Acts 21 (New Living Translation)
Paul’s Journey to Jerusalem
1 After saying farewell to the Ephesian elders,
One commentator has said a better rendering is “after tearing ourselves away from them.” This was not an easy farewell! Paul had invested himself deeply in these leaders, and they loved him dearly.
we sailed straight to the island of Cos. The next day we reached Rhodes and then went to Patara. 2 There we boarded a ship sailing for Phoenicia. 3 We sighted the island of Cyprus, passed it on our left, and landed at the harbor of Tyre, in Syria, where the ship was to unload its cargo.
4 We went ashore, found the local believers, and stayed with them a week.
We have not heard, in the chapters we have read, about the beginning of the church in Tyre. This reminds us that Acts gives only a partial account of all the “acts of the apostles” and of the Holy Spirit during this time!
These believers prophesied through the Holy Spirit that Paul should not go on to Jerusalem. 5 When we returned to the ship at the end of the week, the entire congregation, including women and children, left the city and came down to the shore with us. There we knelt, prayed, 6 and said our farewells. Then we went aboard, and they returned home.
7 The next stop after leaving Tyre was Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed for one day. 8 The next day we went on to Caesarea and stayed at the home of Philip the Evangelist, one of the seven men who had been chosen to distribute food. 9 He had four unmarried daughters who had the gift of prophecy.
10 Several days later a man named Agabus, who also had the gift of prophecy, arrived from Judea. 11 He came over, took Paul’s belt, and bound his own feet and hands with it. Then he said, “The Holy Spirit declares, ‘So shall the owner of this belt be bound by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and turned over to the Gentiles.’” 12 When we heard this, we and the local believers all begged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.
13 But he said, “Why all this weeping? You are breaking my heart! I am ready not only to be jailed at Jerusalem but even to die for the sake of the Lord Jesus.”
In the Iliad, Homer tells of Achilles being warned by the prophetess that if he goes out to a certain battle, he will be killed. “Nevertheless,” answers the Greek hero, “I am for going on.”
No matter what lay ahead, Paul was for going on.
14 When it was clear that we couldn’t persuade him, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”
The warnings from the Holy Spirit were intended to prepare Paul, not to stop him.
Paul Arrives at Jerusalem
15 After this we packed our things and left for Jerusalem. 16 Some believers from Caesarea accompanied us, and they took us to the home of Mnason, a man originally from Cyprus and one of the early believers. 17 When we arrived, the brothers and sisters in Jerusalem welcomed us warmly.
18 The next day Paul went with us to meet with James, and all the elders of the Jerusalem church were present. 19 After greeting them, Paul gave a detailed account of the things God had accomplished among the Gentiles through his ministry.
Recently I have been able to listen to several different people tell me about wonderful things that the Lord is doing around the world, works of redemption and reconciliation! Our God is so powerful; He is stirring up His people in every nation. We are seeing events happening that sound impossible:
- vast numbers of Muslims coming to Jesus because He appears to them in dreams and says, “I love you”;
- terrorists in Nigeria laying down their arms because they are following Jesus now;
- Bible classes being taught by former murderers and kidnappers in one of Colombia’s most dangerous prisons;
- Orthodox Jews, including even rabbis, receiving revelation that Yeshua is their Messiah.
I have sat with my mouth open in amazement and my eyes filled with tears of wonder as I have heard these detailed accounts of the things God is accomplishing among the people of the world.
I hope that in Heaven we will be able to hear many more “detailed accounts!”
Won’t those be amazing stories?! We will see how wonderfully the Lord has worked, even, sometimes, through us! Don Moen sings “Like Eagles.”
20 After hearing this, they praised God. And then they said, “You know, dear brother, how many thousands of Jews have also believed, and they all follow the law of Moses very seriously. 21 But the Jewish believers here in Jerusalem have been told that you are teaching all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn their backs on the laws of Moses. They’ve heard that you teach them not to circumcise their children or follow other Jewish customs. 22 What should we do? They will certainly hear that you have come.
23 “Here’s what we want you to do. We have four men here who have completed their vow. 24 Go with them to the Temple and join them in the purification ceremony, paying for them to have their heads ritually shaved. Then everyone will know that the rumors are all false and that you yourself observe the Jewish laws.
25 “As for the Gentile believers, they should do what we already told them in a letter: They should abstain from eating food offered to idols, from consuming blood or the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality.”
Paul Is Arrested
26 So Paul went to the Temple the next day with the other men. They had already started the purification ritual, so he publicly announced the date when their vows would end and sacrifices would be offered for each of them.
27 The seven days were almost ended when some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul in the Temple and roused a mob against him. They grabbed him, 28 yelling, “Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who preaches against our people everywhere and tells everybody to disobey the Jewish laws. He speaks against the Temple—and even defiles this holy place by bringing in Gentiles.” 29 (For earlier that day they had seen him in the city with Trophimus, a Gentile from Ephesus, and they assumed Paul had taken him into the Temple.)
It was absolutely prohibited for Gentiles to go beyond the designated “Court of the Gentiles” in the temple grounds. Signs were posted which read (in both Greek and Latin): “No foreigner may enter within the barricade which surrounds the temple and enclosure. Any one who is caught trespassing will bear personal responsibility for his ensuing death.” The Romans were so sensitive to this that they authorized the Jews to execute anyone who offended in this way, even if the offender was a Roman citizen.
30 The whole city was rocked by these accusations, and a great riot followed. Paul was grabbed and dragged out of the Temple, and immediately the gates were closed behind him. 31 As they were trying to kill him, word reached the commander of the Roman regiment that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He immediately called out his soldiers and officers and ran down among the crowd. When the mob saw the commander and the troops coming, they stopped beating Paul.
33 Then the commander arrested him and ordered him bound with two chains.
That is to say, handcuffed to a soldier on either side. Did he think of the prophecy of Agabus (verse 11)?
He asked the crowd who he was and what he had done. 34 Some shouted one thing and some another. Since he couldn’t find out the truth in all the uproar and confusion, he ordered that Paul be taken to the fortress. 35 As Paul reached the stairs, the mob grew so violent the soldiers had to lift him to their shoulders to protect him. 36 And the crowd followed behind, shouting, “Kill him, kill him!”
Paul Speaks to the Crowd
37 As Paul was about to be taken inside, he said to the commander, “May I have a word with you?”
“Do you know Greek?” the commander asked, surprised. 38 “Aren’t you the Egyptian who led a rebellion some time ago and took 4,000 members of the Assassins out into the desert?”
39 “No,” Paul replied, “I am a Jew and a citizen of Tarsus in Cilicia, which is an important city. Please, let me talk to these people.” 40 The commander agreed,
Once again Paul benefits from his Roman citizenship.
so Paul stood on the stairs and motioned to the people to be quiet. Soon a deep silence enveloped the crowd, and he addressed them in their own language, Aramaic.