The next two chapters of Acts, 21 and 22, need to be combined. The Apostle Paul committed his life to Jesus Christ and he was taking his duty to obey Him very seriously. So much so, that he was willing to be imprisoned yet again, even executed. Now that’s commitment! Can you say that about your faith? Let’s read through both, then think about Paul’s decision and his testimony. Let’s dig in…
After saying farewell to the Ephesian elders, we sailed straight to the island of Cos. The next day we reached Rhodes and then went to Patara. 2 There we boarded a ship sailing for Phoenicia. 3 We sighted the island of Cyprus, passed it on our left, and landed at the harbor of Tyre, in Syria, where the ship was to unload its cargo.
4 We went ashore, found the local believers, and stayed with them a week. These believers prophesied through the Holy Spirit that Paul should not go on to Jerusalem. 5 When we returned to the ship at the end of the week, the entire congregation, including women and children, left the city and came down to the shore with us. There we knelt, prayed, 6 and said our farewells. Then we went aboard, and they returned home.
7 The next stop after leaving Tyre was Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed for one day. 8 The next day we went on to Caesarea and stayed at the home of Philip the Evangelist, one of the seven men who had been chosen to distribute food. 9 He had four unmarried daughters who had the gift of prophecy.
10 Several days later a man named Agabus, who also had the gift of prophecy, arrived from Judea. 11 He came over, took Paul’s belt, and bound his own feet and hands with it. Then he said, “The Holy Spirit declares, ‘So shall the owner of this belt be bound by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and turned over to the Gentiles.’” 12 When we heard this, we and the local believers all begged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.
13 But he said, “Why all this weeping? You are breaking my heart! I am ready not only to be jailed at Jerusalem but even to die for the sake of the Lord Jesus.” 14 When it was clear that we couldn’t persuade him, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”
Paul Arrives at Jerusalem
15 After this we packed our things and left for Jerusalem. 16 Some believers from Caesarea accompanied us, and they took us to the home of Mnason, a man originally from Cyprus and one of the early believers. 17 When we arrived, the brothers and sisters in Jerusalem welcomed us warmly.
18 The next day Paul went with us to meet with James, and all the elders of the Jerusalem church were present. 19 After greeting them, Paul gave a detailed account of the things God had accomplished among the Gentiles through his ministry.
20 After hearing this, they praised God. And then they said, “You know, dear brother, how many thousands of Jews have also believed, and they all follow the law of Moses very seriously. 21 But the Jewish believers here in Jerusalem have been told that you are teaching all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn their backs on the laws of Moses. They’ve heard that you teach them not to circumcise their children or follow other Jewish customs. 22 What should we do? They will certainly hear that you have come.
23 “Here’s what we want you to do. We have four men here who have completed their vow. 24 Go with them to the Temple and join them in the purification ceremony, paying for them to have their heads ritually shaved. Then everyone will know that the rumors are all false and that you yourself observe the Jewish laws.
25 “As for the Gentile believers, they should do what we already told them in a letter: They should abstain from eating food offered to idols, from consuming blood or the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality.”
Paul Is Arrested
26 So Paul went to the Temple the next day with the other men. They had already started the purification ritual, so he publicly announced the date when their vows would end and sacrifices would be offered for each of them.
27 The seven days were almost ended when some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul in the Temple and roused a mob against him. They grabbed him, 28 yelling, “Men of Israel, help us! This is the man who preaches against our people everywhere and tells everybody to disobey the Jewish laws. He speaks against the Temple—and even defiles this holy place by bringing in Gentiles.” 29 (For earlier that day they had seen him in the city with Trophimus, a Gentile from Ephesus, and they assumed Paul had taken him into the Temple.)
30 The whole city was rocked by these accusations, and a great riot followed. Paul was grabbed and dragged out of the Temple, and immediately the gates were closed behind him. 31 As they were trying to kill him, word reached the commander of the Roman regiment that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 He immediately called out his soldiers and officers and ran down among the crowd. When the mob saw the commander and the troops coming, they stopped beating Paul.
33 Then the commander arrested him and ordered him bound with two chains. He asked the crowd who he was and what he had done. 34 Some shouted one thing and some another. Since he couldn’t find out the truth in all the uproar and confusion, he ordered that Paul be taken to the fortress. 35 As Paul reached the stairs, the mob grew so violent the soldiers had to lift him to their shoulders to protect him. 36 And the crowd followed behind, shouting, “Kill him, kill him!”
Paul Speaks to the Crowd
37 As Paul was about to be taken inside, he said to the commander, “May I have a word with you?”
“Do you know Greek?” the commander asked, surprised. 38 “Aren’t you the Egyptian who led a rebellion some time ago and took 4,000 members of the Assassins out into the desert?”
39 “No,” Paul replied, “I am a Jew and a citizen of Tarsus in Cilicia, which is an important city. Please, let me talk to these people.” 40 The commander agreed, so Paul stood on the stairs and motioned to the people to be quiet. Soon a deep silence enveloped the crowd, and he addressed them in their own language, Aramaic.Acts 21 NLT
“Brothers and esteemed fathers,” Paul said, “listen to me as I offer my defense.” 2 When they heard him speaking in their own language, the silence was even greater.
3 Then Paul said, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, and I was brought up and educated here in Jerusalem under Gamaliel. As his student, I was carefully trained in our Jewish laws and customs. I became very zealous to honor God in everything I did, just like all of you today. 4 And I persecuted the followers of the Way, hounding some to death, arresting both men and women and throwing them in prison. 5 The high priest and the whole council of elders can testify that this is so. For I received letters from them to our Jewish brothers in Damascus, authorizing me to bring the followers of the Way from there to Jerusalem, in chains, to be punished.
