Paul at Jerusalem

 

When Paul and his companions arrive at Jerusalem they received them gladly. Paul had asked the saints earlier in his letter to the Romans in Rom 15:30-31 to pray that his service which would include the collection from the gentiles would be acceptable to them. He wasnít disappointed as these prayers were answered. The following day they had a special meeting with the missionary group, the elders of Jerusalem and James (Jesus half brother). Paul tells them all the God had done through in ministry to the Gentiles. Paul gave credit where credit was due he gave it to God and not himself. They all glorified God for all the many souls that had been saved through Paulís ministry.

 

These brethren new of a problem that needed to be taken care of so they began to tell Paul about the thousands of Jews there that had believed but they were still Zealous for the law. Even though these people had obeyed the gospel that had not fully realized that Christianity had made the law of Moses inoperative. So they were still circumcising their children and observing many of the customs of the law. The problem was that it had been reported that Paul was teaching that Jews forsake Moses nor do any of the customs associated with the law. We know this to be untrue because Paul had Timothy circumcised in order notto offend the Jews. Paul had not opposed observing certain aspects of the law as long as it wasnít done with the wrong intent as to be justified by it.

 

They knew that these Jews here would soon find out that Paul was here and it would cause a great deal of problems so they decided a way for Paul to remedy his reputation. They proposed that these 4 Hebrew men who had placed themselves under a vow should be identified with Paul. Paul was to pay their temple fee and to be purified with them. This would be done so that the Jews could see that the rumors were untrue about Paul speaking against associating with anything that had to do with the law. Paul agrees to this and the next day enters into the temple with the 4 Hebrews and is purified.

 

The pressing question becomes, Why would Paul submit to a purification which would appear to convey theidea that Jesus blood was insufficient for cleansing a person when he knows the Mosaic law was obsolete. Many students of the bible have struggled with this and several views have been offered to explain it.

 

  1. Some would suggest that the event never happened. The allege that Luke fabricated it to show that Paul a law abiding Jew. This is of course one of the most ridiculous views I have heard. Its not even worthy of consideration. The writers of the bible would not make something up and if they did it would surely be found out and there is not one shred of evidence to even to support such a view.
  2. Others argue that Paul yielded to the procedure because he simply did not fully understand at this point that the law had been made obsolete. Again, this view is very weak because Paul had written very clearly in several letters before this incident that the law had been annulled. Sometime on your own just read 2Cor 3, Rom 7 and Gal 5 and you will clearly see that Paul fully understood that we were under a new covenant and that the old one was no longer binding.
  3. Many have alleged that Paul in a moment of weakness simply sinned because of the pressure put on him. They say well in Galatians we learn that Peter sinned so Paul could of sinned on the occasion as well. While this may seem to be a possibility I do not think it to be the case for the following reasons.

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  1. If Paul is sinning here then James and the elders of Jerusalem also sinned as they asked him to do this.
  2. While it the case that Paul just like Peter could sin we should be careful to charge Paul with sin when the bible does not state that he did.
  3. Read Mat 10:17-19. If Paul sinned, why did he latter under and inspired defense before a government ruler appeal to this very situation in Acts 24:18ff? Was the apostle led by the spirit to defend sin? I donít think so. It for these reason why can not accept this view.

 

  1. Finally some contend that the apostleís actions here were just a matter of expediency during a unique time period where certain elements of the Mosaic system were gradually passing away.I happen to agree with this view, as it seems the most plausible. If the apostle could circumcise Timothy as expediency why could he not go through this purification process for the same reason? It seems to me for him to go through this rite to remove prejudice was a exercise of wisdom. 1Cor 9:19-23. If Paul had went into the temple to be purified and to offer a sacrifice for sin then it would be wrong, but nothing indicates that was his intentions. So this is why I believe that Paul did this only as an act of expediency.

 

Another argument could be made here from what Paul did. Some would say that this incident allows one today to enter into Pagan worship in the mission field or to worship with denominations in America in order to influence others toward the truth. I think this to be a false conceptbecause we must understand that Judaism had been a divine system but God was phasing it out. God dramatically showed with out a doubt that this old system was gone when the temple was destroyed in 70AD. Paganism and denominationalism have never been divinely sanctioned. Therefore they cannot even be put into the same category.

