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THE VOYAGE CONTINUED
1. “And when it came to pass that we embarked, having been farewelled by them.” Cos is an island near the coast, celebrated in Grecian history for the temple of Aesculapius, the founder of the medical art. Rhodes is a beautiful island, celebrated for the brazen statue of a man, manufactured by Phidias, so large that it actually strode the entrance into the harbor, ships passing in under it beneath its feet, and we are not astonished that it was celebrated as one of the seven wonders of the world.
2. Sailing on, they passed the great island of Cyprus, the home of Barnabas on the left, arriving in Syria and landing at Tyre, where they spend seven days with his disciples, who, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, warn Paul not to go up to Jerusalem, like all others in vain, as the Spirit was leading him thither, despite the terrible persecutions that awaited him.
5-8. “....Going out we departed, all accompanying us, along with the women and children, even without the city, and, putting down our knees on the sand, praying, we bade each other adieu.” Lord, rebuke our pride, too stiff and haughty anon to kneel on a nice carpet or clean camp-meeting straw or sawdust, when Paul and the Tyrian saints mutually knelt in the sand on the dirty seashore. Arriving in Ptolemais they spend one day with the saints, taking their final departure from the sea and walking overland [now in Palestine] to Caesarea, where they are delighted to find Philip, the evangelist, of whom we have had no record in twenty years. Chapter 8. tells us when the Spirit caught him away from the Ethiopian eunuch in Southern Palestine he traveled up the coast, preaching in many cities, till he arrived in Caesarea. It seemed that he settled there, making this city headquarters of his evangelistic work.
9-14. God has been good to him, giving him four daughters, all happily endued with the gift of prophecy, and efficient helpers in his evangelistic work. While Paul and his comrades enjoy the kind hospitality of the prophet’s mansion seven days, the same prophet, Agabus, mentioned in Chapter 11, eighteen years ago having come from Judea, meets Paul, taking his girdle, binding his feet and hands, said: “These things, saith the Holy Ghost, the man whose girdle this is will the Jews in Jerusalem thus bind and deliver into the hands of the Gentiles.” This prediction powerfully stirred the saints at Caesarea importunately to plead with Paul to desist from going up to Jerusalem, till he finally begs them no longer to break his heart with their tears, because he is ready “even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Then they acquiesced, saying, “Let the will of the Lord be done.”
15, 16. Now they proceed to go up to Jerusalem, taking along with them a certain Mnason, a Cyprian, an old disciple, i. e., one of the first disciples of the Lord Jesus when He began His ministry, “with whom we may lodge,”
i. e., this man Mnason had the financial ability to furnish a lodging in Jerusalem for Paul, Luke and comrades.
17, 18. Paul is gladly received by the apostles and brethren, proceeding at once to James, the pastor of the mother church, where, in presence of the apostles, elders and brethren, he relates the mighty works of God among the Gentiles.
