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Bible Commentaries
Acts 21

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Verses 1-40


Acts 21:1

When it came to pass float we were parted from them, and had set sail for it came to pass, that after we were gotten from them, and had launched, A.V.; Cos for Coos, A.V. and T.R.; next day for day following, A.V. Parted from them (ἀποσπασθέντας). "Non sine desiderio magno" (Bengel). "He shows the violence of the parting by saying, ' Having torn ourselves away '" (Chrysostom). The word is properly applied to those who have been unwillingly torn away from their friends (Schleusner and Kuinoel); "denotes the painful separation wrung from them by necessity" (Meyer) In Acts 20:30 it was used in the active voice of false teachers "drawing away" the disciples, i.e. Christians, after them. In 2 Macc 12:10 it means simply" withdrawn," and so perhaps also in Luke 22:41, though Meyer thinks that St. Luke chose the unusual word to denote the urgent emotion by which our Lord was as it were compelled to leave the companionship of the apostles, and be alone. Σπᾶν (whence spasm) and its derivatives, of which Luke uses four—two of which are peculiar to him—are much employed by medical writers, as Hippocrates, Galen, Antaeus, etc. (Hobart, on Luke 22:1-71.). Had set sail (ἀναχθῆναι ἡμᾶς). The word means" to go up to the sea from the land," as Luke 8:22; Acts 13:13; Acts 16:11; Acts 27:12; just as, on the contrary, κατάγειν and κατάγεσθαι are used of coming down to land from the sea (see Acts 27:3 in the T.R., and Acts 27:3; Acts 28:12). The same conception of putting out to sea being a going up, led to the phrase μετέωρος (high up) being applied to ships out at sea. From μετέωρος comes, of course, our word "meteor." Cos, or Coos, for it is written both ways, now called by the Turks Stanko (ἐς τὰν Κῶ), a beautiful island, nearly opposite the Gulf of Halicarnassus, and separated from Cnidus by a narrow strait, about six hours' sail from Miletus. There is a city of the same name on its eastern coast. It was one of the six Dorian colonies which formed the confederation called the Dorian Hexapolis. It was famous for its wine and its textile fabrics (Howson, and Lewin, and 'Dict. of Geog.'). Rhodes (Ρόδος); perhaps the "Isle of Roses;" the well-known mountainous island in the AEgean Sea, which lies nine or ten miles from the coast of Carts. Its inhabitants were Dorians, and it was one of the places which claimed the honor of being the birthplace of Homer. The towns are all situated on the seacoast, "Rhodes was the last Christian city to make a stand against the Saracens" (Howson). Patara ([τὰ] Πάταρα). A flourishing commercial city on the south-west coast of Lycia, with a good harbor. It was the port of Xauthus, the capital of Lycia. The name Patera is still attached to some extensive ruins on the seashore not far from the river Xanthus.

Acts 21:2

Having found a ship crossing for finding a ship sailing, A.V.; Phoenieia for Phenicia, A.V.; set sail for set forth, A.V. Having found a ship. The ship in which St. Paul and his companions had hitherto sailed was probably a coasting-vessel, intending to continue its course all along the south coast of Asia Minor. But at Patara they found a ship on the point of sailing across the open sea direct to Tyre, by which the voyage would be shortened many days. They accordingly immediately took their passage by it, and put out to sea (ἀνήχθημεν, Acts 21:1, note). A glance at the map will show what a great corner was thus cut off. A straight line from Patara to Tyro leaves Cyprus just on the left.

Acts 21:3

And for when, A.V.; come in sight of for discovered, A.V.; leaving it … we sailed for we left it … and sailed, A.V.; unto for into, A.V. Had come in sight of; literally, had been shown Cyprus; had had Cyprus made visible to us; i.e. had sighted Cyprus. It is a nautical expression. Meyer compares the phrase πεπίστευμαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον for the grammatical construction. The verb ἀναφαίνω is peculiar to St. Luke, occur-tug elsewhere in the New Testament only in Luke 19:11. It is, however, used repeatedly in the LXX. of Job. Landed; κατήχθημεν, T.R., just the opposite to the ἀνήθημεν of verse 2; but the R.T. has κατήλθομεν, with the same meaning, "we came to shore." At Tyre, which they may have reached in about forty-eight hours from Patara with a fair wind (Howson). Tyre at this time was still a city of some commercial importance, with two harbors, one north and one south of the causeway which connected the island with the mainland (see Acts 12:20). Howson thinks the ship in which St. Paul sailed may have brought wheat from the Black Sea, and taken up Phoenician wares in exchange. The sight of Cyprus as he sailed by must have brought many and very various memories to the apostle's mind, of Barnabas, of Sergius Paulus, of Elymas, and many others.

Acts 21:4

Having found the disciples for finding disciples, A.V. and T.R.; and these for who, A.V.; set foot in for go up to, A.V. and T.R. Having found the disciples, If the R.T. is right, the meaning is that they had sought out the Christians, apparently not a large body, scattered in the city, and perhaps with some difficulty found them and their place of meeting. This would look as if they were not Jews, as the synagogue was always known. He should not set foot in Jerusalem. The R.T. reads ἐπιβαίνειν for ἀναβαίνειν. It is true that, in the LXX. of Deuteronomy 1:36, Τὴν γῆν ἐφ ἢν ἐπέβη means "The land that he hath trodden upon;" and that in Joshua 1:3 again, ποδῶν ὑμῶν means "Every place on which you shall tread with the sole of your feet;" but the phrase ἐπιβαίνειν εἰς Ιερουσαλήμ must surely mean simply "to go to Jerusalem." Through the Spirit. The Holy Spirit revealed to them, as he did to many ethers (Joshua 1:11 and Acts 20:23), that bonds and affliction awaited St. Paul at Jerusalem. The inference that he should not go to Jerusalem was their own.

Acts 21:5

It came to pass that we had accomplished for we had accomplished, A.V.; the days for those days, A.V.; on our journey for our way, A.V.; they all, with wives and children, brought us on our way for they all brought us on our way, with wires and children, A.V.; kneeling down on the beach we prayed for we kneeled down on the shore and prayed., A.V. and T.R. Accomplished the days. There is no other example of this use of the word ἐξαρτίζειν, which always means "to fit out, to equip thoroughly," as e.g. Josephus, 'Ant. Jud.,' 3. 2.2, where he speaks of soldiers τοῖς ἅπασι καλῶς ἐξηρτισμένους well equipped in all respects; and in the only other passage in the New Testament where it occurs, 2 Timothy 3:17, where it is rendered "thoroughly furnished," or "furnished completely." R.V. Hence some would render the passage here "when we had refitted (the ship) during these days." But this is a very harsh construction, and it is better, with the glossaries, lexicons, the Vulgate, and most commentators, to take the word here in the unusual sense of "to complete," applied to time. The days are the seven days mentioned in 2 Timothy 3:4, which were probably determined by the time it took to unlade the ship and get the new cargo on board.

Acts 21:6

And bade each other farewell; and we went on board the ship, but, etc., for and when we had taken our leave one of another, we took ship; and, etc., A.V. and T.R. The ἀπασπάζεσθαι of the R.T. occurs nowhere else, except in Himerius in the fourth century after Christ. Went on board; ἐπέβημες εἰς, the same phrase as ἐπιβαίνειν εἰς Ἱερουσαλήμ in Acts 21:5.

Acts 21:7

The voyage for our course, A.V.; arrived at for came to, A.V.; we saluted for saluted, A.V. When we had finished; διανύσαντες, only found here in the New Testament, but not uncommon in classical Greek for finishing a voyage, or a journey, or a race-course (Euripides, Hesiod, Xenophon, etc.). St. Luke seems to indicate by the phrase that the sea-voyage ended here. Arrived at; κατηντήσαμεν, a favorite word of St. Luke's for arriving at a place (Acts 16:1; Acts 18:19, Acts 18:24; Acts 20:15; Acts 25:13; Acts 27:12, etc.), Ptolemais. The ancient Accho of Judges 1:31, then a Canaanite city in the tribe of Asher, but not subsequently mentioned in the Old Testament. In 1 Macc. 5:15, 22 and elsewhere it is called, as here, Ptolemais, having received the name from one of the Ptolemies, probably either Sorer or Lagi; but in the Middle Ages it appears as St. Jean d'Acre, and is now commonly called Acre. It lies on the north side of the spacious bay of Carmel, but is not in all weathers very safe harborage. It is an easy day's sail, under thirty miles, from Tyre. When St. Paul was there it had recently been made a Roman colony by the Emperor Claudius, and was important as a commercial city. Saluted the brethren. The Christians there. We have no account of the evangelization of Ptolemais. Perhaps the gospel was first preached there to the Jewish colony by those who traveled "as far as Phoenico," after "the persecution that arose about Stephen" (Acts 11:19); for Ptolemais was reckoned as belonging to Phenicia.

Acts 21:8

On the morrow for the next day A.V.; we for we that were of Paul's company, A.V. and T.R.; entering we for we entered and, A.V.; who for which, A.V. Unto Caesarea. They seem to have come from Ptolemais to Caesarea by land, a two days' journey; the word. ἐξελθόντες, as Howson justly remarks, pointing to a land-journey. Philip the evangelist. When last we heard of him (Acts 8:40) he had just reached Caesarea; apparently he had been working there as an evangelist ever since. His old home at Jerusalem (Acts 6:5) had been broken up by the persecution (Acts 8:5), and thus the deacon had become an evangelist (Acts 8:12). Evangelists are mentioned by St. Paul(Ephesians 4:11) as one of the higher orders of the Christian ministry; and Timothy is bid "do the work of an evangelist" (2 Timothy 4:5). In later times the term was restricted to the four writers of the Gospels. Philip's old association with Stephen in the diaconate must have been keenly remembered by St. Paul. We abode with him. This seems to imply that Philip was well to do, and had a good house.

Acts 21:9

Now this man for and the same man, A.V. Virgins. This certainly conveys the impression that they had dedicated their lives to the service of God (1 Corinthians 7:34-38). Which did prophesy. The question arises—Did they exercise their gift of prophecy in the Church or in private? The passage 1 Corinthians 11:5 seems to indicate that in the Church of Corinth women did pray and prophesy in the congregation, while, on the other hand, 1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Corinthians 14:35 seems peremptorily to forbid women to speak or teach in Church, as does 1 Timothy 2:11, 1 Timothy 2:12. How, then, is this apparent contradiction to be reconciled? It must be either by supposing

(1) that the gift of prophecy spoken of here and in 1 Corinthians 11:5 was exercised in private only; or

(2) that the prohibition did not apply to the extraordinary operation of the Holy Spirit speaking by prophet or prophetesses as the ease might be. The latter seems the most probable (see Acts 13:1, note). On the office of prophets in the early Church, see Acts 11:27; Acts 13:1; Acts 15:32; Acts 19:6; Rom 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:10, 1 Corinthians 12:28, 1Co 12:29; 1 Corinthians 13:2, 1 Corinthians 13:8; 1Co 14:6, 1 Corinthians 14:29, etc.; Ephesians 3:5; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:20 (see Alford, on Acts 11:27). As regards these daughters of Philip, there are conflicting statements in early Church writers. Eusebius ('Eccl. Hist.,' 3:30) quotes Clement of Alexandria as saying that both Peter and Philip among the apostles were married and had children, and that Philip moreover gave his daughters in marriage to husbands. But in the next chapter

(3) he quotes Polycrates, Bishop of Ephesus at the end of the second century, as saying that Philip the apostle and his two daughters, who had grown old in their virginity, were buried at Hierapolis; and that another daughter of his, "who had her conversation in the Holy Spirit," was buried at Ephesus. Eusebius himself thinks that these daughters of Philip the evangelist were meant. If they were, it does not necessarily follow that those who, according to Clemens Alexandrinus, were married were of the four mentioned here. They might be sisters. Polycrates seems to speak of three sisters who lived a religious life (in the technical sense); the fourth may have died young. But it is quite possible that Clemens may really be speaking of Philip the apostle, and Polycrates also; the more so as Philip the apostle, according to the tradition recorded by Nicephorns, suffered martyrdom at Hierapolis. However, the confusion between the two Philips is quite certain in the Menaeum (or Calendar) of the Greek Church, where we read, "On the 4th of September is the commemoration of Saint Hermione, one of the four daughters of the Apostle Philip, who baptized the eunuch of Candace. She and her sister Eutychis came into Asia after the death of the Apostle John. She was buried at Ephesus." A fragment of Caius (in Eusebius, 'Eccl. Hist.,' 3:31) increases the confusion by speaking of" the four daughters of Philip, prophetesses, who were buried in Hierapolis".

Acts 21:10

Many days (ἡμέρας πλείους). In Acts 13:31 ἐπὶ ἡμέρας πλείους is applied to the forty days between the Resurrection and the Ascension. In Acts 18:20 πλείονα χρόνον is a longer time—longer, viz. than he had intended. In Acts 25:6 ἡμέρας πλείους ἢ δέκα is "more than ten days." Here, therefore, it is too strong an expression to say "many days." According to Lewin's calculation, he was only five days at Caesarea—from May 10 to May 15. Howson's "some days," which is the rendering also in the margin of the R.T., is much better than "many." Renan has "quelques jours." Agabus (see Acts 11:28).

Acts 21:11

Coming to for when he was come unto, A.V.; and taking for he took, A.V.; he bound for and bound, A.V.; feet and hands for hands and feet, A.V. and T.R. Bound his own feet, etc. The R.T. has ἑαυτοῦ which leaves no doubt that Agabus bound his own hands and feet. The reading of the T.R., αὐτοῦ, would rather indicate Paul's hands and feet, as Grotius, Hammond, and others take it, though less conformably to the context. (For similar symbolical actions of the old prophets, see Isaiah 20:2, Isaiah 20:3; Jeremiah 13:1-7; 1 Kings 22:11; Ezekiel 4:1-6; Ezekiel 12:3-7; Ezekiel 24:16-24, etc.) Shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentries. Nearly the same words as those in which our Lord foretold his own betrayal.

Acts 21:12

They of that place; οἱ ἐντόπιοι, a word found only here in the New Testament, and not found in the LXX. or the Apocrypha, but good classical Greek (for the sentiment, see Acts 21:4).

Acts 21:13

What do ye, weeping and breaking my heart? for what mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? A.V. (the same sense only a more modern idiom). Breaking. Συνθρύπτοντες occurs only here in the New Testament, or indeed in any Greek writer, though the simple form, θρύπτω, is common in medical writers, and ἀποθρύπτω occurs in Plato. It has the force of the Latin frangere animum, to crush and weaken the spirit. I am ready. Paul's answer reminds us of Peter's saying to our Lord, "Lord, I am ready to go with thee both into prison, and to death" (Luke 22:33). But Peter's resolve was made in his own strength, Paul's in the strength of the Holy Ghost; and so the one was broken, and the other was kept.

Acts 21:14

The will of the Lord, etc. A beautiful application of the petition in the Lord's prayer, "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (comp. Luke 22:42).

Acts 21:15

These for those, A.V.; baggage for carriages, A.V. We took up, etc. Επισκευασάμενοι, is the reading of the R.T., as of Mill, Bengel, Griesbach, Lachmann, Tischendorf, Meyer, Alford, etc. It occurs only here in the New Testament, but is common in classical Greek, in the sense of "fitting out for a journey," "lading a ship" or "beasts of burden" with baggage, "collecting baggage," and the like. The ἀποσκευάζεσθαι of the A.V. means" to unload," "to get rid of baggage," and thence generally "to remove," which gives no good sense here.

Acts 21:16

And there went for there went, A.V.; from for of, A.V.; bringing for and brought, A.V.; early for old, A.V. Mnason of Cyprus; only mentioned here. He may very probably be one of those Cypriots mentioned in Acts 11:19, Acts 11:20, and so have been a disciple before the death of Stephen, and hence properly called an old or early disciple. If he had been one of St. Paul's converts in the visit to Cyprus recorded in Acts 13:1-52., St. Paul would have needed no introduction to him. The construction of the sentence is involved, and the exact meaning consequently obscure. Kuincel, Meyer, Howson (in 'Dict. of Bible'), and many more, translate it "conducting us to Mnason," etc., which seems the better translation; not, however, so as to make ἄγειν Μνάσωνι equivalent to ἄγειν πρὸς Μνάσωνα, which Greek usage will not admit of, but explaining the dative by attraction of the relative ᾦ, which is governed by παρὰ. If it had not been for the intervening παρ ᾦ ξενισθῶμεν, the sentence would have run ἄγοντες πρὸς τὸν Μνάσωνα, κ.τ.λ. If Mnason, who, consistently with Acts 11:19, had a house at Jerusalem, had been at Caesarea at this time, it would be quite unmeaning that disciples from Caesarea should bring Mnason with them. The sentence would rather have run "among whom was Mnason," etc. But if he was at Jerusalem, it was quite proper that any Christians of Caesarea who knew him should conduct Paul to his house, and introduce him and his party to him. Mnason, like Philip (Acts 11:6, note), was evidently a man of substance, Should lodge; should be hospitably entertained (Hebrews 13:2; 1 Peter 4:9; see Acts 10:6, Acts 10:18).

Acts 21:18

Went in with us unto James. Nothing can mark more distinctly the position of James as Bishop of Jerusalem than this visit of Paul to him, and the finding him surrounded with all the elders of Jerusalem. It is a most distinct evidence of the apostolic origin of the episcopal office.

Acts 21:19

Rehearsed one by one for declared particularly, A.V.; the things which for what things, A.V. The things which God had wrought, etc. (comp. Acts 15:12). It was a noble account to render. Since he had saluted the Church (Acts 18:22), when he had probably seen James last, he had labored at Antioch, in Galatia and Phrygia, and had wrought a mighty revolution in Asia. He had consolidated his work in Macedonia and Achaia; he had held his visitation of Gentile eiders in Miletus; he had visited Tyre, Ptolemais, and Caesarea, great Gentile cities, and had seen everywhere astonishing tokens of the grace of God which was with him. And now he pours his tale into the ears of the chief pastor of the mother Church of Jerusalem, and those of the Jewish elders. A tale of wonder indeed!

Acts 21:20

They, when they heard it for when they heard it, they, A.V.; God for the Lord, A.V. and T.R.; they said for said, A.V.; there are among the Jews of them which have believed for of Jews there are which believe, A.V. and T.R.; for the Law for of the Law, A.V. They … glorified God. There is not the slightest symptom on the part of James and the elders of unfriendliness towards St. Paul, or jealousy or opposition to his work among the Gentiles (comp. Galatians 2:7-9). The appellation brother is another indication of friendly feeling. Thousands (Greek μυριάδες, tens of thousands). These need not be deemed to be all Jerusalem Jews; if applied to the Church at Jerusalem only, such a word would be probably a gross exaggeration; but there were great numbers of Jews of the dispersion assembled at Jerusalem for Pentecost—probably all the Christian Jews of Judaea, and many from Syria, Galatia, Pontus, and the various countries enumerated in Acts 2:9-11. So that there might be several myriads of converted Jews altogether. All zealous for the Law. This is a remarkable testimony to the unanimity of the Christian Jews in their attachment to the Law of Moses, and throws light upon the Epistle to the Galatians and many other passages in St. Paul's Epistles. It explains the great difficulty experienced in the early Church in dealing with converts from Judaism. Zealous (ζηλωταὶ). So the fierce sect of Zealots were called at the time of the Jewish wars (see Josephus, ' Bell. Jud.,' 4. 6.1, and elsewhere).

Acts 21:21

Have been for are, A.V.; concerning for of, A.V.; telling them not for saying that they ought not, A.V. Have been informed (κατηχήθησαν); see Acts 18:25; Luke 1:4; Romans 2:18, etc. The verb properly means to instruct by word of mouth, whence our "catechism." The customs (τοῖς ἔθεσι); see Acts 6:14, both for the phrase and the sentiment, and Acts 15:1, note; Acts 26:3; Acts 28:17. Ἔθος is a favorite word of St. Luke's, occurring ten times in his Gospel and in the Acts, and only twice in the New Testament elsewhere (John 19:40; Hebrews 10:25; see Hobart, on Luke 2:27).

Acts 21:22

The R.T. omits the clause in the T.R. rendered the multitude must needs come together in the A.V.; they will certainly hear for they will hear, A.V. and T.R. The πάντως, which in the A.V. belongs to the omitted clause, is rendered "certainly" in the R.T.

Acts 21:23

Which have a vow; meaning emphatically the vow of a Nazarite.

Acts 21:24

These for them, A.V.; for them for with them, A.V.; shall know for may know, A.V.; there is no truth in the things, etc., for those things … are nothing, A.V.; hare been for were, A.V.; keeping for and keepest, A.V. As regards the transaction recommended by James, Kypke (quoted by Meyer) says, "It was a received thing among the Jews, and was reckoned an act of eminent piety, for a rich man to undertake to bear, on behalf of poor Nazarites, the expense of those sacrifices which they had to offer when they shaved their heads at the expiration of their vow." Josephus seems to allude to the custom, and to speak of King Agrippa as acting in accordance with it, when he says of him that he ordered great numbers of Nazarites to be shaved ('Ant. Jud.,' 19. 6.1). The sacrifices were costly, consisting of" three beasts, one for a burnt offering, another for a sin offering, and a third for a peace offering". Alexander Jannaeus is said to have contributed nine hundred victims for three hundred Nazarites. Purify thyself; ἁγνίσθητι, the word used in the LXX. of Numbers 6:2, Numbers 6:3, Numbers 6:8 (with its compound ἁφαγνίσασθαι,, and co-derivatives ἁγνεία and ἅγιος) for the corresponding Hebrew דיזִּהַ, to take the Nazarite vow. St. Paul, therefore, became a Nazarite of days for seven days, intending at the end of the time to offer the prescribed sacrifices for himself and his four companions (see, however, note on Numbers 6:26, at the end). Be at charges for them (δαπάνησον ἐπ αὐτοῖς). Make the necessary expenditure on their account, that they may shave their heads, which they could not do till the prescribed sacrifices were offered.

Acts 21:25

But as for as, A.V.; have believed for believe, A.V.; wrote giving judgment for have written and concluded, A.V.; the R.T. omits the clause rendered that they observe no such thing, save only, in the A.V.; should keep for keep, A.V.; sacrificed for offered, A.V.; what is strangled for strangled, A.V. As touching the Gentiles, etc. What follows is, of course, a quotation from "the decrees that had been ordained of the apostles and elders that were at Jerusalem" (Acts 16:4), of which the text is given in Acts 15:19, Acts 15:20, Acts 15:28. Observe the use of the identical words—κρίνω, in Acts 15:19; Acts 16:4; and in this verse; and of ἐπιστέλλω, in this verse and in Acts 15:20, with its cognate διεστειλάμεθα and ἀπεστάλκαμεν, Acts 15:24, Acts 15:27. This reference on the part of James to the decrees was very important as a confirmation of "the gospel which Paul preached among the Gentiles" (Galatians 2:2). It also marks distinctly the upright and honorable conduct of James, and the concord of the apostles.

Acts 21:26

Went for entered, A.V.; declaring the fulfillment for to signify the accomplishment, A.V.; the offering was for that an offering should be, A.V. Paul took the men. St. Paul's acquiescence in James's advice is an instance of what he says of himself (1 Corinthians 9:20), and is in accordance with his conduct in circumcising Timothy (Acts 16:3). But that he did not attach any intrinsic importance even to circumcision, and much less to the minor Jewish ceremonies, is clear from such passages as Romans 1:28, Rom 1:29; 1 Corinthians 7:19; Galatians 5:6; Galatians 6:15; Philippians 3:3, etc. Purifying himself with them, etc. (ἁγνισθεὶς); see note on verse 24. James's advice had been Τούτους παραλαβὼν ἁγνίσθητι σὺν αὐτοῖς: in obedience to that advice St. Paul now Παραλαβὼν τοὺσἄνδρας σὺν αὐτοῖς ἁγνισθεὶς εἰσήει εἰς τὸ ἱερόν. What was the particular form by which a person who wished to associate himself with others under a Nazaritic vow (note on verse 24) did so is not known; nor how long before the expiration of the vow such association must be made. But from the mention of "seven days" in verse 27 (which is the number named in Numbers 6:9, in case of an accidental uncleanness), it seems highly probable that "seven days" was the term during which a person must have conformed to the Nazaritic vow to entitle him to "be at charges," as well, perhaps, as the time during which Nazarites, at the end of their vow, had to undergo special purification. Declaring the fulfillment, etc. The vow of the four men had been for at least thirty days (the minimum period of such vow); but whatever length of time it had been for, such time would have expired by the end of the seven days, and probably long before. We know not how long they might have been waiting for some one to "be at charges" for them, and provide the sacrifices, without which they could not shave their heads and accomplish their vow. But it is obvious that some notice must be given to the priests in the temple of the day when one or more Nazarites would present themselves at "the door of the tabernacle of the congregation," to offer the prescribed offerings. And this accordingly Paul and the four did. Διαγγέλλων means "notifying," or "declaring," to the priests (Exodus 9:16 [LXX., answering to the Hebrew רפֵּסַ]; Romans 9:27; Joshua 6:9, LXX. [10, A.V., "bid"]). Until the offering was offered, etc. This is interpreted in two ways. Meyer makes "until" depend upon "the fulfillment of the days," so as to define that fulfillment as not taking place till the offering was offered. Wieseler makes "until" depend upon "he entered into the temple," with the idea supplied, "and remained there," or "came there daily;" supposing that it was the custom for Nazarites to finish up their time of separation by passing the last seven days, or at least being present daily, in "the court of the women, where was the apartment appropriated to the Nazarites". If, however, with Howson, Lewin and others, we understand the word ἀγνίζεσθαι, in verses 24 and 20, not generally of taking the Nazarite vow, but of certain special purifications at the close of a Nazaritic vow, which lasted seven days immediately before the offerings were made and the head shaven, then a very easy and natural rendering of the words follows: "Notifying their intention of now completing the seven days of their purification, until the offering for each of them was offered." Alford, in loc., justifies by examples the aorist indicative προσηνέχθη, instead of the subjunctive, which is more usual. Lewin thinks that St. Paul had taken a Nazaritic vow after his escape from death at Ephesus, or at Corinth; but there is no evidence of this, and it is hardly consistent with James's advice. Renan thinks it doubtful whether or no Paul took the Nazaritic vow at all, but inclines to this as the best interpretation.

Acts 21:27

Completed for ended, A.V.; from for which were of, A.V.; multitude for people, A.V. The seven days; showing clearly that some customary term of preparation for the offerings and shaving of the head is meant. This shows also that "the days" in the preceding verse meant the "seven days" of preparation rather than "the days" of the whole Nazaritic vow. The Jews from Asia; come up for Pentecost. How hostile the Asiatic Jews were appears from Acts 19:9. When they saw him in the temple, whither he had come to complete the seven days of preparation. It was apparently the fifth day (see Acts 24:11, note). How often the best meant attempts at conciliation fail through the uncharitable suspicions of a man's opponents! The temple. It must be remembered throughout that it is τὸ ἱερόν that is spoken of, which embraces the temple courts, not the ναός, or house (see Acts 3:2, note). Stirred up. Συγχέω is found only here in the New Testament. Properly "to confuse," like the kindred συγχύνω (Acts 2:6; Acts 19:32; Acts 21:31); and σύγχυσις, confusion (Acts 19:29); hence "to stir up." It is of frequent use in medical writers (Hobart, 79.).

Acts 21:28

Moreover he for further brought, A.V.; defiled for polluted, A.V. (For the accusation, comp. on. Acts 6:13, and above, verse 21.) Brought Greeks also, etc. No uncircumcised person might go beyond the court of the Gentiles, which was not in the ἅγιον. The ἱερόν, which is often used in a wider sense of the whole area, is here restricted to the ἅγιον (see Acts 3:1, note). But the accusation was utterly false, the offspring of their own fanatical suspicions. Defiled (κεκοίνωκε); literally, made common (see Acts 10:15; Acts 11:9).

Acts 21:29

Before seen for seen before, A.V.; the Ephesian for an Ephesian, A.V. Trophimus (see Acts 20:4). Having seen him with St. Paul in the city, they concluded that he had come with him into the temple.

Acts 21:30

Laid hold on for took, A.V.; dragged for drew, A.V.; straightway for forth with, A.V. The doors wore shut. The doors of the gates which separated the ἅγιον, or as Luke here styles it the ἱερόν, from the court of the Gentiles. They turned Paul out of the ἱερόν, intending to kill him, and shut the doors, lest, in the confusion and the swaying to and fro of the crowd, the precincts of the temple should chance to be defiled with blood, or even with the presence of any who were unclean.

Acts 21:31

Were seeking for went about, A.V.; up to for unto, A.V.; confusion for an uproar, A.V. Tidings; φάσις, only here in the New Testament. The legal use of the word in Greek is an "information" against any one laid before a magistrate. Here it is the information conveyed to the tribune by the sentinels on guard. Came up; viz. to the castle of Antonia, to which steps led up from the temple area on the north-west side (see Acts 21:32 and Acts 21:35). The chief captain; the chiliarch, or tribune; literally, the commander of a thousand men (see John 18:12). The band (τῆς σπείρης); the cohort which formed the Roman garrison of Antonia (see Acts 10:1, note; also Acts 10:32, Acts 10:33, etc.; Acts 22:24, Acts 22:26, etc.).

Acts 21:32

And forthwith he for who immediately, A.V.; upon for unto, A.V.; and they, when, etc., left off for and when they, etc., they left, A.V.; beating for beating of, A.V. Ran down upon (κατέδραμεν ἐπὶ). Κατατρέχω only occurs here in the New Testament, but is used in the LXX. of 1 Kings 19:20, followed by ὀπίσω, to run after. In classical Greek it governs an accusative or genitive of the person or thing attacked. Here the force of κατά seems to be merely the running down from the castle of Antonia, and therefore the A.V. unto seems preferable to the R.V. upon.

Acts 21:33

Laid hold on for took, A.V.; inquired for. demanded, A.V. Laid hold on (ἐπελάβετο); see Acts 17:19, note. Bound with two chains; as St. Peter was (Acts 12:6). Ἄλυσις means properly "a chain on the hands" as opposed to πέδη, a fetter (Mark 5:4); and therefore the two chains are not to be understood of chains on his hands and feet, with Kuinoel, but, as in the case of Peter, of chains fastening him to a soldier on both hands.

Acts 21:34

Shouted for cried, A.V. and T.R.; crowd for multitude, A.V.; uproar for tumult, A.V.; brought for carried, A.V. The certainty. He could not get at the truth because of the tumult and the different accounts given first by one and then by another. The Greek word τὸ ἀσφαλές, and its kindred ἀσφαλεία ἀσφαλῶς ἀσφαλίζω, and ἐπισφαλής, are of frequent use by St. Luke (Acts 2:36; Acts 5:23; Acts 16:23, Acts 16:24; Acts 22:30; Acts 25:26; Acts 27:9; Luke 1:4). These words are all very much used by medical writers, and specially the last (ἐπισφαλής), which is used by St. Luke alone in the New Testament. The castle (τὴν παρεμβολήν), "the camp or barracks attached to the tower of Antonia" (Alford); Acts 22:24; Acts 23:10, Acts 23:16, Acts 23:32. It means the castle-yard within the fortifications, with whatever buildings were in it.

Acts 21:35

Crowd for people, A.V. Borne of the soldiers. Lifted off his legs and carried up the steps. The stairs from the temple area at the northwest corner to the castle of Antonia (see Acts 21:31, note, and Acts 21:32). Alford quotes the description of the fort Antonia in Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 5. 5.8, in which he says (Traill's translation), "Its general appearance was that of a tower with other towers at each of the four corners. That at the southeast angle rose to an elevation of seventy cubits, so that from thence there was a complete view of the temple. Where it adjoined the colonnades of the temple it had passages leading down to both, through which the guards—for in the fortress there always lay a Roman legion—descended and disposed themselves about the colonnades in arms at the festivals, to watch the people, and repress any insurrectionary movement."

Acts 21:36

Crying out for crying, A.V. Away with him. The cry of those who thirsted for the blood of Jesus Christ (Luke 23:1-56. Luke 23:18; see also Acts 22:22, where the sense comes out fully).

Acts 21:37

About to be brought for to be led, A.V.; saith for said, A.V.; say something for speak, A.V,; and he for who, A.V.; dost thou know for canst thou speak, A.V. About to be brought into the castle. He had nearly reached the top of the stairs, and there was, perhaps, a brief halt while the gates of the castle-yard were being opened. Paul seized the opportunity to address Lysias in Greek. Dost thou know Greek? (Ἑλληνιστὶ γινώσκεις;). According to some, λαλεῖν is to be understood, "Dost thou know how to speak Greek?" after the analogy of Λαλοῦντες Ἀζωτιστί, and Οὐκ εἰσὶν ἐπιγινώσκοντες λαλεῖν Ιουδαΐστί, in Nehemiah 13:24. But others (Meyer, Alford, etc.) say that there is no ellipse of λαλεῖν, but that Ἐλληνιστὶ γινώσκειν Συριστὶ ἐπισταμένους (Xenophon), "Graece nescire" (Cicero), mean to know or not to know the Greek and Syrian languages.

Acts 21:38

Art thou not then the for art not thou that, A.V.; stirred up to sedition for madest an uproar, A.V.; led for leddest, A.V.; the four thousand men of the Assassins for four thousand men that were murderers, A.V. Art thou not then, etc.? or as Meyer, "Thou art not then;" either way implying that Lysias had concluded that he was the Egyptian, but had now discovered his mistake. The Egyptian, etc. He whom Josephus calls (' Bell. Jud.,' it. Acts 13:5) "the Egyptian false prophet," and relates that, having collected above thirty thousand followers, he advanced from the desert to the Mount of Olives, intending to overpower the Roman garrison and make himself tyrant of Jerusalem, with the help of his δορυφόροι, or body-guard, who might very probably be composed of the Assassins or Sicarii, mentioned in the text. Stirred up to sedition (ἀναστατώσας) The difference between the A.V. and the R.V. is that the former takes the verb in an intransitive sense, "to make an Uproar," the latter in a transitive sense, governing the "four thousand men." In the only two other places were it occurs in the New Testament (Acts 17:6; Galatians 5:12) it is transitive. It is not a classical word. The four thousand men. Josephus, in the above-cited passage, reckons the followers of the Egyptian impostor at above thirty thousand. But such discrepancies are of no account, partly because of the known looseness with which numbers are stated, and Josephus's disposition to exaggerate; partly because of the real fluctuation in the numbers of insurgents at different periods of an insurrection; and partly because it is very possible that a soldier like Lysias would take no count of the mere rabble, but only of the disciplined and armed soldiers such as these Sicarii were. It may be added that Josephus himself seems to distinguish between the rabble and the fighting men, because, though in the 'Bell. Jud.,' it. 13.5 he says that Felix attacked or took prisoners "most of his followers,'' in the 'Ant. Jud.,' 20. 8.6 he makes the number of slain "four hundred," and of prisoners "two hundred"—a very small proportion of thirty thousand. The Egyptian had premised his deluded followers that the walls of Jerusalem would fall down like those of Jericho. It is not known exactly in what year the insurrection took place, but it was, as Renan says, "pen de temps auparavant". The Egyptian himself contrived to run away and disappear; hence the thought that he was the author of this new tumult at Jerusalem. The Sicarii were a band of fanatical murderers, who, in the disturbed times preceding the destruction of Jerusalem, went about armed with daggers, and in broad daylight and in the public thoroughfares murdered whoever was obnoxious to them. Among others they murdered the high priest Jonathan at the instigation of Felix (Josephus, 'Ant. Jud.,' 20. 6.7; 'Bell. Jud.,' 2., 13.3).

