Summary of passage: We pick up Paul right at his arrival in Jerusalem. He was greeted warmly and then meets with James and all the other elders to give an account of his travels. Immediately, there is a concern that needs to be addressed: the Jews have mistakenly been informed that Paul is teaching the Jews to turn away from Moses and their customs. They are angry. So to appease them, we suggest you take four men and pay their expenses to be purified. Then everyone will know the rumors are false and that you are living in obedience to the law.
Paul agrees and complies. However, some Jews see him at the temple and repeat the rumors to the crowd and also throw in a lie about how Paul brought Greeks into the holy place in the temple, a lie based on a false assumption of association.
The angry mob seized Paul, beating him, fully intending to kill him for such a perceived violation of Jewish law. However, when the Romans found out an uncontrolled riot was taking place, they ran to see what the commotion was all about. The Romans arrested Paul and tried to figure out what was going on. Unable to do so due to crowd noise, they remove Paul to the barracks. Paul asks to speak to the mob in his defense.
Paul tells them his origins: he’s a Jew who used to persecute followers of Jesus until Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and God commissioned him to the Gentiles. This angered the crowd when Paul mentioned the Gentiles (for they believed the Gentiles were not equal with the Jews in God’s eyes) and the Roman commander ordered Paul be flogged and questioned about why the crowd was so incensed.
Here, Paul invokes his Roman citizen privileges (illegal to flog a citizen until found guilty in a court of law and illegal to chain a citizen) and the commander immediately changes course.
3a) He was trying to reassure the Jerusalem church of his loyalty by agreeing to take Jewish vows. There was concern that Paul had turned against Jewish customs so they suggested Paul pay for the purification rites of four men as a gesture of support to the Jews and their way of life even though the Gentiles are not required to do so.
It seems to me there was a lot of confusion and misinformation about the new Christian faith and what it entails amongst the people. Remember, there was no 24-hour news reel back then. In this instance, mob mentality played a key role in Paul’s arrest and denouncement. One person spread the rumor Paul took a non-Jew into the temple and a riot ensued.
It is very, very difficult to change and erase centuries of belief. Most Jews had not accepted the fact that Gentiles are not equal to them in God’s eyes, that they too are now set apart, and set apart in the same way they are: through faith in Jesus Christ. Thus, Paul’s teaching were seen as blasphemous and disrespectful.
4a) They seized Paul, dragged him from the temple, and tried to kill him. The Romans intervened by arresting Paul so he wouldn’t be killed by the crazed, out of control mob.
b) Personal Question. My answer: The same reason He allows bad things to happen to us all: to strengthen us or perhaps those around us and test our faith in Him and His word(s).
5a) Total obedience. He asks, “What shall I do, Lord?” (verse 10) immediately after Jesus appears to him. God commissioned him to the Gentiles (verse 21) and he obeyed immediately, never once turning back, despite the hardships.
b) As soon as Paul uttered the word “Gentiles”, the crowd grew incensed. We must remember Jews have lived for millenia as God’s chosen people, set apart and chosen by Him, as special. So accepting the fact that Gentiles are now their equals, able to be saved by believing in Jesus, is an idea completely foreign to them and offensible.
Furthermore, when Paul declares this as God’s plan when he says the Lord told him to go the Gentiles (verse 21), this outrages the Jews. God? Our God said such a thing? They just couldn’t believe it to be true. So emotions took over and they wanted Paul to die for what they believed to be blasphemy.
c) Personal Question. My answer: I believe I have several callings. First, is a wife to my husband. Second, is a mother to my children. Third, is a writer of novels to reveal God to unbelievers in a non-threatening yet powerful way. Fourth, one day as a worship leader. Fifth, through this blog in some way. I hope it helps others see and know Him more. It’s that simple.
I don’t really talk about my callings outside of my immediate family. To be honest, I don’t talk to a lot of people outside of family. Not to be stereotypical of writers but I’m much better with the written word than with the spoken word. My husband and I often miscommunicate cause I’m so bad. So I send him an email to clarify my thoughts on a matter.
So I haven’t experienced a lot (either positive or negative) because it’s something between God and me and when the time is right it will be between me and others.
Conclusions: Yeah! I’m so happy to be back in the book of Acts! It’s like we stopped the book half-way through right at the good part and I am eager to see how the story ends.
I liked 5c because even though you may know God’s calling on your life it’s good to put it in writing. I knew all of these callings but putting them together gives me a different perspective and priority for them.
I think a good question would have been: how do you react when faced with a situation you know will be challenging but you have to do it anyways?
Poor Paul. He knows his return to Jerusalem will be anything but pleasant and yet he walks it anyways, fulling trusting in God’s plan for his life and knowing God is right there beside him no matter what he will face.
I’m not for sure how I would have reacted if I had to walk in Paul’s shoes: heading into a hostile environment where you know you will face physical pain, persecution, and probably death. It’s a good lesson for all of us to ponder.