"Now it came to pass, that when we had departed from them and set sail, running a straight course we came to Cos, the following day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. And finding a ship sailing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail When we had sighted Cyprus, we passed it on the left, sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload her cargo. And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem. When we had come to the end of those days, we departed and went on our way; and they all accompanied us, with wives and children, till we were out of the city. And we knelt down on the shore and prayed. When we had taken our leave of one another, we boarded the ship, and they returned home".
And when we had finished our voyage from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, greeted the brethren, and stayed with them one day. On the next day we who were Paul's companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied. And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. When he had come to us, he took Paul's belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, "Thus says the Holy Spirit, 'So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'"
"Now when we heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, "What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus."o when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, "The will of the Lord be done."
Paul Urged to Make Peace
"And after those days we packed and went up to Jerusalem. Also some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us and brought with them a certain Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we were to lodge. And when we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord. And they said to him, "You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law; but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come. Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law. But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality."(NKJV)
Bible Study Outline; Exposition on the Book of Acts Chapter 21:1-
Paul’s 3rd Missionary Journey….”The Road back to Jerusalem” “Warning”!
Having met with the delegation of elders from the Church of Ephesus and as he boarded the ship to depart, Paul has now set sail from Miletus to Tyre in Syria as he hopes to get back to Jerusalem to see the brethren there and deliver the love offering Paul had taken up from the believers in Miletus and the surrounding area.
Paul: “From Miletue to Tyre of Syria” (verses 1-3)
After Paul and his ministry team boarded the ship, they set sail for a small island named “Coos” and spends the night. From there he travels to Rhodes and there to Patara. They change ships and board and headed to Phoenicia passing Cyprus on their left and headed into Syria and made their landing in Tyre. The ship had to unload her burden cargo in Tyre. Paul spent the next 7 days in Tyre, since it was going to take that long for the ship’s cargo to be completely unloaded there.
The Holy Spirit sounds a warning concerning Jerusalem….
“And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem”.
The Holy Spirit placed it on the hearts of the disciples they found there to warn Paul of certain impending danger awaiting him if he went to Jerusalem. These disciples were some who fled Jerusalem in Acts 8:1 -4, scattered abroad ironically because Paul in his “Saul” days led the persecution against the early church.
Note: This is the 2nd time the Holy Spirit warned the Apostle about the afflictions that awaited him if he went to Jerusalem. Paul knew by now that his journey would be filled with many trials and persecutions because it was God’s providential will for Paul to suffer much for the name of Jesus. Paul had already been ran out of Thessalonica and stalked, arrested and brought before Roman magistrates by this time.
From another perspective....
Paul’s attitude toward the impending danger was a reflection of his desire to glorify the Lord completely in his life and ministry that it didn’t matter about whatever he was to face in the way of danger, just as long as he finished his course in ministry and win as many of the Jews he could to Christ through sharing both the gospel and the testimonials of both those Hellenic Jews (Greek speaking) and the Gentiles who readily accepted the Gospel and Jesus.
From Tyre to Caesarea: Paul visited Philip the Evangelist (verses 5-11)
After spending 7 days in Tyre, these disciples and their families escorted Paul down to t he shoreline where they all kneeled and prayed. Paul got aboard another ship and sailed from Tyre to Ptolemias and spent one day with the Christians that lived there. From there, Paul and the rest came to Caesarea the next day and visited Philip, the evangelist (one of the 7 original deacons called into service in Act 6) and stayed with him. Philip had 4 daughters who were virgins and prophesied.
The Holy Spirit warns Paul again…… (verses 10-11)
The Prophet Agabus came to Caesarea from Judaea and prophesied to Paul using a demonstration: He took Paul’s girdle and tied him hands and feet and said: Thus said the Holy Ghost, so ashall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owns this girdle and deliver him in the hands of the Gentiles. That is, the Judaizers (Jesus hating Jews) will arrest Paul when he arrives in Jerusalem and turn him over to the Roman magistrates as a troublemaker to the Roman government and to be tried for blasphemy and sedition. The Sanhedrin despite the remarkable growth of the church and the indisputable truth written by the Old testament prophets of old still refused the recognize Jesus as the Messiah and “King” of the Jews.
Paul: Determined and ready to Suffer” (verses 12- 17)
This prophetic message was conditional and would take place whenever Paul ever decided to go into Jerusalem
Luke writes here, after hearing these things both we (Luke , Silas, Timothy, and others who came with them) along with these disciples there in Caesarea, begged and pleaded with Paul not to go to Jerusalem. But to no avail!
