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Alêtheia Christian Fellowship

Acts 21:1-6 ~ 1When we had parted from them and had set sail, we ran a straight course to Côs and the next day to Rhodes and from there to Patara; 2and having found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail. 3When we came in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left, we kept sailing to Syria and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload its cargo. 4After looking up the disciples, we stayed there seven days; and they kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem. 5When our days there were ended, we left and started on our journey, while they all, with wives and children, escorted us until we were out of the city. After kneeling down on the beach and praying, we said farewell to one another. 6Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home again.

Cos, KJV = Coos, Gk = Kw>v, A cult of Asclepius probably influenced Hip-pocrates, the father of medicine, to found a medical school on Cos.

Rhodes or Roses, home of the collapsed colossus, but with a great university, especially for rhetoric and oratory

Ephesian Elders deeply saddened because they wouldn’t see Paul again and Paul tore himself away. Paul’s in a hurry yet he knows trouble waits.

Acts 21:7-12 ~ 7When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais, and after greeting the brethren, we stayed with them for a day. 8On the next day we left and came to Caesarea, and entering the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, we stayed with him. 9Now this man had four virgin daughters who were prophetesses. 10As we were staying there for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: ‘In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” 12When we had heard this, we as well as the local residents began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem. 

Philip was there for about 20 years, so his girls were most likely young teen-agers. Papias said he gained much information from them in Hierapolis, a city of Phrygia, where was a Christian church under the care of Epaphras (Col. 4:12, 13). This church was founded at the same time as that of Colosse.

Acts 21:13-19 ~ 13Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14And since he would not be persuaded, we fell silent, remarking, “The will of the Lord be done!” 15After these days we got ready and started on our way up to Jerusalem. 16Some of the disciples from Caesarea also came with us, taking us to Mnason of Cyprus, a disciple of long standing with whom we were to lodge. 17After we arrived in Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. 18And the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 19After he had greeted them, he began to relate one by one the things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 

Breaking my heart – weakening my resolve to follow the Lord!

Even to die… for the name

“The will of the Lord be done!”

Mnason = Jason, wealthy and Hellenistic he hosts 8 uncircumcised Gentiles along with Paul.

James was now clearly the leader of Jewish Christianity, which was still very Jewish.

Acts 21:20-24 ~ 20And when they heard it they began glorifying God; and they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law; 21and they have been told about you, that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. 22“What, then, is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. 23“Therefore do this that we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; 24take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law

Zealous for the Law – now kept with the joy of knowing Jesus fulfilled it

1 Corinthians 9: 20 ~ To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law.

This is prior to the distribution of the book of Hebrews, but even in that light..  

All the Jews who are among the Gentiles – nothing about the Gentile themselves

Purify yourself… pay… shave their heads… you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law. 7 day purification to be able to sponsor the 4 Nazerite men each with a year-old male & female lamb and a ram plus!

Numbers 6 ~ 3 abstain from wine and strong drink; he shall drink no vinegar, whether made from wine or strong drink, nor shall he drink any grape juice nor eat fresh or dried grapes… no razor shall pass over his head… he shall not go near to a dead person… when the days of his separation are fulfilled, he shall bring one male lamb a year old without defect for a burnt offering and one ewe-lamb a year old without defect for a sin offering and one ram without defect for a peace offering, and a basket of unleavened cakes of fine flour mixed with oil and unleavened wafers spread with oil, along with their grain offering and their drink offering… The Nazirite shall then shave his dedicated head of hair and put it on the fire which is under the sacrifice of peace offerings.

Acts 21:25-28 ~ 25“But concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote, having decided that they should (KJV = observe no such thing, save only that they) abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.” 26Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purifying himself along with them, went into the temple giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, until the sacrifice was offered for each one of them. 27When the seven days were almost over, the Jews from Asia, upon seeing him in the temple, began to stir up all the crowd and laid hands on him, 28crying out, “Men of Israel, come to our aid! This is the man who preaches to all men everywhere against our people and the Law and this place; and besides he has even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.”

3 times in the Bible we have this list of Jewish requirements for Gentile Christians in fellowship with Jews because Moses is preached and Jews are scrupulous.

