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Friday, June 14th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
Acts 21

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

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Verses 1-40

Chapter 21

And so it came to pass, that after we had gotten from them, and we had launched, we came with a straight course unto Coos, and the following day unto to Rhodes, and from there to Patara: where we found a ship that was sailing to Phenicia, and we got on board, and we set forth. And when we had sited the island of Cyprus, we went on the left-hand side, and sailed into Syria, and we landed at Tyre: for there the ship was to unload her burden ( Acts 21:1-3 ).

So Luke takes us now on the journey from Miletus on to the city of Tyre, which you read so much about in your papers today, there in southern Lebanon where the Israelis now have occupational troops.

And finding disciples ( Acts 21:4 ),

The Greek would indicate that they looked for them, they searched for them and found them. You know, it's a glorious thing being a Christian, because no matter where you go in the world the minute you find disciples you're at home. It's such a wonderful thing. I go back to Indianapolis and it's just like being at home. We gathered together there in the auditorium and it was just like being at home. The love and all with which the people received us, and just hey, we're all part of God's glorious body. And that was true in New York, it's true in New Jersey, it's true in Colorado Springs, it's true wherever we go. It's just like being with the family. And so they searched for the Christian body there in Tyre. They found them.

and they stayed with them for seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem. And when we had accomplished those days, we departed and went our way; and they all brought us on our way, with the wives and the children, till we were out of the city ( Acts 21:4-5 ):

So this Christian body in Tyre, all the wives, kids and now we got another picture, you know, them coming with Paul until they come to the city limits.

and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed ( Acts 21:5 ).

So all the children, the families, the body of Christ there in Tyre, kneeling with Paul there in the beach at Tyre praying.

And so when we had taken our leave of one another, we [went into the] took ship; and they returned home again. And when we had finished our course from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais [which is the modern port city of Alco], and there we greeted the brethren, and stayed with them for a day. And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came to Caesarea [about twenty-five miles south from Alco on the Mediterranean coast]; and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven [that is, deacons appointed in the early church to administer the tables]; and we stayed with him. And he had four daughters, who were virgins, and who had the gift of prophesy ( Acts 21:6-9 ).

Now it is interesting, this is twenty years after Philip fled from Jerusalem because of Paul's intense persecution of the church at the time of the stoning of Stephen, where Paul stood and held the coats consenting or voting for Stephen's death. And then how Paul went out to wreck the church, imprisoning those that called upon the Lord and all, and at Paul's heavy persecution Philip had fled from Jerusalem. Went up to Samaria where a great revival broke out, then headed by the guidance of the Spirit down to Gaza, where the Ethiopian eunuch was converted and then made his way back toward Caesarea preaching in various cities, sharing the truth of Jesus Christ, but finally settled in Caesarea. Now these two men meet twenty years later.

No longer on opposite sides of the fence, but now brought together as brothers in Jesus Christ. And Paul stayed there now at the house of Philip, for Philip had settled now in Caesarea, had a family, four daughters. God's anointing upon them, they had the gift of prophecy. You know, time does go by and people do grow up and mature. There are a lot of people who say, "Where are all the Jesus people?" you know. Well they're here, but they have four kids. You know, time changes things. They are no longer the irresponsible teenagers there in their early twenties as they were, but now they're in their thirties, some of them late thirties. But yet having matured, grown, times change. You know, nothing is static. (laughing as Chuck scratches his head) That was not intended, an itch. But it's true; everything passes. But when we get into heaven all you fellows might be the same because the Bible says there's no parting there.

So they stayed there many days, and there came down from Judea a certain prophet, named Agabus ( Acts 21:10 ).

Now he had earlier been the prophet who had come to Antioch and had prophesied the great drought that would come.

And when he was come unto us, he took Paul's girdle, and he bound his own hands and feet, and he said, Thus saith the Holy Spirit, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owns this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. And when we heard these things, both we, and those of that place, begged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, What do you mean by this weeping, are you trying to break my heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but I am also ready to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus ( Acts 21:11-13 ).

"Are you trying to persuade me by begging, fellows? I'm not afraid of being bound. I'm ready to die for the Lord Jesus."

Now was it the will of the Lord for Paul to go to Jerusalem? When he was there at Tyre, the Spirit warned him not to go to Jerusalem. Here the Holy Spirit, you know, Agabus takes Paul's girdle, binds his hands and his feet, and he said, "Thus the man who owns this girdle is to be bound in Jerusalem and turned over to the Gentiles."