Acts 21:39

I am a Jew for I am a man which am a Jew, A.V.; in for a city in, A.V.; give me leave for suffer me, A.V. A citizen of no mean city; οὐκ ἀσήμου πόλεως, an elegant classical expression. Οὐκ ἄσημος Ἐλλήνων πόλις (Euripides, 'Ion.,' 8).

Acts 21:40

Leave for license, A.V.; standing for stood … and, A.V.; language for tongue. A.V. The Hebrew language; i.e. the Syro-Chaldaic which was the vernacular of the Hebrew Jews at that time.


Acts 21:1-14

The steadfast purpose.

One of the most difficult problems of practical life is to know what are the fixed points on which we must not give way, and to which all other considerations must yield, and what are the points which may be yielded under the pressure of conflicting circumstances. A man may be very conscientious, and yet most grievously mistaken, if by his obstinacy on indifferent matters he imperils or defeats great and important results which are incompatible with those smaller matters on which he insists. And again, a man may be very conscientious, and yet may do much practical mischief if he weakly gives way on vital points on which he ought to insist with inflexible steadfastness of purpose. Moreover, without steadfastness and persistence of purpose a man's course is so vacillating as to be practically useless. He is ever beginning and never finishing; starting on his course and never reaching the end of it; wasting time and energy on purposes which are never fulfilled; incapable of joint action because he can never be depended upon—not from insincerity and falseness. but merely from weakness and instability of will and infirmity of judgment. It is a very important function of true wisdom in the practical business of life to discern clearly what are the purposes that ought to yield to the pressure of adverse circumstances, and what are those that must be carried out to their end at all risks and at any cost; and it is the true test of manliness and Christian principle to adhere to these last in spite of the persuasions of friends or the vituperation of enemies. The section before us contains the successive steps by which St. Paul carried out the purpose which he had formed of going to Jerusalem and arriving there in time for the Feast of Pentecost. The first distinct announcement of this purpose is made in Acts 20:16, but it had probably been formed before he left Corinth, as related in Acts 20:3. What were the exact reasons for it we are left to gather from scattered and incidental notices. It seems to have been connected with his deep love for the Jewish nation (Romans 9:1-5), and with the hope to which he clung that, by patience and continuance in well doing, he should eventually overcome their obduracy of heart and win them to the faith of the gospel. The line which he had marked out for himself was to show himself a true Jew in all things; to respect the Law and the observances of the temple and the customs connected with it; and to bind all the Gentile Churches to the mother Church of Jerusalem in bonds of filial love, of which the offerings collected from the Gentile converts and sent to the poor saints at Jerusalem were the token and the result. In this spirit he came up to Jerusalem "for to worship" (Acts 24:11); in this spirit he brought "alms to his nation and offerings" (Acts 24:17); and in this spirit he purified himself and entered into the temple (Acts 24:18). If his hope was by these means to win his countrymen to Christ, and bring about the predicted salvation of all Israel, this was a purpose to which all else must yield. And so when the "Holy Ghost witnessed in every city that bonds and imprisonment abode him at Jerusalem," when he was warned by prophetic voices at Tyre and at Caesarea that every onward step was bringing him nearer to some great affliction, he never flinched one moment from his purpose, but went forward with a willing mind that "the will of the Lord might be done." Being deeply convinced, probably by the constraining voice of the Holy Ghost within him (Acts 20:22), that it was the will of God that he should go to Jerusalem, and there witness to the Name of the Lord Jesus, he went, not careful whether he were going to bonds or to death; he went, neither yielding to fear nor allowing his will to be broken by the tears and entreaties of those whom he loved best; he went, to accomplish in prison, and at last under the tyrant's sword, the noblest mission that was ever committed to a son of man, and to win for himself a crown which will surely be one of the most bright and glorious that will glitter in the kingdom of heaven. And in doing so he has left us the priceless example of a steadfast purpose.

Acts 21:15-40

The compromise.

The introduction of Christianity into the world while the temple was still standing, and the Law of Moses with all its Levitical and ceremonial ordinances was still in force, might have issued in three ways.

1. All converts to the faith of Jesus Christ from among the Gentiles might have been forced to become Jews, as far as submission to the whole Law was concerned.

2. Or the Old Testament might then and there have been superseded by the New, and the Jewish believers as well as the Gentile converts have been brought at once into the possession of Christian liberty and immunity from the whole body of ceremonial observances.

3. Or it might have been provided that, while Jewish believers were still subject to the Law of Moses, those who believed from among the Gentiles should be wholly free from the bondage of the Law, and only subject to the institutions and precepts of Christ. The first of these issues was that which was contended for by the bigoted Jews of Jerusalem. They wished that all Christians should be as it were proselytes to Moses, only with the addition of faith in Jesus as the promised and long looked-for Christ. The second seems to be that toward which St. Paul's own opinion gravitated, and which the inexorable logic of the forcible suppression of the Mosaic institutions by the destruction of Jerusalem confirmed as being according to the mind of God. The third was a compromise between the two former. And it was a compromise accepted by St. Paul. In deference to the prejudices of the Jewish people, and in a charitable consideration for opinions and feelings which were almost a part of their being, he was willing that the Christian Jews should still observe the laws and customs of their fathers, provided that the Gentile disciples were left absolutely flee. And he was willing as a Jew himself to conform to his brethren's practice in this matter. Whatever may have been his speculative opinion, he was willing to give to the Jewish community the public proof asked for by St. James, that "he himself also walked orderly and kept the Law," and actually joined the four Nazarites in their vow and was at charges with them, and went through the legal ceremonies in the temple with them (verse 26, and Acts 24:18; Acts 25:8). The practical lesson, therefore, plainly is that compromises are lawful and right, provided no essential truth is sacrificed. In the diversity of the human mind, and the diversity of influences to which different minds are subject, it frequently happens, as a matter of fact, that conscientious and upright men, who agree upon many vital and essential truths, disagree upon others which are less important, disagree sharply and pointedly. If both parties are to maintain their own views with unbending rigidity, there can be no common action, no harmony, no peace. A compromise by which both parties, without giving up their own belief, agree to keep the points of difference in the background, and to concede something to each other in practice, is the only possible way of preserving unity and concord. It is the way sanctioned and recommended by the great example of St. Paul. Only we must not forget to notice the further instructive lesson conveyed by this section, that the most laudable and best-planned efforts at conciliation are often doomed to failure by the unreasonable and fanatical violence of those who are most in the wrong. Compromises imply a measure of humility and a sincere love of peace. Where there is an arrogant assumption of infallibility, and an overbearing spirit of domination, men prefer the forcing their own opinion upon others to an equitable compromise, and love subjugation more than peace. The highest wisdom and most exalted piety will propose concessions, which fanatical bigotry will fling back in their teeth. It is in religion as in politics. There will always be a party of irreconcilables. A St. Paul in the depth of his love may offer a compromise to which the Jewish fanatic in his blind bigotry will reply by blows and conspiracies unto death. And yet in the end the love will triumph, and the violence will be laid in the dust.


Acts 21:1-17

Human affection and sacred service.

God has so made us and so related us that we find ourselves closely and tenderly attached, one to another, in various bonds. It is impossible that these should not have great influence on our minds as the children and servants of God, great effect on our lives as co-workers with Christ. What is that effect?

I. HUMAN AFFECTION WAS A LARGE CONTRIBUTION TO OFFER TO SACRED SERVICE. We find it inciting all the disciples, including "the wives and the children," to accompany Paul on his way, to pray with and for him, and thus to cheer and hearten him (Acts 21:5). We find it leading Philip (Acts 21:5-7), and afterwards Mnason (Acts 21:16) and "the brethren" (Acts 21:17), to entertain the ambassador of Christ with open-handed and full-hearted friendship. And we find it now constantly leading men and women

(1) to educate and train,

(2) to entertain,

(3) to shelter,

(4) to influence by example,

(5) to evangelize the sons and daughters of men.

II. HUMAN AFFECTION SOMETIMES FORCIBLY INTERPOSES BETWEEN MEN AND THE SACRED SERVICE THEY WOULD RENDER. It did so here. Paul and his party had to tear themselves away from the elders of Ephesus (Acts 21:1). It required a very great effort to "get away." Clearly the entreaties of affection produced a very strong impression indeed on the susceptible heart of the apostle, and called forth the tender and touching remonstrance of the text (Acts 21:13). It had a like effect on the mind of the Master himself, and evoked a rebuke of no ordinary strength (Matthew 16:21-23). When conjugal, or parental, or filial, or fraternal love lays its detaining hand on the shoulder and says, "Go not on this perilous mission; stay with us in these pleasant places of affection," it is hard for the human soul to resist that gentle but powerful pressure.

III. HUMAN AFFECTION HAS OFTEN MUCH TO URGE ON ITS OWN BEHALF. The disciples at Tyre claimed to found their counsels on communications which they had from God himself. They said "through the Spirit" that Paul "should not go up," etc. (Acts 21:4). Undoubtedly the disciples at Caesarea based their dissuasions on the announcements of Agabus (Acts 21:11), and they probably pleaded, with no little force, that the Divine intimation of danger was given on purpose that the impending evil might be averted. Often with us, now, human affection has much to say that is plausible, and even powerful. It makes out a strong case why special spiritual faculty should refrain from sacrificing itself by presumptuous confidence, why it should "not tempt the Lord its God" by running into needless danger, why it should reserve itself for other paths of usefulness where it could walk with equal fruitfulness and without the threatening injury.

IV. CHRISTIAN DEVOTEDNESS RISES ABOVE THE STRONG. TEMPTATION. With Paul it "will not be persuaded" (Acts 21:14); with him it says, "I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die … for the Name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 21:13). The Huguenot will not have the white ribbon bound round his arm even by the tender hand of the sweetest human love. Men will walk to the stake, and women to the open grave wherein their living bodies are to be enclosed, even though there are voices, gentle and strong, calling them to the home of affection. The will of the Divine Savior has been found, and will be found to the end of time, mightier than even these forces of affection.

V. HUMAN AFFECTION WILL RECOGNIZE ITS DUTY AND ACCEPT THE WILL OF GOD. It still says, after a while, "The will of the Lord be done" (Acts 21:14).—C.

Acts 21:18-26

Relations between disciples.

Our Lord has said, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35). It was of the very last importance that, in the early days of Christianity, there should be inward harmony and outward concord among the disciples of Jesus. Division would have been grave disaster, if not irreparable defeat. But with the strongest reasons for desiring unanimity and a complete understanding, we have to face—

I. GREAT DELICACY OF POSITION AMONG CHRISTIAN BRETHREN, then as now. There is a great deal really contained in the simple statement, "Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present" (verse 18). It was a meeting of two streams, differently composed. It was a meeting of those who believed in the Law with the addition of faith in Jesus Christ, and of those who believed in Jesus Christ with a high regard for the Law as a venerable but passing institution. Between these and those the Mosaic Law held a very different position, seriously affecting their views of doctrine, of religious activity, and of daily behavior. It required the utmost charity and forbearance on the part of both to maintain positively friendly relations. There must have been no little constraint, there was probably some discomfort in the opening interview. Thus is it now, and for a long time will be, between Christian disciples. Differences of social standing, of pecuniary position, of education and refinement, of ecclesiastical connection, of intellectual tendency (to liberalism on the one hand, or conservatism on the other), will interpose between Christian disciples and make their relations delicate, difficult, strained.

II. THE RECONCILING ASPECT. Very wisely indeed Paul passed immediately from the introductory salutation to a full narration of "all that God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry" (verse 19). This was striking the true note,—the note that brought peace and concord; "when they heard it, they glorified the Lord" (verse 20). It is certain that if Paul had spoken in an argumentative strain they would not have been thus unanimous; but they all rejoiced to know that through his instrumentality—though he had worked with different weapons from those in their hands—men and women had been turned from dumb idols to serve the living God. This is the reconciling aspect in which to present our cause. However our distinctive views may differ from those of the men whom we meet in conference, or before whom we lay our case, if we can relate a true and simple story of souls converted, of lives transformed, of families or tribes or islands altogether changed and renewed "in the spirit of their mind," we go a long way—if not all the way—to convince those who hear that we are "disciples of Christ indeed;" they will glorify God in us.

