Lesson 47: Paul Arrested In Jerusalem
Acts, Lesson #47. In the last few minutes of our lesson, I tried to get the issue clearly in focus between the apostle Paul and those Jews who opposed him. The elders at Jerusalem had fears. "The multitude must needs come together" (v.22). They could see the cancer developing. Thus, they pleaded with Paul: "Do therefore this that we say to thee." (v.23). Now, whafs the plan? Paul! You have emphasized liberty. Paul, it wouldn't be against your conscience to go into the temple and do a little purifying, would it? Why not? When the Jews learn this it will defuse the very charges they get so up-tight about. Now, here are the circumstances, Paul! "We have four men which have a vow on them" (v.22). Take them, Paul! Be at charges with them (v.24) ,i.e., pay their expenses, the New American Standard Version says. Purify yourself with them (v.24). Now, it really doesn't have anything to do with Christianity; but possibly a stumbling block can be removed for the benefit of the weak These elders thought that; just maybe, there's a chance we can make this a learning situation, rather than a tumult. They might discover Paul, you are not trying to profane the Mosaic code as they suppose. Oh! we're not justified by it, now! But, it was out schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. There's no desire to profane it. It served its purpose, we appreciate that! And, possibly we can make that point and defuse the mob. It's worth a try. Do you see their plan? Now, they admit freely, they have concluded and written to the Gentile churches, you remember the letter in Acts 15. "that they observe no such thing." See that hi v.25. It's not part of Christianity. Oh! There were some things that are the same in both Old and New Testaments, and they had called attention to some of these; namely: Offering to idols, eating blood and committing fornication. Jews and Gentiles were the same. The middle wall of partition had been removed. But, the Jew's genealogy, ancestry, their education and their family traditions were rooted and anchored in the Mosaic code. They found it very hard to let go. It was no problem with the Gentiles, the habit had never been formed. So, you can see these elders were very sympathetic to their Jewish brothers that opposed them. Maybe, they could teach them something. Not put them down! Not ruffle their feathers unnecessarily. Will it work? Will Paul buy that plan? Lefs see!
Are you ready for a long reading? V.26-32. Please read as I read: "Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them. And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place. (For they had seen before with him hi the city Trophimus an Ephesian, who they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut. And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was hi an uproar: who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down into them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul." O.K., the plan didn't work And, I don't know much I can say to help you with these verses. Its pretty self-explanatory! As ugly as the scene may be; it is easy to see and visualize what happened. Mob violence to put it simple! And, like I said before; people today are just as hot headed and just as inconsistent as that group assembled at Jerusalem. We like to think we're smarter now, than they were then. But we're not! The Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland have been virtually at war for years. Neither one is scriptural. Look at the Middle East - a boiling pot just waiting for a time to explode. And, our own U.S. has not been without it's violence, and it's religious arrogance. The struggle goes on! In v. 29, the parenthesis, simply means the charge they made against Paul, concerning: taking Greeks into the temple was false. It was an assumption; of course, that doesn't make much difference, when people are determined and bent on doing what they want. Shoot now and investigate later. V.31 said: "...they went about to kill him." Can you imagine? You have profaned my God! And, the very Mosaic code, they sought to exonerate, says: "Thou shalt not kill." Hypocrisy without bounds! They were steeped to the limit. "All the city was moved" (v.30). The people "ran" together. Competition, to see who could do the most violence the quickest. When Paul was being dragged from the temple by those Asian Jews and Paul say all that mob converging upon him; how could be ever fathom that prophecy of Agabus? That he would be bound hands and feet by the Gentiles at Jerusalem. And, his memory of Stephen, must have been the preview of coming attractions hi his mind. What about Lystra? Stoned and left for dead. Surely, there's no way out. That crowd was more violent than the mob at Ephesus, concerned about their goddess Diana. And some of those Ephesian Jews were right here in the front ranks, no doubt. And then; Rome came to his rescue, "...the chief captain...immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them." And then "they left beating Paul." That must have been a welcome intervention. Now, I think you caught on, this was the Roman militia stationed in the city for police duty (we would call it). Gentiles, yes, but what about those bonds?
Let's read v.33-36. "Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done. And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude: and when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle. And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people. For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him." Agabus was right! Paul was bound with two chains. What had Paul done? "Some cried one thing, some another." They didn't even know. Prejudice and emotion were running higher than reason. It's a dangerous state. Away with him! That's the same words they said about Jesus (Luke 23:18). The record is replayed again. I think I would have been so anxious to get behind the walls of that castle, I couldn't have said anything. But, Paul was a gallant man; with great compassion for the very people who wanted to tear him limb from limb.
Let's finish the chapter...v.37-40. Ready? "And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek? Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and ledest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers? But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city hi Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people. And when he had given him license, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying," O.K., you might note, that chapter ends in the middle of a sentence: so if they can, I guess we can. Paul was always ready to speak and plead for obedience to Christ. He was so saturated with the desire to serve Christ, he would make a plea at the drop of a hat. And Paul would even drop the hat. And, believe it or not, he got his hands on another opportunity right in the middle of this yelling, violent conflict. May I speak? "...suffer me to speak to the people." Undoubtedly, the chief captain thought he might learn something here, so why not? And lo and behold, right there on the stairs, he gave Paul the go sign; and Paul went at it. Twenty-one verses! Longer than the speech to the Ephesian elders. Can't you just see Paul holding up his hands with those chains on, trying to get the crowd to listen? And the, silence fell over the whole crowd. And such a silence, after so much yelling and commotion; must have been attention-getting in itself. Luke describes it, in v.40 as "a great silence." Paul spoke hi the Hebrew tongue. The significance of that phrase is: I suppose, every language, known at that time, was represented there at Jerusalem that week of Pentecost. Just like it was a quarter century before, on that Sunday morning, when Peter and other apostles were filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Jews from all over the known world. As a kind of common denominator language (you may remember) the Jews taught their children to speak the native tongue - Hebrew: so they could communicate when they came to Jerusalem. Many probably neglected this training and the proficiency wasn't too good for a high percentage. But most of these Jews could understand at least something hi the Hebrew language. Thus, Hebrew was the natural tongue for Paul to select. It did not accommodate the chief captain and his soldiers who spoke Greek and Latin. Now, I don't know how high those steps were. But, let's imagine we're looking up at Paul, as that chilling silence, hushed over the crowd and Paul begins to speak Are you ready?