NON-ESSENTIALITY OF ECCLESIASTICAL ORDINANCES
20. “And hearing, they continued to glorify God and said to him, You see, brother, how many myriads there are among the Jews of those having believed, and all these are zealots of the law.” From this verse we are assured that the Christian Jews punctiliously kept the law of Moses, circumcising their children, offering animal sacrifices and performing many other ordinances peculiar to the Levitical ritual. It took the Roman armies, A. D. 73, who captured the city and destroyed the temple, a million of people, selling a million more into slavery and thus bringing an end to the Jewish dispensation, to stop the Christian Jews from their pertinacious observance of the Mosaic institution, thus precipitating them, pursuant to the warning of Jesus, to fly away from Jerusalem in order to save their lives. Then they gave up the Mosaic ritual, which they had carried fifteen hundred years, while the apostles and elders decreed perfect relief to all the Gentiles from all the rites and ceremonies of the Mosiac law, requiring of them nothing but entire sanctification, experimental and practical; they at the same time allowed the Jews perfect liberty to keep the law of Moses. Now remember that these Jews and Gentiles were precisely equal and perfectly free in the very same organizations of the gospel church, the one to observe the vast and operose ritual of Moses, a hundred times more burdensome than Baptist immersion and foot-washing, at the same time extending to the Gentiles perfect spiritual freedom to omit all ecclesiastical ceremonies and go ahead with a purely spiritual worship. Why was this? The unity of God’s people focalizes in the baptism of the Holy Ghost, which brings all into one body (1 Corinthians 12:13). When you have this, you are saved to the uttermost. Hence it makes no difference whether you practice any, few or many church rites. It is perfectly consistent for the sanctified Quaker, utterly unencumbered by carnal ordinances, and the trine- immersion, foot-washing, kissing, sanctified Dunker to worship together in very same church in perfect harmony and Christian fellowship. The division of God’s people over non-essentials is a trick of the devil to get their eye off the Savior so he can side-track them into hell. If Jesus does not baptize you with the Holy Ghost and fire, your religion will all prove a failure and break down this side of heaven. When you have the Savior’s baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire, then you enjoy perfect freedom of conscience relative to church rites and ceremonies, as here you see the very same apostles who laid no obstruction on the observance of the vast and burdensome rites and ceremonies of Judaism on the part of the Christian Jews, magnanimously relieved the Gentiles of the entire curriculum, only requiring of them the spirituality and the essence, which is likewise indispensable to Jew and Gentile.
21-26. They very judiciously advised Paul to adopt a procedure in connection with four Jewish brethren, who at that time had on them temporary Nazaritish vows, to fall in with them, becoming a Mosaic Nazarite for the time being [an institution peculiar to Jews only], thus rendering himself conspicuous before all the people for his literal observance of the Mosaic law. Here we have Paul’s example, going unhesitatingly into religious ceremonies which were utterly null and void, merely to gratify the Jews, lest they might receive spiritual detriment by his example, illustrating the fact that while Paul preached to the Gentiles perfect spiritual freedom from ecclesiastical ritualism, when among the Jews he practiced it himself. These Apostolical decrees to the Gentiles (Acts 21:25) to abstain from idolatry, blood and fornication, have a purely spiritual signification, culminating in entire sanctification. We are cleansed from all unrighteousness by the blood of Christ, which is symbolized by all animal blood, hence our abstinence from it. The blood has a spiritual and not a physical signification. No one is free from idolatry in some form or other till sanctified wholly, while fornication is the only sin which breaks the marital covenant and forfeits the Bridehood of Christ. Hence its specification here. Nothing at all is said about baptism, the eucharist or any other ceremony. Hence you see the pure spirituality of gospel salvation, temporalities all incidental and optionary.
27-30. You see plainly that this affair was diabolical, mobocratic and unapologizable from the beginning, as even the most radical Jews fully approved what Paul was doing. The whole affair was a falsification and a downright violation of all law, Jewish and Roman.
31-38. Lysias, the Roman kiliarch, commander-in-chief at Castle Antonia on Mt. Moriah near the temple, the Roman citadel for the protection of Jerusalem, in all of his treatment of Paul shows up a very beautiful character of sterling integrity, fidelity and magnanimity, especially for a heathen. If he had not fortunately been present at the castle and run with all his might when he heard the uproar, they would have killed Paul on the spot, so Lysias was sent of God to prolong his life. Having secured the prisoner, and unable, amid the heterogeneous clamor of the mob, to ascertain the crime with which he is charged, he orders the soldiers to carry him into the castle, transporting him in their arms to save his life. The kiliarch is surprised when Paul speaks to him in Greek, thinking that he is a notable Egyptian robber chief who had recently caused great trouble. Of this impression, however, Lysias is relieved when he hears him speak Greek. Consequently he permits the soldiers to stand him on the threshold of the castle, while he proceeds to address the people in Hebrew, which was not only the better understood by the Jews, but calculated to soften their animosities.
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Godbey, William. "Commentary on Acts 21". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany