Summary of Acts 21:16-36:
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.
BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 25, Day 2: Acts 21:16-36
3) Paul agreed to keep the peace, for the others. He did it so as not to be a barrier to Jesus. Obeying customs is doing things because they’ve been done forever. Obeying God is just that — obeying God. Both can be right as long as they are in tune with God and His word.
4) Many people make false accusations either intentionally or unintentionally. Some choose the smallest violations and try to make them a big deal, all with the intent to harm you. They do so because they are jealous, power-hungry, or hold misguided beliefs. Christians should defend themselves, using non-violence unless your life is threatened.
5) Part personal question. My answer: God has a plan, so this false accusation is part of God’s plan. It helps me to know everything is in God’s hands — the good and the bad. It’s for our good, to strengthen our faith in Him and His word.
Conclusions BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 25, Day 2: Acts 21:16-36
You gotta feel sorry for Paul. The poor guy can’t get a break. He’s been persecuted and faced death and here he goes again. Luckily, God is with him (and all of us) in our trials.
End Notes BSF Study Questions Acts Lesson 25, Day 2: Acts 21:16-36
Bible scholars date Paul’s arrival in Jerusalem at 57 AD, 25 years after chapter 1 of Acts.
Paul reports about his travels to the elders and his successful conversions. Yet, while Paul was away, he has gained a reputation as anti-Jewish since he has been converting Gentiles and not requiring the law. Most of the Christians in Jerusalem at this time were Jewish and still followed the customs of the law.
Based on Romans 14:4-6, it seems that Paul didn’t have a problem with Jewish Christians who wanted to continue to observe old customs and laws. It seems that he himself did so sometimes, such as when he took and fulfilled a vow of consecration in Acts 18:18-21
So the elders asked Paul to make a token vow of consecration to appease these naysayers. Paul agreed.
Many commentators believe this was a terrible compromise on Paul’s part; that he was a hypocrite. Yet the motive behind Paul’s sponsorship of these Christian Jews completing their Nazirite vow is explained in 1 Corinthians 9:20: And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law.
The crowd was enlarged because it was feast-time (Acts 20:16). It was enraged because they believed Paul not only preached against the people, the law, and the temple, but also profaned the temple by bringing Gentiles into its inner courts.
It was absolutely prohibited for Gentiles to go beyond the designated “Court of the Gentiles” in the temple grounds. Signs were posted which read (in both Greek and Latin): “No foreigner may enter within the barricade which surrounds the temple and enclosure. Any one who is caught trespassing will bear personal responsibility for his ensuing death.” The Romans were so sensitive to this that they authorized the Jews to execute anyone that offended in this way, even if the offender was a Roman citizen.
The Romans didn’t sympathize with Paul, but they were interested in keeping public order, so they arrested Paul both for his own protection and to remove the cause of the uproar.
Two chains means Paul was handcuffed to a solider on either side. Paul must have immediately remembered the prophecy of Agabus (Acts 21:11).
When the mob cried out for his death, Paul must have remembered when he was part of such a mob, agreeing with the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 7:54-8:1).
Or, perhaps, it even reminded him of the trial of Jesus: “The shout Away with him! which pursued him as he was carried up the steps was the shout with which Jesus’ death had been demanded not far from that spot some twenty-seven years before (Luke 23:18; John 19:15)
Boice on Away with him! “They did not mean, ‘Take him away from the temple area.’ They meant, ‘Remove him from the earth.’ They wanted him dead.”