III. CONFORMITY AND NONCONFORMITY. It remains in doubt whether the expedient of James and of his friends was wise or unwise (verses 20-24). Certainly it failed in its object. It is also in doubt whether Paul, with his views, was right in yielding to the wish of the elders (Verse 26); certainly by doing so he endangered his life and lost his liberty without securing his end. But there are some certainties here.

1. That it is right to look at the question before us from our opponent's point of view.

2. That it is wise to conform as far as possible to our opponent's wishes.

3. That we should always be ready to offer or accept an honorable compromise (verse 25).

4. That the utmost scrupulousness cannot prevent ill-natured or bigoted misunderstanding (verse 21).

5. That nonconformity may be as honorable and advantageous as conformity (Romans 14:4-7).—C.

Acts 21:27-40

Fanaticism and devotedness.

It is impossible not to read these verses with a smile of contempt in view of the folly and guilt of fanaticism, and, at the same time, with a smile of satisfaction in view of the calmness and nobility of Christian zeal.


1. Its folly.

(1) In the first place, it employs a weapon with which it is easily matched. It has recourse to violence (Acts 21:31); but violence is a usage which others can easily adopt, and it may be with more effect (Acts 21:32). If religion calls in the aid of the sword, it is likely enough to find the sword directed, at the next turn of events, against itself.

(2) It uses a weapon which is not at all fitted to its hand. Physical force is not the appointed method for regenerating the world; "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal," but spiritual. The "kingdom not of this world" does not want its servants to "fight" with steel and gunpowder.

(3) It assails those who, if it would but consider, are its truest friends. Out of regard for the Law, these fanatical Jews "went about to kill" Paul. The multitude shouted "Away with him!" (Acts 21:36). But if they had known better they would, out of regard for the Law, have speeded Paul on his mission. For Judaism, pure and simple, would inevitably have perished; but Judaism, as surviving in the truths and institutions of Christianity, is destined to last as long as time itself, and to he universal in its range. Had they thought more and looked further, they would have honored him whom they were in such haste to kill.

2. Its guilt.

(1) It charges a man with a crime of which he is absolutely innocent (Acts 21:28, Acts 21:29).

(2) It proceeds to punish without giving a chance of defending (Acts 21:30, Acts 21:31).

(3) It denies to a man that which God has bestowed, and which it claims for itself—a right to his convictions.

(4) It dashes itself blindly and vehemently against the purposes of God. At this time it was striking at Christ's chosen ambassador, and, without exception, the most useful servant of God then living. At many times since then, it has stricken the men who represented the truth of Christ, and has done sore evil to the Church, and so to the world.

II. THE EXCELLENCY OF CHRISTIAN DEVOTEDNESS. How admirably the attitude of Paul contrasts with the movements of this excited, tumultuous, sanguinary mob! We admire

(1) his courage in placing himself in the position;

(2) his calmness throughout (Acts 21:37-39);

(3) his readiness (Acts 21:40)—he was prepared at any emergency to speak the needful word. We admire it because we are sure that it all rested upon

(4) his consecration to the cause, and his assurance of the presence of his Divine Master.—C.


Acts 21:1-16

Incidents by the way.

I. THE POWER OF CHRISTIAN LOVE TO BRING THE UNKNOWN NEAR. At Tyre Christian disciples, loving Christian hearts, are found. They warn Paul against possible coming dangers, they entertain the little band, and dismiss them with commendatory prayer. "The finding of disciples must have been a main feature in the diaries of the apostle." To meet with welcome, with hospitality, with congenial discourse upon journeys,—how refreshing! Well may it remind us of the universal providence, and the living love which is ever at work to overcome strangeness, and to bring the far-off near! Delays in business need be no delays in the work of the kingdom of God. While the departure from Tyre was delayed, Paul found time to instruct the disciples at Tyre.

II. PHILIP THE EVANGELIST. The name is an excellent one for a true teacher. It means one who carries the good news. All that we know of him from Acts 6:5; Acts 8:5; Acts 26:1-32, 46, and his earnest preaching of Jesus, bears out this character. It seems to have been his object and his peculiar gift to make clear from the Old Testament Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ. The gift of his daughters seemed to be a fulfillment of Joel's prophecy (Joel 3:1). They present the type of the calling of all Christian women to appropriate forms of Christian service.

III. AGABUS AND THE GIRDLE OF PAUL. He gives a symbolic prophecy of coming trial. The girdle might be a symbol of complete dedication to the service of the Lord Jesus and of his gospel—of Christian duty. The loins once girt up must not be relaxed. Only when the will has been subdued to God and his service are we truly free; and this even when others would use compulsion upon us. "Then the strong band encircles our life and girds us for eternity." It is a blessing when our eyes are opened to the coming trial, and our hearts are at the same time strengthened to meet it. This gives assurance that all that occurs is according to the blessed will, and must work together for good.

IV. "THE WILL OF THE LORD BE DONE." Often it is harder to contend with the weaknesses of others than with one's own. See Millais's touching picture of the 'Huguenot.' Some silken band of dearest affection would detain us as we are preparing to march to the post of duty (cf. Genesis 43:3, Genesis 43:4). Love means well, but does not always point in God's way (John 20:17). When Luther was on his way to Worms, at place after place warning friends met him; and close to the town his beloved Spalatin sent to him to beg he would not venture into the scene of danger. "Were there as many devils in Worms as tiles on the roofs, I would go in," was his reply. Paul's heart is touched; he feels the spring of manly strength giving way. But with a strong effort of faith and will he overcomes. "I am ready to die at Jerusalem for the Name of the Lord Jesus." "Not the cross for the cross's sake, but the cross for the sake of Christ;" to be made like to his death (Philippians 3:10);—these were the ideals of his life. And so the love of the Christian flock to the pastor must give way to the pastor's love for Christ. "The will of the Lord be done!" It is the best concluding word of all our deliberations. It silences all objections to God's ways; our thoughts must be suppressed before the thought of the Only Wise, and our power bow before that of the Omnipotent. Our affection for others must withdraw its claims in favor of his, whose we are and whom we serve. This motto may well suit the servant of God in all the changes of his pilgrimage, against all the opposition of his foes, against the temptations of flesh and blood, of near and dear affection, and the weakness of his own heart.—J.

Acts 21:17-26

Paul and the Levitical usages.

Paul's gospel was that of salvation by Christ Jesus alone, as contrasted with the principle of salvation by legal obedience. But he did not contend against the Law and against Mosaism as such—only against the doctrine that the observance was indispensable to salvation. The spirit of evangelical freedom made him tolerant of the observance in the case of born Jews, while at the same time he contended for the emancipation of the Gentile Christians from the claims of the Law (1 Corinthians 7:18, 1 Corinthians 7:19).

I. As EXAMPLE OF CHRISTIAN PRUDENCE IN GENERAL. It is necessary to study and consider human nature as it is. No acting as if in a vacuum, no trying to carry out abstract principles, regardless of men's habit of thinking and acting, can be either right or successful. The followers of Christ were to be "wise as serpents, yet harmless as doves." Want of tact is often a greater hindrance to success than want of greater gifts of head and heart. Men are repelled by disregard of their feelings, and often won over by trifling concessions, which cost nothing important to those who make them or to the cause of truth. But serious cases of conscience may arise under these conditions; and prudence ceases to be a virtue whenever it is practiced at the expense of truth or of truthfulness.

II. AN EXAMPLE OF CONCESSION TO THE PREJUDICES OF THE WEAK, In these difficult cases love must be the great guiding principle (Romans 15:1). Christian love "endureth all things." It has a delicate intelligence of the needs of the weak; it practices a fine self-denial, condescends to the lowlier in word and in deed. In such weakness there is true strength. It demands intellectual strength, to distinguish between form and contents, between the shell and the kernel; and firmness of character, to hold fast to the main matter, while those of subordinate importance are given up; constancy and faithfulness, not to deny the law of Christ, while promoting love amongst his disciples. In things indifferent we may take a part, provided we clearly see the way to promote the kingdom of God in so doing; but at the same time, we must do nothing to favor the opinion that such things are necessary to salvation. In the whole episode we may see the victory of love that "seeketh not her own" over bigotry and narrow-mindedness; thus a forecast of the union of Israel and the heathen world in Christ, and a triumph of the Divine counsel in the extension of his kingdom and the diffusion of his thoughts of salvation. With reference to Paul, it illustrates his saying, "To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to those under the Law, as under the Law, that I might gain those under the Law."—J.

Acts 21:27-40

Danger and deliverance at Jerusalem.


1. He is represented as an enemy of the Law, like Stephen before him. He has to confront the blind and murderous storm of human passion, more dreadful than the waves of the sea, presently to be encountered. Now is the warning concerning the things to be expected in Jerusalem about to be fulfilled. The sincerest friends of religion have often to incur the charge of being its enemies, the truest worshippers of God are denounced as atheists.

2. As a violator of the temple, he was said to have "made the holy place common." There is a close parallel between this mode of attack and that on Jesus. Great must have been his consolation to find himself treading in the footsteps of his Lord, as his great desire was to be conformable to him. The greatest honor lies in bearing the cross of Jesus, becoming partaker of his sufferings, being "as he was in the world."

II. FURTHER PARALLELS BETWEEN THE TREATMENT OF HIM AND THAT OF THE SAVIOR. The whole city was in an uproar. He was rejected by his own countrymen—cast out of the temple. They desired to slay him, and yet not stain the sacred place; straining at gnats and swallowing camels. They thought they would do God service in slaying him. At Ephesus, pagan superstition and the love of gain were against him; here, Jewish bigotry and fanaticism. Both scenes are warnings against the misdirection of religious feeling. We need reflection and knowledge to purify the religious instinct, which is like fire, pernicious if not watched and kept under control. The murder of Jesus, and all judicial murders of teachers and leaders, are, considered from the human side, both crimes and blunders.

III. THE IMPRISONMENT OF PAUL. The light and shade mingle in the deed. On the one hand we see human passion, blind folly, wicked hatred, on the part of the Jews; on the other, a bright picture of Christian heroic courage, self-possession, and sweet patience on the part of the apostle. And over and above all the light of Divine leading shines, like a pillar of fire by night. There is the power which protects the servants of God, the wisdom which employs even its adversaries to carry out its designs, the love which makes a center of light and warmth within the man's "own clear breast." Man proposes, and God disposes. He guides the well-meant counsels of his friends to other ends than they supposed, and the designs of foes to other issues than they had calculated.

IV. THE DELIVERANCE. Rejected by his own people, a friend is raised up for Paul in the person of a heathen. The Roman tribune stills the uproar, saves the apostle's life, gives him the opportunity of clearing himself from the charge against him, affords him liberty of speech. How impressive is the scene with which this chapter closes! There stands the preacher in chains. His pulpit the stairs of the Roman fortress; instead of deacons surrounding and supporting him, rough Roman soldiers. Murderous cries instead of psalms precede his discourse. Instead of a calm audience before him, an enraged mob. But let us draw the veil and look within his heart. There is the spirit of faith and of love, of wisdom and of strength. There is that courage which the consciousness of right and truth inspires, a "good conscience toward God." There was that whole devotion which ever makes its impression on the rudest hearts, and alone gives freedom and joy. Above all, the knowledge of a Savior and a God, to whom in life or death he belongs, from whom neither life nor death can separate.—J.


Acts 21:1-6

Miletus to Tyre: the steadfastness of a holy mind.

I. THE TRIAL OF PAUL'S FAITH. In the separation from dear brethren and the prospects of suffering. The long days of quiet thought, sailing through the Greek Archipelago to Cos, Rhodes, Patara, and round the south-west of Cyprus to Tyre, deepened the resolution of his heart and prepared him to encounter the temptations from weaker brethren. At Tyro the great crisis of his faith came much nearer. Disciples said, "Set no foot in Jerusalem." The conflict was between the voice of the Spirit in the purpose of his heart, and the prophetic warnings of coming danger which he could not doubt. It was not that one command contradicted another command; but that, like Abraham, he had to obey, although to obey must be to suffer. Faith conquered.

