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Acts Chapter Twenty-one


Acts 21

After this time the apostle has to give account of himself and to accomplish in a striking manner the predictions of the Lord. Brought before tribunals by the malice of the Jews given up through their hatred into the hands of the Gentiles it was all to turn to a testimony. Kings and rulers shall hear the gospel but the love of many will grown cold. This in general is his position; but there were details personal to himself.

We may remark here a leading feature in this book which has been little noticed; that is the development of the enmity of the Jews bringing on their final rejection such as they were. The Acts ends with the last case presented; the work in the midst of that people is left in oblivion and that of Paul occupies the whole scene in the historical narrative given by the Spirit. The antagonism of the Jews to the manifestation of the assembly which took their place and blotted out the distinction between them and the Gentiles by bringing in heaven and full sovereign grace in contrast with law which while universal in its direction was given to a distinct people (grace of which the sinner availed himself by faith)-this antagonism presenting itself at every step in the career of the apostle although he acted with all possible circumspection is aroused in its full intensity at Jerusalem its natural centre and manifests itself by violence and by efforts made with the Gentiles for the purpose of cutting off Paul from the earth. This rendered the apostle's position very serious with regard to the Gentiles at Jerusalem-a city the more jealous of its religious importance from having in fact under Roman bondage lost the reality of it through its being transformed into a spirit of rebellion against the authority which crippled it.

After the history of Christianity viewed as connected with Judaism (in reference to the promises and their fulfilment in the Messiah) we find Paul in three different positions. First condescending for the purpose of conciliation to take account of that which still existed at Jerusalem and even addressing the Jews everywhere in their synagogues as having administratively the first right to hear the gospel ("To the Jew first and then to the Greek") for Jesus was the minister of the circumcision for the truth of God to fulfil the promises made to the fathers. In this respect he never failed and he establishes these principles clearly and dogmatically in the Epistle to the Romans. We next find him in all the liberty of the full truth of grace and of the purposes of God in his own especial work from which he condescended in grace. This is recorded in the Epistle to the Ephesians. In both these cases he acts under the guidance of the Holy Ghost fulfilling the Lord's will. Afterwards in the third place we see him in conflict with the hostility of legal Judaism the emissaries of which he met continually and into the very focus of which he at length threw himself by going to Jerusalem in that part of his history which we are now considering. How much was of God-how much was the consequence of his own steps-is matter for consideration in this narrative. That the hand of God was in it for the good of the assembly and in conducting His beloved servant for his own good in the end is beyond all doubt. We have only to search out how far the will and the mind of Paul came in as means which God used to bring about the result He intended whether for the assembly or for His servant or for the Jews. These thoughts are of the deepest interest and require humble examination of that which God has set before us to instruct us on this point in the history which the Spirit Himself has given us of these things.

The first thing which strikes us at the beginning of this history is that the Holy Ghost tells him not to go to Jerusalem (chap. 21:4). This word has evident importance. Paul felt himself bound: there was something in his own mind which impelled him thither a feeling that forced him in that direction; but the Spirit in His positive and outward testimony forbade his going.

The apostle's intention had been to go to Rome. The apostle of the Gentiles sent forth to preach the gospel to every creature there was nothing of self in this project that was not according to grace (Rom. 1:13-15). Nevertheless God had not allowed him to go thither. He was obliged to write his Epistle to them without seeing them. Heaven is the metropolis of Christianity. Rome and Jerusalem must have no place with Paul except as to bearing with the one in affection and being ready when he might to evangelise the other. Acts 19:21 which is translated "in the spirit " only means the spirit of Paul. He purposed in his own mind saying "When I have been there I must also see Rome." Afterwards he charge himself with the offerings of the saints in Achaia and Macedonia. He wished to prove his affection for the poor of his own people (Gal. 2:10). This was all well. I do not know if it was a function suited to an apostle. It was an evidently Jewish feeling which set peculiar value on the poor of Jerusalem and so far on Jerusalem itself. A Jew would rather be poor at Jerusalem than rich among the Gentiles. Poor Christians were there no doubt from the time of their conversion but that was the origin of this system (compare Neh. 11:2 and Acts 24:17). All this belonged to relationship with Judaism (Rom. 15:25-28). Paul loved the nation to which he belonged after the flesh and which had been the people beloved of God and was still His people although rejected for a time the remnant having now to enter the kingdom of God through Christianity. This attachment of Paul to them (which had its right and deeply affecting side but which on another side had to do with the flesh) led him into the centre of Judaism. He was the messenger of the heavenly glory which brought out the doctrine of the assembly composed of Jews and Gentiles united without distinction in the one body of Christ thus blotting out Judaism; but his love for his nation carried him I repeat into the very centre of hostile Judaism-Judaism enraged against this spiritual equality. His testimony the Lord had told him they would not receive.

