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Acts 21

Thursday Evening Bible Study

March 6, 2014


Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached? Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision Is the church loved? Target 4400 words

On the day of Pentecost, the church was born. It began with the Holy Spirit filling the believers. As the apostles preached about Jesus, the church began to grow.

By chapter seven, the church was beginning to experience persecution. Stephen was the first one to die for his faith. One of the main men behind the persecution was a man named Saul. But when Saul headed for the city of Damascus to pursue the Christians there, he was knocked off his horse by a bright light and he met Jesus. Saul is more well known by his Roman name, Paul.

By chapter 10, the gospel began to reach even the Gentiles, starting with a Roman Centurion named Cornelius.

In chapter 13, we began a new section of Acts as we began to focus on the ministry of Paul.

Play Paul’s Missionary Journeys map clip

Paul’s first missionary journey took him from Antioch of Syria, through the island of Cyprus, up into the area of Galatia, and back again, traveling roughly 1300 miles.

Paul’s second missionary journey took him through Galatia, then up and over through Greece, and then back through Jerusalem and on to Antioch.  The entire journey was over 2700 miles.

We are now on Paul’s third missionary journey, starting through the Galatian churches and then spending a couple of years in Ephesus.  After a riot broke out, Paul made his way up to Macedonia, then down to Corinth, back up to Macedonia, and back south to Miletus where he’s said “goodbye” to the elders at Ephesus.

Even though a case could be made that Ephesus was Paul’s favorite church (having spent the most time there), Paul had this desire to be in Jerusalem for the Passover.

On each stop along the way to Jerusalem, he is being warned that there is danger ahead.

21:1-14 More Warnings

:1 Now it came to pass, that when we had departed from them and set sail, running a straight course we came to Cos, the following day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara.

:1 Rhodes

Rhodes was famous in history as being the location of the “Colossus”, a giant 100 foot statue that straddled the harbor.  It was one of the “Seven Wonders of the World”.  It was destroyed in an earthquake in 226 BC, long before Paul arrived.  The ruins of the statue laid on the ground for 800 years before being carried off by Arab merchants.

Rhodes was an ancient tourist location.  I wonder if Paul put on ugly shorts, socks, sandals, and a camera when they got there and took a tour of the Colossus ruins.

:2 And finding a ship sailing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail.

:3 When we had sighted Cyprus, we passed it on the left, sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload her cargo.

Play Miletus to Tyre map clip.

They sailed first to the island of Cos and then came to Rhodes.  Then they stopped at the city of Patara on the mainland.  Then off past Cyprus and on to the land of the Phoenicians, and the city of Tyre.

:4 And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem.

:4 not to go up to Jerusalem

This is just like the warnings Paul was getting in the last chapter. (Acts 20:22-24)

(Ac 20:22–24 NKJV) —22 And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. 24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

I don’t think that the Holy Spirit it telling Paul not to go to Jerusalem.

I do believe the Holy Spirit is warning Paul about what’s up ahead.

I believe it’s the believers that are taking that knowledge and telling Paul not to go.


Confusing His Spirit with my spirit

Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether God is the one that’s prompting me to do something, or it’s just my own internal ideas and thoughts.
The sad thing is that God gets blamed for a lot of stuff that only came to us because of the pizza we ate last night.
We do have a tool to help us to discern between things that can get confusing.
(Heb 4:12 NKJV) For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

The more time we spend with God’s Word, the easier it is to discern what is from God and what is from the pizza.

:5 When we had come to the end of those days, we departed and went on our way; and they all accompanied us, with wives and children, till we were out of the city. And we knelt down on the shore and prayed.

The church in Tyre was a family church.  Men, wives, and children all came to see Paul off.

:6 When we had taken our leave of one another, we boarded the ship, and they returned home.

:7 And when we had finished our voyage from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, greeted the brethren, and stayed with them one day.

:7 Ptolemais

Play Tyre to Ptolemais map clip

Ptolemais is known today as the city of Acco or Acre.  It is on the coast of Israel about 25 miles south of Tyre.  It is just north of the Israel port of Haifa.

Acco is a fun place to visit in Israel.  The ancient things you see today date back to the times of the Crusaders.

:8 On the next day we who were Paul’s companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him.

