Paul's voyage towards Jerusalem. (1-7) Paul at Cesarea. The prophecy of Agabus, Paul at Jerusalem. (8-18) He is persuaded to join in ceremonial observances. (19-26) Being in danger from the Jews, he is rescued by the Romans. (27-40)
Verses 1-7 Providence must be acknowledged when our affairs go on well. Wherever Paul came, he inquired what disciples were there, and found them out. Foreseeing his troubles, from love to him, and concern for the church, they wrongly thought it would be most for the glory of God that he should continue at liberty; but their earnestness to dissuade him from it, renders his pious resolution the more illustrious. He has taught us by example, as well as by rule, to pray always, to pray without ceasing. Their last farewell was sweetened with prayer.
Verses 8-18 Paul had express warning of his troubles, that when they came, they might be no surprise or terror to him. The general notice given us, that through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of God, should be of the same use to us. Their weeping began to weaken and slacken his resolution Has not our Master told us to take up our cross? It was a trouble to him, that they should so earnestly press him to do that in which he could not gratify them without wronging his conscience. When we see trouble coming, it becomes us to say, not only, The will of the Lord must be done, and there is no remedy; but, Let the will of the Lord be done; for his will is his wisdom, and he doeth all according to the counsel of it. When a trouble is come, this must allay our griefs, that the will of the Lord is done; when we see it coming, this must silence our fears, that the will of the Lord shall be done; and we ought to say, Amen, let it be done. It is honourable to be an old disciple of Jesus Christ, to have been enabled by the grace of God to continue long in a course of duty, stedfast in the faith, growing more and more experienced, to a good old age. And with these old disciples one would choose to lodge; for the multitude of their years shall teach wisdom. Many brethren at Jerusalem received Paul gladly. We think, perhaps, that if we had him among us, we should gladly receive him; but we should not, if, having his doctrine, we do not gladly receive that.
Verses 19-26 Paul ascribed all his success to God, and to God they gave the praise. God had honoured him more than any of the apostles, yet they did not envy him; but on the contrary, glorified the Lord. They could not do more to encourage Paul to go on cheerfully in his work. James and the elders of the church at Jerusalem, asked Paul to gratify the believing Jews, by some compliance with the ceremonial law. They thought it was prudent in him to conform thus far. It was great weakness to be so fond of the shadows, when the substance was come. The religion Paul preached, tended not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it. He preached Christ, the end of the law for righteousness, and repentance and faith, in which we are to make great use of the law. The weakness and evil of the human heart strongly appear, when we consider how many, even of the disciples of Christ, had not due regard to the most eminent minister that even lived. Not the excellence of his character, nor the success with which God blessed his labours, could gain their esteem and affection, seeing that he did not render the same respect as themselves to mere ceremonial observances. How watchful should we be against prejudices! The apostles were not free from blame in all they did; and it would be hard to defend Paul from the charge of giving way too much in this matter. It is vain to attempt to court the favour of zealots, or bigots to a party. This compliance of Paul did not answer, for the very thing by which he hoped to pacify the Jews, provoked them, and brought him into trouble. But the all-wise God overruled both their advice and Paul's compliance with it, to serve a better purpose than was intended. It was in vain to think of pleasing men who would be pleased with nothing but the rooting out of Christianity. Integrity and uprightness will be more likely to preserve us than insincere compliances. And it should warn us not to press men to doing what is contrary to their own judgment to oblige us.
Verses 27-40 In the temple, where Paul should have been protected as in a place of safety, he was violently set upon. They falsely charged him with ill doctrine and ill practice against the Mosaic ceremonies. It is no new thing for those who mean honestly and act regularly, to have things laid to their charge which they know not and never thought of. It is common for the wise and good to have that charged against them by malicious people, with which they thought to have obliged them. God often makes those a protection to his people, who have no affection to them, but only have compassion for sufferers, and regard to the public peace. And here see what false, mistaken notions of good people and good ministers, many run away with. But God seasonably interposes for the safety of his servants, from wicked and unreasonable men; and gives them opportunities to speak for themselves, to plead for the Redeemer, and to spread abroad his glorious gospel.
Acts 21:1-16 . SAILING FROM EPHESUS, THEY LAND AT TYRE, AND THENCE SAILING TO PTOLEMAIS, THEY PROCEED BY LAND TO CÆSAREA AND JERUSALEM.
