Acts 21

Acts 21:1-3 is the itinerary port-of-calls for Paul and his travel companions in his return to Jerusalem then Rome. In verse 3 we find them in Tyre, Syria waiting for their ship to be unloaded before embarking on his last leg to Jerusalem. Through the Spirit while in Tyre fellow believers tell Paul that Jerusalem is waiting his arrival to bind him over for trial by the Sanhedrin (Jewish Council); the same ones he once worked for as their bounty hinter of The Way (Jewish Christian) believers. Keep in mind Paul had no authority over the Greek members of The Way, but he did for those who were once within and now out of Judaism.

What it must have been for the awaiting ship to see a large group of Jesus believers kneeling on the beach in prayer then saying their goodbyes. How difficult it must have been for the believers to be forced to face up that they will no longer have their number one missionary minister.

In Acts 21:8 we once again find Phillip the Evangelist who had previously settled in Caesarea after his encounter with the Ethiopian Eunuch back in Acts 8. Go back to that chapter article to read the incredible connection between Phillip’s encounter outside of Gaza and the encounter of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba 980 years earlier. This is Phillip who is one of the seven chosen to handle the internal affairs of the church, not Phillip the Disciple of Jesus. There is room for discussion per Phillip’s identity but not in this article.

While staying at the house of Phillip, a prophet simply identified as Agabus drops in for a visit. He takes the belt of Paul and binds his own feet and wrists. He says the one whose belt this is will encounter the same treatment in Jerusalem.

“Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'”

What is odd if such a word as “odd” fits here, is Paul is cautioned by many about going to Jerusalem yet in Acts 23:11 he receives the Lord’s blessing that his next stop will be Rome. Back in Acts 19:21 Paul specifically states that Jerusalem and Rome are his destinies. Why so many have cautioned Paul about this leg of his last missionary journey is not explained. What is eye opening is how many of his followers understood his determination and against their will, God wanted him in Jerusalem. It reminds us of way back in Acts 9:16 where we find God stating “I will show him (Paul) the suffering he must go through to serve me.” This is shortly after the Road to Damascus experience. The Lord is talking to Ananias in Damascus. God wanted Ananias to heal Paul’s blindness. Ananias obeyed but knew full well of SANHEDRIN SAUL’s reputation against The Way.

Acts 21:12…”Then Paul answered, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.‘” [ESV]

The word “weeping or weep” is klah’-yo. It means not to sob or cry silently but to wail loudly. What a scene this must have been to onlookers. In both cases, that of Paul and that of his followers, was nothing short of heart wrenching. But…what a great way for God to show Paul’s followers that what he taught them is now up to them to carry on per the ministry and message of the cross. How do we know they knew it was their will to keep him and not that of God? In verse 14 [ESV] we see them finally releasing him in their hearts to the will of God, not their own will.

It is at this verse we find the group of Paul’s followers and Paul himself proceeding to Jerusalem. Once there they lodged in the home of Mnason of Cyprus. He was a very early conversion to the Way and came from Cyprus just as had Barnabas. This is the only time we hear of him. He may have known Barnabas.

hotel roomJIV QUESTION: Has anyone noticed in this series of Acts articles that no one put Paul and company up in a motel? They lodged them in their own homes and supposedly fed them. In today’s church we do just the opposite. We book a room for him or her at a Motel 6 or if the guest speaker is renown s/he is put up in a Holiday Express or Inn. What little things can reveal about our hearts and true spirit.

Paul then meets with James. Significant because Luke determines to record it as the house of James in this passage of Acts. We do not know but supposition is this James is the brother of Jesus. We simply do not know but Luke saw this meeting as not one to simply relay the information of this last missionary journey but he points out that it is at the house of James. What power must have been in the testimony of Paul for James to hear of how his half-brother Jesus confronted Paul on the Road to Damascus; his conversion, then his dedication to The Way. What a thrill to serve Jesus and meet up and stay at the house of Jesus brother.

traditional.jpgFinally we get a number to relate to Paul’s missionary successes. Acts 21:20 states: “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed.” Yes you read that correctly… thousands. Here we once again get an insight per denominational-ism and tradition in church. In Acts 21:21b we read of the TRADITIONS OF THE JEWS no longer being an issue to those of The Way. This understanding of traditions has been replaced over hundreds of years by reintroducing individual denominational traditions and customs. So much so that the customs become primary to the worship service at the expense of leaving the Holy Spirit out in the church parking lot waiting for HIS turn to come into the worship service. First the praise team, then announcements of coming events, social and otherwise, then a traditional prayer like the Lord’s Prayer, followed by some type of reading for the sake of bible reading, an offering and commitment to the building fund, comments on the most recent soup kitchen or fund raising, the social media, sign the registrar before leaving, then perhaps something from the pulpit that certainly is a politically correct sermon.