I believe that the Lord was just warning Paul what was going to await him and the disciples interpreted the warning as that he wasn't to go. But I believe that Paul was to go to Jerusalem. Their interpretation of the warnings was don't go. But you remember when Paul was first converted, that the Lord told Ananias there in Damascus, "Go to the street Straight, and inquire for Paul and lay hands on him that he might receive his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." And he said, "Lord, you got to be kidding. I know this guy Paul, I've heard of him. He's the one who wrecked the church in Jerusalem, throwing in prison all the Christians. And he's come here and my name is on his list. I'm on his hit list. I'm one of the guys he going to rip. Lord, you can't mean I'm suppose to go and expose myself to this guy and pray for him." And the Lord said, "Behold, he is a chosen vessel unto me and I am going to show him the things that he's going to suffer for My name."

Now it seems that the Lord was faithful with that, and always warned Paul of the sufferings he was going to experience. And with the warnings I think there was always, "Hey, Paul, if you want to duck out, you can." And Paul would say, "Hey, no way, Lord. Let's go for it." "I'm not worried about being imprisoned. I'm not worried about being bound. You can't dissuade me by your tears; I'm ready to die for Jesus. Being thrown in jail doesn't bother me at all. I'm ready to die for Jesus Christ." You just don't stop men like that.

You remember when he was at Corinth, the Lord said, "Preach boldly, no one will be able to lay their hands on you here nor hurt you. Because I have many people here in this city." When he was on the ship and looked like it was going to be a shipwreck, we'll get that in a couple chapters, and Paul stood up and said, "Hey, fellows, be of good cheer, everything's going to be all right. An angel of the Lord stood by me, that though the ship is going to be wrecked, not a life is going to be lost." But the Lord was always showing him the things that were going to transpire, the things he would have to suffer. And I believe the Lord was just faithful showing Paul the things that he was going to suffer for the cause of Jesus Christ. But Paul, "Hey, Lord, whatever, I'm ready to be bound. I'm ready to die." For as I told you before, Paul is one of my real favorites. I love commitment. I love that competitive desire to win. And the guy who's, "Hey, not going to be stopped by pain or a little hurt or whatever. Let's go for it." And I love that kind of man. He's just my kind of guy, and I just really admire him.

And so when he would not be persuaded, we ceased ( Acts 21:14 ),

Now it isn't we ceased saying, "The Lord's will be done." We just ceased saying, "Don't go," and started saying "Well, the Lord's will be done." A lot of people read that wrong.

we ceased, saying, The Lord's will be done ( Acts 21:14 ).

No, we ceased and we said, "Well, the Lord's will be done." You see the difference? They recognized then, "Well, if that's what the will of the Lord is, so be it, the Lord's will be done." So we ceased trying to dissuade Paul as we said, "Well, the will of the Lord be done."

And so after those days we took up our carriages ( Acts 21:15 ),

Now that's an old English word for luggage. "We grabbed our suitcases." They didn't carry . . . they didn't go on a carriage to Jerusalem; they walked.

and we went up to Jerusalem. And there went with us also certain of the disciples from Caesarea, and they brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge. And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. And on the following day Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. And when he had greeted them, he declared particularly the things the Lord had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. And when they heard it, they praised the Lord, and said unto him, Now, brother Paul, you see how many myriads of Jews there are which are believers here; and they are all zealous of the law ( Acts 21:15-20 ):

Interesting. By this time in Jerusalem there were thousands of Christians, who had a strange admixture of Christianity with Judaism. They are zealous of the law. They were continuing in the rights of Judaism. They were continuing in the law of Moses, though they did believe that Jesus was the Messiah. But they had accommodated themselves to the Jewish community.

And so he said,

Now they have been informed about you, that you are teaching 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. Now what is it therefore? You see the multitude when they come together: [they're going to have to find out about you because] they're going to hear that you've come here. Now this is what we'd like you to do: We have four men which have a vow on them; So take them, and purify yourself with them, and take care of their expenses, that they may shave their heads: that all may know those things, whereof they were informed about you, are really nothing; [but you yourself are a good Jewish boy, living kosher] that you are walking orderly, keeping the law ( Acts 21:21-24 ).