:8  came to Caesarea

Play Ptolemais to Caesarea map clip

Caesarea is another 30 miles further south along the coast of Israel.

:8 Philip the evangelist

Philip was one of the original seven “deacons” of the church, back in the early days when the church was growing so fast that the apostles couldn’t keep up with all the needs of the church.

Philip got his start by “waiting on tables”, serving the poor widows in Jerusalem.

He went on to become known as an “evangelist” after he went north from Jerusalem to Samaria and many Samaritans got saved.  Then he went south and met the eunuch from Ethiopia, leading him to the Lord.

Philip has now been living in Caesarea for some time raising his family.

Caesarea was Roman capital of the land of “Palestine”.  It was the center of the secular government.

:9 Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied.

:9 four virgin daughters who prophesied

I wonder if they too had a word from God about Paul’s future.

I love how this man’s family seems to be serving the Lord.

:10 And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.

:10 a certain prophet named Agabus

We’ve met Agabus before back in the early days of Paul’s home church in Antioch.

Agabus had prophesied about a coming famine in Jerusalem. (Acts 11:27-29)

(Ac 11:27–29 NKJV) —27 And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar. 29 Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.
The famine came in AD 46.  This is now AD 56, ten years later.  I would imagine that Agabus would be like an old friend, a nice reunion.

:11 When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’ ”

:11 bind the man who owns this belt

I would imagine that this is getting a little old for Paul.

At every stop he is getting warned about what’s ahead.
It reminds me a little of what happened just before Elijah was taken away in a chariot of fire.
One prophet after another would come up to Elisha and Elijah and tell them that the Lord was going to take Elijah. (2Ki. 2:1-5)
I kind of got the idea that Elisha was bugged by all these guys telling him what he already knew.
(2 Ki 2:1–5 NKJV) —1 And it came to pass, when the Lord was about to take up Elijah into heaven by a whirlwind, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal. 2 Then Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here, please, for the Lord has sent me on to Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!” So they went down to Bethel. 3 Now the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, “Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?” And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent!” 4 Then Elijah said to him, “Elisha, stay here, please, for the Lord has sent me on to Jericho.” But he said, “As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!” So they came to Jericho. 5 Now the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho came to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?” So he answered, “Yes, I know; keep silent!”

Elisha already knew that Elijah was going to be taken that day.  Every time he is told that Elijah is going to be taken, it seems like he’s bothered with them feeling they need to remind him.

Notice that the message from Agabus is a bit clearer here than the other prophets – God is simply warning Paul of what is up ahead. God is not telling Paul to stay away.

Agabus is a bit more experienced in handling a message from the Lord.  He doesn’t add to it as it seems some of the earlier prophets had done.  He simply gives the message.

:12 Now when we heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem.

It’s the people that love Paul that are trying to keep him away from Jerusalem.

Sometimes the people that are closest to us mean well, but they can also end up hindering what God may be asking us to do.

:13 Then Paul answered, “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

:14 So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, “The will of the Lord be done.”

:13 breaking my heart


Encourage the courageous

There are times when God calls a person to do courageous things.
Those of us that care about those people can sometimes tend to make it harder by trying to protect them rather than encouraging them.
Of course it’s totally appropriate to speak up and voice your concerns. But if the person is convinced that they are doing God’s will, at some point we need to trust that these folks know what they’re doing, and trust them into God’s hands.
Play “LOTR Sam’s Speech” clip
We need to encourage those who are trying to do courageous things.
For those of you who might feel like God is calling you to do something courageous, and you’re getting “pressure” from others…
“It doesn't matter how great the pressure is. What really matters is where the pressure lies—whether it comes between you and God or whether it presses you nearer his heart.”

-         Hudson Taylor (1832–1905)

21:15-25 Correcting misconceptions

:15 And after those days we packed and went up to Jerusalem.

Play Caesarea to Jerusalem map clip

It’s about a fifty mile trip inland to go from Caesarea to Jerusalem.

:15 went up to Jerusalem

As with all the major Jewish feasts, Jews from around the world would be in Jerusalem, including Jews from all the places where Paul has preached (and often got into trouble).

:16 Also some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us and brought with them a certain Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we were to lodge.

:16 a certain Mnason

Mnason is from the island of Cyprus, where Barnabas was also from.

