jerusalem with Gentiles from various parts of the Empire at this xenophobic moment would hardly have produced a positive result from Jews in general, or from ardent Pharisaic Jewish Christians in Jerusalem’.3
And it is this Pharisaic Jewish influence that seems to have infiltrated the Church and was now the dominating culture. It also seems that Paul’s return to Jerusalem was a last call to them to accept the gift of God, Jesus Christ. It is said that James was stoned in Jerusalem in AD 62 and the Romans destroyed the city in AD 67.
Purify Yourself Along With Them
In the meeting with the elders, this course of action was suggested and Paul was willing and obedient. So, “In the process of completing his own period of purification, Paul could have helped four impoverished Nazirites complete their purification or period of separation by paying their expenses (cf. Nu. 6:3 … Paying the cost of the offering these men had to make when discharging their vow would be a pious act of charity on Paul’s part”.4
Then in Acts 21:26 “Paul took along the men on the next day, and after he had purified himself together with them, he entered into the temple courts” to fulfill the days of purification required.
He Has Defiled This Holy Place
Paul was told in Acts 21:21 “they have been informed about you that you are teaching all the Jews … the abandonment of Moses”. Then he was asked to, in Acts 21:24 “purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses” as a gesture demonstrating that he also was “observing the law”. “It looks as though Paul was prepared to make a conciliatory gesture, although his own testimony remained that he no longer lived under the law of Moses but under the law of Christ (1 Cor. 9:21).5
So now in Acts 21:27 “when the seven days were about to be completed … the Jews from Asia … stirred up the whole crowd”. This is very much what happened in Ephesus so “in all likelihood those of Ephesus (since they recognized Trophimus apparently as a townsman, Ac 21:29), embittered by their discomfiture (Ac 19:9, &c.)”.6 were now stirring up trouble for Paul here in Jerusalem.
They then, in Acts 21:29 since “they had previously seen Trophimus” they assumed Paul brought into the temple. This is an important lesson for us about human nature, our minds are made to fill in the blanks, (study mental perception) so we take an event, here they saw Trophimus, and then we build around it what is in our minds, here it was their assumption that Paul defiled the temple by bringing Trophimus into the temple. But that has not happened. But in their minds, it was real, and the couldn’t stand for Paul defiling the temple. How often do we add our mental model to the events happening around us?
Zechariah 8:16–17 (LEB) 16 These are the things that you must do: speak truth, each of you, with his neighbor; practice trustworthy judgment and peace in your gates. 17 Do not devise evil in your hearts against your neighbor, and do not love a false oath, because all these are things I hate,” declares Yahweh.
There were grounds for the people to set a boundary separating the uncircumcised foreigner in Ezekiel 44:9 if it had been true, but the answer would not have been a riot across the city. But here, in Acts 21:30-36 it says “the whole city was stirred up … they seized Paul and dragged him out” and were beating him until the Roman guard came and intervened.
Is It Permitted For Me To Say Something?
In Acts 21: 37, Paul is protected by Roman rule, by the civil law, as anyone would be. And we might expect this kind of protection from our police today. Then in Acts 21: 37-38, Paul made a request to the tribune in Greek and the tribune responded “Do you know Greek? Then you are not the Egyptian who … raised a revolt and led … men of the Assassins?” Even this high ranking tribune assumed, based on the noise from the people, and his understanding of where trouble might come from, that Paul must be this one they had been watching for.
Paul, in Acts 21:39 invokes his citizenship and asks to be able to speak to the people. He is under protection of the tribune and his soldiers. and in Acts 21:40 he is now on the steps above the people, and the crowd has quieted so he motions and begins to speak in their language, “Aramaic”.
Men – Brothers – Fathers, Listen
Our reaction is always to defend ourselves when we are accused, and it is often better to answer immediately rather than let an accusation go unanswered. So, Paul begins in Acts 22:1-2 and they listen “when they heard he was addressing them in the Aramaic language”. Paul tells them his background in Acts 22:3-5 and there would have been some that remembered him, but this is about twenty years after Stephen was stoned in Acts 7:58 and Acts 8:3 where “Saul was attempting to destroy the church”.
Here is another lesson in human nature, we forget our own history and tend to rewrite it all based on what we see happening now. Sometimes we need to recount the facts for others as they actually occurred.
What Should I Do Lord?
In Acts 22:2-10, no one questions that Paul had an encounter with the Lord, a vision, because in their history, our Old Testament, there were many such encounters. They didn’t even react when Paul said the vision was “Jesus the Nazarene” who said to him in vs. 10, “Get up and proceed to Damascus, and there it will be told to you about all the things that have been appointed for you to do.”
Then we learn something more about Ananias. He was not just a believer. In Acts 22:12 Paul says “Ananias, a devout man according to the (Jewish) law”. And, it was this man that, in Acts 22:13 “said to me, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight!’ And at that same time I looked up at him and saw him.” Still, they listen.
The God of Our Fathers Has Appointed You
Through Acts 22:14-16 Paul talks about being appointed by God, to “know his will, and see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth” and they listen. Paul says he was told to “Get up, be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name!” Still they listen. Even as he talks about another vision in Acts 22:17-20 where Paul “saw him (the Righteous One) saying … they will not accept your testimony” and Paul’s confession of his great sin against the believers, even those he had killed. Now, Paul gets to his commission in Acts 22:21 “Go, because I will send you far away to the Gentiles!”
- Acts 21:17–22 The Brothers Welcomed Us Gladly
- Acts 21:27–36 He Has Defiled This Holy Place
- Acts 22:1–5 Men – Brothers – Fathers, Listen
- Acts 21:17-40
- Acts 22:1-21
- 1. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 211). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
- 2. Peterson, D. G. (2009). The Acts of the Apostles (p. 584). Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
- 3. Peterson, D. G. (2009). The Acts of the Apostles (p. 584). Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
- 4. Peterson, D. G. (2009). The Acts of the Apostles (p. 587). Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
- 5. Marshall, I. H. (1980). Acts: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 5, pp. 365–366). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
- 6. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 211). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.