II. The trials that are borne in the spirit of humble confidence work out BLESSING IS THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. Sympathy and affection. Prayer. Simplicity and reality. Mutual encouragement—Paul strengthened by the interview; the Christians of Tyro helped to aim at a higher life by contact with such an example of spiritual heroism. Influence on the homes and families. Christianity was already accomplishing a great work in social life. Tyre was commercially decaying, but here was a new principle of prosperity, better than the worldly one. The position of such a port made its Christianity a blessing to the whole world. The visit of Paul would be remembered and spread abroad.—R.

Acts 21:7-14

Tyro to Caesarea: the will of God it, the heart of his servant.

As the days went on, the pressure upon the heart of Paul increased. The house of Philip the evangelist the scene of the last great test of his preparation for the future. The four virgin daughters, and Agabus from Jerusalem, repeated the prophetic warnings; but no one said by the voice of the Spirit, "Go not." Human voices must sometimes be resisted. Weeping may break a heart, but it ought not to break a resolution formed in the sight of God and by his Spirit.

1. An example of lofty spiritual discernment. Distinguishing between human voices and Divine; between a prospect of suffering and a prospect of defeat; between being bound in body and being bound in spirit—Paul was rejoicing in the liberty of his soul, it was of little consequence to him what they might do with his limbs—between the plots and enmity of men and the victorious grace of God.

2. An encouragement to steadfastness in doing the Divine will. We must not listen to persuasions when God calls us on. We must be ready for all; but, the course being once clearly opened to us, then a humble fixedness of heart is the best preparation for the path of duty.

3. An instance of the controlling influence of character in the Christian Church. The weaker yield to the stronger if the stronger remain firm. Those that think much of external difficulties and dangers have to be lifted out of their weakness by the words and example of the loftier and more heroic souls.—R.

Acts 21:15-26

Arrival and reception at Jerusalem.



1. They gladly welcomed Paul, and heard his narrative of missionary work, which included labor among the Gentiles. They glorified God for it.

2. They made no demand upon Paul as to renouncing his advanced position, but acquiesced in it.

3. They must have resisted the extreme Judaistic party in order to do so.

II. THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE TIMID POLICY OF THE JAMES PARTY AND PAUL HIMSELF. They feared for him. He feared nothing for himself. Their advice was dictated by prudence, hut it wrought more evil than good in result.

III. THE NOBLE EXAMPLE OF SELF-ABNEGATION AND CONCILIATION. Paul yielded to their advice, to show that the reports about him were false, and that his free position allowed him both to observe the Law and not to observe it, as expediency might dictate, because he regarded it as no longer necessary to salvation. He became a Jew to the Jews, to save the Jews. The true firmness is not obstinacy, prejudice, self-assertion, bigotry, but distinguishes between the essential and non-essential. Perhaps it was the wiser way to let the weaker brethren be convinced by the facts how hopeless it was to save Judaism.

IV. GREAT PURPOSES OF GOD ARE FULFILLLED THROUGH THE ERRORS AND INFIRMITIES OF HIS PEOPLE. Paul would meet Jewish accusations all the more firmly though his appearance in the temple put the torch to the pile.—R.

Acts 21:27-36

The prophecy fulfilled.

"Bonds and imprisonment,"

I. THE TUMULT EXCITED BY ASIATIC JEWS, probably seeking for Paul, with predetermination to destroy him. It was his faithful missionary labors, therefore, which lay at the root of the trouble; he knew it, and it helped him to be strong in faith. Christ would protect his own ambassador.

II. THE CHARGES AGAINST HIM WERE UTTERLY FALSE. He raised no opposition to the Law. He never defiled the temple. Trophimus the Gentile had not been brought there. The enemies of truth always depend on lies. False accusation has been always the resort of fanaticism and bigotry when it is afraid for itself.

III. ROMAN DISCIPLINE, as before, is called in to suppress MOB VIOLENCE, and thus help the gospel. So in after times Roman law prepared the way for the spread of Christianity.

IV. THE SPEEDY RESULT OF THE WEAK ADVICE of the Jewish believers is seen in the apostle within seven days, in imprisonment. The brave policy always the safest. Compromise is danger.—R.

Acts 21:37-40

The Roman soldier face to face with the Christian apostle.

The heathen, notwithstanding his ignorance, was more open to reason than the Jew, blinded by fanaticism and bigotry. Religion corrupted by priestcraft is worse than skepticism. Courtesy and chivalry may be made to serve higher purposes. The providential appointment of the history of Judaism opened the way for a free gospel. Jews were filling up their cup.—R.


Acts 21:5

Widening streams of Christian love.

The contents of this verse are almost unique for the day to which they belong. And at the same time they seem to link together some of the best of their own time with some of the best of modern time. The scene is familiar to us, which was once strange enough, and Tyre will be held in remembrance, wheresoever the gospel shall be preached, for one bright, redeeming trait. For we have here a significant token of what Christianity will avail to do, without any direct aim at it for the time being, in and with family life.



III. IT HAS HALLOWED THE COMBINED EFFECT OF THE UNITED LIFE OF THE FAMILY. Nature itself does not make a whole family so really one as Christianity does. Many a time we read of a whole family being baptized, when presumably not only the wife but little children were embraced in the number. And now wives and children of the "disciples," in helpful company, cheer the steps of the departing Paul and his special fellow-laborers. True as we feel this was to nature, it is true to a nature that had long become disaccustomed to its better self, in those days of Tyre. And Christianity and Christian occasion have now begun to enable nature to "lift its head again?'

IV. IT HAS FOUND A NEW WAY OF LINKING FAMILY WITH FAMILY. How often is the family unit a wonderfully selfish unit! It is truly something larger than the individual, and so is the selfishness somewhat larger also—larger in its sphere of exposure, and larger in its spreading mischief, and larger in its shame. There are not a few who would be astonished to think they could be taxed with selfishness as individuals, who nevertheless may be powerful factors in making, sanctioning, keeping, the selfishness of the family. This latter covers itself also under many a more sacred name. And because the family should be the very shrine of one affection, those who compose it "do this," but mournfully "leave the other undone." But now family with family attended the departing steps of Paul. And had they never caught the idea before, now they see or begin to see that it takes many a family of men to number up the one family of the "Father," "from whom every family in heaven and earth is named" (Ephesians 3:14, Ephesians 3:15, see Revised Version).

V. IT FINDS THE GENUINE LARGER FAMILY CIRCLE IN PRAYER. They all "kneeled down on the shore, and prayed." It was a prayer of pilgrim apostles, pilgrim fathers and mothers, and young pilgrim children.

1. Well did they kneel on the sands.

2. Well did they pray in sight of life's sea.

3. Well did all lift their eyes and thoughts from sand and sea to heaven in prayer; but meantime, forgot selves awhile, that all might pray for others. Paul prayed for them of Tyre, fathers and mothers and children, that they might love and do and keep the faith. And if no tongue spoke it, who can doubt that the loving, regretful group, who so grudged losing Paul into the midst of the dangers that were waiting for him at Jerusalem, commended him also to God and the Word of his grace? and commended that Word itself to God?—B.

Acts 21:13

A tender heart to a strong conscience.

It might be thought that Paul had already sufficiently run the gauntlet of warnings touching the consequences of going to Jerusalem (Acts 19:21; Acts 20:16, Acts 20:22, Acts 20:23; Acts 21:4, Acts 21:11). If his resolution could have been altered, or his conscience stilled an hour, this was the hour. But, instead of showing any symptom of being "in a strait betwixt two," even in an hour of such tenderness, it is now that "his heart is fixed." The needle points unerringly and without a quivering deflection, and moral resolution touches the point of moral sublimity. And we may justly sound here the praise of conscience; for in advancing degrees, we see—




IV. THE PERFECTION OF THE CONSCIENCE IN ITSELF, WHEN IT OWNS TO NO TREMBLING, NO WAVERING. There was no coldness, no hardness, no unrelentingness of heart, in that grand hour, when Paul's heart was ready to break for human affection's sake, but was a very tower of strength toward Christ as in him.—B.

Acts 21:16

A biography of honor, written in a name and title only.

The slight obscurity attaching to the rendering of this verse diminishes in nothing its interest and instructiveness. Whether the verse purports to say that the disciples of Caesarea journeying with Paul and his companions brought them to Mnason as their host, when they arrived at Jerusalem; or that, picking up Mnason himself at Caesarea, who afterwards became the host of Paul at Jerusalem, they rendered him also the help of their escort thither,—does not alter its special significance. This lies in the fact that Mnason's name, as soon as mentioned, is dispatched with two remarks, never again to be referred to in the sacred history; and yet those two remarks are felt to be worth more than two volumes. Wherein, then, we may ask, does their special significance hide?






Acts 21:18-20

The advocate of the Gentiles.

With great determination Paul had made his way to Jerusalem. The public ways terminating in the city were frequented, and the city itself would soon be filled with visitors. Paul knew well in the spirit that stern conflicts and no imaginary dangers awaited him. But before he encountered these he had to count with some other dangers, and which were in some aspects justly more formidable. Paul does not shirk them. He had not come up to desert his colors at the last, nor to prove his faithfulness gone. That a disunited Church should meet the crowd of the world, and even of various ecclesiastical parties, was a thing not to be thought of, certainly not to be allowed. It is the very thing that, times without number, since Paul showed the illustrious example to the contrary now, has been the weakness of the Church and the strength of the great foe. It is evident from the passage now before us that Paul's course was a course that meant practically that so far things should be "en regle," and that nothing should be wanting on his part in order to secure a firm and united front. How many throw the hindrances of sell-will and of crotchets into the way at moments the most critical, most inopportune! It is with some particularity that we are here shown how Paul did the opposite. Let us notice—

I. THE FORMAL VISIT OF PAUL TO THE CONSTITUTED CHURCH. It is a visit to the Church as represented by James (who was evidently at present acting as its chief pastor in Jerusalem) and by the elders. There might have been plausible excuse for it if Paul had not thus reported himself to the Church, but he does not put any to the need of searching for its warrant. He comes to the Church; recognizes its reality as a power; recognizes its unity; recognizes it as the source and the depository of much possible future knowledge and wisdom; and recognizes it as the one earthly bar of judgment (so far as there can he one at all) before which either Christian disciple or Christian apostle may stand without infringing the allegiance due either to individual conscience or to the great bar of judgment above, invisible, but ever open and effective.

II. THE SALUTATION OF PAUL. What this salutation was we may gather sufficiently from a comparison of the instances, in all about seventy, in which reference is made to it in the New Testament. In the English Version the thing intended appears under the description of "saluting," "greeting," "embracing," and "taking leave." There can be little doubt that, in the case of persons present with one another, the outward act of recognition, whether of a more or less intimate kind, was accompanied by some expression of Christian wish, or prayer, or gratitude; while in the case of messages, so many of which are found conveyed in the Epistles, the essence of the salutation consisted generally in the ever-grateful significance that lay in the fact Of the remembrance of the absent. All the rest, Christian wish, prayer, or thanksgiving, would be readily taken as "understood." In the present instance the special mention of the salutation reminds us justly of the humane and inartificial characteristics of Christianity. In sketches of its history of the most solemn import, nothing forbids, conceals, or even obscures their entering in as constituent elements of the whole scene. Even prominence is given to them, and they are not infrequently the light and color of the history. The unmeasured steadfastness of Christian principle and truth, is a thing utterly different from unfeeling severity and the expression of the natural instincts of human hearts.

III. THE ADDRESS OF PAUL. It consisted of a faithful—we might almost call it also a dutiful—report of his own mission to the Gentile world. We can see, but, perhaps, can scarcely enter into, the exceeding interest of the subject at Jerusalem. So much hinged on exactly what had taken place, and upon the exact statement by one competent and trustworthy of what had taken place. Hence we may observe the particularity with which even the history rehearses and repeats it.

1. Paul gives God, indeed, the glory of what had been done, but probably also means to make a very pronounced affirmation before the Church at Jerusalem, that the work was indeed the work of God, to stop the unbelieving mouth or mind.