Some suggest that Mnason lived in a village halfway to Jerusalem and they spent the night with him.

:17 And when we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.

:18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.

:18 James

This is the half-brother of Jesus.  He is the head of the church in Jerusalem.

:19 When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

:19 which God had done …

It’s been about 3 years since Paul has been in Jerusalem (Acts 18:22).  It was during this time that he established the church in Ephesus.  It was during this time that the gospel was spread throughout Asia Minor from the Ephesian church.  There were many great miracles done.  Many turned to the Lord.


We serve, God works.

The best we can ever do is to learn to serve God and others.
The real, lasting work in the lives of the people we serve is done by God, not us.
Keith Green used to sing, “Just keep doing your best, and pray that it’s blessed, and Jesus takes care of the rest”
Paul himself had written earlier to the Corinthians:
(1 Co 3:5–7 NKJV) —5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.
I think a good measure of how much I believe this is by looking at how much of my “ministry time” is devoted to prayer.
If I really believe that God’s work in people’s lives is the most important, why aren’t I talking to Him about it more?
Hudson Taylor is known for his mission work in China 150 years ago.  Before he went to China, he was training to be a doctor in a poor town called “Drainside”… from his biography…
Praying! And answers to prayer! That became the passion of his life. He learned to move men through God by prayer. He asked no man for any material thing. He laid all needs before his Lord. That doctor he had worked for at Drainside had suggested to his young assistant, “Taylor, please do remind me when it is time to pay your salary. I’m so busy, you know, I’m quite likely to forget.” And forget he did. But Taylor remembered that in China he would have no one to ask anything of, only God, so he simply asked God to remind the doctor.
Three weeks later the doctor remembered—but only after he had banked his money. Taylor was broke. It was Saturday. He had no money to pay his rent. He had no money for food. He prayed as he worked until ten o’clock, glad he would not have to face his landlady. As he prepared to leave, the doctor surprised him, “What do you think? One of my patients has just come to pay his bill! He’s one of my richest patients and he could have paid me by check anytime. Yet, there he is, bringing in the money at ten o’clock on Saturday night.” Then he added, “By the way, Taylor, you might as well take these notes. I have no change, but I can give you the balance of your salary next week ... Good night!”
Taylor’s prayers were answered. He could not only pay his rent, he had money in hand for weeks ahead—but more than that, he had proven again: God answers prayer and moves men. He could go on to China!

:20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law;

:20 myriads of Jews

The word for “myriads” means literally “ten thousand”.

The church has grown over the last 23 years since that first Pentecost when three thousand came to believe.

:20 they are all zealous for the law

zealouszelotes – one burning with zeal, a zealot.

The Jewish believers believed very strongly in keeping the Law of Moses.  We are not talking about unbelievers, but believers.

:21 but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.

:21 they have been informed about you

Paul had been concerned about how he might be received by the unbelievers in Jerusalem. Look at his prayer request a few months earlier:

(Ro 15:30–31 NKJV) —30 Now I beg you, brethren, through the Lord Jesus Christ, and through the love of the Spirit, that you strive together with me in prayers to God for me, 31 that I may be delivered from those in Judea who do not believe, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints,

The non-believing Jews had been speaking bad about Paul around town.  The Jewish believers had been soaking up all this talk, and were starting to take the side of the unbelievers against Paul.

:21 to forsakeapostasia – a falling away

teaching them to apostatize from Moses”

The issue was not about how the Gentile believers should behave.

They were claiming that Paul was teaching Jewish believers to stop following the Law of Moses.

In fact, Paul taught just the opposite, having written this within the last year:

(1 Co 7:18 NKJV) Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be circumcised.
(1 Co 9:20 NKJV) and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law;

Nowhere did Paul tell the Jews that it was wrong for them to practice their customs, so long as they did not trust in ceremony or make their customs a test of fellowship (Rom. 14:1-15:7).

The ceremonies themselves weren’t wrong.  They were pictures of the coming Messiah.
But the ceremonies don’t save a person, it’s only trusting in Jesus that saves a person.


Be careful who you listen to.

The Jewish believers were being confused by the Jewish unbelievers.
Some people don’t really make any sense when you listen to them.
Play Durwood Fincher clip
The problem is that some of us think we understand when we don’t.
Sometimes the people we’re talking to just don’t have it quite right.