1) Meat sacrificed to idols = things sacrificed, more at taking part in the idolatry.

2) Life is in the blood = Homer’s Odyssey: “At the fire already lie the paunches of two goats, preparing for our evening meal, and both are filled with fat and blood. Whoever shows himself the better man in this fray, and conquers, he shall take the one of these he chooses.”

        3) Strangled = blood still inside.

        4) Porneia = also sin in the New Covenant.

Jews from Asia – Maybe even Christian Jews who were scrupulous.

Greeks into the temple – Greek & Latin death even for a Roman Citizen.

Acts 21:29-34 ~ 29For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. 30Then all the city was provoked, and the people rushed together, and taking hold of Paul they dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. 31While they were seeking to kill him, a report came up to the commander of the Roman cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. 32At once he took along some soldiers and centurions and ran down to them; and when they saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 33Then the commander came up and took hold of him, and ordered him to be bound with two chains; and he began asking who he was and what he had done. 34But among the crowd some were shouting one thing and some another, and when he could not find out the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks

Commander = Tribune Klaudiov Lusiav, non-Roman who bought citizenship (1,000 men) cohort of about 600 soldiers

Barracks = Tower of Antonia, (an-toh-nee-uh), luxuriously rebuilt by Herod the Great and named for his friend Mark Antony. In it were kept the high priest’s vestments between festivals.

1) Human opinion even when God gives information is Kakos. Agabus never says what to do about the info, he just presents it.

2) Women = Joel 2, Miriam & Moses, Deborah & Jael, Huldah & Elders, Isaiah’s wife & Isaiah, Elizabeth & Husband Priest, Anna at the Temple

3) Culture + no problem having very Jewish and very Gentile people accepted by God. We must be willing to give up our individual identity to include culture as Jesus and Paul did, yet cultural trappings are not immediately evil. God’s grace allows us to grow into understanding. Never judge another because you have no idea where they are in relation to where God wants them.

4) Can’t second guess decisions – never look back except for experience.

The bonds and afflictions which awaited Paul at Jerusalem, along with his subsequent appeal to Caesar, were God’s means of proclaiming the gospel to “Gentiles and kings,” just as God had purposed and foretold (Acts 9:15). In a similar way, the advice given Paul by the elders at Jerusalem was intended to enhance the gospel in one way, but God used it in a very different way to propel Paul and the gospel to the very court of Caesar, in Rome. It is, in fact, fitting that the gospel which, in Acts, was first proclaimed in Jerusalem (Acts 2) and last proclaimed in Rome (Acts 28) should find its way to Rome via Jerusalem (Acts 21-22).

Christians are just as inclined to give advice today as they were in Paul’s. Unfortunately, much (if not most) of the advice which is given by Christians is like that which the saints along the way to Jerusalem give to Paul—well-intentioned, but wrong. In our study, we will take note of the two very different forms of advice given to Paul in this chapter—that given by the saints in the cities on the way to Jerusalem, and that given by the elders in Jerusalem.

Our text is a very important one in Acts for it tells us how it was, in the plan and the purpose of God, that the gospel made its way to Rome. It was a way that no one would have expected, and many of the saints were trying (unwittingly) to prevent. But it was God’s way. The very thing which God was going to do, and which Paul was committed to do, the saints were seeking to turn around, to do the very opposite.

One incident at Tyre is reported by Luke, which was typical of what took place in every city Paul met with the saints (20:23). He tells the reader, in very brief terms, of the prophecy concerning Paul’s fate in Jerusalem, and the response of the saints to this revelation. Looking up the saints at Tyre, Paul and the rest spent the week with them. During this time, the Holy Spirit revealed Paul’s bondage and suffering in Jerusalem. The result was that the saints persisted in urging Paul not to continue with his journey to Jerusalem.

Luke’s terse report, “they kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem” (verse 4), seems not only to allow for such a conclusion, but to require it. Later revelation in this chapter makes this impossible. We are apparently faced with choosing one of these three explanations of Luke’s words:

These saints were correct in understanding that Paul would be bound in Jerusalem, but they were wrong in their conclusion that Paul should not go. Paul, on the other hand, was correct in pressing on to Jerusalem.