Paul’s response: “What mean you to cry and to break my heart”? I’m not only ready to be bound, but I’m also ready to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus”.
Note that in total, Paul made these declarations 4 times:
Ready to be bound (Acts 21:13)
Ready to preach the Good News (Romans 1:15)
Ready to minister (2 Corinthians 12:14)
Ready to die (2 Timothy 4:6)
Luke responding: When (it was obvious Paul would not be persuaded to change his mind) he would not be persuaded, we stopped trying and said: “The will of the Lord be done”.
Lesson to be learned: Whenever you have prayed, contemplated, counted the cost and weighed the risk, even if it includes the strong possibility of persecution or death and the end decision is still to press on toward your “Jerusalem” for the sake of completing the work for Christ and the spreading (evangelizing) of the gospel and facing whatever else that might await you there….
You continue to press on the journey despite the sincere concerns of those who are truly concerned for your welfare and wellbeing. Acknowledge your appreciation for their concerns, but stress the importance of your continuing the journey, no matter what the risk and ultimate outcome because the work is great and you can’t “come off the wall”
The End of Paul’s 3rrd Missionary Journey: Leaving Caesarea going to Jerusalem (verses 15-18)
"After they spent a certain amount of days in Caesarea, they picked up their baggage and went “up” to Jerusalem. Along went with them went disciples from Caesarea and among them was one named MNanson from Cypus who was on his way back home to Jerusalem and would be where Paul and the rest would be staying with when he got home.. When they got to Jerusalem, the brethren there received them gladly".
The “Next” Day Church Meeting: Paul gives His Report (verses 18- 20)
Paul went to see James, that is James called “the Less”. This James was related to Jesus: a cousin and was the “Lead Elder” in the Jerusalem Church. Paul here followed simple protocol by respecting the position of James as leader and presenting his report before him and the council of elders.. The other elders were present with him. (vs. 18)
After exchanging formal greetings, Paul gives a full report of what the Lord had done among the Gentile converts. By giving a full account, this would quiet much of the suspicion surrounding the activities of Paul’s ministry, because the rumor that was floating around the region among the Judaizers was Paul was teaching those he preached to (particularly to those Jewish converts) that they did not have to keep the Law. What Paul taught was Christ is the Messiah and the fulfillment of the Law. He taught that all the prophets of old prophesied in “piecemeal” that Jesus is the “Christ”, the Messiah, the one who was to come. (vs. 19)
The Response from the Elders: “And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law”:
Let’s analyze their response in “piecemeal”:
They glorified the Lord They gave praise to the Lord for what he had done. Through Paul’s report, they saw new proofs of God’s goodness and mercy, and thanked the Lord for all that had been accomplished by Paul.
This implied that none who were at the meeting expressed any jealousy or envy against the evangelistic work God had done through Paul’s efforts.
Point of Interest: There should never be any tincture of envy or jealousy among true believers concerning the yeoman’s effort of those who go all out to evangelize and we are privileged to see “first hand” the proof of their efforts. God will and does bless faithfulness and effort.
The Servant’s attitude concerning the work of others assigned to evangelize:
“If my real position is that all the glory belongs to the Lord, it does not and should not matter who did the most work or got the most recognition, or led the most lost to Christ because the glory is the Lord’s alone, and honor is given to whom honor is due.
What’s the most important thing? The fact that sinners have been saved!
We ought to rejoice in that and encourage each other to put forth maximum effort in spreading the Word of God and the plan of salvation in particular, rather than get jealous because a brother or sister…put in the work and God granted them with a great harvest.
Then they said to Paul: You see, brother ….Here by calling Paul “brother”, the elders are recognizing Paul as a fellow-laborer and fellow-Christian, which carried along with the compliment a “wish” that Paul would do all that could be done to avoid offending his countrymen, concerning the keeping of the Mosaic Law along with their rituals and to conciliate the favor of his countrymen. Here’s why!
Many thousands of Jews have believed (since the day of Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit). At the first revival, twenty-five years before this, 3,000 had been converted at (one time Acts 2:38-41), and afterward the number had swelled to some more thousands, according to Acts 4:4.
