Paul’s journey to Jerusalem continues in today’s scripture reading (Acts 21-22). Acts 20 concluded with Paul deciding he would return to Jerusalem for the Passover. Fearing for his safety and life, some sought to dissuade him, but Paul declared, “I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem” (20:22). Though the Holy Spirit revealed “bonds and afflictions” awaited him, Paul declared, “none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God” (20:24).
Paul arrived in Caesarea (21:8-14), the Roman post on the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea, known as “Caesarea by the Sea.” A beautiful, picturesque location northwest of Jerusalem, Caesarea served the Roman governors of Judea as a retreat from the capital city. (Saved by the sands of the desert, the ruins of the Roman fortress, a beautifully preserved amphitheater, and Roman aqueduct are visible today.)
It was at “Caesarea by the Sea” that Paul renewed fellowship with Philip. Philip, formerly a deacon of the Jerusalem church, was one of seven men chosen to assist the apostles in the distribution of food in Acts 6 (6:1-6; 21:8). He had made his way to Caesarea where we find him aptly titled, “Philip the evangelist” (21:8). Philip raised a godly family in Caesarea, and was the father of four daughters described as “virgins, which did prophesy” (i.e., teaching those things revealed by the Holy Spirit in God’s Word; 21:8).
Paul was again reminded his journey to Jerusalem would be met by enemies of his own people, who would bind him, and “deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles” (21:11). Believers begged with tears for Paul “not to go up to Jerusalem” (21:12), but he answered them, saying, “I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (21:13).
Paul’s return to Jerusalem was cause for celebration among the believers (21:17). He reported to the church elders all “God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry” (21:18-19). Paul was informed, that while there were “thousands of Jews there are which believe” (21:20), there were others who would accuse him and stir up the people against him (21:21-22). Hoping to dissuade the anger and accusations of his enemies, Paul observed the Nazarite vow with four other men, as a sign of “purifying himself” (21:23-26).
Though Paul complied with the counsel of the church elders, there were some who “saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him” (21:27). His enemies falsely accused him, and charged he was an enemy of the Jews, had despised the law, and defiled the Temple by bringing Greeks into the holy place (21:28). All the city was in an uproar, and Paul was hauled out of the Temple (21:30), and would have been killed had a Roman captain and his soldiers not come to his rescue (21:31-32). They bound Paul in chains, and carried him “into the castle” (21:34).
As Paul was led into the castle, he spoke to the captain in Greek (revealing he was an educated man, and not an Egyptian revolutionary as the captain had supposed (21:37-38). He then introduced himself as a citizen of Tarsus, a city known for its commerce and education (21:39). Then, Paul requested an opportunity to speak to his enemies, and standing on the stairs overlooking the mob, silenced them with his hand. When the crowd fell silent, Paul began to speak “in the Hebrew tongue” (21:40).
Paul spoke to the mob as one who loved them, and addressed them as “brethren, and fathers” (22:1). He recounted his Hebrew lineage, formal education in the law, and zeal for God (22:2-3). He told how he had been a persecutor (22:4-5). He related his encounter with Christ, and conversion on the road to Damascus (22:6-9). He told them of his call and commission as an apostle and preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles (22:11-21).
After recounting his ministry to Gentiles, the crowd “then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live” (22:22). The crowd became so violent, that the captain commanded Paul be taken into the castle, questioned, and scourged (22:23-24). Paul then revealed he was born a citizen of Rome, and the captain “was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him” (for scourging without conviction was a violation of his civil rights, 22:29).
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