Acts Chapter Twenty One, God's
Will Be Done
In our study of Acts chapter twenty one, we continue to look at the
end of Paul's third missionary journey and his arrival in Jerusalem. This chapter is
inspiring in that we see that Paul, even though he knew he was facing tough times ahead,
continued to listen and follow God's will for his life.
After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and
sailed straight to Cos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. We
found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. After sighting
Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our
ship was to unload its cargo.
We continue with the travel log as Paul gets closer to his ultimate
destination of Jerusalem. Phoenicia is what is known today as the country of Lebanon. We
notice here that Paul didn't own a ship or really anything else as they sailed on a
commercial ship to the port city of Tyre. When Paul had accepted Christ, he gave up the
things of this world to serve the Lord and that is a great example for us today. We have
forgotten the fact that Jesus said that it would not be easy to follow Him and that many
would give up everything to do so. We have to ask ourselves if we are ready to do the
Finding the disciples there, we stayed with them seven days.
Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go to Jerusalem.
There are those that use this verse to say that Paul made a mistake
and was out of the will of God in going to Jerusalem. Quite simply, they are wrong. The
disciples in Tyre were listening to the Spirit but the Spirit was warning Paul (just as
he had said in chapter
that he had to be prepared for the sacrifice that he would make. God had been preparing
Paul for this and making sure that he knew what he was getting into. The same thing is
happening in this verse. Paul is simply listening to God and following Him. His actions
agree with what Jesus said in Matthew
5:38-48 and served to further the gospel. Paul was confident that he was in the
will of God as he was able to say (at the end of his life) that he had finished the
course set before him.
Acts 21:5 & 6
But when our time was up, we left and continued on our way. All the
disciples and their wives and children accompanied us out of the city, and there on the
beach we knelt to pray. After saying good-by to each other, we went aboard the ship, and
they returned home.
Imagine the sight of this very large group of people kneeling on
the beach to pray. Even as Paul continues his march to Jerusalem, he is still teaching
the people on the way as well as us. Here we see once again how Paul knew the value of
prayer and I am sure that the disciples that were on that beach with him understood as
We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we
greeted the brothers and stayed with them for a day. Leaving the next day, we reached
Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four
unmarried daughters who prophesied.
Paul and the group continued on their trip to Jerusalem and reached
Caesarea where they stayed with Philip. This is the Philip that we are introduced to in
he was given the job of running the daily distribution of food to the widows. We see,
here, that he had four daughters that were prophets and this is a good lesson for those
who say that women cannot be leaders in the "church".
Acts 21:10 & 11
After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus
came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul's belt, tied his own hands and
feet with it and said, 'The Holy Spirit says, "In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will
bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles."'
In this passage, Paul gets another warning about the persecution he
is going to face. This time, the Holy Spirit is specific about who and how as it seems
that God wants Paul to be prepared.
When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not
to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, 'Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I
am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord
Jesus.' When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, 'The Lord's will be
Once again, Paul has people trying to get him to listen to them
instead of listening to the Holy Spirit. Although they have good intentions, they are
trying to pull Paul out of God's will and that is not of God. This reminds me of what
happened between Peter and Jesus (see Matthew 16:21-23) where Jesus went so far as to
call Peter Satan for trying to go against God's will. Paul's answer to them is to teach
them by letting them know that he is not only ready to be bound but, in fact, he is
willing to die for the name of Jesus. It is amazing to watch God work and to see the
people finally come to accept that God's will is what matters.
Acts 21:15 & 16
After this, we got ready and went up to Jerusalem. Some of the
disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and brought us to the home of Mnason, where we
were to stay. He was a man from Cyprus and one of the early disciples.
God not only changed the hearts of the people in Caesarea in the
previous passage but we see here that some of them even went on to travel with Paul.
This is a good reminder that our testimony is a combination of our words and actions.
The people there heard Paul's words before and now some are going to get to see his
actions in the face of persecution. That will help them to grow in their faith. Mnason
also reminds us that, as Christians, we should be ready to share our things (homes,
finances, time, etc) with those who are fellow workers for the Lord.
When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers received us warmly. The
next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present.
Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through
Paul made a courtesy call on the leaders of the church in
Jerusalem. I say this because there are many who take his visit here and try to make a
case for a certain "church" structure and even to go so far as calling a man on earth
the "head of the church". In Ephesians 1, Paul
explained that God's will is for Jesus to be the head of the church and not a man here
on earth. Paul worked with the leaders of the believers in Jerusalem but he was subject
to Jesus Christ and listened to the Holy Spirit for direction. He simply informed them
about what God had been doing in his life. (We would call this sharing a testimony.)
Acts 21:20 & 21
When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul:
'You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous
for the law. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the
Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live
according to our customs.'
