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, 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.” (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.)
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. As they were trying to kill him, word reached the commander of the Roman regiment that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. 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. Then the commander arrested him and ordered him bound with two chains. He asked the crowd who he was and what he had done. 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. As Paul reached the stairs, the mob grew so violent the soldiers had to lift him to their shoulders to protect him. And the crowd followed behind, shouting, “Kill him, kill him!”Acts 21:27-36
Paul Talks with the Roman Commander
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. “Aren’t you the Egyptian who led a rebellion some time ago and took 4,000 members of the Assassins out into the desert?” “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.” 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 21:37-40
Paul Addresses the Crowd
“Brothers and esteemed fathers,” Paul said, “Listen to me as I offer my defense.” When they heard him speaking in their own language, the silence was even greater. 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 honour God in everything I did, just like all of you today. And I persecuted the followers of the Way, hounding some to death, arresting both men and women and throwing them in prison. 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.”Acts 22:1-5
“As I was on the road, approaching Damascus about noon, a very bright light from heaven suddenly shone down around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ “‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked. “And the voice replied, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, the one you are persecuting.’ The people with me saw the light but didn’t understand the voice speaking to me. “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.’ “I was blinded by the intense light and had to be led by the hand to Damascus by my companions. 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. He came and stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight.’ And that very moment I could see him! “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. For you are to be his witness, telling everyone what you have seen and heard. What are you waiting for? Get up and be baptized. Have your sins washed away by calling on the name of the Lord.’ “After I returned to Jerusalem, I was praying in the Temple and fell into a trance. I saw a vision of Jesus saying to me, ‘Hurry! Leave Jerusalem, for the people here won’t accept your testimony about me.’ “‘But Lord,’ I argued, ‘they certainly know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 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.’ “But the Lord said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles!’”Acts 22:6-21
The Crowd’s Reaction
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!” They yelled, threw off their coats, and tossed handfuls of dust into the air.Acts 22:22-23
Paul Discloses His Roman Citizenship
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. 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?” When the officer heard this, he went to the commander and asked, “What are you doing? This man is a Roman citizen!” So the commander went over and asked Paul, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” “Yes, I certainly am,” Paul replied. “I am, too,” the commander muttered, “and it cost me plenty!” Paul answered, “But I am a citizen by birth!” 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.Acts 22:24-29
Paul Before the High Council
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. Gazing intently at the high council, Paul began: “Brothers, I have always lived before God with a clear conscience!” Instantly Ananias the high priest commanded those close to Paul to slap him on the mouth. But Paul said to him, “God will slap you, you corrupt hypocrite! What kind of judge are you to break the law yourself by ordering me struck like that?” Those standing near Paul said to him, “Do you dare to insult God’s high priest?” “I’m sorry, brothers. I didn’t realize he was the high priest,” Paul replied, “for the Scriptures say, ‘You must not speak evil of any of your rulers.’”
Paul realized that some members of the high council were Sadducees and some were Pharisees, so he shouted, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, as were my ancestors! And I am on trial because my hope is in the resurrection of the dead!” This divided the council—the Pharisees against the Sadducees— for the Sadducees say there is no resurrection or angels or spirits, but the Pharisees believe in all of these. So there was a great uproar. Some of the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees jumped up and began to argue forcefully. “We see nothing wrong with him,” they shouted. “Perhaps a spirit or an angel spoke to him.” As the conflict grew more violent, the commander was afraid they would tear Paul apart. So he ordered his soldiers to go and rescue him by force and take him back to the fortress. That night the Lord appeared to Paul and said, “Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome as well.”Acts 22:30 – 23:11
The next morning a group of Jews got together and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul.Acts 23:12
I told you in Gem 1805 that Luke’s division of time is interesting to say the least. What he chooses to highlight and what he leaves out are important clues to where his emphasis lies. Acts 21:17 to 24:23 cover a period of twelve days. This portion before us from Acts 21:27 to 23:12 took place over two consecutive days. Prior to that Luke took 10 verses to describe what happened when Paul and he arrived in Jerusalem and what led to the events before now. I don’t for one minute think that Luke or Paul blame James and the leaders of the church in Jerusalem for what happened but bottom line it was not good advice they gave Paul. Things were quickly brought to a head. But it was made clear all along the way that this is what was going to happen. Capped off by Agabus’ acted prophecy which sealed the prophecy connections clearly. This is what was to happen. What is also fascinating is the degree to which Luke account of Paul’s encounters with growing opposition mirrors that of Jesus. It is like Luke has drawn a deliberate parallel. However I am not going to take a side track and expand that for you. I will leave it to you investigate if you wish.
