Acts 21: Problems in Jerusalem

by Bob Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

Today's Bible Reading: Acts 21

Selected Biblical Text
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. 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. (Acts 21:26-33 ESV)

Thinking and Reflecting
Paul's trip to Jerusalem was without problems even though it was coupled with tears for what awaited him -- especially in view of the prophetic words that he would be bound and imprisoned. Shortly after his arrival in Jerusalem, a plan to soften the attitude of the Jews toward him and to correct a misconception concerning his teaching was developed in a meeting with James and the Jerusalem elders. Our text recounts what happened next. False accusations by some Asian Jews resulted in an uproar so great that it got the attention of the Roman authorities. Paul ended up under arrest and bound, as prophesied.

In chapter 15 we discussed the wisdom of the Jerusalem elders in devising a plan to address the inclusion of Gentiles in the church. In this chapter we have another example of a plan devised by the Jerusalem elders. What do you think went awry on this occasion? Was the fault in the plan or elsewhere? Could the problems have been foreseen and avoided? Is this merely fulfillment of prophecy, an evidence of God at work to fulfill his plan for Paul? A frequently discussed matter from this chapter is to what extent Christians with backgrounds in Judaism continued to participate in certain Jewish practices and customs. How do you understand and explain Paul's participation in temple activities?

Dear Heavenly Father, we again ask wisdom as we study your word and contemplate lessons for our lives. We wonder why the Bible does not give us enough details to understand exactly what occurred in this chapter. We want to do what is right. We ask you to guide us as we go forth into the world as your ambassadors. In Jesus' name and by his power we pray these things, Amen.

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Last updated January 2019