Keith Hunt - Bible Story, NT - Chapter Seventy-seven: Paul goes to Jerusalem   Restitution of All Things
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New Testament Bible
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Chapter Seventy-seven:

Paul goes to Jerusalem

                      THE NEW TESTAMENT

                         BIBLE STORY

                          ACTS #31

              Paul arrives in Jerusalem Acts 21


     After saying farewell to the elders of Ephesus, Paul and his
company sailed to the island of Cos. They reached Rhodes the next
day and then went on to Patara, and there they boarded a ship
sailing for the Syrian province of Phoenicia. They sighted the
island of Cyprus and passed by it on the left and then landed at
the harbor of Tyre, in Syria, where the cargo of the ship was
unloaded. There they went ashore and found the local disciples
and decided to stay a week with them. Through the power of the
Holy Spirit these disciples prophesied that Paul should NOT go up
to Jerusalem. When it was time for Paul and his company to leave,
the entire congregation, with wives and children , came down to
the shore with them. There they all knelt and prayed and said
farewell. Paul and his companions journeyed on and the saints of
Tyre returned to their homes (Acts 21:1-6).

     We again see here an example that it is quite correct and
honorable at times, for a congregation to all kneel and pray
together. This was no doubt such a time, as they all knew nothing
good from the physical point of view was going to happen to Paul
if he went up to Jerusalem.

     Paul and his co-workers went on to Ptolemais, where they
greeted the believers there, but only stayed for one day. Then
they went on to Caesarea and stayed in Philip's house. He had
become an Evangelist. He was one of the seven men chosen to "wait
on tables" or distribute food, as we saw back in Acts chapter
six. 
     Now, Philip had four unmarried daughters who had the gift of
Prophecy. In the early years of the New Testament Church of God,
this gift of prophecy usually included the ability to foretell
what would happen to a person or persons in a week, or month, or
whatever time frame. They could probably also foretell natural
disasters to come. All of those kinds of things they could
predict, as well as speaking things inspired by the Holy Spirit,
which the word "prophecy" can also be understood to mean (verses
7-9).

     We can see from this that the gifts of the Spirit can be
placed upon ANYONE, men or women, and that is exactly what Paul
taught in 1 Corinthians chapter twelve.
     We note also that the leading of the Spirit had guided
Philip, who at first was chosen by the people and the apostles
(Acts 6) to serve in a physical way, to become an Evangelist. The
details of all this happening to Philip we are not given. It is
given that by this time in the life of the Church of God, he was
known as an Evangelist, and that is sufficient for us to know. An
Evangelist is one who goes out in a public way at times to
proclaim the Gospel to the unconverted masses of the people.

     During the time Paul and his companions stay with Philip, a
man named Agabus, who also had the gift of prophecy, came to them
from Judea. He took Paul's belt and bound his own feet with it.
Then he said, "The Holy Spirit has declared to me, that the
owner of this belt shall also be bound by the Jewish leaders in
Jerusalem and turned over to the Romans." 
     Paul's companions and those believers at Philip's house then
begged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. But Paul answered them
saying, "Why do you weep for me? You are breaking my heart! I am
not only ready to be jailed at Jerusalem but also to die if I
must, for the sake of our Lord Jesus."
     All then realized it was useless to try and get Paul to
change his mind about going up to Jerusalem, so they stopped
trying and said, "The will of the Lord be done" (verses 10-14).

PAUL ARRIVES AT JERUSALEM

     Some believers from Caesarea accompanied Paul and his
companions to Jerusalem. They arrived and stayed with a man named
Mnason, who was originally from Cyprus, and one of the very early
disciples. They were all welcomed very cordially by the believers
in Jerusalem.
     The next day Paul and his co-workers went on to meet with
James and all the Elders of Jerusalem. Greetings were exchanged
and then Paul gave account of all the things God had accomplished
among the Gentiles through his and his companions efforts.
The Elders of Jerusalem praised God on hearing all this news, but
then after a little silence, with concerned looks on their faces,
they all said with one voice (but probably it was James who did
the speaking for them all):

     "You know dear brother there are many thousands  of Jews who
     have also believed, and still take all the laws of Moses
     very seriously. The Jewish Christians here have been told
     that you are teaching all the Jews in the Gentile world to
     turn away from the laws of Moses. They say that you teach
     people NOT to CIRCUMCISE their children or follow Jewish
     customs. Now what can be done about this? For those Jewish
     Christians will certainly hear that you have come to
     Jerusalem. Here is our suggestion. 
     We have four men here who have taken a vow, and are
     preparing to shave their heads. Go with them to the Temple
     and join them in the purification ceremony, and pay for them
     to have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know that the
     rumors about you and your teachings are all false and that
     you yourself are willing to observe Jewish laws and rituals.
     As for the Gentile Christians, all we ask of them is what we
     have already told them in a letter, that they should not eat
     food offered to idols, nor consume blood, nor eat meat from
     strangled animals, and that they should stay away from all
     sexual immorality" (verses 15-25).