Nevertheless the hand of God was doubtless in it. Paul individually found his level.

As the instrument of God's revelation he proclaims in all its extent and all its force the purpose of the sovereign grace of God. The wine is not adulterated; it flows out as pure as he had received it. And he walked in a remarkable way at the height of the revelation committed to him. Still Paul individually is a man; he must be exercised and manifested and in those exercises to which God has subjected us. Where the flesh has found its pleasure the sphere in which it has gratified itself it is there that when God acts it finds its sorrow. Yet if God saw fit to prove His servant and manifest him to himself He stood by him and blessed him even through the trial itself-turned it into testimony and refreshed the heart of His beloved and faithful servant. The manifestation of that in him which is not according to the Spirit or to the height of his calling was in love for his blessing and for that of the assembly. Blessed is he who can walk as faithfully and maintain his standing to the same degree through grace in the path of grace! Nevertheless Christ is the only model. I see no one who (in another career) so much resembled Him in His public life as Paul.

The more we search into the apostle's walk the more we shall see this resemblance. Only that Christ was the model of perfection in obedience; in His precious servant there was the flesh. Paul would have been the first to acknowledge that perfection may be ascribed to Jesus only.

I believe then that the hand of God was in this journey of Paul's; that in His sovereign wisdom He willed that His servant should undertake it and also have blessing in it; but that the means employed to lead him into it according to that sovereign wisdom was the apostle's human affection for the people who were his kinsmen after the flesh; and that he was not led into it by the Holy Ghost acting on the part of Christ in the assembly. This attachment to his people this human affection met with that among the people which put it in its place. Humanly speaking it was an amiable feeling; but it was not the power of the Holy Ghost founded on the death and resurrection of Christ. Here there was no longer Jew nor Gentile. In the living Christ it was right. Christ went on in it to the end in order that He might die; for this purpose He came.

Paul's affection was good in itself but as a spring of action it did not come up to the height of the work of the Spirit who on Christ's part had sent him afar from Jerusalem to the Gentiles in order to reveal the assembly as His body united to Him in heaven. Thus the Jews hearkened to him till it came to that word and then they cried out and raised the tumult which caused Paul to be made prisoner. [1] He suffered for the truth but where that truth had no access according to Christ's own testimony: "they will not receive thy testimony concerning me." It was necessary however that the Jews should manifest their hatred to the gospel and give this final proof of their inveterate opposition to the ways of God in grace.

At the same time whatever may have been the subsequent labours of the apostle (if there were any the Holy Ghost does not make mention of them: Paul sees the Jews in his own house and receives all who come to him; but) the page of the Spirit's history closes here. This history is ended. The apostolic mission to the Gentiles in connection with the founding of the assembly is concluded. Rome is but the prison of the apostle of the truth to whom the truth had been committed. Jerusalem rejects him Rome imprisons him and puts him to death as it had done to Jesus whom the blessed apostle had to resemble in this also according to his desire in Philippians 3; for Christ and conformity to Him was his only object. It was given him to find this conformity in his service as it was so strongly in his heart and soul with the necessary difference between a ministry which was not to break the bruised reed nor lift up its voice in the street and one which in testimony was to bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.

