Paul At Jerusalem

INTRODUCTION: This study covers the final visit to Jerusalem by the apostle Paul. While he was at the temple, he became the target of very hostile Jews who believed that he had been teaching against the law and the traditions of the fathers, and they attempted to kill him. The Romans rescued him from the mob, and Paul asked to address them before he was taken completely out of their presence. Then he became a prisoner of the Roman authorities as they tried to decide what to do with him as a Roman citizen. This is the second in the series covering various passages about the conversion of Paul, and later testimonies that he gave to authorities as a defense from charges made against him. The series does not cover his "missionary journeys."

NOTE: Scripture passages are from the Bible in Basic English (BBE).


A - PAUL VISITED WITH BELIEVERS ON HIS WAY TO JERUSALEM

Acts 21 "1 And after parting from them, we put out to sea and came straight to Cos, and the day after to Rhodes, and from there to Patara: 2 And as there was a ship going to Phoenicia, we went in it. 3 And when we had come in view of Cyprus, going past it on our left, we went on to Syria, and came to land at Tyre: for there the goods which were in the ship had to be taken out. 4 And meeting the disciples we were there for seven days: and they gave Paul orders through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem. 5 And when these days came to an end, we went on our journey; and they all, with their wives and children, came with us on our way till we were out of the town: and after going on our knees in prayer by the sea, 6 We said our last words to one another, and got into the ship, and they went back to their houses. 7 And journeying by ship from Tyre we came to Ptolemais; and there we had talk with the brothers and were with them for one day. 8 And on the day after, we went away and came to Caesarea, where we were guests in the house of Philip, the preacher, who was one of the seven. 9 And he had four daughters, virgins, who were prophets. 10 And while we were waiting there for some days, a certain prophet, named Agabus, came down from Judaea. 11 And he came to us, and took the band of Paul's clothing, and putting it round his feet and hands, said, The Holy Spirit says these words, So will the Jews do to the man who is the owner of this band, and they will give him up into the hands of the Gentiles. 12 And hearing these things, we and those who were living in that place made request to him not to go to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul said, What are you doing, weeping and wounding my heart? for I am ready, not only to be a prisoner, but to be put to death at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. 14 And as he might not be moved we did no more, saying, Let the purpose of God be done. 15 And after these days we got ready and went up to Jerusalem. 16 And some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us, taking a certain Mnason of Cyprus, one of the early disciples, in whose house we were to be living."

COMMENTS: Paul left Macedonia for the last time and visited just a few of the churches in Asia on his way to Jerusalem. Acts 20 "16 For Paul's purpose was to go past Ephesus, so that he might not be kept in Asia; for he was going quickly, in order, if possible, to be at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. 17 And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus for the rulers of the church." ... "22 And now, as you see, I am going to Jerusalem, a prisoner in spirit, having no knowledge of what will come to me there: 23 Only that the Holy Spirit makes clear to me in every town that prison and pains are waiting for me. 24 But I put no value on my life, if only at the end of it I may see the work complete which was given to me by the Lord Jesus, to be a witness of the good news of the grace of God." As Paul continued his journey, some of the believers Paul visited with tried to deter him from continuing on to Jerusalem, and even some of his traveling companions did the same after the words of Agabus the prophet at Caesarea. But Paul had already experienced many difficulties and severe dangers over the years of his ministry, and he was willing to die for the cause of Christ. Paul may have fully understood from the beginning after Ananias was sent to him by the Lord that many trials awaited him. Acts 9 "15 But the Lord said, Go without fear: for he is a special vessel for me, to give to the Gentiles and kings and to the children of Israel the knowledge of my name: 16 For I will make clear to him what troubles he will have to undergo for me." So Paul and his companions left Caesarea and traveled on to Jerusalem, not knowing what would happen there.


