JERUSALEM : FACING CRITICISM
Acts 20:1-23:22 August 17 2008
Paul left Ephesus and went to Greece, where he stayed for
three months. He prepared to sail back to Syria, but because of
the plot against him , he went to Philippi. Then he sailed to
Troas, where he spoke with believers. When a young man fell
from a window and died, Paul restored him to life
Paul sailed to Tyre and then to Caesarea. Aprophet warned
that trouble awaited Paul arrived in Jerusalem , church leaders
informed him of Jewish believers’ criticisms against him and
suggested he join four men in fulfilling a vow and defray their
expenses (Acts 21:15-25). Paul did so. Jews accused him of
taking a Gentile into a forbidden area of the temple. A mob tried
to kill Paul , but Roman soldier intervened Paul was allowed to
speak to the people (Acts 21:26-39).
On learning Paul was a Roman citizen, the Roman commander
spared Paul from a scourging. He was taken before the Sanhedrin,
where he declared he was a Pharisee who believed in resurrection.
The Sadducees argued with the Pharisse about resurrection, and
the commander took Paul back to the barracks (Acts 22:30-
23:10). The Jews plotted to kill Paul , but his nephew
discovered the plan (Acts 23:11-22).
1. Some Criticism is Unfair (Acts 21:17-21)
Acts 21:17 When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers
received us warmly. 21:18 The next day Paul and the rest of
us went to see James, and all the elders were present. 21:19
Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done
among the Gentiles through his ministry. 21:20 When they
heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see,
brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of
them are zealous for the law. 21:21 They have been informed
that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn
away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children
or live according to our customs.
Arrived at Jerusalem . No more than a day or two before
Pentecost. The brothers received us warmly. May indicate the
grateful reception of the offering as well. James . The brother
of the Lord, author of the letter of James and leader of the
church in Jerusalem (Gal 1:19; 2:9). He is called an apostle
but was not one of the Twelve.
2. Take Positive Action (Acts 21:22-26)
Acts 21:22 What shall we do? They will certainly hear that
you have come, 21:23 so do what we tell you. There are four
men with us who have made a vow. 21:24 Take these men,
join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that
they can have their heads shaved. Then everybody will know
there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you
yourself are living in obedience to the law. 21:25 As for the
Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that
they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood,
from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”
21:26 The next day Paul took the men and purified himself
along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of
the date when the days of purification would end and the
offering would be made for each of them.
Made a Vow . They were evidently under the temporary
Nazirite vow and became unclean before the completion time
of the vow (perhaps from contact with a dead body); (Num .
6:2-12). Purification rites . In some instances the rites
included the offering of sacrifices. Such rites were observed
by choice by some Jewish Christians but were not required
of Christians, whether Jew or Gentile. Pay their expenses .
Paul’s part in sponsoring these men would include (1) paying
part or all of the expenses of the sacrificial victims (in this
case eight pigeons and four lambs, Num. 6:9-12) and (2) going
to the temple to notify the priest when their days of
purification would be fulfilled so the priests would be
prepared to sacrifice their offerings (Acts 21: 26). Living in
obedience to the law . Paul had earlier taken a vow himself
(Acts 18:18), he had been a Jew to the Jews (1Co 9:20-21),
and Timothy had been circumcised (Acts 16:3). However, Paul
was very careful not to sacrifice Christian principle in any
act of obedience to the law (he would not have Titus
circumcised, Gal 2:3).
3. Some Criticism Is Untrue (Acts 21:27-29)
Acts 21:27 When the seven days were nearly over, some
Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They
stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 21:28 shouting,
“Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who teaches all men
everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And
besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple area and defiled
this holy place.” 21:29 (They had previously seen Trophimus
the Ephesian in the city with Paul and assumed that Paul had
brought him into the temple area.)
Seven days (Num 6:9). These were the days required for
purification, shaving their heads at the altar, the sacrifice
of a sin offering and burnt offering for each, and announcing
the completion to the priests. Jews from the province of
Asia . Paul had suffered already from the hands of Asian
Jews (Acts. 20:19). With Tears (Acts 21: 31). Paul’s ministry
at Ephesus was conducted with emotional fervency and a sense
of urgency. Brought Greeks into the temple Area . Explicitly
forbidden according to inscribed stone markers (still in
existence). Any Gentiles found within the bounds of the court
of Israel would be killed. But there is no evidence that Paul
had brought anyone other than Jews into the area. Trophimus .
Paul probably did not take him into the forbidden area. If he
had, they should have attacked Trophimus rather than Paul.
4. Make Positive Statements (Acts 21:39)
Acts 21:39 Paul answered, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in
Cilicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to
The Egyptian who started a Revolt . Josephus tells of an
Egyptian false prophet who some years earlier had led 4,000
(Josephus, through a misreading of a Greek capital letter,
says 30,000) out to the Mount of Olives. Roman soldiers
killed hundreds, but the leader escaped. Terrorists . The
Greek here is a loanword from Latin SICARII, meaning
“dagger-men,” who were violent assassins. Tarsus (Acts
22:3). Born in Tarsus . Paul had citizenship in Tarsus (Acts
21:39) as well as being a Roman citizen. “No ordinary city”
(Acts 21:39) was used by Euripides to describe Athens.
Tarsus was 10 miles inland on the Cydnus River and 30 miles
from the mountains, which were cut by a deep, narrow gorge
called the Cilician Gates. It was an important commercial
center, university city and crossroads of travel. Brought up
in the city . Paul must have come to Jerusalem at an early age.
Another translation (“brought up in this city at the feet of
Gamaliel, being thoroughly trained according to the law of
our fathers”) would suggest that Paul came to Jerusalem
when he was old enough to begin training under Gamaliel.
GAMALIEL. The most honored rabbi of the first century.
Possibly he was the grandson of Hillel (Acts 5:34-40).
David captured the Jebusite city of Jerusalem
and made it his kingdom’s political capital. His choice
was clever in that the city did not belong to any of Israel’s
tribes. Thus David could not be charged with favoritism. He
brought the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, making the
city the nation’s religious capital.
The temple Solomon built symbolized God’s
presence with His people. Solomon’s temple and two
succeeding ones – Zerubbabel’s temple and Herod’s temple
– were central to Judaism and its sacrificial system. At
9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. daily, burnt offerings were
presented on the people’s behalf. In Jesus’ time, as many
as 20,000 priests divided in 24 courses served in the
Jewish pilgrims traveled to
Jerusalem to attend the Feasts of Passover , Pentecost
(Weeks or Harvest), and Tabernacles (Booths). All Jewish
males were required to attend the three feasts. Jews
scattered over the Roman Empire had difficulty keeping
the requirement, but many tried to attend once a year.
The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in
A.D. 70. With the center of the sacrificial system gone,
Judaism’s focus turned to the law . To the Jews however,
Jerusalem has remained the Holy City.