Acts 21:23…“We have four men who are under a vow; take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses…”

Vows are steeped in Jewish tradition. It is something the high priest and Sanhedrin might honor as sincerity demonstrated (shaved heads) and with a degree of traditional sincerity of their own. Purifying themselves then presenting themselves at the Temple as being under a vow may allow Paul to phase back into Jerusalem. Paul is told to “purify himself along with these other four men.” Why? To demonstrate that even Paul subjects himself to Jewish Law.

But as for the Gentiles…” (V25). Since the Gentiles are not subject to Jewish laws or the Sanhedrin, they are a different issue even though members of the same fellowship of believers; i.e. The Way.

Paul’s purification and presenting himself to the high priest as under a vow did not work. Men from Asia, those who sought to destroy him, caught sight of him in Jerusalem. So what happens? Once again they start the rumor mill. No evidence is presented but accusations abound. Even as in the United States today, people of status or public image take on a degree of guilt without evidence once accused. Before the seven days of purification are complete, Paul finds himself under the finger of false (news) accusations.it must be for a few visitors to be able to stir up the locals on charges without evidence. How dense were people back then and are even so today. The people these outsiders from Asia stirred up were the Jews of Jerusalem. But every crowd or disturbance attracts on lookers. Most of the Gentiles were outsiders per the Sanhedrin. But as it says in Acts 19, most did not even know why they were there (in the riot crowd); perhaps even many Jews. This may also be true in this riot.

How dizzying As these event unfold, the Roman soldiers needed to be called in to “rescue” Paul from the mob. When the soldiers arrived they stopped beating Paul. They had yet to learn that Paul was a Roman citizen by birth. To beat a Roman was a crime against the State. Jews doing this could be punished by death.

Rev. Dr. Jstark

November 2018

 

Acts 20

The town clerk in chapter 19 has just settled down the near riot caused over Paul converting so many to The Way that the local idol manufacturing business became threatened per survival…fewer and fewer customers. Now we step into chapter 20 as if chapter 19 didn’t even end.

Paul calls his disciples (students of The Way) together, bids them fare-thee-well and heads for Macedonia. But…by Acts 20:3 Paul once again must deal with a plot to kill him. Some might say from the pot into the fire. Paul is very good at this. He gets to Greece via Macedonia, is there only three months, hears of another plot to kill him, does a reverse and returns to Macedonia. Paul has quite an entourage with him: (v4) Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus. Recall that Luke and Silas are already traveling with him.

Why Paul and his companions often traveled differently is not known (v5 & 6). It is likely Paul was disguising his means and ways due to the many plots against him.

Notice that Paul still celebrated the Jewish customs; I.E. Feast of Unleavened Bread (v6). What he did NOT DO was celebrate the Judaism denomination of that day. He opted to follow Jesus Christ as Messiah [The Way] where as Judaism still anticipated and still do to this very day, the coming of their Messiah, not the return of Jesus as is true in Christendom.

In verse 7a we find something so often overlooked: And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them…” It was THE FIRST DAY OF THE WEEK!!! That would be Sunday. We hear and read of all types of theories as to how Sunday became the traditional day of worship. We won’t discuss them here but look them up. Here in Acts 20:7 it simply states they gathered together, broke bread as in supped together, Paul preached, and he moved on the next day. However, let none forget that Colossians 2:15…”Let no man criticize the day another calls his Sabbath.”

Another thing to consider is on what subject did Paul preach? Those he was speaking to had already received Jesus Christ and had been baptized. There was no New Testament at this time; they only had the Old Testament scrolls. Today’s church tends to be exclusively N.T. … much to the expense of O.T. knowledge to help a believer’s understanding. Those who do not know and understand the errors of Israel, an Old Testament example of today’s church, are destined to continue making the same errors.