B - PAUL ARRIVED AT JERUSALEM FOR HIS FINAL VISIT

Acts 21 "17 And when we came to Jerusalem, the brothers were pleased to see us. 18 And on the day after, Paul went with us to James, and all the rulers of the church were present. 19 And when he had said how glad he was to see them, he gave them a detailed account of the things which God had done through his work among the Gentiles. 20 And hearing it, they gave praise to God; and they said to him, You see, brother, what thousands there are among the Jews, who have the faith; and they all have a great respect for the law: 21 And they have had news of you, how you have been teaching all the Jews among the Gentiles to give up the law of Moses, and not to give circumcision to their children, and not to keep the old rules. 22 What then is the position? They will certainly get news that you have come. 23 Do this, then, which we say to you: We have four men who have taken an oath; 24 Go with these, and make yourself clean with them, and make the necessary payments for them, so that they may be free from their oath: and everyone will see that the statements made about you are not true, but that you put yourself under rule, and keep the law. 25 But as to the Gentiles who have the faith, we sent a letter, giving our decision that they were to keep themselves from offerings made to false gods, and from blood, and from the flesh of animals put to death in ways against the law, and from the evil desires of the body. 26 Then Paul took the men, and on the day after, making himself clean with them, he went into the Temple, giving out the statement that the days necessary for making them clean were complete, till the offering was made for every one of them."

COMMENTS: The reunion with the disciples at Jerusalem was mutually enjoyable, and the next day Paul gave to James and the other church leaders a detailed account of the things which God had done through his work among the Gentiles, thus giving God the glory for things accomplished. The leaders gave praise to God, but then turned their attention to inform Paul of the anticipated threat to him from even the believing Jews. They said there were thousands of them who still had great respect for the law, and they had heard that Paul have been teaching all the Jews among the Gentiles to give up the law of Moses, and not to circumcise their children. The leaders did not offer to go with Paul to represent him before the people to dispel the idea that he had directed converted Jews away from the law. They did recount that they had sent a letter to Gentiles who had the faith giving them their few requirements, and as they recounted those, there was no requirement for circumcision. The letter they referenced had been sent to Antioch many years earlier, after certain Jews from Jerusalem had said the Gentiles there had to be circumcised as believers in Christ. The leaders advised Paul to go with four men who had taken an oath and to make himself clean with them, and make the necessary payments for them, so they would be free from their oath. By this the leaders thought everyone might see that the statements made about Paul were not true, but that he put himself subject to rule, and kept the law. Then Paul took the men, and on the day after, followed the course advised by the leaders.


C - PAUL HAD TO BE SAVED FROM THE ANGRY CROWD

Acts 21 "27 And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the Temple, got the people together and put their hands on him, 28 Crying out, Men of Israel, come to our help: this is the man who is teaching all men everywhere against the people and the law and this place: and in addition, he has taken Greeks into the Temple, and made this holy place unclean. 29 For they had seen him before in the town with Trophimus of Ephesus, and had the idea that Paul had taken him with him into the Temple. 30 And all the town was moved, and the people came running together and put their hands on Paul, pulling him out of the Temple: and then the doors were shut. 31 And while they were attempting to put him to death, news came to the chief captain of the band that all Jerusalem was out of control. 32 And straight away he took some armed men and went quickly down to them: and the Jews, seeing them, gave no more blows to Paul. 33 Then the chief captain came near and took him, and gave orders for him to be put in chains, questioning them as to who he was and what he had done. 34 And some said one thing and some another, among the people: and as he was not able to get a knowledge of the facts because of the noise, he gave orders for Paul to be taken into the army building. 35 And when he came on to the steps, he was lifted up by the armed men, because of the force of the people; 36 For a great mass of people came after them, crying out, Away with him!"

COMMENTS: The hatred of Paul by the Jews from Asia, based on things that they believed about him, was so great that they wanted only to immediately seize him and carry out their desire to kill him. They even declared a new untrue charge among the crowd by telling others that Paul had defiled the temple by taking a Gentile there with him. A mob quickly formed and began to beat Paul, but the commander of the Roman company heard that their was a great uproar, And he took some armed men and went quickly down to them. When the Jews saw them, they stopped beating Paul. The commander had Paul put into chains and tried to find out from the mob what Paul had done, but the answers were mixed, and the noise prevented him from obtaining the facts. The commander ordered that Paul be taken into the Roman quarters, and the mob kept shouting away with him, all the way up the steps.