The mission of the twelve to the Gentiles going out from Jerusalem (Matt. 28) never took place so far as any record of it by the Holy Ghost goes. [2] Jerusalem detained them. They did not even go over the cities of Israel. The ministry of the circumcision was given to Peter that of the Gentiles to Paul in connection with the doctrine of the assembly and of a glorious Christ-a Christ whom he no longer knew after the flesh. Jerusalem to which the apostle was drawn by his affection rejected both him and his mission. His ministry to the Gentiles so far as the free effect of the power of the Spirit ended likewise. Ecclesiastical history may perhaps tell us more; nevertheless God has taken care to bury it in profound darkness Nothing farther is owned by the Spirit. We hear no more of the apostles at Jerusalem; and Rome as we have seen had none so far as the Holy Ghost informs us excepting that the apostle of the Gentiles was a prisoner there and finally put to death. Man has failed everywhere on earth. The religious and political centres of the world-centres according to God as to the earth-have rejected the testimony and put the testifier to death; but the result has been that Heaven has maintained its rights inviolate and in their absolute purity. The assembly the true heavenly and eternal metropolis of glory and of the ways of God-the assembly which had its place in the counsels of God before the world was-the assembly which answers to His heart in grace as united to Christ in glory-remains the object of faith. It is revealed according to the mind of God and perfectly such as it is in His mind until as the heavenly Jerusalem it shall be manifested in glory in connection with the accomplishment of the ways of God on the earth in the re-establishment of Jerusalem as the centre of His earthly dealings in grace His throne His metropolis in the midst even of the Gentiles and in the disappearance even of Gentile power the seat and centre of which was Rome.

Let us now examine the thoughts of the apostle and that which took place historically. Paul wrote from Corinth to Rome when he had this journey in view. Christianity had flowed towards that centre of the world without any apostle whatsoever having planted it there. Paul follows it. Rome is as it were a part of his apostolic domain which escapes him (Rom. 1:13-15). He returns to the subject in chapter IS. If he might not come (for God will not begin with the capital of the world-compare the destruction of Hazor in Canaan Joshua 11:11) he will at least write to them on the ground of his universal apostleship to the Gentiles. Some Christians were already established there: so God would have it. But they were in some sort of his province. Many of them had been personally in connection with him. See the number and character of the salutations at the end of the epistle which have a peculiar stamp making the Roman Christians in great part the children of Paul.

In Romans 15:14-29 he develops his apostolic position with respect to the Romans and others. He desired also to go into Spain when he had seen the brethren at Rome a little. He wishes to impart spiritual gifts to them but to be comforted by their mutual faith to enjoy a little of their company. They are in connection with him; but they have their place as Christians at Rome without his ever having been there. When therefore he had seen them a little he would go into Spain. But he was disappointed with regard to these projects. All that we are told by the Holy Ghost is that he was a prisoner at Rome. Profound silence as to Spain. Instead of going farther when he had seen them and imparted gifts he remains two years a prisoner at Rome. It is not known whether he was set free or not. Some say yes others no; the word says nothing.

It is here when he had laid open his intentions and the character of his relationships in the Spirit with Rome and when a large field opens before him in the west that his old affection for his people and for Jerusalem intervenes-"But now I go unto Jerusalem to carry help to the saints" (Rom. 15:25-28). Why not go to Rome according to the energy of the Spirit his work being finished in Greece? (v. 23). God no doubt ordained that those things should happen at Jerusalem and that Rome and the Romans should have this sad place with respect to the testimony of a glorified Christ and of the assembly which the apostle rendered before the world. But as to Paul why put rebellious Jerusalem between his evangelical desire and his work? The affection was good and the service good-for a deacon or a messenger of the churches: but for Paul who had the whole west open before his evangelising thought!

For the moment Jerusalem intercepted his view. Accordingly as we have seen the Holy Ghost warned him on his way. He foresaw himself also the dang er he was running into (Rom. 15:30-32). He was sure (v. 29) of coming in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ; but he was not sure that he should come with joy. The thing for which he asked their prayers turned out quite otherwise than he desired. He was delivered but as a prisoner. He took courage when he saw the brethren at Appii Forum and the Three Taverns. There was no journey into Spain either.