When you focus on what Luke has told us from each stage of the journey and what he has left out it becomes clear where his emphasis lies. What is also fascinating are Robert Estienne’s chapter breaks and verse divisions. I think it is clear that Estienne has missed the point of what Luke is wanting to convey here and so has placed chapter and paragraph breaks, even verse divisions in curious places. Take note of Acts 21:27 and 28 for example. I mean what a strange way to divide the verses here.
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,Acta 21:27
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.”Acts 21:28
Yes of course it makes sense to keep the section that was yelled out together if you didn’t want to make a long verse. But there are other places where there are exceptionally long verses. Why divide this one? And if you want to divide it; it would have been far more natural to have moved “They grabbed him, yelling” over to verse 28. Maybe what they say about Robert putting these breaks in while on horseback is true, although his son strongly denies it.
Notice too, the curious chapter division between chapters 21 and 22 as I pointed you to via my questions and suggestions. If Robert Estienne didn’t want to leave all of action of these two days together he could have broken it at the start of the first of these days and then put the continuing action into another chapter. But that would have messed up his earlier chapters for length. I think if I were determining the chapter boundaries here I would opt for Acts 27:27 being the start of the next chapter. My reasoning there would be on the basis of the break in action leading from one crisis to another but also to highlight as Luke does that the commander was on Paul’s side. Robert Estienne has chosen a strange place to divide the chapter which follows the pattern of his verse division at 21:27 and 21:28. That is introducing the coming speech and then placing the words spoken in the next section. He has done that across verse breaks and across chapter breaks. Curious to say the least, and somewhat distracting to the action and speeches that took place. Remember I told you that speeches or the words said through the Book of Acts are important. To give him the benefit of the doubt, it could be that which Robert Estienne was highlighting with his divisions but if that were the case he doesn’t do it consistently.
Don’t forget either the significance of “witness” throughout Acts. You shall be my witnesses . . . in Jerusalem . . . Judea . . . Samaria . . . and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8) That is still what Luke is doing with the way he has organised his material and so considerable weight is given to the Witnesses and what they have to say. Today we might say testimony of the eye witnesses. That is what it is all about. As a good historian Luke is gathering his material and making the overall thread of the story very clear to us. Furthermore his combines together the action with the speeches to validate the action or the story as it were. That is a very good technique for an historian. That binds the action to what gives it its historical validity – the testimony of eye witnesses. That is the same thing he did with the account of his first history book – namely his Gospel. That is why in The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel could build such a strong case by using Luke’s material. That was Luke’s intention from the beginning.
Now we will settle in and work our way methodically and exegetically through these sections before us. Don’t worry about that technical Greek term – exegesis – I just means we will seek to gain Luke’s perspective on why he wrote what he did.
Exegesis – to draw out from the text what the author intended.
Eisegesis – to read into the text what we intend, not what the author intended.
Unfortunately it is the latter these days which form the basis of most sermons.
Our only hope for seeing the glory of God in Scripture is that God might cut away the diamond-hard, idolatrous substitutes for the glory of God that are packed into the template of our heart.John Piper
Our problem is not that we lack the light but that we love the dark.John Piper
The Creator of the universe has spoken through a book. It’s called the BIBLE. Be Informed Before Leaving Earth.Ian Vail
The wonder of the Bible is that an intellectually impaired person can understand its message and yet it confounds the theologian.Ian Vail