D - PAUL ASKED TO ADDRESS THE CROWD

Acts 21 "37 And when Paul was about to be taken into the building, he said to the chief captain, May I say something to you? And he said, Have you a knowledge of Greek? 38 Are you by chance the Egyptian who, before this, got the people worked up against the government and took four thousand men of the Assassins out into the waste land? 39 But Paul said, I am a Jew of Tarsus in Cilicia, which is not an unimportant town: I make a request to you to let me say a word to the people. 40 And when he let him do so, Paul, from the steps, made a sign with his hand to the people, and when they were all quiet, he said to them in the Hebrew language,"

COMMENTS: Paul spoke to the commander in Greek, which caused the commander to think Paul might have been an Egyptian rebel. Paul explained that he was a Jew of Tarsus in Cilicia, then asked permission to speak to the crowd. When the commander granted his request, and Paul had gotten the crowd to quiet down by a sign with his hand, he began to speak to them in Hebrew. Paul had used his language skills to best advantage with Greek to the commander, which was effective to produce an immediate response and an opportunity to make a request. He addressed the crowd with Hebrew first to catch their attention with their native language, that he might then be better able to hold their attention and clearly communicate his message to them.


E - PAUL TRIED TO EXPLAIN THAT HE FOLLOWED THE LAW, AND THE LORD

Acts 22 "1 My brothers and fathers, give ear to the story of my life which I now put before you. 2 And, hearing him talking in the Hebrew language, they became the more quiet, and he said, 3 I am a Jew of Tarsus in Cilicia by birth, but I had my education in this town at the feet of Gamaliel, being trained in the keeping of every detail of the law of our fathers; given up to the cause of God with all my heart, as you are today. 4 And I made attacks on this Way, even to death, taking men and women and putting them in prison. 5 Of which the high priest will be a witness, and all the rulers, from whom I had letters to the brothers; and I went into Damascus, to take those who were there as prisoners to Jerusalem for punishment. 6 And it came about that while I was on my journey, coming near to Damascus, about the middle of the day, suddenly I saw a great light from heaven shining round me. 7 And when I went down on the earth, a voice came to my ears saying to me, Saul, Saul, why are you attacking me so cruelly? 8 And I, answering, said, Who are you; Lord? And he said to me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are attacking. 9 And those who were with me saw the light, but the voice of him who was talking to me came not to their ears. 10 And I said, What have I to do, Lord? And the Lord said to me, Get up, and go into Damascus; and it will be made clear to you what you have to do. 11 And because I was unable to see because of the glory of that light, those who were with me took me by the hand, and so I came to Damascus. 12 And one Ananias, a God-fearing man, who kept the law, and of whom all the Jews in that place had a high opinion, 13 Came to my side and said, Brother Saul, let your eyes be open. And in that very hour I was able to see him. 14 And he said, You have been marked out by the God of our fathers to have knowledge of his purpose, and to see the Upright One and to give ear to the words of his mouth. 15 For you will be a witness for him to all men of what you have seen and of what has come to your ears. 16 And now, why are you waiting? get up, and have baptism, for the washing away of your sins, giving worship to his name. 17 And it came about that when I had come back to Jerusalem, while I was at prayer in the Temple, my senses became more than naturally clear, 18 And I saw him saying to me, Go out of Jerusalem straight away because they will not give hearing to your witness about me. 19 And I said, Lord, they themselves have knowledge that I went through the Synagogues putting in prison and whipping all those who had faith in you: 20 And when Stephen your witness was put to death, I was there, giving approval, and looking after the clothing of those who put him to death. 21 And he said to me, Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles."

COMMENTS: Paul addressed the crowd as "my brothers and fathers" immediately showing his identification with them, and as they heard him speaking in Hebrew they became even more quiet. He wanted them to carefully listen to his defense as he would describe various events. He was born a Jew in Tarsus of Celitia, and had respect for the law as he was taught by THE HIGHLY ESTEEMED Gamaliel in Jerusalem about every detail of the law. He said he had even been very zealous for the law, JUST as the crowd he now addressed, and had authority from the high priest to take prisoners at Damascus of those Jews who converted to faith in Christ. Paul explained that he was converted by direct confrontation by the Lord, using the name Jesus of Nazareth. But the men who had traveled with him did not understand the voice, and only he was blinded by the bright light. It is not clear whether he was addressing a mixed crowd of Christian Jews and non-converted Jews at Jerusalem; but the apostles had been able to remain in Jerusalem for many years after the great persecution at the time of Stephen, and they had told Paul there were many believing Jews from Asia in Jerusalem. The crowd did not become violent again after hearing mention of Jesus of Nazareth as Paul continued his defense.