     This is an extremely interesting passage of the New
Testament. It shows that false ideas and rumors that are
incorrect, can and do often float around and get passed on,
that come from a misunderstanding of what someone may say in a
certain context. Often the context is not thought about, only
certain words that are said, are clung to, and from there ANOTHER
context is added, which perverts the original context and the
words spoken within the original context. 
     Paul taught that certain physical rites and "rituals" (like
the rite and ritual that went with circumcising an eight day old
male child) such as physical circumcision was, under the New
Testament, NOT required for spiritual salvation. But he NEVER
taught it was WRONG or that such a law of Moses, should NOT BE
DONE, if you desired to do it. He simply taught that such a
physical rite did nothing for your salvation. He taught that
doing a physical rite like circumcision, neither added to the
grace of salvation, nor took away from the grace of salvation. In
other words Paul said, you did not acquire more "brownie
points" in God's eyes if you circumcised or if you did not
circumcise. 
     We have seen (as we covered Acts 15) that SOME "Jewish"
believing people taught that circumcision WAS needed in order to
be saved. Many other Jewish believers also practiced the Temple
rituals and vows such as the Nazarite vow of Number 6. It may
well have been the Nazarite vow that these four men had taken
which the Elders at Jerusalem wanted Paul to participate in, at
the Temple, with them, as they ended their vow.
     But the context of this passage is certain - it is physical
and ritual laws of Moses, which many Jewish believers, still
desired to practice, even having enthusiasm to still practice
them. The Temple still stood, the Levitical priesthood still
functioned in the Temple. All this was instituted by God under
Moses, so hence it still in that sense, belonged to the Lord. It
was not NOW something "evil" or "bad" or "contaminated" just
because the New Testament was in effect, and because the Messiah
had now come to die for the sins of the world. Some thought that
Paul did teach that the rites and rituals of the laws of Moses,
including physical circumcision, was "evil" or "bad" and should
be kept at arms length, avoiding them like the plague. 
     The Elders at Jerusalem knew Paul did NOT teach such a
theology concerning the Temple ritual laws of Moses, as some
thought he did. And those Elders wanted Paul to literally
demonstrate to all in Jerusalem that he was not against partaking
in Temple rites IF they so still desired to do so.

     Again, let me make it clear. Paul did not teach that a
believer in Christ HAD TO partake of Temple ceremonies and rites
under the New Testament. He taught that such physical rites
(including physical circumcision) did NOT have to be performed
under the New Testament, that those rites gained no favor or
grace with God as such. You were neither "more saved" or "less
saved" or to put it in modern terminology, you were neither
a "better Christian" or a "worst Christian" by doing or not doing
physical Temple rites of Moses.

     It comes as a shock to many Christians to realize the truth
of this passage in the book of Acts. The truth that Paul DID go
to the Temple and with other believers did partake of performing
Temple rites, which included Temple sacrifices. Many today think
that as Christ had been sacrificed on the cross for the sins of
the world, that doing literal animal sacrifices in the Temple,
with the Levitical priesthood, would be a terrible affront to
Christ, would somehow even be evil or sin, to do such a thing as
what Paul and these four men did in the Temple ritual. But as we
can plainly read, this was not the case at all, Paul and the four
men, did go to the Temple, they did partake in Temple rituals,
and God did not rain fire and brimstone down on their heads for
so doing.

     If today there was a Temple in Jerusalem, if today there was
a Levitical priesthood officiating the Temple sacrifices and
rituals, it would NOT be wrong, evil, or sin, for a Christian to
partake of those rituals. It would NOT make you a better
Christian, or a worst Christian, if you did or did not partake of
Temple rituals. You would not find more grace or less grace with
God by participating in Temple ceremonies and rituals, even
Temple animal sacrifices. It was not bad or sin for Paul and the
four men to participate in the Temple laws of Moses,  and it
would not be bad or sin, for you to do likewise IF the Temple
conditions were the same today as it was in Paul's day.

