ACTS CHAPTER TWENTY ONE


PAUL PROTECTED BY THE HAND OF GOD

SUGGESTED TEACHING OBJECTIVES

Introduction:  Paul had now finished his third missionary journey and was heading for Jerusalem. Paul was greatly burdened for the Jews. Romans 10:1; 9:1-3. Paul knew there would be approximately two million Jews in and around Jerusalem at the time of Pentecost, so he wanted to go there and try to win them to Christ. The Jews (the great majority of them) abused Paul wherever he went. Throughout his journeys, they rejected his messages and caused him trouble. But Paul still wanted to see them saved, so he wanted to go to Jerusalem and witness to them. Our lesson today tells us of his journey to Jerusalem and how he was received.

The Voyage -- Vs. 1-3

In these brief verses we have Coos, Rhodes, Patara, Phenicia, Cyprus, Syria and Tyre. Trace this voyage on your map, a distance of about 30 miles. Evidently, others had already carried the Gospel to most of this territory. Acts 11:19-20.

The Visit -- Vs. 4-6

Vs. 4 -- "Finding disciples", that is, they sought them out. Do you do that when traveling and get in a strange city? The disciples, led by the Holy Spirit, told Paul he should not go up to Jerusalem. Paul's first line of duty was to the Gentiles. CF. Acts 9:15; 22:21; Romans 11:13. Was Paul out of the will of God in going to Jerusalem? This is a question of great dispute in theological thought. It seems that Paul's zealousness and love for the Jews was the impelling motive behind his going to Jerusalem. Our zeal can get us out of the Lord's will. There is a direct will of God and a permissive will of God. God had already laid on his heart that he should go to Rome. Acts 19:21. We are sure Paul's motive was pure. God repeatedly warned Paul about going to Jerusalem, (20:22-24) but Paul wanted to bring Jews and Gentiles to Christ, so he was willing to go -- regardless of the cost.

We should all have such zeal for Christ and others, but we must be sure we are in God's will in the things we do. Paul suffered much in Jerusalem. Had he listened to God's warnings, his ministry might have accomplished even more than it did.

The Verdict -- Vs. 7-14

Vs. 7-9 -- At Caesarea, Paul found Philip, the evangelist. Philip had preached in Samaria and in the desert (Acts 8). He had been one of the original deacons (Acts 6). Philip's daughters prophesied. That is they forth-told the word of God. These daughters loved the Lord and worked for Him. Philip had done a fine job in raising them. Proverbs 22:6. They were not pastoring the church but evidently prophesying at home.

This was 20 years after Philip's evangelistic tour. He did an outstanding work then. Now he is in an obscure place and position but still faithful to God. He is the kind that keeps God's work going. He wasn't an Alka-Seltzer Christian.

Vs. 10-14 -- Agabus warned Paul (CF. 11:28) and then all the rest of Paul's party including Luke (Note the "We" of Vs. 12) warned Paul but to no avail. "The Will of the Lord" be done tells us that at least Paul was in the permissive will of God in going to Jerusalem. He was ready to be bound and he was. It is always best to be in the direct will of God.

The Veteran -- Vs. 15-16

Mnason, an old disciple and still doing for others. At the end of his years, he could look back on a life of service and faithfulness to Christ. What consolation this brings.

The Vow -- Vs. 17-26

Vs. 17 -- Paul had an offering for the Jerusalem Christians from some of his churches which he had established. I Corinthians 16:1-3. The brethren (some of which were the disciples) received him gladly. This was about 20 years after Paul's conversion.

Vs. 18 -- James was the Lord's half brother and the one who had presided in the church meeting in Acts 15.

Vs. 19-20 -- They were glad to hear of how God had used Paul and they told him of the thousands of Jews there that were saved but they were also zealous of the law. That question should have been settled by the meeting years before as recorded in Acts 15 but it wasn't. It's never been settled and there still are, and now more than ever, those who would add something (baptism, works, etc.) to God's salvation by Grace through faith.

But now the Jerusalem church was filled with those who trusted Christ and continued to follow the law with its sacrifices and demands. The church was filled with unsaved people. Sometime they had begun to compromise their doctrinal position and it had made the testimony now reaching the souls of men as they had in the early chapters of Acts. We must never compromise our doctrinal position on salvation and the ordinances, for they guard and keep pure the salvation and the ordinances, for they guard and keep pure the salvation doctrine.

Vs. 21-26 -- They asked Paul to compromise and act like he was participating in the Jewish ceremonies so that he would show the Jews that he really hadn't forsaken the law. This would mean he believed like they, that salvation was by trusting Christ and living by the law. This he consented to do and this was the one outstanding mistake of his ministry. He had already rebuked Peter for the same thing (Galatians 2:11-14) and had written the letter to the Galatian churches denouncing this position. But Paul succumbed to his weakness, his great love for the Jews. Although knowing better, he compromised a principle hoping to gain the Jews favor so that he could witness to them. To sacrifice a principle for a moment in the hope of gaining an opportunity to establish it afterward, is always to fail.

The Violence -- Vs. 27-40

Vs. 27-29 -- The Jews from Asia Minor and Ephesus saw Paul with some of the Greeks, and since he was with them so much they felt sure he had polluted the temple, that is, carried the Gentiles in the temple.

Vs. 30-32 -- They caught Paul in the temple and "went about to kill him." The news spread like wildfire, and all Jerusalem was in an uproar. The Roman soldiers spent much time in putting down uprisings among the Jews and they interceded in this instance and saved Paul.

Vs. 33-36 -- The prophecy of Agabus is fulfilled and Paul is bound. The violent mob cried out for his blood just as they had for his Master's nearly 30 years before, "Away with Him." We must realize that if we serve our Saviour as Paul did, the world will mistreat us just as badly, but God's grace is sufficient and we ought to be as courageous as Paul and willing to take it.

Vs. 37-40 -- Paul spoke both Greek and Hebrew and possibly other languages. He informed the officer that he was a Roman citizen and that he desired to speak to this crowd. He was permitted to do so and what a speech!

CONCLUSION: In all things, Paul was the complete master. He had no fear. He could say, "If God be for us, who can be against us." Romans 8:32. Do you have such faith and confidence? Isaiah 26:3. cf. II Kings 6:13-17. In all this we see God's protection of His servant. When our motives are pure (and Paul's were) even though we may make mistakes, God will still sustain us and make good come out of them. Isn't He wonderful?