When Paul described receiving his sight, he emphasized that Ananias was a God-fearing man, who kept the law, and of whom all the Jews in that place had a high opinion, keeping the focus on the involvement of respected Jewish Christians. As Paul continued he said Ananias told him, "You have been marked out by the God of our fathers to have knowledge of his purpose." this was another indication that Paul would be honoring God as the patriarchs would have done. Paul had been permitted to see the Messiah, and to listen carefully to the words he spoke so he could be a witness for the Lord to all men, of what he had seen and heard. The final words Paul related from Ananias were, "now, why are you waiting? get up, and have baptism, for the washing away of your sins, giving worship to his name."

Paul then began to explain a vision he had of the Lord. After returning from Damascus to Jerusalem, while at prayer in the Temple, he said his senses became more than naturally clear, And he saw the Lord saying to him, Go out of Jerusalem quickly because they will not give hearing to your witness about me. Paul then responded to the Lord that they all new his past persecution of believers in Christ from the time of Stephen being stoned, through the period when Paul intended to destroy believers in Damascus. Paul said the Lord's reply was "Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles." This vision in the temple that Paul described was not recorded in Acts chapter 9. At that earlier time it was unconverted Grecian Jews who plotted to kill him before he was escorted by friends to Caesarea, then sent on to Tarsus.


F - THE CROWD AGAIN BECAME VIOLENT

Acts 22 "22 And they gave him a hearing as far as this word; then with loud voices they said, Away with this man from the earth; it is not right for him to be living. 23 And while they were crying out, and pulling off their clothing, and sending dust into the air, 24 The chief captain gave orders for him to be taken into the army building, saying that he would put him to the test by whipping, so that he might have knowledge of the reason why they were crying out so violently against him. 25 And when they had put leather bands round him, Paul said to the captain who was present, Is it the law for you to give blows to a man who is a Roman and has not been judged? 26 And hearing this, the man went to the chief captain and gave him an account of it, saying, What are you about to do? for this man is a Roman. 27 And the chief captain came to him and said, Give me an answer, are you a Roman? And he said, Yes. 28 And the chief captain said, I got Roman rights for myself at a great price. And Paul said, But I had them by birth. 29 Then those who were about to put him to the test went away: and the chief captain was in fear, seeing that he was a Roman, and that he had put chains on him. 30 But on the day after, desiring to have certain knowledge of what the Jews had to say against him, he made him free, and gave orders for the chief priests and all the Sanhedrin to come together, and he took Paul and put him before them."

COMMENTS: When Peter had gone to the house of Cornelius before Paul began his witness to Gentiles, he returned to Jerusalem to an unwelcome response from some of the Jews. Acts 11 "1 Now the Apostles and the brothers who were in Judaea had news that the word of God had been given to the Gentiles. 2 And when Peter came to Jerusalem, those who kept the rule of circumcision had an argument with him, 3 Saying, You went to men without circumcision, and took food with them." This led to Peter's explanation of clear direction and blessing from the Lord for the Gentiles, and much discussion among the leaders. The final agreement by the apostles and other disciples was that Gentile Christians were acceptable without circumcision. After that, the apostles had sent a letter to Antioch giving acceptance to Gentiles into the church without the need to convert to Judaism, but some Christian Jews that were not part of mixed congregations still seemed to have difficulty accepting that position these years later. But at the same time, it seems that the level of threat to Christian Jews from unconverted Jews did not seem to be as great, because the apostles (all Jews) and the Asian Jews functioned within Jerusalem. The civil authorities did not try to make decisions in matters they considered to be questions of religion among the Jews and their various sects.

Somehow over the years the word had spread that Paul was taking the apostle's ruling a step further by convincing Jews to be more like Gentiles. The fury of the crowd quickly returned when they heard Paul say he was to go to the Gentiles. Since the crowd had erupted again, the commander gave orders for Paul to be taken into the building, with the intent of having him whipped to get answers. But as they were binding Paul he asked a captain if this should be done to a Roman. The captain then went to the commander to tell him that Paul claimed to be a Roman. The commander came to Paul to ask him if he was truly a Roman, and Paul stated that he had been born a Roman. This was a shock to the commander because Romans had well established rights with the Roman government. The next day the commander made sure Paul was not in chains, but he still wanted to find an answer, so he gave orders for the chief priests and all the Sanhedrin to come together, and he took Paul and put him before them.