The assertion that there were then "many thousands," Jewish converts to Christ implies that the evangelistic work that started on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem in Acts Chapter 2 had not ceased, and since that day many more Jews had been converted to the Christian faith. Remember in Acts 8:4, those Christ believing Jews who were scattered abroad because the “the Way” was under heavy persecution at that time went everywhere preaching the gospel. BUT these Jewish Christians though embracing their faith in Jesus Christ never stopped keeping the “rituals” or feast days required of the Mosaic Law or in the manner that were prevalent under the Dispensation of the Law
And they are all zealous of the law…. They were converts to Christianity, but still observe the Law of Moses. That is they still clung to the law respecting circumcision, sacrifices, distinctions of meats and days, festivals, etc. It may seem remarkable that they should still continue to observe those rites, since it was the manifest design of Christianity to abolish them. But we need to remember the following facts:
a. These rites (rituals) had been appointed by God, and that they were trained to their observance. So the letter of the Law was more engrained in them and it was still going to take more time for that to change, even though it would have appeared that by now a great change like what was exemplified in the Gentile led churches should have began to show up in them.
b. The Apostles themselves conformed to them while they remained at Jerusalem, and did not deem it best to set themselves violently against them, Acts 3:1; Luke 24:53.
c. The question about their observance had never been agitated or challenged at Jerusalem. It was only among the Gentile converts that the question had risen, and there it must arise, for if they were to be observed, they must have been imposed upon them by authority.
d. The decision of the council concerning having no adherence to circumcision and keeping the rituals (Acts 15) related only to the Gentile converts. It did not address the question of whether these Mosaic law rites were to be observed by the Jewish converts or discontinued.
e. It was to be presumed that as the Christian religion became better understood-, the special institutions of Moses (feast and rituals) would be laid aside of course, without agitation and without tumult. Had the question concerning the rituals and feasts required by the Law been challenged at Jerusalem concerning the keeping of them by the Jewish Christians, it’s clearly evident that this would have caused fierce opposition to Christianity, and would have split the Christian church into multiple factions, and greatly retarded the advance of the Christian doctrine.
f. We are to remember also: in a few short years from this point in their history….God was going to scatter the Jews again (in 70 A.D.) because of their rebellion against Jesus Christ and the murdering off those who advocated Christianity (belief in Jesus Christ as Messiah, and the abandonment of keeping the Mosaic Law by “works” and not by “love for God” and “love for their neighbor.”) When they were scattered in 70 A.D., that put an end to all the rituals and sacrifices they did under the Mosaic Law. God had an appointed time when all things would be settled and the prophecy written in Daniel concerning the abolishment of keeping the ceremonial laws would be fulfilled.
The most important message to remember concerning this verse:
This was what was wrong with the Jewish Christians in verse 20 c. They accepted salvation by grace but continue to live under the Old Covenant.
Mixing the “rituals and ceremonial” keeping of the Mosaic Laws by “works” (rituals) and failing to live by faith in Jesus Christ (who is the end of the Law for “righteousness sake”) creates a “corrupt” form of Christianity. It fact, it becomes “another religion”, a composite of opposites beliefs.
“Judaism” and “Christianity” cannot be “meshed” together because they are in opposition of each other. Judaism demands the keeping of the Mosaic Law and continues to this day to compel its believers to seek a Messiah who is to come according to their understanding of the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible).
Christianity requires that the believer accepts Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord because He is the Promised Messiah that came to save His people from their sins. Whereas Judaism announces the "soon" coming of the Messiah, the Christian religion announces the “Messiah” has already come in the birth and finished work of that “Messiah”, Jesus Christ. Christianity is based on the fact that his birth, the acknowledgement of His redemptive work, the shedding of His blood, crucifixion, burial and resurrection from the dead salvation and redemption is already available come to save His people from their sins.
This is why at this time (spoken about in Acts) God had not completely abolished all sacrifices and all the law in Israel yet. He tolerated the Jews continuing with all their rituals until the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D... From that time on it was completely impossible for them to observe these things, even to this day.. God arranged it in an appointed time by abolishing the Mosaic dispensation by rendering the observance of the Law impossible, When He did this, God fulfilled Daniel 9:26; Hosea 3:4-5; Matthew 23:36-39 and Luke 19:41-48.
Concerning the “zealousness of Jewish Christians: False Accusations Levied Against Paul: “An Enemy to the Judaism”
They had been misinformed about the activities of the ministry of Paul concerning what he taught, particularly to the Jewish converts in the cities he traveled to:
“And they are informed of you, that you are teaching all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs”.(vs. 21)
Word has it that you are an enemy to the Jewish faith because you’re teaching against the Mosaic Law. It’s been reported you have been teaching the Jews who live among the Gentiles to abandon the Law of Moses, to stop circumcising your male children and to abandon all the rituals and rites contained in these Laws.