2. Paul speaks of the work of his own ministry. It is no hearsay, no impression, no hopefulness with which he entertains the listeners. There was not a statement he made, nor an incident he described "particularly," for the full weight and force of which he was not prepared to become guarantor.

3. Paul's subject of address was specially kept to the things that had been accomplished among the Gentiles. Yet we very well know how much of thrilling interest he had met with in his associations with his own people, in addition to the occasions when their fortunes were inevitably linked with the things that happened to the Gentiles. Throughout it is evident what the returned ambassador of Jesus Christ had in his eye and on his heart. In a sense, he staked all on accrediting the Gentiles as heirs of the grace of God, and to be acknowledged as fellow-heirs with himself and the Church he was addressing. His own singleness of eye and purity of mind and fidelity to his original call appear in bright and bold relief in all this.

IV. THE RECEPTION ACCORDED TO PAUL'S REPORT. Paul's character was no longer the thing it was when, some years ago, he had first visited the Church at Jerusalem as a convert. This is his fifth visit since his conversion. Now for him to testify, and to testify "particularly," was to secure a ready hearing and a trusted attention.

1. They believe him.

2. And they "glorify" God. Envy, and bigotry, and pride, and exclusiveness are falling away from that typical Church, "the mother of us all," Length and breadth are seen and are acknowledged in the gospel of Christ. The world's day has dawned, and the light of it, refused by so many, is entering into the eyes of that meeting of the chief pastor at the time at Jerusalem, and the elders. And they did well to "glorify the Lord" because of it.—B.

Acts 21:20-39

The pastor and elders of the Church not infallible.

There may be considered to be some uncertainty as to the exact merits of the remarkable case which the history reproduces in this passage, but without rendering any verdict, pronouncing any opinion, or even offering any suggestion. In the room that is accordingly allowed for option, it is believed that the following positions, as they are certainly maintainable in themselves, are also to be impressed on us by the present history:—

I. THE ADVICE OF THE BEST-INTENTIONED POLICY, ON THE LIPS OF THE LEADERS OF A CHRISTIAN CHURCH, IS DISTANT FROM THE ADVICE OF CLEAR CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLE AND TRUTH, AS THE POLES ARE DISTANT FROM ONE ANOTHER. There was not a little in the exact tone of those who urged on Paul a certain course (Acts 21:20) and in the exact time which they used for pressing their suit, which invests it with suspicion, and which may very possibly have done so with Paul.

II. THE PRESSURE OF THE ADVICE OF MANY, AND THOSE MANY THE KNOWN LEADERS OF THE CHURCH, WILL NOT ABSOLVE THE INDIVIDUAL CONSCIENCE OR JUDGMENT. It is quite possible that the present was an occasion which Paul would have described as one of those when he would make himself all things to all men. It is also quite possible that this was a right occasion of observing that practice. And lastly, for that very reason the more, it may seem quite possible, that Paul's judgment was in no degree hoodwinked, nor his conscience eclipsed, when he yielded to the advice urged upon him. As no whisper of censure seems breathed upon him, the providence of God, nay, the Spirit himself, may have been his Guide now, to the end that facts should teach those who were responsible for the advice, while Paul would feel, ay, genuinely feel, that the compensation that was given to him for his sufferings consisted in the audience of Jew and Gentile of all sorts, of Roman governors and officers and soldiers, which he had in consequence the opportunity of addressing (Acts 21:39). If Paul were mistaken and at fault now, he reaps his punishment, though still he rescues some advantage out of all for Christ and the gospel. And he is taught that not even the kindness of his heart and willingness "to be persuaded" by the skilful representations in affection's hour of others, can be a substitute for the individual, steady, regulated judgment and conscience of the Christian. If he were not mistaken, the same lesson is taught, though by a very different route. He himself held and acted upon the conviction that his individual judgment, under the guidance of the Divine Spirit, should have its way—that judgment going to this that, though himself suffered, the leaders of the Church and "many thousands of zealots of the Law" should be effectually taught.


1. The intended short way out of an apprehended difficulty and danger, suggested with coaxing tones and words (Acts 21:20, "Thou seest, brother "), proves a very long and painful way. Who can tell what must have been the excited apprehensions of James and the elders as the riot went on, nor stopped in a sense, till Paul set off for Rome itself?

2. For Paul, whose is both the active work and the keen suffering, "the beginning of the end" dates from this very Church meeting at Jerusalem. The road is opened to Rome and to Caesar and to "the palace and all other places" left for Paul's ministry. And the goal of his career comes into sight for the racer of keen vision as well as of keen energy. So the gospel gains fresh wings, and that grace of God which lovingly overrules where perhaps it was not allowed to rule, is made known to vaster numbers, and amongst them to some whom it might not have reached in any other way.—B.


Acts 21:4, Acts 21:11

The Spirit in Paul, and the Spirit in others.

The narrative given of the apostle's progress toward Jerusalem suggests some serious and difficult questions. We now consider one of them. Once and again it appears as if the Divine Spirit sent messages which should have stopped the apostle, and prevented his going on to the holy city; and St. Paul evidently resisted these attempted hindrances. Then was he right in so doing? If he was right, how can we explain his conduct? The circumstances may be carefully compared with those narrated concerning the prophet who was unfaithful to the commission distinctly entrusted to himself (see 1 Kings 13:1-25). "It seems at first somewhat startling that St. Paul should reject what is described as an inspired counsel; or, if we believe him also to have been guided by the Spirit, that the two inspirations should thus clash. We remember, however, that men received the Spirit 'by measure,' and the prophets of the Churches at Tyre, as elsewhere, though foreseeing the danger to which the apostle was exposed, might yet be lacking in that higher inspiration which guided the decision of the apostle." This explanation is given in a simpler form in the ' Speaker's Commentary.' "The foreknowledge was inspired; the advice based upon it was merely a human inference. St. Paul accepted the information, but did not yield to the warning. Christ's approval of his conduct is implied in Acts 23:11." This suggestion in explanation of the difficulty may be fully considered and illustrated.


(1) those which were general to his apostolic work; and

(2) those which were special to particular occasions, as e.g. at Troas (Acts 16:9).

We may, therefore, be quite sure that he knew perfectly well when he was under Divine lead; and, on this occasion, we have evidence that he knew what God's will for him was, and that he was taking the path of duty in going up to Jerusalem. In Acts 20:22 he distinctly says, "Now I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem." No doubts or questions disturbed his own mind. He knew that God led; and he knew that, regardless of consequences, it was his simple duty to follow. It may be shown that still, in our day, a man may have a full and clear knowledge of God's will for him, and then he is bound to do that will, however men's prophecies and advice and warnings may entice him aside. When a man has inward conviction of what is right for him, all prophesying of consequences becomes temptation to be resisted.

II. OTHERS HAD INTIMATIONS OF FACTS THAT WOULD OCCUR. These came by the Spirit. But carefully note the distinction—no one was commanded, in the Name of the Lord, to tell St. Paul that he must not go up to Jerusalem. We have only the fact noticed that certain persons, in the exercise of their prophetic gift, foresaw the consequences of his so going, and stated what they anticipated. This comes out plainly in the fuller account of what Agabus did and said (Acts 20:11). His intimation was simply of facts. Agabus does not seem to have felt entitled to add any personal persuasions. This distinction between the leadings of the Spirit in St. Paul and the leadings of the Spirit in the prophets and prophetesses, removes all difficulty of antagonistic inspirations. In the apostle the leadings concerned duty; in the prophets it concerned only facts. What relation the knowledge of the facts had to the doing of duty we shall presently see.

III. OTHERS ADDED PERSUASIONS BASED ON THEIR OWN PROPHETIC KNOWLEDGE. But the persuasions were their own, not the inspiration of God's Spirit, and St. Paul was in no sense bound to follow them. No conceivable authority could lie in them. The character of the attempts to hinder the apostle are clearly seen in Acts 20:12 : "And when we heard these things, both we [St. Paul's companions], and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem." Manifestly the apostle would have been altogether wrong if he had yielded to these kind friends, and resisted the inward monitions and leadings of God's Spirit. Oftentimes in Christian life we find that our most anxious work is to resist the importunities and affectionate entreaties of those who would keep us from the work to which God plainly calls us. Illustration: keeping men back from consecration to ministerial and missionary life.

IV. SUCH PERSUASIONS TESTED ST. PAUL'S LOYALTY TO THE SPIRIT'S INWARD LEADINGS. And this is the reason why the prophetic intimations of coming facts were given. How deeply the apostle felt both the prophecies and the persuasions is seen in Acts 20:13. Would he be drawn aside from the plain path of duty by them? They made it hard to be faithful to God's will as he knew it; but he did not yield. Well he knew that mere consequences resulting from action, as men see them, never can decide the right or the wrong of the action. A man must always act upon the light and lead which God gives him, and accept the issues which Divine providence is pleased to bring out of his conduct. A man is always fight who is true to the witness that God makes in his own heart. Show how much of Christian failure is really due to yielding under the temptations that would remove us from following out our convictions. So St. Peter tried to hinder his Lord and Master, and received this severe answer, "Get thee behind me, Satan." Distinguish, however, very clearly between mere self-willedness and the conviction of an inward Divine leading such as open and trusting hearts need never fail to recognize. This example of the great apostle should impress upon us that, if we distinctly know what God would have us do, then no kind of peril of circumstances or fear of consequences may be permitted to lead us aside from the plain path of duty. We must ever be loyal to the "inward lead."—R.T.

Acts 21:5

The influence of personal affection on Christian ministers.

The scene described here may be compared with that at Miletus (Acts 20:26, Acts 20:27). The impression that it was the last time they would see the great apostle among them intensified the expression of feeling, but it could hardly be said to increase the affection which the disciples cherished towards St. Paul. That strong personal attachment the apostle won wherever he went. Some men are remarkable for the power of drawing forth the affection and love of those whom they seek to serve for Christ's sake. Some men are never more or other than officials, valued and trusted only for "their work's sake." Others are beloved "for their own sakes," and the work they do is glorified by the beauty which, to men's eyes, they put upon it in the doing of it. Some think that personal affection for a pastor or a teacher is rather a hindrance to him, as the truth he teaches may come to be valued for his sake, and not for its own. Others urge that truth never really reaches them and sways them until it comes with the persuasions of one whom they wholly trust and whom they intensely love. Every true pastor will dread putting himself in any sense between souls and Christ; but every pastor will rejoice if, by winning the love of men, he can bring them to love Christ. Picturing the scene of out text, Canon Farrar says, "When the week was over St. Paul left them; and so deeply in that brief period had he won their affections, that all the members of the little community, with their wives and children, started with him to conduct him on his way. Before they reached the vessel, they knelt down side by side, men and women and little ones, somewhere on the surf-beat rocks near which the vessel was moored, to pray together—he for them, and they for him—before they returned to their homes; and he went once more on board for the last stage of the voyage from Tyre to Ptolemais, the modern Acre." We dwell on the following points:—

I. ST. PAUL'S POWER TO COMMAND AND TO WIN AFFECTION. This was a part of his natural gifts. It belonged to his disposition and character. But we may especially note two things:

(1) he freely gave love to others, and only those who can love can win love;

(2) he had a singular power of spiritual insight, and wherever that is found men have unusual charm to the view of others.

II. THE KIND OF FAREWELL BROUGHT OUT THE EXPRESSIONS OF AFFECTION. All farewells test friendship and love. This was peculiar,

(1) as being a last farewell;

(2) as taken immediately before anticipated scenes of sorrow and affliction. Compare our Lord's view of Mary's act, anointing his feet with nard. It was a preparatory anointing for burial, and so an unusual expression of love.


(1) its power to constrain him to do his very best;

(2) the gracious and tender tone which it puts on all his teaching and relations;

(3) the adaptations it enables him to make of the truth to individuals, since love is the greatest revealer of men to their fellows; and

(4) the hopefulness it leads him to cherish concerning those for whom he labors.