G- PAUL SPOKE BEFORE THE CHIEF PRIESTS AND THE SANHEDRIN

Acts 23 "1 And Paul, looking fixedly at the Sanhedrin, said, My brothers, my life has been upright before God till this day. 2 And the high priest, Ananias, gave orders to those who were near him to give him a blow on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, God will give blows to you, you whitewashed wall: are you here to be my judge by law, and by your orders am I given blows against the law? 4 And those who were near said, Do you say such words against God's high priest? 5 And Paul said, Brother, I had no idea that he was the high priest: for it has been said, You may not say evil about the ruler of your people. 6 But when Paul saw that half of them were Sadducees and the rest Pharisees, he said in the Sanhedrin, Brothers, I am a Pharisee, and the son of Pharisees: I am here to be judged on the question of the hope of the coming back from the dead. 7 And when he had said this, there was an argument between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and a division in the meeting. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no coming back from the dead, and no angels or spirits: but the Pharisees have belief in all these. 9 And there was a great outcry: and some of the scribes on the side of the Pharisees got up and took part in the discussion, saying, We see no evil in this man: what if he has had a revelation from an angel or a spirit? 10 And when the argument became very violent, the chief captain, fearing that Paul would be pulled in two by them, gave orders to the armed men to take him by force from among them, and take him into the army building. 11 And the night after, the Lord came to his side and said, Be of good heart, for as you have been witnessing for me in Jerusalem, so will you be my witness in Rome."

COMMENTS: Paul was now before the rulers of the Jews who still considered the Christians to be blasphemers. As he looked straight at the Sanhedrin, and said, "My brothers, my life has been upright before God till this day." The high priest, Ananias, gave orders to those who were near him to give him a blow on the mouth. Paul made a sharp and cutting response to him, and added that the man was giving an instruction that was against the Jewish law, when they were to be judging Paul by that law. Those near him asked if he spoke that way to the high priest, and Paul responded that he had not realized the man was the high priest, continuing, "for it has been said, You may not say evil about the ruler of your people."

Paul did not bring up the subject of Gentiles at all, but took the opportunity present before him as he observed the combination of Pharisees and Sadducees in the Sanhedrin. He immediately said that he was a Pharisee and the son of Pharisees; and that he was before them regarding the question of the hope of the resurrection of the dead. This started a dispute between the Pharisees who agreed with Paul, and the Sadducees who did not accept the resurrection or the existence and work of angels or spirits. Some of the scribes became involved on the side of the Pharisees in the hot dispute. they even said, "We see no evil in this man: what if he has had a revelation from an angel or a spirit?" the commander saw that Paul was in serious danger again, so he ordered his men to take Paul away from that meeting and back to their building. The next night, the Lord came to his side and said, "Be of good heart, for as you have been witnessing for me in Jerusalem, so will you be my witness in Rome."


--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord, I thank you for the details in scripture of the evidence of great change in Paul's life as a result of your call upon him, and the way you opened his heart to a more complete understanding of scripture. His desire to serve God by his knowledge of the Jewish scriptures and traditions was such a strong drive in him from the time he began to learn, and his zeal as a young Pharisee actually carried him into vicious persecution of those who had accepted Jesus as the Christ. As with many of the very religious Jews of his time, his great learning was not enough to help him identify Jesus as the Christ, but rather the pride of preconceived religious concepts blinded him from the truth. You Lord set him on his course by your plan, and he was faithful and zealous for you, not even shrinking back from the threat of a violent death.

When I consider my own course, my rejection was not based on a dependence in my understanding and interpretation of scripture because I knew very little. My very basic parallel to Paul was that both of us rejected the amount of revelation that was provided to draw us to belief in the Christ. But at the right time that you had determined for my life, you called me by your grace and began to open my understanding of scripture. The change you brought about in my heart has challenged me to continue searching the scriptures to know you better, and to seek the role you have for me in the body of Christ. I do want to try to emulate the humility that Paul maintained even though he was used mightily by you. May I give you all the praise for whatever is accomplished in my life for your kingdom, and may I realize that you set the course for each member of your body in fulfilling your own plans. Hallelujah what a Savior! Amen.

Published 6 March 2013