18. PAUL, THE PRISONER

Paul Arrested at Jerusalem.

When Paul and his company arrived at Jerusalem they were gladly received by the Christians there. The report that Paul gave to the leaders of the church regarding the spread of the gospel among the Gentiles caused great rejoicing.

However, at the same time the leaders informed Paul that reports were circulating that he was urging the Hellenistic Jewish Christians, as well as the Gentile converts, not to follow circumcision and the other Mosaic laws (Acts 21:15–21).

21:15  And after those days we packed and went up to Jerusalem.

21:16  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.

21:17  And when we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.

21:18  On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.

21:19  When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

Hnd 21:20  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;

21:21  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.

This report was untrue and obviously an invention of his enemies (cf. chs 16:3; 18:18; 24:14; 25:8).

Nevertheless, it was suggested that, in order to prove that the accusations were false. Paul should join 4 other Jewish Christians, who were under vows, in performing an act of ceremonial purification in the Temple, thus publicly demonstrating that he had not rejected the Mosaic laws.

To this Paul agreed. The period of this vow was almost ended when certain Jews from Asia, probably visitors to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost. They recognized Paul and stirred up the people against him by falsely accusing him. Not only of preaching against Jewish customs and institutions but also of having defiled the Temple by bringing Greeks into it (ch 21:22–29).

21:21  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.

21:22  What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come.

21:23  Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow.

21:24  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.

21:25  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.”

21:26  Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each one of them.

21:27  Now when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him,

21:28  crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.”

21:29  (For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)

The report of this alleged Temple desecration  spread rapidly, attracting a crowd to the sacred precincts. Paul was seized and dragged from the Temple by the mob, who intended to kill him.

Meanwhile, Claudius Lysias (ch 23:26), the military tribune in command of the Roman garrison, evidently stationed in the adjacent Tower of Antonia overlooking the Temple, heard of the disturbance. He hastily led soldiers to quell the uproar.

Seeing that it was centered around Paul, the commander arrested him and had him fettered. This being done, he inquired who Paul was and what his crime was that had caused such a tumult.

Failing to get any satisfactory answer from the mob, he ordered the apostle to be escorted to the “castle,” or *“barracks,” evidently the Tower of Antonia. After being taken with difficulty through the angry crowd, Paul was able to convince the commander that he was not a criminal wanted by the Roman authorities.

He was then granted permission to address the mob, which he did from the steps leading to the fortress

(Acts 21:30–40; see figs. 485, 486), telling in “Hebrew,” that is, in *Aramaic, the story of his life. His audience listened quietly until he told them how God had commissioned him to preach to the Gentiles.

21:30  And all the city was disturbed; and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut.

21:31  Now as they were seeking to kill him, news came to the commander of the garrison that all Jerusalem was in an uproar.

21:32  He immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them. And when they saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.

21:33  Then the commander came near and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and he asked who he was and what he had done.

21:34  And some among the multitude cried one thing and some another. So when he could not ascertain the truth because of the tumult, he commanded him to be taken into the barracks.

21:35  When he reached the stairs, he had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob.

21:36  For the multitude of the people followed after, crying out, “Away with him!”

21:37  Then as Paul was about to be led into the barracks, he said to the commander, “May I speak to you?” He replied, “Can you speak Greek?

21:38  Are you not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a rebellion and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?”

21:39  But Paul said, “I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people.”

21:40  So when he had given him permission, Paul stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying,

At these words the Jews broke into a tumult again and demanded his death. Thereupon the commander, probably not understanding Aramaic and thus not knowing the reason for the sudden outburst, ordered that Paul be examined by scourging.

As he was being bound for this purpose Paul disclosed the fact that he was a Roman citizen, and this saved him from torture.

The next day Lysias, desiring fully to understand the reason for the disturbance, convened the Sanhedrin and set Paul before them, that the matter might be made clear (ch 22).

Paul was in the presence of the Sanhedrin for only a few minutes when it became apparent that he was not to have a fair trial (ch 23:1–5).

23:1  Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.”

23:2  And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth.

23:3  Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?”

23:4  And those who stood by said, “Do you revile God’s high priest?”

23:5  Then Paul said, “I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT SPEAK EVIL OF A RULER OF YOUR PEOPLE.'”

Thereupon he shrewdly split the *council by stating that he was on trial for his belief, as a Pharisee in the resurrection of the dead.

At this the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection, began to contend with the Pharisees. Thus the Pharisees were forced into the position of defending Paul.

So fierce did the contention grow that Lysias, fearing that the apostle would be dismembered in the struggle, sent his soldiers to rescue him and take him to the tower (vs 6–10).

23:6  But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!”

23:7  And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees; and the assembly was divided.

23:8  For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection—and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both.

23:9  Then there arose a loud outcry. And the scribes of the Pharisees’ party arose and protested, saying, “We find no evil in this man; but if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him, let us not fight against God.”

23:10  Now when there arose a great dissension, the commander, fearing lest Paul might be pulled to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them, and bring him into the barracks.

that God was leading and that he would witness at Rome, as he had hoped (v 11).

23:11  But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.”

The next day his nephew (v 16), who had learned that a group of more than 40 men had taken a vow to assassinate Paul (vs 12–15), came to the tower and informed the apostle, who bade him tell the story to Lysias.

23:12  And when it was day, some of the Jews banded together and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.

23:13  Now there were more than forty who had formed this conspiracy.

23:14  They came to the chief priests and elders, and said, “We have bound ourselves under a great oath that we will eat nothing until we have killed Paul.

23:15  Now you, therefore, together with the council, suggest to the commander that he be brought down to you tomorrow, as though you were going to make further inquiries concerning him; but we are ready to kill him before he comes near.”

NEXT TIME: HEARINGS AT CAESAREA