     As for the Gentiles, or none Jewish people, we have the
clear instruction in both Acts 15 and in this passage of Acts 21,
that they were never to feel they ever needed to perform Temple
rites, ceremonies, rituals, including physical circumcision. They
were to particularly watch and be careful about FOUR points
given. We covered all this in some detail as we went through Acts
15. It was four areas where the Gentiles had specific LARGE
problems with. Most can see that of sexual immorality, being a
large problem, with the people who never had God's word to guide
them on the matter of sexual conduct, but the other three .... 
people could question, from the point of "Are not these
also physical laws of Moses?"
     Yes, I guess you could say they are to some degree, or at
least many people classify them as physical laws of Moses, and so
as the Temple ritual, sacrificing, ceremonial, laws of Moses are
not required for salvation, so then these other three laws
of Moses should not be required. But we have the Elders of
Jerusalem saying the Gentiles should take care NOT to defile
themselves by practicing the breaking of these three laws of
Moses (the fourth being accepted by most Christians as right and
correct to be not sexually immoral). So, in the mind of many,
there is a seeming contradiction or ideas, or teaching here. But
the truth must lie then in the understanding, that NOT ALL
physical laws of Moses are the SAME. Some are NOT important for
Christians to practice today under the New Testament, but SOME
ARE STILL to be observed by all Christians (Jews or Gentiles) 
today.

     I did cover this aspect of the question and seeming
contradiction in detail in Acts 15. I ask the reader to refer
back to that section of the Bible Story, for the full answer.

PAUL IS ARRESTED

     So it was that Paul agreed to the Elders request and the
next day he went through the purification ritual with the men in
the Temple. The he publicly announced the date when their vows
would end and when the sacrifices would be offered for each of
them.
     The seven days were almost completed when some Jews from
Asia saw Paul in the Temple and roused a mob of people against
him. They took hold of him, saying, "Men of Israel! Help us! This
is the man who teaches against our people and tells everyone to
disobey the Jew's laws. He speaks against the Temple, and even
defiles it by bringing into it Gentile people [They had earlier
seen Paul in the city with Trophimus, the Gentile from Ephesus,
and they assumed Paul had taken him to the Temple]" (verses
26-29).

     Ah, see what "assumption" can do - it can cause blindness of
heart to the point of wanting to do harm, literally or mentally
and emotionally, towards whom you have falsely assumed has done
what you consider they should not have done, even if what you
consider is evil, is not evil at all. Nothing in God's word said
a Gentile could not come into the Temple of God, but the Jews had
set boundary markers and walls with the Temple structure to keep
Gentiles in only one part and out of another part. They even had
boundaries set up where Jewish women could not cross over within
the Temple. All man made ideas and practices. So these Jews truly
had an assumption and compounded it by adding to it practices and
traditions of their own making, all ending up to bring a great
evil upon the Apostle Paul.

     The whole population of the city was rocked and rolled by
these accusations, and a great riot broke out. Paul was dragged
out of the Temple, and the gates closed behind him. They were now
trying to kill him, so hot was their anger at him. Word reached
the commander of the Roman regiment that all Jerusalem was in a
riotous uproar. He immediately called out his officers and
soldiers who ran into the crowd.  And it was only this action by
the soldiers that caused the mob to stop beating Paul. The
commander arrested Paul and had him bound with two chains. He
then asked the crowd who this man was and what had he done. Some
shouted one thing and others shouted another thing. He could find
no truth in all the shouting and accusations, much of it
confusing and contradictory, so he ordered Paul to be taken to
the fortress. 
          As they reached the stairs to the fortress, the mob
grew so violent the soldiers had to lift up Paul to their
shoulders, and carry him aloft, to protect him. The crowd
followed behind shouting, "Kill him, kill him!"

PAUL SPEAKS TO THE CROWD

     As Paul was about to be taken inside, he said to the
commander, "May I have a word with you sir?"
     "Do you know Greek?" the commander surprisingly asked when
Paul spoke in Greek to him. "Are you not the one, the Egyptian
who led a rebellion some time back and took four thousand members
of the Assassins out into the desert?"
     "No," replied Paul, "I am a Jew from Tarsus in Cilicia,
which is an important city. Please, let me talk to these people."
     The commander agreed, so Paul stood there on the steps and
motioned to the people to be quiet. Soon a deep silence did come
over the crowd, and he addressed them in their own language,
Aramaic, which was the common Hebrew dialect of the people of
Judah (verses 30-40).

                ............................

Written October 2004
     

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