 

Paul was minding his own business not harming anyone when some Jews from Asia spotted him in the temple. These Jews stirred up the crowd there telling them that Paul was the man who had been teaching against the Jewish people the Mosaic Law and the temple. They also accused him of bringing Greeks into the temple. Only Jews were allowed inside the temple and if a Greek came into the temple under Roman law they were allowed to kill them. There were signs posted warning non-Jews not to enter into the temple area. What warranted these Jews to accuse Paul of doing such a thing? Lets read Acts 21:29 to find out. Thatís quite an assumption isnít it. I think we all know what was going on here these Jews from Asia were not interested in the facts they were just interested in Paul being dead because there story has problems. First of all from the text they only seen Paul with one Greek and that was outside of the temple. When they accused Paul they claimed the had brought Greeks plural into the temple. None of these details mattered to the Jews there because a mob was formed and they dragged Paul outside the temple area and shut the doors. They did this because they did notwant any blood shed in the temple area. They began to work Paul over beating him to a bloody pulp.

 

Now at this point I want to remind you that Paul had asked the churchís in his Roman letter in the 15 chapter and 31 verse to pray for him that he might delivered from the unbelieving Jews in Judea. Were these prayers going to be answered? The answer is yes. As the Jews were working on killing Paul news came to the Roman commander about the up roar. He gathered upsome men a ran to where Paul was being beaten. When the Jews saw the soldiers that backed off. Paulís life was spared and the prayers were answered.This is just one of many incidences that we can see the providence of God at work.

 

The Commander arrested Paul and began to interrogate the crowd. He wanted to know who this man was and what he had done? The crowd was loud and some answered one way and some another. The commander realized he wasnít going to find out the truth here so he sends Paul to the barracks. When they had reached the stairs the crowd had grown so violent the soldiers had to carry Paul for his safety. These people wanted Paul dead.

 

Starting in verse 37 of Acts 21 we once again see the strong character of Paul. You see they were about to takePaul into the barracks away from this angry mob that wanted him dead. But, what does Paul do? He turns to the commander and speaks to him in Greek and persuades him to allow him to address this mob. I donít know about you, but if I had just barely escaped with my life from these people I would be more than happy to go down into the barracks. But not Paul. Paul took this moment not only to defend himselfbut at the same time teach Jesus crucified.

 

Paul began speaking to the Jews in Hebrew telling them how he was born a Jew and raised a Jew under the most strictest sense. He told them that he use to persecute the Christians. He tells them how he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus and was blinded by his glory and how Jesus told him to go into the city and he would receive more instructions. He tells them that Ananias, who was another devout man according to the law,came to him and told him receive your site and he did that very hour. Now lets read vrs 14-15. This is exactly what Paul was doing here as he was teaching the crowd about Jesus. He even teaches them by his example that one must be baptized to have his sins washed away in vrs 16. Lets go ahead and read a few more verses here starting vrs 17.

 

When Paul spoke of the Gentiles here the crowd went nuts again. They didnít think God would ever want anyone sent to the Gentiles. So once again they wanted Paul dead. They cried out and tore their cloths and through dust in the air. The commander has Paul taken into the barracks and was going to have him beaten so he could find out why these Jews were so mad at him. Since Paul spoke in Hebrew the Commander did not know what it was that Paul was saying so he wanted to find out one way or another. They strap Paul up and were getting ready to beat him when ask the guy. Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman and uncondemned? Once again Paul uses his Roman citizenship to his advantage. They unbound Paul but they were still scared because they had bound him.

 

The next day Paul was brought before the Sanhedrin council because the commander hope to learn why it was these Jews were so thirsty for Pauls blood. Paul began to speak but the high priest Ananias had some men strike Paul on the mouth. Paul rebukes Ananias without knowing that he was the high priest, but when he finds out he tells them that he did not know. After this he noticed that part of the crowd there was Pharisees and the other was Sadducees he cried out telling the crowd he was a Pharisee and son of Pharisee and the reason why he was being judged was because of the hope and resurrection of the dead.

 

This divided the crowd in half because the Sadducees believed that when you did your soul dies as well so there is no resurrection in their mind. However, the Pharisees believe that the righteous person soul when he dies is raised up again and sometimes even reenters another body. They believed that the unrighteous soul was kept under the earth. These two groups didnít like each other anyways so the began another big uproar and the Pharisees said that didnít find anything wrong with Paul and if an angle has spoken to Paul then they should not fight against God. The crowd went wild and the commander had his soldiers go down and get Paul before he got pulled to pieces and theytook him back to the barracks.