When the leaders in Jerusalem heard about what God was doing in his
ministry, they praised God but then had to inform Paul that not everyone was happy with
his ministry. The thousands of Jews that believed were "zealous for the law" instead of
zealous for Jesus as Paul was. Therefore, Paul was being falsely accused of turning
people away from their customs. Paul was not doing that but was simply telling people
that customs, rituals, or belonging to a particular group of people did not bring
salvation. Sadly, we face many of the same issues today as legalism has crept back in
and even taken over in some groups of believers.
What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, so
do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men,
join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their
heads shaved. Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but
that you yourself are living in obedience to the law.
So, Paul was accused of telling the Jews that they did not have to
keep the law to be saved and this made the other Jews angry. The solution from the
leaders in Jerusalem was for Paul to demonstrate obedience to the law. Paul was ok with
obeying the law; he just knew that obedience to the law did not bring salvation because
salvation was only possible through Jesus Christ.
'As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision
that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of
strangled animals and from sexual immorality.'
The elders are saying that they have handled this question by
sending these instructions to the Gentile believers. By putting them under part of the
law it satisfied the Jews. This decision was made at a meeting in Jerusalem described in
The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with
them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of
purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them.
Paul agreed to take part in this ritual purification because he
knew that it was not a matter of salvation. He knew that he did not need to do it to be
saved but was willing to do so to reach others. This ritual is a picture of our
repentance as the people had to be humble enough to let people know they had sinned
(were unclean) by announcing it at the temple and that they wished to be cleansed (freed
from the sin).
Acts 21:27 & 28a
When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province
of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him,
shouting, 'Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere
against our people and our law and this place.'
So, even as Paul was obeying the law, he was seized and accused of
leading God's people astray (being a false prophet). In fact, Paul was not doing what
they accused him of; he was simply telling everyone that Jesus had died for their sins
and been raised again. The charge of being a false prophet has been used throughout
history by religious people who do not agree with someone.
Acts 21:28b & 29
'And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple area and
defiled this holy place.' (They had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city
with Paul and assumed that Paul had brought him into the temple area.)
One charge was not enough for them so they came up with another
which was defiling the temple by bringing someone who was unclean (a Gentile) in. Nobody
saw Trophimus in the temple but they didn't let the facts get in their way. Gossip and
rumors were a destructive force back then and they are as well today. In James 3, we
are warned about this destructive force. The good news is that this gossip will be used
by God to spread the gospel.
The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all
directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates
We see that the gossip and rumors that started with a small group
has got the whole city going. Nobody has stopped to ask whether the charges are true or
not but now you have a mob. This calls to mind the words of Jesus and the six woes
mentioned in Luke 11:37-53. The last woe was where He said that the experts of the law
were hindering the gospel.
Acts 21:31 & 32
While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of
the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. He at once took some
officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and
his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.
The people of God were the ones that were trying to kill Paul but
God intervened and sent the Romans to protect his life. The same type of thing happens
today as too many Christians are fighting other Christians instead of resisting the
Acts 21:33 & 34
The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound
with two chains. Then he asked who he was and what he had done. Some in the crowd
shouted one thing and some another, and since the commander could not get at the truth
because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks.
Those that were making accusations against Paul couldn't even get
the story straight. Even so, Paul did not resist but still kept his eyes on the fact
that God is in control. This is a good example of what God would have us to do in the
face of persecution.
Acts 21:35 & 36
When Paul reached the steps, the violence of the mob was so great
he had to be carried by the soldiers. The crowd that followed kept shouting, 'Away with
The mob wasn't happy with just having Paul arrested as they even
followed as he was being taken away. This reminds me of the times that we live in and
the misguided religious fervor that is often seen. A simple comment or picture of
Muhammad can start the same type of mob reaction around the world. The sad fact is that
religious fervor does not get you any closer to God or heaven.
Acts 21:37 & 38
As the soldiers were about to take Paul into the barracks, he asked
the commander, 'May I say something to you?' 'Do you speak Greek?' he replied. 'Aren't
you the Egyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorists out into the
desert some time ago?'
As Paul was being taken into the barracks, he spoke to the
commander in Greek which surprised the commander. The commander did not know Paul and
did not recognize him but instead thought he was a common criminal. This speaks much
about Paul and his ministry in that it was all about Jesus and not self promotion.
Today, there are many that are peddling the gospel for fame and profit but Paul was
simply led by the Holy Spirit and shared the gospel.
Acts 21:39 & 40
Paul answered, 'I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no
ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people.' Having received the commander's
permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the crowd. When they were all
silent, he said to them in Aramaic:
After Paul cleared up the case of mistaken identity, he received
permission to speak to the crowd. He had spoken in Greek to the commander but switches
to Aramaic to speak to the Jewish people.