It was not through these daughters that God spoke to the church at Caesarea, but through a prophet from Judea—Agabus (verse 10). This is the same Agabus who came to Antioch, to inform the saints in this church that a world-wide famine was to come upon the whole earth (Acts 11:27-29). In a dramatic fashion, similar to that of some of the Old Testament prophets,475 Agabus took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands.476 He told the church477 that Paul would be bound by the Jews at Jerusalem and would be delivered into the hands of the Gentiles. What Agabus said was new to the Caesarean saints, but not to Paul or those with him.

It is what Agabus did not say which is of greatest interest to us. Agabus, through the Holy Spirit, told only of Paul’s bonds and affliction, which awaited him in Jerusalem; he gave no inspired instructions to Paul about turning back or avoiding Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit indicated to Paul and to the rest what was going to happen to Paul in Jerusalem; the saints concluded, on their own, what Paul should do about the Spirit’s revelation. And these saints were wrong, even though they were unanimous in their conclusion! Paul’s response to their advice will convince these well-meaning saints that he was right and that going to Jerusalem was the will of God. They respond to Paul’s insistence that he is going to Jerusalem by saying, “The will of the Lord be done!”

(1) These Christians cared much for Paul and did not wish for him to have to suffer. I am convinced that the motive was that of genuine love and concern. Who wants someone they love to suffer?

(2) These friends of Paul probably concluded that imprisonment might not only lead to suffering, and perhaps death for the apostle, but would also spell the end of his ministry. How could the apostle minister from prison? How, indeed!

(3) These seem to have understood that the prophecy of Paul’s fate in Jerusalem was revealed to them, and thus they were obliged to do something about this. Mistakenly, they concluded that it was their calling to turn Paul from his course.

(4) These saints may well have thought that this prophecy was not a revelation of what God had destined to happen, but of what He threatened would happen, unless Paul’s course changed.

(1) Paul was given a very clear understanding of the will of God for his life, including his calling to go to Jerusalem to suffer for the sake of the gospel.

(2) Paul’s ministry was characterized by suffering, and the threat of death, from the very outset. Paul’s whole ministry had been marked by suffering.

(3) Paul was not only willing to suffer; he was ready to die for the sake of the gospel. For him who could say, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21-29), suffering was not a problem, but a privilege. He, like the saints in the “hall of fame” of Hebrews 11, was looking for a city that was not of this world. Death would not keep Paul from his reward, but would hasten him to it.

(4) In short, Paul saw suffering more as a privilege than as a problem, and as an inseparable part of his calling to proclaim Jesus as the Savior.

(5) While it is not stated, I believe that Paul understood that the prophecy of his being bound in Jerusalem was more for the benefit of the saints than for him. He knew that God was telling these people something important.

(1) The revelation was not given “to Paul” but to all. The prophecies were given publicly, to the saints and churches where Paul stopped on his way.

(2) The prophecies were not given to change Paul’s course or direction.

(3) The prophecies did reveal the differences in Paul’s attitude toward suffering and that of many of the saints.

(4) The advice of these saints is contrasted with the advice of the Jerusalem elders, later in the chapter. The first advice was bad; the second was good.

(5) The prophecies did reveal Paul’s commitment and dedication to his calling.

(6) The prophecies would reveal that Paul’s suffering was to be for the advancement of the gospel, and due to his obedience, not his sin. How many saints do you know who think that we suffer for making the wrong choices?

(7) The prophecies are the occasion for listening well to Paul, whose face they might not see again. Paul’s words to them would be viewed as his final words, and would have greater weight.

(8) The prophecies will incite these saints to prayer and care for Paul while in prison.

(9) These prophecies will result in Paul’s “prison writings” having much greater impact. This, in my opinion, may be the most important reason of all for the revelation of Paul’s bonds and afflictions which were awaiting him in Jerusalem. The prophecy of these things showed that Paul was a hero of faith, willing to suffer and to die for the sake of the gospel. A man who is sent to prison for a crime, or for his foolishness is not a man whose “prison epistles” would be sought, read, and preserved down through the ages. But a man, who, like Paul, was imprisoned for his faith and his obedience to the command of Christ, was a man worth listening to. These prophecies along the way to Jerusalem were both publicity and a divine commendation, which paved the way for an even greater ministry from behind the bars of a prison.