 

Lets read Acts 23:11. This is significant because we can watch how Gods providence makes sure Paul makes it to Rome. You see some Jews bound themselves under an oath not to eat or drink until Paul was dead. Either they would die or he would. Historical evidence indicates that this was a common oath taken during the ancient times. There was a little more than 40 men who took this oath. They go to the chief priest and elders and tell them about this oath and they want them to go to the commander and ask him to bring Paul down to speak with them so that they talk about the temple incident more. Then when Paul comes downwe willambush him and take his life. There was only one problemwith their plot.

 

Paulís nephew just happed to be in the right place at the right time and heard this devious plot. He goes to Paul and tells him what had heard. Paul sends him to the commander for himto inform him as well. The commander listens to the boy and believes and tells him not to tell anyone that he had has told him of the plot ofthe Jews. The commander swings into action. He has 2 centurions prepare 200 soldiers, 70 horse men, and 200 spearmen to take Paul to Caesarea that very night. The commander was sending Paul to Felix the governor. The commander was making sure that Paul made it there safely. When Paul and the soldiers made it to Antipatris they apparently figured they were far enough from Jerusalem that Paul would be safer now so the next day only the 70 horsemen took him therest of the way. The rest of the soldiers went back to Jerusalem.

 

The commander had written aletter to Felix explaining Paulís situation and how the Jews were after him because of their own law. He also states that he didnít find any charges against Paul worthy of death or chains. Felix said he would hear Paul after his accuser showed up and in the mean time Paul was kept in Herodís Praetorian. This would have been one of Herodís great Palaces.

 

Felix name meant happy. You see Felix used to be a slave but he had been liberated by Claudius Caesar. It was at this time he received his name Felix. His original name was Antonius Claudius. Claudius appointed him procurator of Judea. A procurator manages the affairs of another; or one who takes care of the legal proceedings of another. It would seem that one of Felix jobs was to collect money for Rome. He was very ruthless at doing so. The historian Tacitus had this to say about him ď he reveled in cruelty and lust, and wielded the power of a king with the mind of a slaveĒ It has been said that he thought he could get away with anything. He was married to Drusilla at the time which again history tells us that he seduced her from her husband. She was Jewish and because of this Felix learned a great deal about the Jewish life and their customs. He would have a better understanding of what the Jews were accusing Paul of.

 

Five days latter Ananias the high priest and the elders along with an attorney or orator named Tertullus came to before Felix to bring evidence against Paul. Tertullus starts buttering Felix up with all kinds of flattery telling him how the Jews are so glad he is the ruler there and how they have enjoyed so much peace under his rule. Then they make their accusations starting at ACTS 24:5-9. Now its Pauls turn to give his response. We will see that Paul will be polite to the governor but he will not use flattery like Tertullus did. Let us read Pauls response starting in vrs 10.

 

Vrs 10 Felix had been the ruler for the last 7 years.

Vrs 11. 5 of these days were spent there under Felix.

Vrs 12-13 These Jews didnít have any proof of what they were accusing Paul of

Vrs 14 Paul understood that the OT taught about Christ and that Jesus had fulfilled the prophecies written about the coming Messiah. He was still worshiping the same God but with an understand of Jesus crucified.

Vrs 15 Again, we see another verse that teaches the just and the unjust shall be raised once again going against the rapture theory

Vrs 16 Even when Paul was trying to destroy Christianity he had a clear conscience toward God because he thought he was doing a God a favor. Once he learned about Christ he began teaching to everyone and everywhere so that his conscience would be clear before God.

17-20 Paul came in peace and had brought the money from the gentiles to help the Jews in Judea. Because of the false report of Paul teaching against Moses he went into the temple with 4 other men and was purified with them to show the Jews that he was not against the law. These Jews from Asia did not find him causing problems in the temple yet they had falsely accused him. Paul knowing his rights to have his accusersthere wants the Jews to bring forth anyone who can say something against him.

 

21. If you remember this is what split the Sadducees and the Pharisees in half. Paul was teaching about the resurrection of Christ from the dead.

 

22. Here we see that Felix had some knowledge about Christianity. At this point he knew that Paul was being accused by the Jewish law which a Roman Governor really had no dealings with. If you will remember the Jews had drug Paul before Gallio in Acts 18:14-15 during his 2nd missionary Journey where he told them he wanted nothing to do with the judgment of the Jewish law. So Felix puts his decision off for now.