V.I-21. Get your eyes on the print! "Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defense which I make now unto you. (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to diem, they kept the more silence: and he saith.) I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city as the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished. And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell upon the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutes! thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus: and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus. And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shall be his witness unto all men of what thou hast been and heard. And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; and saw him saying unto me, make hast, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in very synagogue them that believe on thee: and when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them thai slew him. and he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles." O.K., that's where the interruption came. But, before we get into thai, as usual, lets' review Paul's speech. How did you like the approach and design of Paul's sermon? Extemporaneous, although Paul had undoubtedly told thai so many times, he had it down pat. And many in that audience, who thought they had Paul's number, already knew much of this information. Paul was once one of them. And, they were painfully aware of that. They considered him a turncoat. But, Paul used this connection to try to identify with them. Paul said he "was zealous toward God as ye all are this day" (v.3). That's like saying: a few years ago I would have been right in the front ranks of your cause. But, brothers I couldn't help it. THIS is what happened to me. And he proceeds in a very natural way to explain why he changed. Jesus appeared to him and instructed him in a supernatural way. What else could I do? You tell me! That's the question he poses in around about way. And, surely, it stimulated a few brain cells somewhere in that crowd. But, when Paul mentioned he was sent to the Gentiles; lhal was loo much. Prejudice and hatred took over. That silence was broken, Actually, Paul's sermon is a miniaturization of the book of Acts, i.e., lhat portion that's applicable.
If you have learned this book, like I believe you have; then, you already know almost every fact Paul mentioned. Oh! We learn a few things. You knew, Paul was from Tarsus in Cilicia. You knew about Paul persecuting Christians which he mentioned in v.4. You remember how he solicited letters from the high priest and went to Damascus. You remember how the Lord appeared to Paul, the light, ihe conversation and how Paul was led by die hand into Damascus, and how Ananias came to him. You know Paul was there holding the garments of them who stoned Stephen to death. You knew Paul was called to preach to ihe Gentiles. But, the incident recorded in v.17-18 that took place in the temple is new information. And we learn a few more details about Paul's conversion. He says it was about "noon" when that light blinded him on the road to Damascus. That's no earthshaking discovery., but ifs new information. It helps us reconstruct when it happened. Also, in Acts 9:18 it simply said, "Paul ...arose and was baptized." Here in v.16 Paul quotes Ananias as saying: "And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord."
Now, we suspected and deducted in chapter 9 that Ananias told Paul to be baptized (i.e., he extended an invitation, we would say) but here we learn the very words of Ananias. And this is interesting, it fills in a few blanks for us. Why be baptized? To "wash away thy sins." Now, thafs a figure of speech, but it dovetails exactly with what Peter said on Pentecost. Why be baptized Peter? - "for the remission of sins" (Acts. 2:38). Thus, remission of sins and washing away of sins are two ways of saying the same thing. At another time Peter said in another sermon (Acts 3:19), "be converted, that your sins may be blotted out." Remember that? Notice again; in Acts 2:38 Peter said to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Ananias told Paul to be baptized, "calling on the name of the Lord." Isn't that the same thing? Now, putting it all together; we learn when a believer is baptized "in the name of" or "by the authority of" the Lord Jesus Christ then their sins are forgiven. It's true, many bible toting people don't believe that; but, you can't get around the fact that the bible teaches that. We discussed in Acts 19, where the twelve men at Ephesus were re-immersed; that, baptism in the name of Jesus Christ was necessary to be saved. And, I pointed out then; some think today they believe into Christ, i.e., faith only makes them a Christian. It is their conviction baptism is not involved in receiving forgiveness of past sins. And, they ask the candidate to state that conviction, i.e, they are already saved or pardoned before they are baptized. In short, they do not believe baptism is for remission of sins. Now, win you do this? Look at what Ananias said: "arise, and be baptized, and..." (and what Ananias?) "and wash away thy sins." When are sins washed away? Obviously, when one is baptized. It's not believe and receive my friends. There's water in the plan! Thus, those who teach "believe and receive" do not agree with Ananias. Now you must make up your mind whether to believe Ananias and Acts 22:16 or those creed books that teach "believe and receive." Which will it be? Every conversion in the book of Acts follows the same divine plan. They all corroborate each other. It would take a fool to believe die same writer, Luke, guided by die H.S. would write one thing in one chapter and something else in anodier. Thus there's only one plan of salvation. That plan is illustrated in one book And diat's die book you have in your hand, die books of Acts. What must I do to become a Christian? The most important question a man can ask. The book of Acts tell "how to." It answers dial question. And, die answer is from die H.S. himself. Now all diose denominational disciplines, manuals, confessions, catechisms, etc. claim to answer diat question. I said "claim" to answer. Now, we've been through this before; diose are false claims, to put it bluntly. Why not go to die spring to get your water? Who wants to drink it after is has been toted around and poured from bucket to bucket? The book of Acts is die how to book of die N.T. Possibly, you will want to re-read Paul's speech anodier time or two on your own. But, before we check out Paul's interruption; let's take a break Have a good day!