All this to me is very solemn. The Lord full of grace and tenderness was with His poor but beloved servant. In the case of such an one as Paul it is a most affecting history and the Lord's ways adorable and perfect in goodness. The reality of faith is there in full; the ways of grace perfect and perfect in tenderness also in the Lord. He stands by His servant in the trial in which he finds himself to encourage and strengthen him. At the same time with regard to the desire of going to Jerusalem he is warned by the Spirit and its consequences are set before him; and not turning back he undergoes the needful discipline which brings his soul into its place and a full place of blessing before God. His walk finds its level as to spiritual power. He feels the power outwardly of that whereof he had felt the moral power seeking to hinder his ministry; and a chain upon his flesh answers to the liberty he had allowed it. There was justice in God's dealings. His servant was too precious for it to be otherwise. At the same time as to result and testimony God ordered everything for His own glory and with perfect wisdom as to the future welfare of the assembly. Jerusalem as we have seen rejects the testimony to the Gentiles in a word the ways of God in the assembly (compare 1 Thess. 2:14-16); and Rome becomes the prison of that testimony; while according to the Lord's promise the testimony is carried before rulers and kings and before Caesar himself.

I have said that grace put Paul into the position of Christ given up to the Gentiles by the hatred of the Jews. It was a great favour. The difference-besides the infinite love of the Lord who gave Himself up-was that Jesus was there in His true place before God. He had come to the Jews: that He should be delivered up was the crowning act of His devotedness and His service. It was in fact the offering Himself by the eternal Spirit. It was the sphere of His service as sent of God. Paul re-entered it: the energy of the Holy Ghost had placed him outside-"Delivering thee " said the Lord "from the people and from the Gentiles to whom I now send thee to open their eyes " etc. (Acts 26:17). Jesus had taken him out from them both to exercise a ministry that united the two in one body in Christ in heaven who had thus sent him. In his service Paul knew no one after the flesh; in Christ Jesus there was neither Jew nor Greek.

Let us resume his history. He is warned by the Holy Ghost not to go up (chap. 21:4). Nevertheless he continues his journey to Caesarea. A prophet named Agabus comes down from Judea and announces that Paul shall be bound and given up to the Gentiles. It might be said that this did not forbid his going. It is true; yet coming after the other it strengthened the warning already given. When he walked in the liberty of the Spirit warned of danger he fled from it while braving every peril if the testimony required it. At Ephesus he allowed himself to be persuaded not to go into the theatre.

The Holy Ghost does not usually warn of danger. He leads in the path of the Lord and if persecution comes He gives strength to endure it. Here Paul was continually warned. His friends entreat him not to go up. He will not be persuaded. They hold their peace little satisfied saying "The will of the Lord be done." And I doubt not it was His will but for the accomplishment of purposes that Paul knew not by the intelligence given of the Holy Ghost. Only he felt pressed in spirit to go and ready to suffer all things for the Lord.


[1] And this circumstance is worthy of note that it was Christ's declaration that he should go to the Gentiles; to which we may add that this at the time was accompanied by the declaration "Get thee quickly out of Jerusalem for they will not receive thy testimony concerning Me." So that what declared his testimony was of no avail in Jerusalem was the occasion of his being seized. On Christ's word and his own shewing his apostolic service was not there but elsewhere.

[2] Mark 16:20 is the only passage which may be supposed to allude to what would fulfil it; and even not so as such for that and Colossians 1:6 refer to all the world and are founded on ascension not a mission to the Gentiles only founded on resurrection.

── John DarbySynopsis of Acts


Acts 21

Chapter Contents

Paul's voyage towards Jerusalem. (1-7) Paul at Cesarea. The prophecy of Agabus Paul at Jerusalem. (8-18) He is persuaded to join in ceremonial observances. (19-26) Being in danger from the Jews he is rescued by the Romans. (27-40)

Commentary on Acts 21:1-7

(Read Acts 21:1-7)

Providence must be acknowledged when our affairs go on well. Wherever Paul came he inquired what disciples were there and found them out. Foreseeing his troubles from love to him and concern for the church they wrongly thought it would be most for the glory of God that he should continue at liberty; but their earnestness to dissuade him from it renders his pious resolution the more illustrious. He has taught us by example as well as by rule to pray always to pray without ceasing. Their last farewell was sweetened with prayer.