Lets look at what they said in accusation and what Paul actually did:
1st Accusation: "You were teaching Jews to apostatize"! (abandon the Jewish faith)
The truth was Paul did not impose the observance of Mosaic laws on the Gentile converts. Paul’s ministry to them was to lead them to suppose that their observance to the Mosaic Law based on the customs, rituals and sacrificial rites was not necessary-contrary for salvation which was contrary to the doctrines taught by the “Judaizer” teachers (Acts 15);
The truth was at times, he argued with the unbelieving Jews themselves, where it could be done, and stood doctrinally against the obligation of those laws and customs since the Messiah had come and being the ultimate sacrifice has literally fulfilled every oblation. The real problem was what these Jews had doctrinally embraced concerning their salvation. And because they stood so firm on their position they saw Paul’s rebuttal as being in opposition of the Mosaic Law, when in fact, they were ignorant of God’s righteousness contained in His Grace.
"The Jews depended on their observance for justification and salvation"
This is what Paul strenuously stood in opposition of because this position stood in direct opposition of the doctrine of Salvation through Jesus Christ alone. It was this view he defended at length in the Epistles which he wrote. He defended it in the Epistles to the Romans, the Galatians, and the Hebrews..
Yet these facts that Paul dared to oppose their view in His letters might be easily misunderstood and perverted, so as to give rise to the slanderous report that he was the enemy of Moses and the Law.. It was here in Romans 10:2-3 that Paul told the Jews that they had a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. And because they were ignorant of God’s righteousness and had gone about establishing their own righteousness (based upon their doctrinal beliefs) and had not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. (God’s plan for redemption and for observance of the Law now that Jesus was indeed the end of the Law for righteousness sake.) Paul told the Believers in Rome in that same chapter that "Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness sake to everyone that believes."
His contention was that the Gentiles were not to be brought under the law and this is what the whole church agreed upon in Acts 15:1-35.
2nd Accusation: "You were teaching Jews not to be circumcised".
It is true that, in his epistles, some of the letters which had been written before this time, he showed that that circumcision and un-circumcision had no bearing for the salvation, of the soul, and that by the deeds of the law no man could be justified. But at no time did Paul say to any Jew, “forsake the Law of Moses, and do not circumcise your children.
He told them that Jesus Christ had delivered them from the yoke of the law; but they were at liberty to wear that yoke, if they pleased. He had shown them that their ceremonies were useless in Christ but not destructive; that they were only dangerous when they depended on them for salvation. This is the sum of what Paul had taught on this subject.
It was only the Gentiles that He contended were not required to be circumcised and to keep the rituals and ceremonies contained in the Law of Moses See (Acts 15:1-35, Romans 3:24-31; 4:1-21and Galatians 3:19-25).
3rd Accusation: "You were teaching Jews to forsake the customs.
Paul never once advocated the Jews should become different in customs. He made it clear that these were mere forms and not destructive, unless one depended upon keeping them for salvation (Romans 3:24; Ephesians 1:7; 2:8-9; Colossians 1:20; 2:14-17).
James and the4 Elders' conclusion: “This Church needs to come together” Something needs to be done to bring everybody together because they will eventually hear you are here.(vs. 22)
James and the elders: Here is what we advise you (Paul) do……
“The assembly must certainly meet, for they will* hear that you have come. Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law” (vs. 23-24)
Note Concerning Their Advice:
The purpose of the advice of the apostles and elders of the church was to avoid trouble with the thousands of Jews who came to the feast. To do as they asked would not violate Paul's conscience or make him hypocritical. It was wise under the circumstances to further the gospel among the Jews. Nothing in the advise they gave Paul should be understood to mean any more than to simply show the Jews that he was not an enemy of Moses and that he still considered the law holy and good. Paul did so, and helped pay his expenses and the expenses of the four brethren. Paul could not have and in all likelihood would not have done this with a clear conscience if the ceremonies were done to obtain justification through the law
Now, Concerning the Gentiles: What we agreed to in the Council meeting has not changed and still stands concerning the keeping of the Law and Circumcision. (vs. 25)
“But concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote, having decided that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication."
To be Continued...........
Dr. William Edward Boddie