1. we were gotten--"torn."
from them--expressing the difficulty and pain of the parting.
with a straight course--running before the wind, as Acts 16:11 .
unto Coos--Cos, an island due south from Miletus, which they would reach in about six hours, and coming close to the mainland.
the day following unto Rhodes--another island, some fifty miles to the southeast, of brilliant classic memory and beauty.
thence unto Patara--a town on the magnificent mainland of Lycia, almost due east from Rhodes. It was the seat of a celebrated oracle of Apollo.
2. And finding a ship--their former one going no farther, probably.
went abroad--One would almost think this extracted from a journal of the voyage, so graphic are its details.
3. when we . . . discovered--"sighted," as the phrase is.
Cyprus, we left it on the left hand--that is, steered southeast of it, leaving it on the northwest.
Syria, and landed at Tyre--the celebrated seat of maritime commerce for East and West. It might be reached from Patara in about two days.
there the ship was to unlade her burden--which gave the apostle time for what follows.
4-6. finding disciples--finding out the disciples, implying some search. They would expect such, from what is recorded, Acts 11:19 . Perhaps they were not many; yet there were gifted ones among them.
who said to Paul . . . that he should not go up to
5. they all brought us on our way with wives and children . . . and we kneeled down on the shore and Observe here that the children of these Tyrian disciples not only were taken along with their parents, but must have joined in this act of
7. when we had finished our course--completing the voyage
from Tyre, we came--which they would do the same day.
to Ptolemais--anciently called Accho ( Judges 1:31 ), now St. Jean d'Acre, or Acre.
and saluted the brethren, and abode, &c.--disciples gathered probably as at Tyre, on the occasion mentioned ( Acts 11:19 ).
8-10. next day we that were of Paul's company departed--(The words "the were of Paul's company" are omitted in the best manuscripts. They were probably added as the connecting words at the head of some church lessons).
and came to Cæsarea--a run along the coast, southward, of some thirty miles.
Philip the evangelist--a term answering apparently very much to our missionary [HOWSON], by whose ministry such joy had been diffused over Samaria and the Ethiopian eunuch had been baptized ( Acts 8:4-40 ).
one of the seven--deacons, who had "purchased to himself a good degree" ( 1 Timothy 3:13 ). He and Paul now meet for the first time, some twenty-five years after that time.
9. the same man had four daughters . . . which did prophesy--fulfilling Joel 2:28 (see Acts 2:18 ). This is mentioned, it would seem, merely as a high distinction divinely conferred on so devoted a servant of the Lord Jesus, and probably indicates the high tone of religion in his family.
10. tarried there many--"a good many"
days--Finding himself in good time for Pentecost at Jerusalem, he would feel it a refreshing thing to his spirit to hold Christian communion for a few days with such a family.
there came down from Judea--the news of Paul's arrival having spread.
a certain prophet . . . Agabus--no doubt the same as in Acts 11:28 .
11-14. So shall the Jews bind the man that owneth this girdle, &c.--For though the Romans did it, it was at the Jews' instigation ( Acts 21:33 , Acts 28:17 ). Such dramatic methods of announcing important future events would bring the old prophets to remembrance. (Compare Isaiah 20:2 , &c. Jeremiah 13:1 , and Ezekiel 5:1 , &c.). This prediction and that at Tyre ( Acts 21:4 ) were intended, not to prohibit him from going, but to put his courage to the test and when he stood the test, to deepen and mature it.
12. we and they at that place--the Cæsarean Christians.
besought him--even with tears, Acts 21:13 .
not to go to Jerusalem.
13. Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart--Beautiful union of manly resoluteness and womanly tenderness, alike removed from mawkishness and stoicism!
I am ready not to be bound only--"If that is all, let it come."
but to die, &c.--It was well he could add this, for he had that also to do.
15, 16. we took up our carriages--"our baggage."
and went up to Jerusalem--for the fifth time after his conversion, thus concluding his third missionary tour, which proved his last, so far as recorded; for though he accomplished the fourth and last part of the missionary plan sketched out ( Acts 19:21 )--"After I have been at Jerusalem, I must also see Rome"--it was as "a prisoner of Jesus Christ."
16. went with us . . . and brought with them--rather, "brought us to."
One Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, &c.--not an "aged" disciple, but probably "a disciple of old standing," perhaps one of the three thousand converted on the day of Pentecost, or, more likely still, drawn to the Saviour Himself during His lifetime. He had come, probably, with the other Cyprians ( Acts 11:20 ), to Antioch, "preaching the Lord Jesus unto the Grecians," and now he appears settled at Jerusalem.