Commentary on Acts 21:8-18

(Read Acts 21:8-18)

Paul had express warning of his troubles that when they came they might be no surprise or terror to him. The general notice given us that through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of God should be of the same use to us. Their weeping began to weaken and slacken his resolution Has not our Master told us to take up our cross? It was a trouble to him that they should so earnestly press him to do that in which he could not gratify them without wronging his conscience. When we see trouble coming it becomes us to say not only The will of the Lord must be done and there is no remedy; but Let the will of the Lord be done; for his will is his wisdom and he doeth all according to the counsel of it. When a trouble is come this must allay our griefs that the will of the Lord is done; when we see it coming this must silence our fears that the will of the Lord shall be done; and we ought to say Amen let it be done. It is honourable to be an old disciple of Jesus Christ to have been enabled by the grace of God to continue long in a course of duty stedfast in the faith growing more and more experienced to a good old age. And with these old disciples one would choose to lodge; for the multitude of their years shall teach wisdom. Many brethren at Jerusalem received Paul gladly. We think perhaps that if we had him among us we should gladly receive him; but we should not if having his doctrine we do not gladly receive that.

Commentary on Acts 21:19-26

(Read Acts 21:19-26)

Paul ascribed all his success to God and to God they gave the praise. God had honoured him more than any of the apostles yet they did not envy him; but on the contrary glorified the Lord. They could not do more to encourage Paul to go on cheerfully in his work. James and the elders of the church at Jerusalem asked Paul to gratify the believing Jews by some compliance with the ceremonial law. They thought it was prudent in him to conform thus far. It was great weakness to be so fond of the shadows when the substance was come. The religion Paul preached tended not to destroy the law but to fulfil it. He preached Christ the end of the law for righteousness and repentance and faith in which we are to make great use of the law. The weakness and evil of the human heart strongly appear when we consider how many even of the disciples of Christ had not due regard to the most eminent minister that even lived. Not the excellence of his character nor the success with which God blessed his labours could gain their esteem and affection seeing that he did not render the same respect as themselves to mere ceremonial observances. How watchful should we be against prejudices! The apostles were not free from blame in all they did; and it would be hard to defend Paul from the charge of giving way too much in this matter. It is vain to attempt to court the favour of zealots or bigots to a party. This compliance of Paul did not answer for the very thing by which he hoped to pacify the Jews provoked them and brought him into trouble. But the all-wise God overruled both their advice and Paul's compliance with it to serve a better purpose than was intended. It was in vain to think of pleasing men who would be pleased with nothing but the rooting out of Christianity. Integrity and uprightness will be more likely to preserve us than insincere compliances. And it should warn us not to press men to doing what is contrary to their own judgment to oblige us.

Commentary on Acts 21:27-40

(Read Acts 21:27-40)

In the temple where Paul should have been protected as in a place of safety he was violently set upon. They falsely charged him with ill doctrine and ill practice against the Mosaic ceremonies. It is no new thing for those who mean honestly and act regularly to have things laid to their charge which they know not and never thought of. It is common for the wise and good to have that charged against them by malicious people with which they thought to have obliged them. God often makes those a protection to his people who have no affection to them but only have compassion for sufferers and regard to the public peace. And here see what false mistaken notions of good people and good ministers many run away with. But God seasonably interposes for the safety of his servants from wicked and unreasonable men; and gives them opportunities to speak for themselves to plead for the Redeemer and to spread abroad his glorious gospel.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on Acts


Acts 21

Verse 3

[3] Now when we had discovered Cyprus we left it on the left hand and sailed into Syria and landed at Tyre: for there the ship was to unlade her burden.

We landed at Tyre — That there should be Christians there was foretold Psalms 87:4. What we read in that psalm of the Philistines and Ethiopians also may be compared with Acts 8:40; 27:4.

Verse 4

[4] And finding disciples we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit that he should not go up to Jerusalem.

And finding disciples we tarried there seven days — ln order to spend a Sabbath with them.

Who told Paul by the Spirit — That afflictions awaited him at Jerusalem. This was properly what they said by the Spirit. They themselves advised him not to go up. The disciples seemed to understand their prophetic impulse to be an intimation from the Spirit that Paul if he were so minded might avoid the danger by not going to Jerusalem.

Verse 7

[7] And when we had finished our course from Tyre we came to Ptolemais and saluted the brethren and abode with them one day.

Having finished our voyage — From Macedonia Acts 20:6 we came to Ptolemais - A celebrated city on the sea coast anciently called Accos. It is now like many other once noble cities only a heap of ruins.

Verse 8

[8] And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist which was one of the seven; and abode with him.

