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Acts 21

The journey to Jerusalem
And when we had parted from them and set sail, we came by a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. 2 And having found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail. 3 When we had come in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left we sailed to Syria and landed at Tyre, for there the ship was to unload its cargo. 4 And having found the disciples, we stayed there seven days; and these said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not set foot in Jerusalem. 5 When our time was up, we departed and went on our way, and they all accompanied us, with wives and children, until we were out of the city. And we knelt down on the shore and prayed. 6 And we went on board the ship, and they returned home.
   7 And when we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais; and we greeted the believers and stayed with them one day. 8 And the next day we departed, and went to Caesarea, and entering into the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, we stayed with him. 9 Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied. 10 And as we stayed there some days, there came down from Judea a certain prophet, named Agabus. 11 And coming to us and taking Paul's belt, he bound his own feet and hands, and said: Thus said the Holy Spirit: So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owns this belt, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. 12 And when we heard these things, both we and they of that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered: What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready, not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. 14 And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying: The will of the Lord be done.
   15 And after these days we took up our baggage and went up to Jerusalem. 16 And there went with us also some of the disciples from Caesarea, bringing with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we should lodge. 17 And when we arrived in Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly.

Paul in Jerusalem
   18 And the following day Paul went with us to James; and all the elders were present. 19 And when he had greeted them, he related one by one the things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And they, when they heard it, glorified God; and they said to him: You saw, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those that have believed; and they are all zealous for the law. 21 And they have been informed concerning you, that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to our customs. 22 What then? They will certainly hear you have come. 23 Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. 24 These take and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses, that they may shave their heads; and all shall know that there is no truth in the things of which they have been informed concerning you, but you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the law. 25 But concerning the Gentiles that have believed, we wrote, giving judgment that they should keep themselves from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication. 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purifying himself along with them, went into the temple, declaring the fulfilment of the days of purification, until the offering was offered for every one of them.
27 And when the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the crowd and laid hands on him, 28 crying out: Men of Israel, help! This is the man that teaches all men everywhere against the people and the law, and this place, and moreover he brought Gentiles also into the temple and has defiled this holy place. 29 For they had previously seen with him in the city Trophimus the Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.
   30 And all the city was moved, and the people ran together, laid hold on Paul and dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut. 31 And as they were seeking to kill him, news came to the chief captain of the garrison that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 And he took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them; and they, when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, stopped beating Paul. 33 Then the chief captain came near, laid hold of him and commanded him to be bound with two chains, and inquired who he was and what he had done. 34 And some among the mob shouted one thing, some another; and when he could not know the certainty because of the uproar, he commanded him to be brought into the fortress of Antonia. 35 When he reached the stairs, he had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob. 36 For the mob followed after, crying out: Away with him!
   37 And as Paul was about to be brought into the fortress, he said to the chief captain: May I say something to you? And he said: Do you know Greek? 38 Are you not that Egyptian, who some time ago stirred up sedition and led out into the wilderness four thousand men that were terrorists? 39 But Paul said: I am a Jew, of Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and I beg you, please let me speak to the people. 40 And when he had given him leave, Paul, standing on the stairs, beckoned with the hand to the people; and when there was made a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying:


21:5 Women and children were counted as non-persons in 1st century Mediterranean society. But Jesus gave special value to them, and the critics of Christianity mocked it as a religion largely comprised of women and children.

21:9 To ‘prophesy’ means to speak forth God’s word, not just to predict the future. Women as well as men (v. 10) prophesied in the early church.

21:12,13 This incident is very similar to how Peter and the disciples tried to discourage Jesus from journeying up to Jerusalem to die on the cross (Mt. 16:21-24). We too can discern points of contact between the recorded experiences and feelings of Jesus, and our situations which we pass through in life. In this sense, He is ‘with us’ through the medium of His word.

21:20 Acts 8:1 records that the entire membership of the Jerusalem ecclesia was scattered; the way we read of them numbering thousands by the time of Acts 21:20 suggests that to avoid persecution those who remained reconciled themselves with the temple, becoming a sect of Judaism, presumably with the tithe and temple tax going to the temple rather than to the ecclesia. These “thousands” of Acts 21 were probably largely converted since the persecution that arose after the death of Stephen. The original Jerusalem ecclesia had gone and preached to the Gentiles (Acts 11:19,20), which wasn’t what the later Jerusalem ecclesia supported. Early Christianity went wrong at two ends- the Jewish Christians merged back with Judaism to avoid opposition from the Jews, and the Gentile Christians tended to merge back with paganism to avoid persecution from the Roman empire.

21:21 Paul did indeed write in his letters that circumcision is of no spiritual meaning for the believer in Christ, regardless of whether we are Jews or Gentiles (e.g. 1 Cor. 7:19). But sometimes the way of Christian wisdom is to not insist upon principle, but to go along with the weakness or limited understanding of others.