Two airheads are walking through the woods and come upon a set of tracks. One airhead said that they were deer tracks.  The other airhead said that they were moose tracks. They were still arguing when the train hit them.

Some people have actually made a decision to twist the truth, even a little.
(Pr 18:8 NKJV) The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, And they go down into the inmost body.
(Pr 20:19 NKJV) He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets; Therefore do not associate with one who flatters with his lips.
Paul is going to get into a lot of trouble in about a week.  What is really sad is that some of the believing Jews in the church made things worse for Paul by listening to these slanderous things.

:22 What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come.

:23 Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow.

:23 four men who have taken a vow

There were four men in the church in Jerusalem who had taken a Nazirite vow (Num. 6).

This is when a person would promise to keep themselves pure before God for a set period of time, during which they would grow their hair long and abstain from wine or anything made from grapes. 

It was to be a time of special usefulness before God.

:24 Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law.

:24 pay their expenses

When a person’s vow was completed, there were certain rituals and costs involved.

Paul was to join these men in their vow, meaning that he too would be making sacrifices.

Some have suggested that when Paul had himself shaved (Acts 18), it was the beginning of the Nazirite vow, and he himself was completing his vow at this time.

This could be quite expensive, especially for four men and Paul as well.  The expense came at the end of the vow when certain sacrifices were required to make the vow complete.

(Nu 6:13–15 NKJV) —13 Now this is the law of the Nazirite: When the days of his separation are fulfilled, he shall be brought to the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 14 And he shall present his offering to the Lord: one male lamb in its first year without blemish as a burnt offering, one ewe lamb in its first year without blemish as a sin offering, one ram without blemish as a peace offering, 15 a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and their grain offering with their drink offerings.
If Paul is paying for himself AND four other men, then he would have to be purchasing five male lambs, five ewe lambs, five rams, and all the bread, grain, and drink offerings.

This advice is meant to show the Jewish believers that Paul is willing to pay the price to show that he was still a practicing Jew.

Is this forcing Paul to be hypocritical?

Not at all.
Paul himself had taken a Naririte vow back in Corinth.

:25 But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.”

:25 keep themselves from things

These rules were meant for the Gentiles who believed in Christ, not the Jews who believed in Christ.

This decision was made by the church back in Acts 15, some 6 years earlier.

21:26-36 Temple Arrest

:26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each one of them.

:26 to announce the expiration of the days

Paul is giving notice to the priests of what he and these men were doing, and in a way making a reservation for a sacrifice to be made in seven days.

:27 Now when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him,

:27 the seven days

The ritual for purification took a week. (Num. 6:9-10)

(Nu 6:9–10 NKJV) —9 ‘And if anyone dies very suddenly beside him, and he defiles his consecrated head, then he shall shave his head on the day of his cleansing; on the seventh day he shall shave it. 10 Then on the eighth day he shall bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons to the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of meeting;

:27 the Jews from Asia

This is probably more specifically Jews from Ephesus. 

Though Paul was unknown to many of the people in Jerusalem, he was certainly well known to those in Ephesus.  He was at the center of the riot that almost took place earlier in the year.

It’s possible that Paul was not a favorite among the non-believing Jews in Ephesus.  We think one of them, Alexander, was trying to tell the rioting crowd that Paul was not one of their group

(Ac 19:33–34 NKJV) —33 And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander motioned with his hand, and wanted to make his defense to the people. 34 But when they found out that he was a Jew, all with one voice cried out for about two hours, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!”

:28 crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.”

:29 (For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)

:29 they had previously seen Trophimus

Trophimus was one of Paul’s traveling companions, one of his disciples from Ephesus (Acts 20:4).

One day some of the Ephesian Jews had spotted Paul in Jerusalem with is buddy Trophimus. They jump to the conclusion that if Paul had been in Jerusalem with Trophimus, then he must have taken him to the temple.

Even if Paul had done this, it was actually not an unlawful thing.  It was lawful for a Gentile to be in the “Court of the Gentiles”.  But it was unlawful for them to go into the “Court of Women” or the “Court of Israel”.  Inside the temple was a wall separating the “Court of the Gentiles” from the “Court of Israel”.  On the wall was this inscription:

“No foreigner may enter within the barricade which surrounds the sanctuary and enclosure. Anyone who is caught so doing will have himself to blame for his ensuing death.”


