Acts 21

Listen to Acts 21

Paul Goes to Jerusalem

1 And when 1we had parted from them and set sail, we 2came by a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara.[a]
2 And having found a ship crossing to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail.
3 When we had come in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left we sailed to Syria and landed at Tyre, for there the ship was to unload its cargo.
4 And having sought out the disciples, we stayed there for seven days. And 3through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.
5 When our days there were ended, we departed and went on our journey, and they all, with wives and children, 4accompanied us until we were outside the city. And 5kneeling down on the beach, we prayed
6 and said farewell to one another. Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home.
7 When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais, and we greeted 6the brothers[b] and stayed with them for one day.
8 On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of 7Philip 8the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him.
9 He had four unmarried daughters, 9who prophesied.
10 While we were staying for many days, a prophet named 10Agabus came down from Judea.
11 And coming to us, he 11took Paul's belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, 12"Thus says the Holy Spirit, 13'This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and 14deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'"
12 When we heard this, we and the people there 15urged him not to go up to Jerusalem.
13 Then Paul answered, 16"What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For 17I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem 18for the name of the Lord Jesus."
14 And since he would not be persuaded, 19we ceased and said, 20"Let the will of the Lord be done."
15 After these days we got ready and went up to Jerusalem.
16 And some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us, bringing us to the house of Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we should lodge.

Paul Visits James

17 When we had come to Jerusalem, 21the brothers received us gladly.
18 On the following day Paul went in with us to 22James, and all 23the elders were present.
19 After greeting them, 24he related one by one 25the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his 26ministry.
20 And when they heard it, they 27glorified 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 28zealous for the law,
21 and they have been told about you that you teach all 29the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, 30telling them 31not to circumcise their children or 32walk according to 33our customs.
22 What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come.
23 Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men 34who are under a vow;
24 take these men and 35purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, 36so 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.
25 But as for the Gentiles who have believed, 37we 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,[c] and from sexual immorality."
26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day 38he purified himself along with them and 39went into the temple, giving notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and 40the offering presented for each one of them.

Paul Arrested in the Temple

27 When 41the seven days were almost completed, 42the Jews from Asia, 43seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him,
28 crying out, "Men of Israel, help! This is the man who 44is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and 45the law and 46this place. Moreover, he even brought Greeks into the temple and 47has defiled 48this holy place."
29 For they had previously seen 49Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple.
30 Then all the city was stirred up, and the people ran together. They seized Paul and 50dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut.
31 51And as they were seeking to kill him, word came to the tribune of 52the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion.
32 53He at once took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. And when they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.
33 Then the tribune came up and arrested him and ordered him 54to be bound 55with two chains. He inquired who he was and what he had done.
34 56Some 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 57the barracks.
35 And when he came to the steps, he was actually carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the crowd,
36 for the mob of the people followed, crying out, 58"Away with him!"

Paul Speaks to the People

37 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?
38 Are you not 59the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out 60into the wilderness?"
39 Paul replied, 61"I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city. I beg you, permit me to speak to the people."
40 And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the steps, 62motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great hush, he addressed them in 63the Hebrew language,[d] saying:

Acts 21 Commentary

Chapter 21

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.

Cross References 63

  • 1. See Acts 16:10
  • 2. Acts 16:11
  • 3. ver. 11; Acts 20:23
  • 4. Acts 20:38
  • 5. Acts 20:36
  • 6. See John 21:23
  • 7. Acts 6:5; Acts 8:5
  • 8. Ephesians 4:11; 2 Timothy 4:5
  • 9. Acts 2:17, 18; Luke 2:36; 1 Corinthians 11:5; See Acts 13:1
  • 10. Acts 11:28
  • 11. [1 Samuel 15:27, 28; 1 Kings 11:30; Isaiah 20:3; Jeremiah 13:1-11; Jeremiah 27:2]
  • 12. See Acts 20:23
  • 13. [ver. 33]; See Acts 9:16
  • 14. [ver. 31-33; Matthew 20:19]
  • 15. [Matthew 16:21-23]
  • 16. [See ver. 12 above]
  • 17. Acts 20:24; Romans 8:36; 2 Corinthians 4:16; 2 Corinthians 12:10; Philippians 2:17; [Acts 15:26]
  • 18. See Acts 5:41
  • 19. [Ruth 1:18]
  • 20. See Matthew 6:10
  • 21. ver. 7; [Acts 15:4]
  • 22. See Acts 12:17
  • 23. See Acts 11:30
  • 24. See Acts 14:27
  • 25. [Romans 15:18, 19]
  • 26. See Acts 1:17
  • 27. Acts 11:18
  • 28. Acts 22:3; Romans 10:2; Galatians 1:14
  • 29. [James 1:1]
  • 30. ver. 28
  • 31. [Romans 2:28, 29; 1 Corinthians 7:19]
  • 32. [Mark 7:5; Galatians 2:14]
  • 33. Acts 6:14; Acts 15:1
  • 34. [Acts 18:18]
  • 35. ver. 26; Acts 24:18; [John 11:55]
  • 36. [See ver. 23 above]
  • 37. See Acts 15:19, 20, 29
  • 38. [See ver. 24 above]
  • 39. [Numbers 6:13]
  • 40. [Numbers 6:9-12]
  • 41. [See ver. 26 above]
  • 42. See Acts 13:50
  • 43. Acts 24:18; Acts 26:21
  • 44. ver. 21
  • 45. See Acts 6:13
  • 46. See Acts 6:13
  • 47. Acts 24:6
  • 48. See Acts 6:13
  • 49. Acts 20:4
  • 50. Acts 26:21; [2 Kings 11:15]
  • 51. [See ver. 30 above]
  • 52. See Acts 10:1
  • 53. [Acts 23:27]
  • 54. Acts 20:23; [ver. 11]
  • 55. Acts 12:6; [Acts 22:29; Acts 26:29; Acts 28:20; Ephesians 6:20; 2 Timothy 1:16]
  • 56. Acts 19:32
  • 57. Acts 22:24; Acts 23:10
  • 58. Acts 22:22; [Luke 23:18; John 19:15]
  • 59. [Acts 5:36]
  • 60. Matthew 24:26
  • 61. Acts 9:11; Acts 22:3
  • 62. See Acts 12:17
  • 63. Acts 22:2; Acts 26:14

Footnotes 4

  • [a]. Some manuscripts add and Myra
  • [b]. Or brothers and sisters; also verse 17
  • [c]. Some manuscripts omit and from what has been strangled
  • [d]. Or the Hebrew dialect (that is, Aramaic); also 22:2

Acts 21 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.