Acts 21

Day 21, Acts 21.

This chapter continues telling the story of Paul’s return to Jerusalem, stopping in Tyre. Luke wrote,

4 After looking up the disciples, we stayed there seven days; and they kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem.

And in verse 10-12, we see that the prophet Agabus (the one who had foretold the famine for which the church sent money to the church in Jerusalem) came where Paul was in Cesarea and demonstrated what would happen to Paul – he would be bound and enprisoned by the Gentiles.

10 As we were staying there for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: ‘In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” 12 When we had heard this, we as well as the local residents began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem.

Some might think that verse 4 is in conflict with verses 10-12 and with what we saw in chapter 20, verses 22-24:

22 And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there,23 except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.

Some think that what was happening in verse 4 was that the Holy Spirit was telling the disciples that Paul was going to face chains and many problems when he gets to Jerusalem. The thinking is that the disciples foretold through the Spirit what Paul would be faced with in Jerusalem, but according to Matthew Henry’s commentary (, they concluded it would be most for the glory of God that he should not be in prison. Because of this, “they tried to dissuade him; but it was their mistake, for his trial would be for the glory of God and the furtherance of the gospel, and he knew it; and the importunity that was used with him, to dissuade him from it, renders his pious and truly heroic resolution the more illustrious.” John Gill believed it was from love for Paul that the disciples warned him not to go to Jerusalem, but the Spirit had given a warning but not the dissuasion (

Another option to understanding verse 4 is that God told the disciples to tell Paul to not go, realizing how that would influence both them and Paul, but knowing that Paul would not do that (since he had already been told by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem).  The warning was not to prevent it from occuring, but to prepare Paul, those who gave the warnings, and those who heard the warnings.

The reaction of those who loved Paul broke his heart. Yet it helped prepare him for the future. He was ready to die in Jerusalem. But he had to be ready for what ever may come.

Once in Jerusalem, Paul was met by James and the elders of the church at Jerusalem. Paul shared what God had done through his ministry. After praising God, James told him that thousands of Jews had come to believe. Some had claimed that Paul encouraged all the Jews who live among the Gentiles  that they did not need to follow what Moses had taught, not circumcise their sons, and no live according to the Jewish customs. To deal with them, James suggested:

23 so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. 24 Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law.

There are some who say this means that Paul followed the Mosaic Law. But this is an example of being all things to all men to save some. He is under Christ’s law, not the Mosaic Law.

1 Corinthians 9:19-22

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.

And as for people who think Gentiles should follow the Law, James reminded Paul what the elders had written concerning them in Acts 21:25,

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.”

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.

But before the days of purification were complete, some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple and made assumptions. They stirred up the Jews, Paul’s life was in danger.

The Roman commander took some troops and arrested Paul, binding him with chains. Paul spoke in Greek to the Roman commander, who gave him permission to speak to the Jewish mob. Paul spoke in the Hebrew dialect (some say this was Aramaic).

How many times does the truth get in the way? How many times do we make conclusions (inaccurately) from things we see (without context) and assign motivation (inaccurately)? How many times have we been victims of people stirring things up without first coming to us make sure what we think we saw is how it is and for the reasons we think? We must not gossip. We must not stir up dissention. Instead, we must go to those we have problems with and try to fix things. We must seek peace and repentance and reconciliation with one another and with God. I suggest you try that next time you feel like someone has done something you dont agree with.


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