We came to Cesarea — So called from a stately temple which Herod the Great dedicated there to Augustus Cesar. It was the place where the Roman governor of Judea generally resided and kept his court.

The evangelist who was one of the seven deacons — An evangelist is a preacher of the Gospel to those who had never heard it as Philip had done to the Samaritans to the Ethiopian eunuch and to all the towns from Azotus to Cesarea Acts 8:5 26 40. It is not unlikely he spent the following years preaching in Tyre and Sidon and the other heathen cities in the neighbourhood of Galilee his house being at Cesarea a convenient situation for that purpose.

We abode with him — We lodged at his house during our stay at Cesarea.

Verse 10

[10] And as we tarried there many days there came down from Judaea a certain prophet named Agabus.

A certain prophet came — The nearer the event was the more express were the predictions which prepared Paul for it.

Verse 11

[11] And when he was come unto us he took Paul's girdle and bound his own hands and feet and said Thus saith the Holy Ghost So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.

Binding his own feet and hands — In the manner that malefactors were wont to be bound when apprehended.

So shall the Jews bind the man whose girdle this is — St. Paul's bonds were first particularly foretold at Cesarea to which he afterward came in bonds Acts 23:33.

Verse 12

[12] And when we heard these things both we and they of that place besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.

Both we (his fellow travellers ) and they of the place besought him not to go up to Jerusalem - St. Paul knew that this prediction had the force of a command. They did not know this.

Verse 13

[13] Then Paul answered What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.

Breaking my heart — For the apostles themselves were not void of human affections.

I am ready not only to be bound but to die — And to him that is ready for it the burden is light.

Verse 14

[14] And when he would not be persuaded we ceased saying The will of the Lord be done.

And when he would not be persuaded — This was not obstinacy but true Christian resolution. We should never be persuaded either to do evil or to omit doing any good which is in our power; saying the will of the Lord be done - Which they were satisfied Paul knew.

Verse 15

[15] And after those days we took up our carriages and went up to Jerusalem.

We took up our carriages — Our baggage; which probably went by sea before. What they took with them now in particular was the alms they were carrying to Jerusalem Acts 24:17.

Verse 16

[16] There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus an old disciple with whom we should lodge.

The disciples brought us to one Mnason a Cyprian an old disciple — He was a native of Cyprus but an inhabitant of Jerusalem and probably one of the first converts there.

Verse 18

[18] And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.

Paul went in with us — That it might appear we are all of one mind to James - Commonly called the Lord's brother; the only apostle then presiding over the Churches in Judea.

Verse 20

[20] 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:

They are all zealous for the law — For the whole Mosaic dispensation. How astonishing is this! Did none of the apostles beside St. Paul know that this dispensation was now abolished? And if they did both know and testify this how came their hearers not to believe them?

Verse 21

[21] And they are informed of thee that thou teachest 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.

They have been informed concerning thee that thou teachest the Jews — not to circumcise their children nor to walk after the customs - Of the Mosaic law. And so undoubtedly he did. And so he wrote to all the Churches in Galatia among whom were many Jews. Yea and James himself had long before assented to Peter affirming before all the apostles and all the brethren Acts 15:10 That this very law was a yoke which (said he) neither our fathers nor we were able to bear - Amazing! that they did not know this! Or that if they did they did not openly testify it at all hazards to every Jewish convert in Jerusalem!

Verse 22

[22] What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come.

What is it therefore — What is to be done? The multitude must needs come together - They will certainly gather together in a tumultuous manner unless they be some way pacified.

Verse 23

[23] Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them;

Therefore — To obviate their prejudice against thee: do this that we say to thee - Doubtless they meant this advice well: but could Paul follow it in godly sincerity? Was not the yielding so far to the judgment of others too great a deference to be paid to any mere men?

Verse 24

[24] Them take and purify thyself with them and be at charges with them that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things whereof they were informed concerning thee are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly and keepest the law.

And all will know — that thou thyself walkest orderly keeping the law - Ought he not without any reverence to man where the truth of God was so deeply concerned to have answered plainly I do not keep the Mosaic law; neither need any of you. Yea Peter doth not keep the law. And God himself expressly commanded him not to keep it; ordering him to go in to men uncircumcised and to eat with them Acts 11:3 which the law utterly forbids.