So the church in Jerusalem was trying to keep from having an uproar. There are many Jews who have become believers, though they kept the Judaic law and they continued as Jews, but they did believe. But the church in Jerusalem was definitely in a weakened state. Whenever the church seems to adapt itself, seeks to adapt itself to the society around it, the church always finds itself in a weakened state. One of the great curses of the church is its endeavor to adapt itself to the world. That we might live in peace and harmony with the world. But Jesus is such that there can be no mutual co-existence with sin. Jesus, the Word of God tells us, "Come ye apart from them, be ye separate saith the Lord. Touch not the unclean thing and I will be a Father unto you and ye shall be my sons and daughters" ( 2 Corinthians 6:17-18 ). But the Lord calls for a real separation, a real commitment.

"Don't want any trouble, Paul. Now they've heard that you've been teaching some things, that you know the Jews don't have to worry about the law and all, to just go ahead and serve Jesus Christ. But hey, do us a favor, now we don't want any trouble. All these Jews are going to hear that you've come here and you know things are liable to get a little sticky. So there are these four young fellows and they've come for the feast, and so they want to take a vow." Now in taking the vow you had to go a whole week, just in dedication to the Lord. It was a Nazarite vow. You shave your head. Then at the end of the period of time you shave your head again and you bring the hair and burn it as a sacrifice unto God. And it's consecration, and they were suppose to take one week off and just spend the week in the temple worshipping God. Now they had a hard time taking the week off because of needing supplies and so they often had wealthy people who would sponsor them. And so they said to Paul, "Look, sponsor these four guys."

Now Paul had brought a good offering to the church in Jerusalem. It's interesting there's no mention of any thanks for it. There's just an endeavor to really compromise Paul to his own convictions. Now Paul, I admire here his greatness, because he went ahead and did it. And I'm sure he did it just to follow his own exhortation in Romans to live peaceably among all men as much as lieth in you. "Hey, it doesn't mean anything to me, if it's going to help you guys, fine." I mean it shows the greatness of the guy. It shows the graciousness of Paul, that he would go along with this suggestion. But it wasn't in his heart, you know, he was free from these things. He had discovered the grace of God. That's one thing the church in Jerusalem had not really discovered. They were still trying to please God by adherence to the law rather than attaining to that righteousness which is by faith in Jesus Christ, of which Paul wrote to the Romans.

And he said, "What about it?" He said, "It's just this, the Jews have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge because they're ignorant of the righteousness that God has provided. And being ignorant of that righteousness, they're going about trying to establish their own righteousness by the law. But the truth is they've never come to it, they've never found it. Where as the Gentiles, dumb as far as the law is concerned, have stumbled into the glorious righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, and the Gentiles have attained it. Because they've attained it through the faith of Jesus Christ to the blessings of the grace of God."

So they are asking Paul to compromise his convictions. Paul said, "I'm all things to all men that I might gain the more. To the Jew I became a Jew." This is when he did. "Alright, fellows, sure." So when the brothers come in and they say, "What about this Paul?" What's he say? "Well, hey look, you know he's paying the tab on these four guys. And look, he's got a shaved head, and you know, he's a good Jewish boy, don't worry about him."

And as touching the Gentiles ( Acts 21:25 )

Now they were worried that Paul was making Jews non-Jews. As far as the Gentiles were concerned, you know, do anything you want with them.

we've written to them and we've concluded that they don't have to observe these things, except they ought to just keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication. So Paul took the men the next day and he purified himself and with them he 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 ( Acts 21:25-26 ).

Now surely Paul would not have offered a sin offering because he knew that that was already accomplished once for all. But there were other offerings that would have been legitimate for a Christian to offer. There were offerings, the burnt offerings which were of offerings of consecration. There were the peace offerings, the meal offerings, the offerings of communion with God. And in the Kingdom Age there speaks of offering sacrifices unto God. There, no doubt, will be the peace offerings and the commitment offerings, the burnt offerings, the offerings of consecration. But the sin offering has been offered once and for all. Never again is it necessary to make a sin offering unto God; that has been taken care of once and for all by Jesus Christ. But people read of the offerings in the Kingdom Age and say, "Woo, I wonder why they're offering offerings?" Well, there are different offerings, not just sin offerings. There is the consecration; there is that communion, the peace offering.

