Acts 21:1-26 (web)

3rd Missionary Journey

Paul Conforms to Jewish Customs

21:1 When it happened that we had parted from them and had set sail,
we came with a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, 
and from there to Patara. 
21:2 Having found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard, and set sail. 
21:3 When we had come in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left hand, 
we sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre, for there the ship was to unload her cargo. 
21:4 Having found disciples, we stayed there seven days. 
These said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem
21:5 When it happened that we had accomplished the days, 
we departed and went on our journey. They all, with wives and children, 
brought us on our way until we were out of the city. 
Kneeling down on the beach, we prayed. 
21:6 After saying goodbye to each other, 
we went on board the ship, and they returned home again. 
21:7 When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais. 
We greeted the brothers, and stayed with them one day. 

21:8 On the next day, we, who were Paul's companions, departed, 
and came to Caesarea. We entered into the house of Philip the evangelist,
who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. 
21:9 Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied. 
21:10 As we stayed there some days, 
a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 
21:11 Coming to us, and taking Paul's belt, he bound his own feet and hands, 
and said, "Thus says the Holy Spirit: 
'So will the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt,
and will deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'" 
21:12 When we heard these things, 
both we and they of that place begged him not to go up to Jerusalem. 
21:13 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." 
21:14 When he would not be persuaded, 
we ceased, saying, "The Lord's will be done." 

21:15 After these days we took up our baggage and went up to Jerusalem. 
21:16 Some of the disciples from Caesarea also went with us,
bringing one Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we would stay. 
21:17 When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly. 
21:18 The day following, Paul went in with us to James; and all the elders were present. 
21:19 When he had greeted them, he reported one by one the things 
which God had worked among the Gentiles through his ministry. 
21:20 They, when they heard it, glorified God. 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. 
21:21 They have been informed about you, 
that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, 
telling them not to circumcise their children neither to walk after the customs. 
21:22 What then? The assembly must certainly meet, 
for they will hear that you have come. 
21:23 Therefore do what we tell you. We have four men who have taken a vow. 
21:24 Take them, and purify yourself with them, 
and pay their expenses for them, that they may shave their heads.
Then all will know that there is no truth in the things that 
they have been informed about you, but that you yourself also walk keeping the law. 
21:25 But concerning the Gentiles who believe, 
we have written our decision that they should observe no such thing,
except that they should keep themselves from food offered to idols, 
from blood, from strangled things, and from sexual immorality." 
21:26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day,
purified himself and went with them into the temple, 
declaring the fulfillment of the days of purification, 
until the offering was offered for every one of them. 


vs 4,11-14 It was not that the Spirit commanded him no to go to Jerusalem, but rather that these other Christians were given foresight as to the kind of his trials there and in sympathy didn't want him to suffer thusly, much as I'm sure Jesus' disciples didn't want Him to suffer as well. But accomplishing the mission is more important and Paul was prepared for the suffering he would face. The Lord Himself also affirmed Paul in his mission in Acts 23 after facing trials in which it is written: The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, "Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome."Acts 23:11 One is reminded also of Peter trying to dissuade Jesus from going to Jerusalem to be crucified in reply to which Jesus rebuked him for not thinking in terms of the bigger picture. Don't be distracted from your mission by sympathetic Christians who though trying to help you avoid persecution yet have lost sight of the mission and the big picture. In the end we notice in verse 14 Paul finally after much perseverance got them to allow the Lord's plan to go forward.

Paul and the Law

vs 20-25 This is pretty stupid. Here James and his people admit that Jewish believers have been informed (By who? James?) that Paul teaches Jews to forsake the Law. Why didn't James and his people along with the apostles simply tell the believers that such report was slander, it wasn't true? If indeed the false report came by word of mouth, then why wasn't word of mouth the solution?

It seems to me that James thought the report true and so needed proof himself that Paul was on board with his legalistic view of the gospel. Note that James reminds him of his decree. James probably had correctly heard that Paul was ignoring his decree. James was correct in that Paul was abandoning the Law as a means to justification.

Regarding Jews and Gentiles there is no distinction between believers. "Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all." Col 3:11  "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Gal 3:28

Once again I think Paul made the wrong decision in complying with James. He should have confronted James to his face, just as he had done with Peter in Galatians. 

vs 26 The particular vow was probably that of the Nazarite of Numbers chapter 6 of which Paul probably also had practiced in Acts chapter 18.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Jan 28,2022