At long last Paul returns to Jerusalem with the collection of funds gathered from primarily Gentile churches. The gospel had gone out to Gentiles from Jewish Christians. The Gentile Christians were now able to help the poor saints of Judea (Rom. 15:26-27). The family of God is diverse and generous.
Paul’s company made a few stops with churches on the way to Jerusalem. Once again, we find a seven-day visit, this time in the coastal city of Tyre (21:4). It is quite likely that Paul stayed this long in order to be present with the church on the Lord’s day.
In Caesarea, Paul’s company spent some time with Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven servants who were chosen in chapter 6. While in Caesarea, a prophet named Agabus came from Judea and warned Paul that he would be arrested in Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit was not discouraging Paul from going to Jerusalem; this was to prepare him for what was to come. It is no surprise that that Paul’s co-workers and the saints of Caesarea begged Paul not to go. The final exchange of words between Paul and the church in Caesarea is classic. Paul said, “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.” They said, “The Lord’s will be done” (21:13-14). Paul would not die at this time, but he always felt his life would end in a sacrifice for the Lord. His commitment is a powerful example to every Christian (2 Tim. 1:12).
When Paul and company arrived in Jerusalem, the church warmly received the evangelists. Concerned that Jewish Christians might be troubled about Paul’s message to the Gentiles, the church recommended that Paul pay the charges for some men to end their purification rites. The Law of Moses ended at Jesus’ death, nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14). Even after the Jerusalem conference in chapter 15, many Jewish Christians still held to the practice of optional vows and offerings. Paul would pay the price for the sacrificial animals and notify the priest that such offerings would take place. Luke records that Paul did so. It is not ours to write books about whether Paul should have done this or not. Paul always tried to stay true to Jesus without compromise, while respecting the culture and opinions of his listeners (1 Cor. 9:19-23). We do see that this attempt to pacify the Jews of Jerusalem failed miserably.
Paul was falsely accused of bringing Greeks into the temple area. This charge was brought since someone had seen a Gentile with Paul somewhere in the city. Hardly a compelling case. Exaggeration has led to much persecution against the church. Once again, we see a mad mob attempting to kill Paul. Thankfully, the Romans had a guard house near the Temple, and officers and soldiers were sent to stop those who meant Paul harm. Paul was arrested. Some might consider this protective custody; others will conclude that Paul was arrested as a troublemaker. The bottom line is that Paul’s life was spared. The road ahead would be rough, but he lived to preach for several more years.
As he was being carried away into the barracks, Paul asked if he might address the crowd. Paul used every opportunity to speak up for the Lord. When his life was on the line, he would place the souls of his captors on trial. Paul first spoke Greek, the universal language of the day, and then he addressed the crowd in Aramaic, the preferred language of the Jews. Quizzed by the Roman commander, Paul revealed his origin and his intention. He did not come to Jerusalem to cause trouble, but to help the poor and to save souls. Paul was given audience.
Paul’s third missionary journey had ended, and a series of unjust imprisonments awaited him. Stay tuned for the outcome of this situation.
My comments are not an inspired commentary, but rather a few words to draw attention to the background, context, and dynamic situation of the book of Acts. May God bless your reading of His Word. T.C.