December 26, 2015.
Daily Reading: Acts 21-22.
Background: Acts 19-20.
Concepts and Connections.
Paul in Jerusalem: As Paul set fourth to Jerusalem, he and his company made several stops along the way. Notice the bond of the brethren here as they stop and find disciples in various cities, prolonging their stay a bit to be with them. Paul’s time in Jerusalem would not be filled with ease, as he knew that he was going into a hostile area to him, and here we see a specific prophecy made by Agabus that Paul would be bound in Jerusalem. The disciples urged him not to go, but Paul was determined, for he was not only ready to be put into prison in Jerusalem, but also to die for the cause of Christ, if that be the will of God. When the disciples saw that they could not persuade him, they submitted to the will of the Lord and sent him on his way.
When Paul came to Jerusalem, he immediately met with the disciples there. He met with James, the brother of Jesus, who was a leader in the church in Jerusalem and told him and the elders all the good things that God had done for the Gentiles for them. James gives an interesting response to Paul here. The disciples glorify God for what He had done for the Gentiles, but James tells Paul that there is an issue that had arisen concerning him. He tells him that there is a rumor going around that Paul is teaching completely against the Law of Moses, and wished to destroy all the customs of the Jews, apparently still kept by the Jewish Christians here. He tells Paul to take four men who had been under a vow (probably a nazarite vow) and purify himself with them to show to the Jewish Christians that the rumor is not true, thus implying that Paul still observed the Law. Paul did this without any disputing that we know of, which indeed implied that he, as a Jewish Christian, did observe the Law. James reminds Paul of the letter that they had sent earlier concerning the Gentile Christians, with their decision that they did not have to observe the full Mosaic Law, but to keep from food sacrificed to idols, blood, things strangled and sexual immorality (see Acts 15:19-29).
As the days of purification for the vow were nearing an end, Jews from Asia saw Paul in the temple and stirred up the whole crowd against him, accusing him of teaching all men everywhere against the Law of Moses, against Jewish customs and bringing Greeks in to defile the temple (assuming someone they saw in the city, who was an Ephesian, was with Paul). There was a great uproar, Paul was dragged out of the temple and the people tried to kill him. Before they could kill him, however, Roman soldiers saw that the city was in an uproar and they came in and arrested Paul so they could try and figure out what was going on. This would be the beginning of a prolonged prison experience for Paul, just as had been prophesied. There was a much confusion here as some people shouted one thing and others shouted another. The soldiers had to protect Paul from the crowd. When Paul asked the tribune, in Greek, if he could say something to him, the solider thought he might be an Egyptian that had caused trouble recently. Paul told him he was a Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia and asked for permission to speak to the people who were just trying to kill him. The solider gave him permission and he began to make his defense.
Paul’s defense: As Paul stands before the people to make his defense to them, notice what he chooses to say and how it is different than his typical apologetic of reasoning in the Synagog though the Law and the prophets. Instead, he tells them his testimony, for it is very relevant to them- they knew who Paul was before he became a follower of Christ. He opens up with this pedigree. Paul was not just an ordinary Jew- he was on his way to being one of the top Rabbi’s of the day. He was born into about as much privilege that a Jew of this time could probably have been born into. Tarsus in Cilicia was no obscure city, as we find out in the previous chapter, and he was born a Roman citizen (though he doesn’t say that here, we learn this in the latter portion of this chapter). He had been well educated and trained at the feet of Gamaliel, who was one of the top five Rabbi’s of the day. He was zealous for the law and persecuted Christians with great fervor, bringing them in bonds to Jerusalem. He tells the people this because they would know this to be true. The high priests could bear him witness, because they were there.
After establishing his former prestige, he tells them of what change- an experience with the Christ (see Acts 9). On the way to Damascus, he was blinded by a light from heaven and the voice of Jesus who told him that he was persecuting Him. The Lord told him to go into the city and it would be told him what it was appointed for him to do. Notice how each time Paul tells this story, we get extra details that are not in other accounts. Such is the case here, as we see that when Ananias comes to him, he tells him with urgency to arise and be baptized and wash away his sin. We see that Paul, though he had been praying and fasting for three days and nights, and though he had received his sight once again by the and of Ananias, he still needed to wash away his sins through baptism, calling on the name of the Lord (see Acts 2:14-41, Romans 6:1-11). Ananias told him that he had been appointed to be a witness of the things that he had seen and heard. As Paul was praying in the temple, the Lord sent him a vision to leave Jerusalem quickly because they would not accept his testimony, but rather He was going to sent him far away to the Gentiles.
The Jews were listening to Paul up until the point when he mentioned the Gentiles. As soon as they heard this word, they stopped their ears and cried out against him. A big uproar was made, and the tribune brought Paul in to be examined by flogging. However, Paul mentions that he is a Roman citizen (born a Roman citizen), which frightens the soldiers because they were about to flog a Roman citizen though he was uncondemned. On the next day, they set out to figure out what was going on and why the Jews were accusing him, so they unbound him and set him before the chief priests and council to come to some conclusions about the matter.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Jude.
Grace and peace.