Acts 21:27-39 Video Devotional

“When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place. Moreover, he even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. Then all the city was stirred up, and the people ran together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut. And as they were seeking to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. He at once took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. And when they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. Then the tribune came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. He inquired who he was and what he had done. Some in the crowd were shouting one thing, some another. And as he could not learn the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks. And when he came to the steps, he was actually carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the crowd, for the mob of the people followed, crying out, “Away with him!” As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, “May I say something to you?” And he said, “Do you know Greek? Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?” Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city. I beg you, permit me to speak to the people.” (Acts 21:27-39)

A nasty conflict is brewing. The Jewish leaders (which include believers in Christ) are becoming furious about two main things in Paul’s message. 1) Gentiles were allowed in and being made right with God, and 2) Paul was putting Jesus on the same level as God and proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah. While there were many in the Jewish traditions that were open to Jesus and even were beginning to see Him for who He is, the public audacity Paul had to proclaim it the way he did (especially with his push to bring Gentiles into the inner-circle) was completely unacceptable and they had to figure out a way to “handle” it.

So, as he was preparing to celebrate Pentecost with his Jewish brothers, the leadership sprang into action. They had Paul arrested for the above mentioned “crimes” and got violent with him, leading to his arrest at the hands of the famed/feared Romans. They had done this before. Jesus intended to give His life as a ransom for many. Paul’s plan (in concordance with the Holy Spirit) was a bit different.

When the tribune had him and was leading him away, his questioning led to Paul telling him where he was from, which give the tribune a hint that Paul may be a Roman citizen. Upon that, the tribune was immediately much gentler and allowed Paul a chance to speak to the crowd. This was Paul’s plan; speaking to whatever audience would grant him a moment, and with the help of the Roman tribune, Paul had a captive audience.

Paul’s end goal never changed. His plan, efforts, and desires were always to speak the gospel to whomever would listen. He didn’t care if he was doing it in a coffee house, church, or in chains. And his willingness to preach Jesus no matter the situation led to some interesting locations. We all tend to find opportunities to do more of what we truly care for. What is your strongest desires? Does it have to do with sharing your faith? Or is that more of an “if I have to and the opportunity presents itself” kind of deal? God tends to open up more opportunities to those who truly desire it.

Acts 21:17-26 Video Devotional

“When we had come to Jerusalem, the brothers received us gladly. On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs. What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law. But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality.” Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself along with them and went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for each one of them.” (Acts 21:17-26)

If the book of Acts were a movie or screenplay, this is where Act III would begin. The stakes are ramping up and getting serious. Paul, on his way to Jerusalem, arrives and connects with James and the elders in Jerusalem. All of Paul’s adventures are recounted and God is glorified. It doesn’t seem (at least from our vantage point) however, that they fully got the message that the Gentiles are a part of this too – or at least that Paul wasn’t trying to destroy everything that had been built thus far.

The elders respond by asking Paul to walk through the purification rituals with some others that had been in a vow, the thought behind this being that it will calm the Jews down as they learn about his ministry to the Gentiles. Culturally, we know that what Paul did was a huge affront to the Jewish culture and this is where the conflict begins to take shape. Even with the elders making sure to dot all their “I’s” and cross every “T” with the letter they sent, there was only hope that the Jewish majority would accept this and therefore accept Paul.

What Paul then did was to go along with the elders and purified himself along with the others. Was this an appeasement like what he criticized Peter doing in Galatians? It can look that way, but I don’t think so. I think this is more of Paul working so that the heart of his message is received by his brethren. An “all things to all people so that by all means” type of effort. Paul purifies himself to show respect to the Jewish traditions and get them to the point to where they may be willing to accept him and even accept the Gentiles that were now their siblings in the faith.

The purification was a step of love towards his own people, even though he knew they were going to have to swallow the hard truth that Gentiles were receiving the Holy Spirit as well. Would you be able to lovingly confront like Paul? Or would you avoid that conflict? Or forget the love part? Paul was in an impossible position, but he did everything he could with love. That’s a pretty amazing witness to the power of the gospel – especially considering what we know about Paul’s personality.