Don’t judge too quickly.

Sometimes we just don’t care for certain people.  And we’re assuming that everything they do is wrong.  It could be you’re wrong.
God had taught the people that concerning serious matters:
(Dt 13:14 NKJV) then you shall inquire, search out, and ask diligently. And if it is indeed true and certain that such an abomination was committed among you,
Could it be you just don’t have all the facts yet?
(Pr 18:13 NKJV) He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him.
Jesus taught:
(Jn 7:24 NKJV) Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
The Rookie
A rookie police officer was assigned to ride in a cruiser with an experienced partner. A call came over the car’s radio telling them to disperse some people who were loitering.  The officers drove to the street and observed a small crowd standing on a corner.  The rookie rolled down his window and said, “Let’s get off the corner.”  No one moved, so he barked again, “Let’s get off the corner!” Intimidated, the group of people began to leave, casting puzzled glances in his direction.  Proud of his first official act, the young policeman turned to his partner and asked, “Well, how did I do?”  Pretty good, “replied the veteran, “especially since this is a bus stop.”

:30 And all the city was disturbed; and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut.

:31 Now as they were seeking to kill him, news came to the commander of the garrison that all Jerusalem was in an uproar.

:31 the commander of the garrison

commanderchiliarchos –the commander of a thousand soldiers

His name was Claudius Lysias (Acts 23:26).

When King Herod was refurbishing and expanding the Temple, one of the things he did was to build the Antonio Fortress next to the Temple.  This was the “garrison”.  It was built to house the Roman soldiers who would keep the peace in the city.  It overlooked the Temple so the soldiers could see what was going on in the Temple courtyards without ever having to enter in and “defile” the Temple, unless in an emergency (like now).

:32 He immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them. And when they saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.

:32 centurionshekatontarches – an officer in the Roman army, over a hundred soldiers. 

Because it’s plural, it’s likely that Claudius took several hundred men with him to see what was going on.

:33 Then the commander came near and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and he asked who he was and what he had done.

:33 bound with two chains

Most likely one chain on each arm, each linked to a soldier.

:34 And some among the multitude cried one thing and some another. So when he could not ascertain the truth because of the tumult, he commanded him to be taken into the barracks.

:34 taken into the barracks

This would be the Antonio Fortress.

:35 When he reached the stairs, he had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob.

The danger was so great that the soldiers had to carry Paul over their heads.

:36 For the multitude of the people followed after, crying out, “Away with him!”

Paul is going to get a chance to address the crowd …

21:37-40 Paul addresses the crowd

:37 Then as Paul was about to be led into the barracks, he said to the commander, “May I speak to you?” He replied, “Can you speak Greek?

The commander is surprised that Paul can speak Greek.

:38 Are you not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a rebellion and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?”

:38 the Egyptian

assassinssikarios – one who carries a dagger (Latin sica) or short sword under his clothing, that he may kill secretly and treacherously.

The historian Josephus (Wars II:13:5 and 17:6; Antiquities XX:8:10) records such an event in A.D. 54 (two years earlier).

An Egyptian imposter claimed to be a prophet. Josephus said the fellow gathered 30,000 followers (Luke is probably more accurate) and came to the Mount of Olives promising his followers that the walls of Jerusalem would collapse at his command. But when he showed up, the Roman army promptly marched on them, killed some, captured others, the rest were scattered. And the Egyptian escaped.
For the Romans, this is certainly a case of mistaken identity. They see the crowd and the tumult and assume the Jews have captured this guy who caused so much trouble.

The Romans think they’re arresting a terrorist.

But the “Egyptian” wouldn’t be a guy who could speak Greek.

:39 But Paul said, “I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people.”

:39 no mean cityasemos – unmarked or unstamped; unknown, insignificant

Tarsus was a well-known, well respected city.

It was the Roman capital of Cilicia.

It had a reputation for education, probably being the place where Paul learned to speak Greek.

:40 So when he had given him permission, Paul stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, saying,

:40 Paul stood on the stairs

Paul is standing on the stairs to the Antonio Fortress which was right next to the Temple.