And so when the seven days were almost over, the Jews which were from Asia, when they saw Paul in the temple, they stirred up the people, and they grabbed hold of him, and they cried out, Men of Israel, help us: This is the man, that is teaching everyone, everywhere against the people, and the law, and this place: and he brought Greeks into the temple, and has polluted the holy place. (For earlier in the week they had seen him in the city of Jerusalem with Trophimus who was from Ephesus, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple.) ( Acts 21:27-29 )

Now there was the court of the Gentiles but then there was the sign on the wall and it says, "Any Gentile that goes beyond this sign is responsible for his own death." And the Romans respected the right of them to stone anybody who would go on in to the Jewish court. They would allow them to go ahead and stone them. So they were accusing Paul of profaning the temple by bringing Greeks into the temple, which Paul did not do. But they supposed that he did it because they had seen these Greeks with him in the city of Jerusalem.

And so all of the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and they shut the doors. And as they went about to kill him, tidings came to the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar: and immediately he took soldiers and the centurions, and he ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, [that is, the guys who were beating him,] they quit beating Paul ( Acts 21:30-32 ).

Now if there thousands of Christians, where were they when Paul was being beat to death? You know, why didn't they come in and help him? You know there are thousands of Christians here, you know, there are thousands of believers now, who keep the law. Well, they sure weren't around when Paul needed them.

And so then the chief captain came near, and he took him, and he commanded Paul to be bound with two chains; and demanded who are you, what have you done. And some had cried out one thing, and others cried out another thing, among the multitude: and he couldn't know of certainty because of the tumult, and so he commanded Paul to be carried to the Anotonial Fortress [which was on the edge of the temple mount] ( Acts 21:33-34 ).

It is on the . . . it would be the northwest corner of the temple mount.

And so when he came upon the stairs ( Acts 21:35 ),

There were two flights of stairs leading up into the Anotonial Fortress.

so it was, that he was carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the people. For the multitude of the people who were following after him were crying, Away with him ( Acts 21:35-36 ).

The same cry that they were making against Jesus, "Away with him, away with him, crucify him, crucify him." And so when he came upon the stairs, so it was that he was carried of the soldiers, and the multitude were crying, "Away with him."

and as Paul was to be led into the castle [the Anotonial Fortress], he said to the chief captain, May I speak to you? And he said, Can you speak Greek? Aren't you that Egyptian, who before these days made an uproar, and let out into the wilderness four thousand men who were murderers? ( Acts 21:37-38 )

Now there was a fellow who came up from Egypt, a renegade who had gathered a group of people together and led them out to the Mount of Olives, and he said that he was going to cause the walls of Jerusalem to crumble. And he went through his whole little deal and the walls didn't crumble. But he had a renegade band that he led out and they were then attacked by the Romans. And most of them were killed, but the guy escaped, the leader escaped. And so the captain thought that this was the leader, this Egyptian who had led this multitude a few years back. So then he said, "Aren't you that Egyptian?"

And Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city ( Acts 21:39 ):

Hey man, I'm a Roman citizen. A citizen from Tarsus.

And, I beseech thee, would you allow me to speak to the people? ( Acts 21:39 )

That Paul, gutsy guy. You know, here they're crying, "Away with him, kill him," you know, and they're trying to kill him. And now he's asking permission to speak to the people.

And when he'd given him the license to do it, Paul stood on the stairs, and he beckoned with a hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in their Hebrew language, saying ( Acts 21:40 ),

And isn't that a crazy place to break a chapter?

Now you're going to have to wait till next Sunday to find out what he said. Created another riot, but interesting. So, next week we continue. You know, when we were kids in Sunday school we used to sing, "Dare to be a Daniel", too bad someone didn't write a song for the Sunday school children, "Dare to be a Paul". A man of total consecration and commitment of himself to God. A man who had as his chief desire to do the will of God, to finish and accomplish the purposes that God had in mind for him. Oh, would to God that we would dedicate ourselves totally completely to that course that God has set for us. That we, as Paul, would seek primarily just to finish the course with joy, as we fulfill the ministry that Christ has called us to.

May the Lord be with you and bless you this week in a very special way. May the Spirit draw you into a closer, more intimate fellowship with Jesus Christ. May you be strengthened by that work of the Spirit within your life. May you be blessed in Jesus' name. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Acts 21". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/acts-21.html. 2014.
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