Acts 21:17-40 . PAUL REPORTS THE EVENTS OF HIS THIRD MISSIONARY JOURNEY--IN THE TEMPLE, PURIFYING HIMSELF FROM A JEWISH VOW, HE IS SEIZED BY A MOB AND BEATEN TO THE DANGER OF HIS LIFE--THE UPROAR BECOMING UNIVERSAL, THE ROMAN COMMANDANT HAS HIM BROUGHT IN CHAINS TO THE FORTRESS, FROM THE STAIRS OF WHICH HE IS PERMITTED TO ADDRESS THE PEOPLE.
The apostle was full of anxiety about this visit to Jerusalem, from the numerous prophetic intimations of danger awaiting him, and having reason to expect the presence at this feast of the very parties from whose virulent rage he had once and again narrowly escaped with his life. Hence we find him asking the Roman Christians to wrestle with him in prayer, "for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that he might be delivered from them that believed not in Judea," as well as "that his service which he had for Jerusalem (the great collection for the poor saints there) might be accepted of the saints" ( Romans 15:30 Romans 15:31 ).
17-19. the brethren received us gladly--the disciples generally, as distinguished from the official reception recorded in Acts 21:18 .
18. Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present--to "report himself" formally to the acknowledged head of the church at Jerusalem, and his associates in office. any other of the apostles been in Jerusalem on that occasion, it could hardly fail to have been noted.
19. he declared particularly--in detail.
what God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry--as on previous occasions ( Acts 14:27 ; and see Romans 15:15 ); no doubt referring to the insidious and systematic efforts of the Judaizing party in a number of places to shrivel the Church of Christ into a Jewish sect, and his own counter-procedure.
20-25. they glorified the Lord, &c.--constrained to justify his course, notwithstanding the Jewish complexion of the Christianity of Jerusalem.
21. they are informed . . . that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles--those residing in heathen countries.
to forsake Moses, &c.--This calumny of the unbelieving Jews would find easy credence among the Christian zealots for Judaism.
23. we have four men--Christian Jews, no doubt.
which have a vow--perhaps kept ready on purpose.
24. be at charges with them--that is, defray the expense of the sacrifices legally required of them, along with his own, which was deemed a mark of Jewish generosity.
25. touching the Gentiles . . . we have written and concluded that they observe no such things, &c.--This shows that with all their conciliation to Jewish prejudice, the Church of Jerusalem was taught to adhere to the decision of the famous council held there ( Acts 15:19-29 ).
26. to signify--that is, announce to the priest.
the accomplishment of the days of purification,
27-30. the Jews . . . of Asia--in all likelihood those of Ephesus (since they recognized Trophimus apparently as a townsman, Acts 21:29 ), embittered by their discomfiture ( Acts 19:9 , &c.).
30. took Paul, and drew him out of the temple; and forthwith the doors were shut--that the murder they meant to perpetrate might not pollute that holy place.
31. tidings came--literally, "went up," that is, to the fortress of Antonia, where the commandant resided. part of the narrative is particularly graphic.
32. the chief captain--"the chiliarch," or tribune of the Roman cohort, whose full number was one thousand men.
33. commanded him to be bound with two
34. some cried one thing--The difficulty would be so to state his crimes as to justify their proceedings to a Roman officer.
to be carried into the castle--rather, perhaps, "the barracks," or that part of the fortress of Antonia appropriated to the soldiers. The fort was built by Herod on a high rock at the northwest corner of the great temple area, and called after Mark Antony.
35, 36. Away with him--as before of his Lord ( Luke 23:18 , John 19:15 ).
37-40. Art not thou that Egyptian, &c.--The form of the question implies that the answer is to be in the negative, and is matter of some surprise: "Thou art not then?" &c.
38. madest an uproar, &c.--The narrative is given in JOSEPHUS [Wars of the Jews, 2.8.6; 13.5], though his two allusions and ours seem to refer to different periods of the rebellion.
39. a citizen of no mean
40. stood on the stairs--"What nobler spectacle than that of Paul at this moment! There he stood, bound with two chains, ready to make his defense to the people. The Roman commander sits by, to enforce order by his presence. An enraged populace look up to him from below. Yet in the midst of so many dangers, how self-possessed is he, how tranquil!" [CHRYSOSTOM (or in his name) in HACKETT].
a great silence--the people awed at the permission given him by the commandant, and seeing him sitting as a listener.
in the Hebrew tongue--the Syro-Chaldaic, the vernacular tongue of the Palestine Jews since the captivity.