(10) The prophecy of Paul’s bonds would be a further evidence of the sovereignty of God, who would use this bondage to proclaim the gospel even more broadly, to kings, as far away as Rome. Did some saints think that the gospel would be kept behind bars? Did they think that Paul could work most effectively outside prison walls? Then they were wrong. God’s ways are always higher than our ways. God’s work is often done in a way that defies our understanding, and thus brings Him the praise and the glory.

While there were many new Gentile converts, living in far away places, Jerusalem had thousands of Jewish believers, who were still “zealous for the law.” These saints had been distressed by (false) reports that Paul had been teaching Jewish converts to turn from the law and from all of their Jewish practices and rituals, as though this was not profitable, and perhaps even wrong.

It was apparently of no concern to the elders or to these “zealous for the law” Jewish Jerusalem saints that the Gentiles would not observe the law. After all, this was what the church had decided, some time ago, at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15). The only requirement placed on the Gentile believers was that they “abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication” (verse 25). The problem seems to be in what the Jerusalem Council did not say about Jewish practice. The Jerusalem elders probably clarified the fact that Jewish Christians could continue to keep the law, not as a means to salvation, but as an expression of love and obedience. They could delight in the law, not because it gave them any merit or standing before God, but because it had been fulfilled in Christ, and because they were now righteous in God’s sight. The standards of righteousness which the law upheld were now no longer a cause of fear, but the basis for rejoicing and worship. They once were frustrated by their own failure to fulfill the laws demands, but now they rejoiced because Christ had fulfilled the entire law and they were not under the curse. And the kingdom to which the Old Testament saint looked forward was a certainty, which Jewish and Gentile saints would receive together (see Hebrews 11:39-40).

The question which remained was now what the Jewish Christian was free, as a believing Jew, to observe, but how Paul stood on this matter. Did Paul agree with the position taken by the Jerusalem elders, or did he reject this position, teaching Jewish Christians to discard the law and Old Testament Jewish rituals, as thought they were worthless, perhaps even evil, as some rumors had it? Paul could settle this matter once and for all, by publicly worshipping in the Temple, as a Jew, and as the Jerusalem Jewish Christians did. This is what James and the elders proposed, and what Paul did. This is also what got Paul into trouble, so that he was placed under arrest. This is what would eventually take Paul to Rome.

The main question for us is this? Were these elders wrong for asking Paul to do as he did, and was Paul wrong for doing it? I think that the answer must be a categorical “NO!”

On the way to the barracks, Paul spoke to the commander in Greek, asking if he could speak to him. Here was Paul, standing before his Jewish brethren, under the protection of the Roman army as he gave them his testimony and shared the gospel with them one last time. In the sovereign purposes of God, Paul was being handed over to the Romans by the Jews, but in doing so the gospel was not silenced, it was proclaimed to an ever increasing audience.

(1) Good advice is not lightly or hastily given. The saints in the churches, on the other hand, gave their advice immediately upon hearing of Paul’s future. Paul had to interrupt them, it would seem, in order to give them his perspective. They were too quick to speak, and not very slow to hear.

(2) The advice of the elders was based upon principle, while that of the saints was based more on their subjective feelings. The counsel of the saints was very emotionally oriented—they cared for Paul, and they did not wish to see him suffer. The advice of the elders was rooted in truth. They saw a problem, and they based their advice on the principles laid down at the Jerusalem Council. How easy it is to let our well-intentioned concern carry us to ill-conceived advice. If doctors are reluctant to perform surgery on those who are close to them, we need to be cautious about giving advice to those close to us, for our advice may be colored by our desire not to see them suffer, more than on our desire to see them do the will of God.

(3) The advice of the saints sought to avoid suffering, while the advice of the elders sought to urge Paul on to doing what was right.