 

23 Felix basically makes Paul a trustee. He has many privileges but he still confined to one spot.

 

24 Apparently quite a bit of time had passed by and perhaps it was Drusilla that urged her husband to hear the words of the apostle since she was a Jew. They wanted to hear more about the faith in Christ which would be the gospel system.

 

25 We do not know what Paul tells Felix and his wife here but we can see that he did teachthem about Righteousness. This would of dealt with why Christ had to die for man and the great love and mercy God has for man. Righteousness is revealed in the gospel. Rom 1:16-17. Righteousness also implies obedience to the commands of God. Ps 119:172. Felix would not of taken to kindly to this since he wasnít accustomed to submitting to anyoneís authority except Rome itself.

 

He taught them about Self control. Paul here would of taught them that one should exercise self-control based off the will of God. Again, this would not go over well with Felix and hiswife who were entangled in adultery, and lust for money and power.

 

He taught them about the judgment to come. He no doubt told them how that when Jesus comes again that everyone will be judged for what they have done and how each is will receive their reward. Some will go heaven will others will be cast into hell. We see that Pauls words made Felix afraid yet it wasnít enough to convert him to Christianity. He puts it off and doesnít want to talk about it anymore for now. He wants to talk about again at some other time. There are a lot Felixs out there in the world. So many times when you begin to show people what the bible actually says about becoming or being a Christian they will give you a similar response as Felix did here. They will say lets talk about that another time or have to go right now maybe we will talk about it latter. I still see the devil smiling ear to ear when people respond this way not wanting to deal with the true word of God today.

 

26. Felix new that Paul had brought money with him to Judah and still being greedy he had hoped that Paul might bribe him to let him go. Of course this did not happen and after 2 years Felix was getting replaced by Festus. As one of his last acts in office he left Paul bound as a favor to the Jews.

 

Festus had a meeting with the high priest and chief men there in Jerusalem. They informed him of who Paul was and what he had done. They begged him to have Paul sent to Jerusalem. They had hoped Festus would grant them this so they could ambush Paul and kill him on his way to Jerusalem. Festus did not allow this to happen but told them to come to Caesarea and accuse Paul there. Sure enough the Jew came to Caesarea and once again they made all kinds of accusations against Paul which they could not prove. Once again, Paul stood his ground and boldly stated that he did not do anything wrong against the temple or against Caesar. Festus at this point decides to do the Jews a favor and tries to get Paul to go to Jerusalem to be judged there. We see Pauls response in vrs 10ff. Paul had wanted to go to Rome but he had no idea that he would be going as a prisoner. But, this really doesnít matter because of this circumstance he will get to proclaim Jesus to people that he might not of been able to before. In fact look at what Paul wrote in a latter letter about his imprisonment. Philp 1:12-14.

 

After some days had passed by King Agrippa and Bernice a brother sister team,came to Caesarea to greet Festus. It was a custom for them to visit the new governor. This was actually King Agrippa II he was the son of Herod Agrippa I. This 1st Agrippa was responsible for killing James. Acts 12:1. He died in a most horrible way. Acts 12:20-23. Agrippa II was 17 years old when his father died. He was considered to young to take over the government of Judea at that time. But Claudius Caesar gave Agrippa II some territories in northern Palestine to manage and allowed him to have the title King. He also had was responsible for looking after the temple and appointing the high priest. He was very familiar with the Hebrew affairs so he was the perfect source for Festus to extract information from. Now Bernice wasAgrippas sister. Festus wife Drusilla was also his sister as well. Bernice had been married 2 times by the age of 16. Her last husband died and she moved in with her brother. The historian Josephus reported that they were living in incestuous relationship. Agrippa trying to disprove the rumor persuaded King Ptolemy to marry her and he did but the relationship didnít last long so she returned to her brother where she continued living incestuous lifestyle.

 

Festus tells King Agrippa about Paulís case. How the Jews were accusing him of things to do with their law. Festus was at a loss because he really didnít know what to do with Paul because none of these accusations theseJewswere making had little to do with Roman law. This really got King Agrippas curiosity up and so he tells Festus that he will hear Paulís words tomorrow. Read Acts 25:23-27.

 

Agrippa is ready to hear from Paul and tells him to speak. Read 26.

 

It is quite amazing the detail we have of the political actions in the Roman Empire. One historian said this. ďNowhere else in the records of the first century is there a comparable document which so authenticatesthe political action of the Roman empire, as that described in Lukeís history.Ē