IV. THE INFLUENCE WHICH SUCH AFFECTION HAS ON THOSE WHO FEEL IT. Especially notice that it opens their hearts to receive instruction and counsel as nothing else can; and it constantly acts as an inspiring force, moving them to be worthy of those whom they love. The minister's great appeal is to men's hearts. If he can win their love, he will not fail to instruct their minds and sway their wills.—R.T.

Acts 21:13

St. Peter and St. Paul compared in boasting.

This strong declaration, "I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the Name of the Lord Jesus," sounds very much like the language of St. Peter to his Master. "Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake." And yet there is the most vital distinction between the spirit and tone and temper of the two sayings, and the difference comes fully out in the actions that followed. Self-trusting Peter failed in the testing hour. Christ trusting Paul went on to win the martyr's crown. This is the subject before us; but in introducing it there should be some estimate of the blended strength and weakness of Peter's character before his fall. The boldness and forwardness were valuable qualities for one who was to be a leading gospel witness and missionary; but before the humbling experience of his fall, Peter's forwardness meant undue self-reliance. So our Lord had on one occasion to speak more sternly to him than to any other of his disciples, even saying, "Get thee behind me, Satan." There should be also a due estimate of the highly wrought condition of Paul's feeling when he uttered the seemingly boastful words of our text. "The intense sensitiveness of St. Paul's nature shows itself in every syllable. It was with no Stoic hardness that he resisted their entreaties. They were positively crushing to him. He adhered to his purpose, but it was as with a broken heart. In spite of this, however, his martyr-like, Luther-like nature carried him forward. Bonds and imprisonment!—these he had heard of when he was yet at Corinth and Ephesus, before he had started on his journey; hut what were they to one who was ready to face death?" The comparison may take three forms.

I. ST. PETER'S BOASTING WAS THAT OF INEXPERIENCE, He talked about dying with Jesus, but he did not know what dying was. He had not suffered much in his discipleship. Persecutions nor shame had yet touched him. He talked about dying as we all do until God has taken us and set us down at the very edge of the borderland. Many of us feel very confident that we can master temptation, endure affliction, and face death; while the truth may be that we know nothing of the force or the subtlety of either, and may well be humble, and look on to untried scenes saying, "Lead thou me on."

II. ST. PAUL'S BOASTING WAS THAT OF EXPERIENCE. He had fully proved what he could do, and what he could bear, for Christ's sake. He had been sick and ill; he had faced death by shipwreck; he had been stoned by the mob, and left for dead. He was always bearing about in the body the "dying of the Lord Jesus." He might speak strongly and confidently; for there could be nothing in his coming lot that had not been represented in his past experiences. He knew well that he labored day by day with his life, as it were, in his hands. There is all the difference between his words and St. Peter's that we find between the confident utterance of a youth and the calm expressions Of the aged. And St. Paul's has really no boastfulness in it. It is but the fixed and settled purpose of his life pressed out into intense language.

III. ST. PETER'S BOASTING WAS THAT OF PASSIONATE FEELING. He did love the Master, and was sincere in expressing his love; but he did not think about his words before speaking, so they bear the character of the impulsive man that St. Peter was. Under excitement we may easily promise too much. Under self-restraint we shall find that what we would and what we can seriously differ from each other. When feeling is calmed, judgment will not always support what feeling has said.

IV. ST. PAUL'S BOASTING WAS THAT OF SETTLED CONVICTION. The result, not of resolve alone, but of resolve tested, renewed, and established. Sober, settled conviction breathes in that first chapter of the Epistle to the Philippians. It is quiet, calm writing. And it reads thus: "With all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." The same tone of settled conviction is on his glowing words so simply written in his letter to Timothy: "I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness." Such expressions can never be mistaken for boasting; they are only signs of a soul that is sublimely uplifted in the strength of its faith, and in the fullness of its experience.

V. ST, PETER'S BOASTING WAS THAT OF SELF-CONFIDENCE. This being the more familiar view taken of St. Peter's words, the mode of treating it may be left. The point to impress is that he spoke relying in himself, and with no question of his own ability to carry out what he said. He that leaneth on himself leaneth on a reed that will too surely bend beneath his weight. "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." And St. Peter's own Master thus solemnly warned both him and his fellow-disciples: "Without me ye can do nothing." Then and now, self-confidence is only vain confidence.

VI. ST. PAUL'S BOASTING WAS THAT OF FULL SUBMISSION. St. Peter thought of "dying with Christ" as something to do. St. Paul thought of it as something to bear. Christ did not ask St. Peter to die with him. He pushed himself into the place. Christ

he may be old in years;

(2) he may be old in experience.

No Christian disciple could at that time have been very old in experience of Christian life. There are four possible suppositions concerning the discipleship of Mnason.

(1) He may have been, like Simeon, one of those who looked for redemption in Israel, and so was prepared at once to welcome Christ.

(2) He may have been one of the disciples who attached themselves to Christ while he was with men in the flesh.

(3) He may have been converted at the day of Pentecost.

(4) He may have been a first fruit of St. Patti's missionary labors in Cyprus. The subject suggested by the reference to Mnason is—the mission in the Church of old disciples; and three points may receive full treatment and illustration.

I. Old disciples may prove what Divine grace can do in keeping us unspotted from the world.

II. Old disciples may illustrate "patient continuance in well-doing."

III. Old disciples may exert a gracious influence by the tone and character of their religious experience, as corrective of the mistakes and practical errors that may prevail, and as guiding to the solution of practical difficulties in doctrine and in conduct. The Church has often good reason to rejoice in the wisdom and prudence of her "old disciples."—R.T.

Acts 21:20-25

The perils of over-caution.

For the details of these verses, reference must be made to the exegetical portion of this Commentary. We should fully understand:

1. The intense enmity of the Judaizing party against St. Paul.

2. The opportunity of increasing that enmity found in the fact that many of St. Paul's enemies from Asia and Europe were present in Jerusalem at this time, attending the feast.

3. The difficulty of the Christian leaders, who had not openly broken with rabbinical Mosaism, and consequently found St. Paul's presence in the city a source of extreme anxiety. They could not openly condemn him; and indeed this they were not prepared to do. They could not openly approve him, for this would be sure to rouse dissension, and it would certainly put St. Paul's life in peril.

4. The spirit and temper of the apostle himself, who was rather bold than cautious, and had on several important occasions (as, e.g, Acts 19:30, Acts 19:31) to be actually held back from courses of action that were hardly prudent. The leaders of the Church at Jerusalem tried to master the difficulties of the position by compromise, which is usually a sign of conscious weakness, and often rather makes than settles the difficulty with which it deals. "The heads of the Church in Jerusalem dreaded nothing but an uproar, if St. Paul's presence in the city should become known. In order, therefore, to appease the multitude, they proposed to the apostle to observe the sacred usages publicly in the temple, with four men who were paying their vows, and to present an offering for himself—a proposal which he willingly adopted. But although the concession of the apostles to the weak brethren proceeded from a good intention, yet it turned out disastrously. The furious enemies of St. Paul were "only the more exasperated by it" (Olshausen). It was a case of "over-caution," and it well illustrates the weakness and the peril that usually lie in over-cautious schemes.

I. THE PLACE FOR COMPROMISE. Which is the practical expression of extreme caution, and the constant resort of cautious dispositions. It is useful:

1. When the matter in dispute cannot have a full and final adjustment.

2. When such serious interests are at stake that it is important not to keep open the dispute.

3. When both parties have a measure of right on their sides, and the claim of each must be moderated to admit the right of the others.

4. When the intense feeling of the disputants prevents the acceptance of any positive settlement. These may be illustrated both from worldly and from Christian spheres.

II. THE PERILS OF COMPROMISE. They arise from the fact that, as a rule,

1. Compromise settles nothing, but really leaves the old difficulty to find a new expression.

2. It keeps in relation parties who would be much better apart.

3. It gives those who are in the wrong, an impression of weakness in those who suggest the compromise, and so encourages them in the wrong and leads them to take advantage of the weakness; as is illustrated in the case before us of the Judaizing party.

III. THE PRACTICAL IMPORTANCE OF TAKING A FIRM STAND UPON WHAT IS RIGHT. Nothing disarms opposition as this does, and nothing settles disputes as a fine and wise decision. If the apostolic council had simply and firmly accepted St. Paul, given their public testimony to their confidence in him, and explained the relation in which the Gentile Churches and their teacher stood to the Jewish Churches and their teachers, mistakes would have been corrected, opposition would have been checked, and St. Paul's enemies would have failed to make a party. All the calamities that followed, though foreordained of God, are, on their human side, traceable to the over-caution and weak compromise of the Jerusalem apostles. Learn the value of prudence and caution in the practical concerns of life, but learn also the perils of the exaggeration of caution, and the adoption of compromises when we have before us questions of right and wrong. Right is right, and we must stand to it whatever may be the peril.—R.T.

Acts 21:27-30

Party prejudices.

Explain the points of view of the Judaizing party. Zeal for the purity of Mosaism can be commended. The binding character of Mosaic Law on all born Jews may be recognized. We cannot wonder that many of the Jews should regard Christianity as a reform of Judaism, rather than what such men as St. Paul saw it to be—the completion and perfection of Judaism. Regarding it as reformed Judaism, they would plead that its claims rested on all Gentiles who became Christian Jews. The first indications of the existence of this Judaizing party within the Christian community we find in Acts 15:1. Then the matter occasioned so much dispute that the advice of the apostolic council had to be sought. Their judgment was virtually against the Judaizing party, and this intensified their opposition, made them cling even more closely to their party prejudices, and led them to regard St. Paul more distinctly as the leader of the more liberal views which they hated. They followed the apostle everywhere; they tried to undermine his influence and destroy his work; and it even seems that they resolved not to rest until they had secured his death. They are striking examples of the worst phases of the sectarian spirit, which blinds to truth, hardens from conviction, destroys a man's tenderness, and makes cruelty and crime possible to him. Scarcely any evil force has exerted in history so baneful an influence as that of the party spirit. It was an ideal time which the poetical historian describes, "when none was for a party, but all were for the state." Still the sectarian and party spirit is the gravest trouble afflicting Christ's Church, and the most serious hindrance to the perfecting of Christ's kingdom. But we need to make a careful distinction between party spirit and party action. Sectional action may be an important element in working. More can be accomplished by sections devoting their attention to parts. But party spirit, which means jealous feeling separating the sections, is always bad, for those who feel the jealousy and for those who suffer from its schemes. Taking illustration from what is narrated of these Judaizing teachers, we notice that party prejudice—

I. BLINDS TO FACT AND TRUTH. If the party has a piece of truth, it is but a piece, and yet it often prevents the apprehension of any other related or higher truth. And even worse is its power to distort or deny facts. The party man will see or admit nothing that does not tell for his party. Show that St. Paul had facts and truths, but these opponents would give him no calm consideration. They really shouted him down, as did the excited Ephesians, who cried all day, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians." If we find an unwillingness to admit facts or to calmly consider phases of truth presented for our consideration, then we may gravely fear lest we be giving place to party prejudices.

II. INVOLVES INJUSTICE. In dealing with individuals. For the partisan associates the holder of an objectionable theory with the theory, and is easily led to vent his annoyance at the theory upon the holder and propounder of it. The sectional and party spirit is at the root of all religious persecution. Men are not unjust when they contend for God's truth, but only when they contend for some ism of their own, which they persuade themselves is God's truth. Christ says to all who think of using external forces for him, "Pat up thy sword into its sheath."

III. PARTY PREJUDICES ARE MOST DIFFICULT TO REMOVE. Seen in the difficulty of correcting the mistakes on which sects now divide from each other. The "common ground" is little regarded, and the points of difference are unduly exaggerated, and men stand to their little peculiarities and special points as if the whole gospel gathered up into their side and piece of doctrine. And if any try to free them from their prejudice, and let in on them a little generous light, they only retire further in and hold their party sentiment tighter than ever. Surely the full warning of these Judaizers in St. Paul's time has not been sufficiently recognized in these days of a divided Church and unduly magnified theological and ecclesiastical differences.—B. T.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Acts 21". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/acts-21.html. 1897.
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