Evening Bible Study
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
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
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
On each stop along the way to Jerusalem, he is being warned that there is
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.
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
: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
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
(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
The church in Tyre was a family church. Men, wives, and children all came to see Paul
: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.
Play Tyre to Ptolemais
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.
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
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.
:9 Now this man had four virgin daughters who
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.
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
: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
: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.
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.And he said, “Yes, I know; keep silent!”
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
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
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
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.
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.
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,
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
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
The Jewish believers believed very strongly in keeping the Law of Moses. We are not talking about unbelievers, but
: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
: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:
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
:21 to forsake – apostasia – 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
(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
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.
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
(Pr 18:8 NKJV) The words
of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, And they go
down into the inmost body.
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
: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
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
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
: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
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)
: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
: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
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
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 centurions – hekatontarches – 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
: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
: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
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
:38 the Egyptian
assassins – sikarios – 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
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
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
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
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.