6 “As I was on the road, approaching Damascus about noon, a very bright light from heaven suddenly shone down around me. 7 I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’
8 “‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked.
“And the voice replied, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, the one you are persecuting.’ 9 The people with me saw the light but didn’t understand the voice speaking to me.
10 “I asked, ‘What should I do, Lord?’
“And the Lord told me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told everything you are to do.’
11 “I was blinded by the intense light and had to be led by the hand to Damascus by my companions. 12 A man named Ananias lived there. He was a godly man, deeply devoted to the law, and well regarded by all the Jews of Damascus. 13 He came and stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight.’ And that very moment I could see him!
14 “Then he told me, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and hear him speak. 15 For you are to be his witness, telling everyone what you have seen and heard. 16 What are you waiting for? Get up and be baptized. Have your sins washed away by calling on the name of the Lord.’
17 “After I returned to Jerusalem, I was praying in the Temple and fell into a trance. 18 I saw a vision of Jesus saying to me, ‘Hurry! Leave Jerusalem, for the people here won’t accept your testimony about me.’
19 “‘But Lord,’ I argued, ‘they certainly know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And I was in complete agreement when your witness Stephen was killed. I stood by and kept the coats they took off when they stoned him.’
21 “But the Lord said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles!’”
22 The crowd listened until Paul said that word. Then they all began to shout, “Away with such a fellow! He isn’t fit to live!” 23 They yelled, threw off their coats, and tossed handfuls of dust into the air (cursing him).
Paul Reveals His Roman Citizenship
24 The commander brought Paul inside and ordered him lashed with whips to make him confess his crime. He wanted to find out why the crowd had become so furious. 25 When they tied Paul down to lash him, Paul said to the officer standing there, “Is it legal for you to whip a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been tried?”
26 When the officer heard this, he went to the commander and asked, “What are you doing? This man is a Roman citizen!”
27 So the commander went over and asked Paul, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?”
“Yes, I certainly am,” Paul replied.
28 “I am, too,” the commander muttered, “and it cost me plenty!”
Paul answered, “But I am a citizen by birth!”
29 The soldiers who were about to interrogate Paul quickly withdrew when they heard he was a Roman citizen, and the commander was frightened because he had ordered him bound and whipped.
Paul before the High Council
30 The next day the commander ordered the leading priests into session with the Jewish high council. He wanted to find out what the trouble was all about, so he released Paul to have him stand before them.Acts 22 NLT
Points to Ponder
- Luke is with him all this time as the writer includes himself in the story.
- Here we run into Philip again. What’s he been doing all this time? He settled down and had 4 daughters whom he taught well, because they were preachers!
- The Holy Spirit revealed Paul’s fate to not just him, but to other believers who tried to warn Paul not to go to Jerusalem.
- Even knowing that he’d be tortured, chained, imprisoned, tried, and eventually killed, Paul went anyway. That’s faith. That’s commitment. That’s boldness. Would you be willing to die for your faith?
- Paul took advantage of his situation, awful that it was, to preach the Good News of the salvation of Jesus Christ.
- Paul got to tell his story again. We heard this in Acts 9, but this is from Paul’s point of view, rather than Luke interviewing him and others.
- Roman citizens were never supposed to be flogged or beaten. As a Roman citizen, Paul had the right to be heard by Caesar himself.
Remember in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he wrote…
20 For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.Philippians 1:20-24 NLT
Now we see exactly what he meant. He wrote the letter to the Philippians while in prison in Rome. (We’ll talk about that at the end of our study of Acts.)
Have You Committed Your Life to Jesus?
If you have, then you can put your complete trust in HIM only to lead you into the unknown.
When I got into my car with my two cats 16 years ago and headed on an road trip into the unknown, I put my life in God’s hands. I had never been to Phoenix, Arizona. I knew I no longer wanted to live in Florida because of the hurricanes and I knew that the Phoenix area really didn’t have any major weather events. Sure, it gets hot in the summer, but it ended up being way better than the humidity in FL. I didn’t have a job waiting for me there. I was literally going into the unknown.
I wasn’t scared. I had no trepidation. I trusted God. And I still do. We don’t know what 2021 will bring. Moreover, we don’t know how long we’ll live. Furthermore, we are all infected with a virus called “DEATH”. Fortunately, there’s a cure and His name is Jesus!
Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.
I attended a memorial service for a dear friend of mine today, who died from COVID. She was 3 years older than me. I miss her terribly, but I know she’s with Jesus and she’s in a far better place. Also, I’m sure the moment her earthly body died and she found herself face-to-face with her savior, Jesus, He said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”
I look forward to seeing her there when Jesus returns for us or he calls me home. She loved to have people over for meals, and I’m sure she’s up there helping organize the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. If you don’t know what that is, read the Book of Revelation. That’s going to be one big party! Certainly, you want to make sure that your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. That’s the assurance or your reservation in Heaven.
You can only have that kind of trust in God if God is living inside your heart. Is He?
If you’re not sure if you’re saved or not, if you truly want to be born again and have the assurance of salvation, receive the Holy Spirit, and get a 1-way, non-stop ticket to Heaven after you die, or that you won’t be left behind at the Rapture, which can happen at any moment, this is what you have to do…