(4) The advice of the saints urged Paul to look out for himself, to avoid personal pain and adversity, while the advice of the elders urged Paul to act in a way that would benefit others. There is a world of difference between advice which puts self first, and that which puts others first.

(5) The advice of the saints sought to turn Paul away from a course of action which he believed was the will of God; the advice of the elders urged Paul to do that which he was already convinced of and committed to doing. The elders’ advice was encouragement; the saints’ advice was discouragement.

(6) The elders’ advice was for Paul to do that which would promote the gospel; while the saints’ advice (unknowingly) was that which would hinder the gospel.

(7) The elders’ advice was that which, in the sovereignty and power of God, caused the gospel to be promoted and Paul’s ministry to be expanded, while the advice of the saints would have greatly limited the gospel and Paul’s ministry.

(8) The elders’ advice required faith in God, while the saints’ advice betrayed a lack of faith in God’s ability to work through opposition and suffering, and even limitations such as imprisonment.

Advice on Giving Advice

I think that my first “advice” (forgive me), based upon our text, would be that Christians should give much less advice than they do. My second exhortation would be that we advise people only to the degree that we have a clear biblical principle underlying our advice, and that our counsel does not encourage others to act in a way that is contrary to principle, but rather on preference and self-interest.

Advice on Taking Advice

(1) Each individual must decide for himself what the will of God is for his or her life. Even when others are inspired of the Spirit to speak of our future, it may well be in more general terms than in the specific.

(2) The Christian may have to reject the advice of others, even when they present a majority view. Here, Paul must reject the advice all the rest, including Luke (21:12).

(3) The advice of others may be given to us with the full conviction (at the time) that the Holy Spirit has directed them to so advise us, even when it may not be so. We may be given the distinct impression that God has spoken to us through others, when He has not. How easy it is when we give advice to think God is on our side.

(4) The bad advice of other Christians is often occasioned by suffering in the life of the saint.

(5) The bad advice of other Christians is often well-intentioned and based in their love for us, and for their desire for us not to suffer. It would be hard to overestimate the number of times Christians have been counseled by other Christians, based upon the assumption that God does not want us to suffer.

(6)This passage is not teaching that Christians should live autonomously, independently of others and of their counsel, only that we alone are responsible to determine God’s will for our lives, and that not all advice is good advice. Good advice will stand on Scripture, and not apart from it.


466 “From Miletus they sailed to Cos, one of the islands of the Dodecanese, famed as the home of the medical school founded by Hippocrates in the fifth century B.C.

469 In the Book of Acts, Luke speaks several times of prophecy being revealed, which tells of a future event, but which does not include any inspired application. This will be the case later on in Acts 21, as it was also the case in Acts 11:27-29.

472 “The following day they departed for Caesarea, a distance of some forty miles, which probably occupied about two days’ travel time. . . . Thus the long voyage “that may have begun about April 15 . . . finally terminated about May 14, two weeks before the Pentecost festival that Paul wanted to spend at Jerusalem.” Carter and Earle, p. 318.

474 It is not without significance that it was through Agabus, and not these daughters, that the prophecy of Paul’s fate in Jerusalem was revealed to Paul and to the others at Caesarea. It would seem that such a revelation, coming through these women, to Paul and to the other men present, would have violated the Scriptures which prohibit women from taking a leadership role over men (see 1 Corinthians 14:26-40; 1 Timothy 2:8-15).

477 The language of Agabus, recorded in Acts 21:11, makes it quite clear that the Holy Spirit was not speaking to Paul, who knew all too well of his coming bondage in Jerusalem (Acts 20:22-23), but to the church, who were not yet aware of what was to befall him when he arrived there.

479 “The termination of their vow would be accompanied by the offering of a sacrifice at the temple, and it was proposed that Paul should pay the expenses of the sacrifice on their behalf. This was an accepted act of Jewish piety; Josephus relates that Herod Agrippa I directed many Nazarites to have their heads shaved, the implication being (according to Bruce, Acts, p. 393 n.) that he paid their expenses. The problem is that Paul is directed to purify himself along with them. The circumstances are far from clear.

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