Ahamoment? What is different with the original church in Acts and what we call church today? The following verses in Acts 20 are quite explicit. Not only did they break bread (dinner) together, they listened to Paul preach “all night long.” This is not the old rock and roll song “All Night Long” but it is an example of dedicated to worship, fellowship, study, listening, and togetherness.

It was evening. Acts 20:8 states that there were MANY LIGHTS in the upper room where they had gathered for discipleship. Of course, human nature has changed little since then. We don’t usually sit in windows at the church to hear the 20 to 30 minutes of preaching but some do manage to fall asleep. Eutychus, a young man, had fallen asleep sitting in the third story window where they had gathered for supper, communion and preaching, then study time. Paul never claimed to be an inspirational speaker but it was also late at night; sleep tends to creep up on humans [2 Corinthians 11:6].

ledgeWhat seems to be a bit amazing is when Eutychus falls to the ground below from the third loft (KJV) and is taken for dead, Paul simply runs down the steps to him, embraces him saying “worry not for he is not dead,” then returns to his 3rd story pulpit continuing to preach until morning light. Other then that, we know little more about Eutychus. We do not know of Eutychus’ injuries. It may be either the last time this young man falls to sleep in church or sits on the open window sill three stories up during church. In verse 12, after Paul preached on and on and on, some take Eutychus home; probably to catch up on some sleep. Nothing is said of lasting injuries or a healing by Paul.

Acts 20:13…”and they [we] went by ship but Paul went by foot” to their next appointed place of ministry. Paul probably had it in mind that a foot trip would allow him to witness while in route to Assos. Assos is in western day Turkey but called Asia at the time. It is just south of Troas which was just south of Troy. See red area on map to right; Troas and Assos

Mitylene, Chios, Samos, Trogyllium, and then Miletus. Paul wanted very much to celebrate the Jewish holiday (not a Judaism religious tradition but a *people of Israel celebration) of Pentecost in Jerusalem so he tarried not in these towns. While in Miletus he sent for the Elders in Ephesus to come to him.

We mistakenly identify Jewishness as one and the same with Judaism. That is NOT correct. The word Jews is not even used until the II Kings 16:6. This was to identify those in the Kingdom of Judah against whom the King of the Kingdom of Israeli planned to attack.

Turn to God, believe in the Lord Jesus, obey the Holy Spirit. Paul tells the elders in Miletus that they as his witness know he did this with due diligence and spoke to all who would listen. JIV Note: racial difference never enter the picture in the bible.

Pentecost to Jews and Christians is completely different as is its date!

  • The Jews celebrate Shavuot, the receiving of the Torah, on the 50th day after Pesach (Passover).
  • Christians celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit onto the apostles on the seventh Sunday after Easter.

JIV NOTE: It might be to the student or readers understanding that the Apostle Paul is traveling on his farewell trip. He knows that he will not see any of the church (believers) again once he departs each location. He is headed to Jerusalem and from there he will be shipped off to Rome for trial. Paul knows this per Acts 20:23 where the Holy Ghost keeps telling him imprisonment and affliction await him.

Verses 28, 29, and 30 are significant. Paul calls for the attention of church leaders and elders to pay close attention to their own actions and that of the flock. He does not distinguish any difference between where each flock (church) is located but to them in a singular tense…(ESV) “the church of God.”

One can easily suggest that the differences between each Pauline “church group” were okay due to culture therefore allowing for the many denominations that exist today. However, that is NOT what Paul okay-ed. He warned in verse 29 and 30 about “wolves who will come into sheep clothesthe church” with different ideas and spins on worship trying to draw attention to themselves. This will happen as soon as Paul leaves each location.

This is the passage from where we get the saying from Jesus that “It is more blessed to give than to receive” [Acts 20:35]. Then Paul knelt with the elders and his followers along the sea shore and prayed his departing prayer for all who were present and for those to which he had lead to Christ. There was many tears shed for they knew that they would not see Paul’s face again on earth [Acts 20:38]. No! He did not recite the Lord’s Prayer and neither is it recorded that anyone ever did. Just Jesus did as an example only to a few disciples when asked how to pray, not what to pray.

Rev. Dr. Jstark – 2019