Acts 21

Acts 21  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 10
As WE START this chapter, we see that Luke was still with Paul and his company, and we trace their journey up to Jerusalem. Arrived at Tyre, they evidently sought for disciples, if any were there, and found some. Through these unnamed men the Spirit gave a message to Paul to the effect that he should not go on to Jerusalem. To the Ephesians he had spoken of being bound in his own spirit to go up. Evidently his own inward conviction was so strong that he did not accept the word through the humble men of Tyre. It seems to be a case of his allowing powerful convictions to override the voice of the Spirit reaching him from without. There we must leave it, only observing that if so, we are permitted to see in the succeeding history how God overruled the mistake for ultimate good, though it meant much trouble for Paul.
Leaving Tyre there was another of these beautiful impromptu prayer meetings, just as, arrived at Caesarea, we have a glimpse of the Christian hospitality of those days. Philip, the evangelist of chapter 8, was their host. His daughters furnish us with examples of women having prophetic gifts, which they exercised doubtless in accord with Scriptural instructions for the service of women.
In that city further testimony was rendered through the prophet Agabus as to what lay before Paul at Jerusalem. Again we see a touching display of affection for Paul, on the part both of his companions and the saints at Caesarea: a display also of Paul’s readiness to lay down his life for the name of the Lord Jesus. Incidentally we see indicated the wise course when a difference of opinion exists which cannot be removed. We all have to hold our peace, only desiring that in the matter the will of the Lord, whatever it is, may be done.
Having reached Jerusalem, Paul reported to James and the elders what God had wrought through him among the Gentiles. They glorified the Lord in this, for they were prepared to acknowledge them in Christ, in keeping with what had been decided at the conference, of which we read in chapter 15. The Gentiles were not to be put under the yoke of the law. But whether believing Jews should observe their old customs was another question. The Jerusalem brethren urged upon Paul that he should take the opportunity of four men having a vow to associate himself with them, especially as it was alleged against him that he had been teaching Jews to forsake their customs. They felt it was expedient that he should contradict these rumors in this fashion.
Another thing that lay behind the suggestion was that there were now thousands of Jews believing in Christ, but they were all zealous of the law. We should have thought that they would have been zealous of the Gospel and its heavenly hopes, but evidently they had as yet failed to apprehend the true character of that into which they had been brought. It was to such Jewish Christians as these that the Epistle to the Hebrews was written. They were indeed “dull of hearing,” (ch. 28:27) and had “need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God,” (Heb. 5:1212For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. (Hebrews 5:12)) needing “milk and not strong meat.” They were consequently exhorted to “go on unto perfection” (Heb. 6:11Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, (Hebrews 6:1)).
The action recommended to Paul, and which he took, was hardly calculated to lead them on to perfection. It was an act of expediency, done to avoid trouble, and as is so often the case entirely failed of its object. It took Paul into the temple where his adversaries were most likely to be found. He ran into trouble instead of avoiding it. The riot against him was fomented by Jews of Asia, men who doubtless had been implicated in the riot at Ephesus. They acted under the supposition that Paul had desecrated the temple by taking into it an Ephesian Gentile. The supposition was evidently mistaken. He had not done this, but he had gone in himself, supposing that thereby he might disarm their prejudice, and this supposition also proved to be mistaken.
Nevertheless the hand of God was over all that happened. The prophecy of Agabus was fulfilled. Paul lost his liberty. Yet by the action of the Roman chief captain he was rescued from the violence of the people. The days of his free evangelistic labors were over—save perhaps for a short time just before the end. Now began the period in which he was to bear powerful witness to the populace in Jerusalem, to be followed by witness before governors and kings, and even before Nero himself. God knows how to make the wrath of man to praise Him, and to restrain the remainder of wrath. He knows also how to overrule any mistakes which His servants may make, and while closing before them certain lines of service to open out other lines, which ultimately may prove to be of even greater importance. It was Paul’s imprisonment which led to his writing those inspired epistles which have edified the church for nineteen centuries.
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