Verse 26

[26] Then Paul took the men and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.

Then Paul took the men — Yielding his own judgment to their advice which seemed to flow not out of spiritual but carnal wisdom; seeming to be what he really was not: making as if he believed the law still in force.

Declaring — Giving notice to the priests in waiting that he designed to accomplish the days of purification till all the sacrifice should be offered as the Mosaic law required Numbers 6:13.

Verse 27

[27] And when the seven days were almost ended the Jews which were of Asia when they saw him in the temple stirred up all the people and laid hands on him

And when the seven days were about to be accomplished — When after giving notice to the priests they were entering upon the accomplishment of those days. It was toward the beginning of them that Paul was seized.

The Jews that were from Asia — Some of those Jews who came from Asia to the feast.

Verse 28

[28] Crying out Men of Israel help: This is the man that teacheth all men every where against the people and the law and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple and hath polluted this holy place.

Against the people — The Jewish nation; and the law - Of Moses; and this place - The temple.

Yea and hath even brought Greeks into the temple — They might come into the outer court. But they imagined Paul had brought then into the inner temple and had thereby polluted it.

Verse 30

[30] And all the city was moved and the people ran together: and they took Paul and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut.

And immediately the gates were shut — Both to prevent any farther violation of the temple; and to prevent Paul's taking sanctuary at the horns of the altar.

Verse 31

[31] And as they went about to kill him tidings came unto the chief captain of the band that all Jerusalem was in an uproar.

And as they went about to kill him — It was a rule among the Jews that any uncircumcised person who came into the inner temple might be stoned without farther process. And they seemed to think Paul who brought such in thither deserved no better treatment.

Word came to the tribune — A cohort or detachment of soldiers belonging to the Roman legion which lodged in the adjacent castle of Antonia were stationed on feast days near the temple to prevent disorders. It is evident Lysias himself was not present when the tumult began. Probably he was the oldest Roman tribune (or colonel) then at Jerusalem. And as such he was the commanding officer of the legion quartered at the castle.

Verse 33

[33] Then the chief captain came near and took him and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was and what he had done.

Then the tribune — Having made his way through the multitude came near and took him - And how many great ends of providence were answered by this imprisonment? This was not only a means of preserving his life (after he had suffered severely for worldly prudence ) but gave him an opportunity of preaching the Gospel safely in spite of all tumult Acts 22:22 yea and that in those places to which otherwise he could have had no access Acts 21:40.

And commanded him to be bound with two chains — Taking it for granted he was some notorious offender. And thus the prophecy of Agabus was fulfilled though by the hands of a Roman.

Verse 35

[35] And when he came upon the stairs so it was that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people.

When he came upon the stairs — The castle of Antonia was situate on a rock fifty cubits high at that corner of the outward temple where the western and northern porticos joined to each of which there were stairs descending from it.

Verse 37

[37] And as Paul was to be led into the castle he said unto the chief captain May I speak unto thee? Who said Canst thou speak Greek?

As Paul was about to be brought into the castle — The wisdom of God taught to make use of that very time and place.

Verse 38

[38] Art not thou that Egyptian which before these days madest an uproar and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?

Art not thou that Egyptian — Who came into Judea when Felix had been some years governor there! Calling himself a prophet he drew much people after him; and having brought them through the wilderness led them to Mount Olivet promising that the walls of the city should fall down before them. But Felix marching out of Jerusalem against him his followers quickly dispersed many of whom were taken or slain; but he himself made his escape.

Verse 40

[40] And when he had given him licence Paul stood on the stairs and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue saying

In the Hebrew tongue — That dialect of it which was then commonly spoken at Jerusalem.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on Acts


Chapter 21. Arrest in the Temple

Many Thousands of Jews
Zealous for the Law

I. The Lord's Will Be Done

  1. Urge at Tyre
  2. Received by Philip
  3. Prophecy of the Prophet

II. Framed for Observing the Law

  1. Persuade by Reasons
  2. Pay the Expenses
  3. Observe the Purification Rites

III. Stir Up the Crowd and Seize Him

  1. Threat by Officers
  2. Beat and Chained
  3. Rescued from the Mob
── Chih-Hsin ChangAn Outline of The New Testament