Paul’s Journey to Jerusalem: Acts 21:1-14.
After saying farewell to the Ephesian elders, Paul and team sailed and reached Syria. Paul spent seven days with a group of believers while his ship unloaded its cargo. These believers warned Paul that he should not go to Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit made clear to them that suffering awaits Paul in Jerusalem. Paul’s objective was not to avoid suffering but his people would hear the gospel of grace and be saved. His great love for Jews motivated him to face prison and even suffer death for the sake of their salvation. When Paul returned to the ship the entire believers came down to the shore with him, prayed and said farewell. Paul next went to Caesarea and stayed at the home of Philip the evangelist. He was one of the deacons of the Jerusalem church and the one who led the Ethiopian to Christ (Acts 8). His four daughters are referred to as “prophetesses “. They are the last ones mentioned in the Bible who had this gift. While Paul was there, a prophet named Agabus, prophesied that Paul would be delivered into the hands of the gentiles. Here also the believers pleaded with Paul not to go to Jerusalem. When it was clear that no one could persuade him, they said “Let the will of the Lord be done” (21:14). Paul understood that following Christ is not easy and it requires to count the cost and give up our own interests (Luke 14:28). If we believe that Christ died for us we should no longer live for ourselves but for Christ who died for us (2 Cor 5:15). Like Paul, our goal should not be to avoid suffering at all cost. When we consider the great price Christ had paid to save us, no sacrifice we make is too much in comparison.
Paul’s Visit to Jerusalem: Acts 21:15-26.
When Paul and the team arrived at Jerusalem, believers welcomed them gladly. Next day they went to meet with James and the elders. Paul gave a detailed account of what God had accomplished among the gentiles through his ministry. Paul continued to struggle with the issue of forcing gentile believers to observe the law. Paul deals this issue throughout his letters, especially in Galatians and Romans. Paul preached the gospel of grace to the gentiles. The law gives knowledge of sin but has no power to save us. Paul was even willing to undergo the Jewish rituals of purification to remove the rumors against him that he is against the law (21:26). The gentile believers were told that they should abstain from eating food offered to idols, from blood, the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. Paul was willing to become all things to all people for the sake of the gospel but never willing to compromise the gospel in his ministry (1 Cor 9:22-23). This flexibility on nonessential should be maintained for the harmony among the believers. We should never compromise on the message of the gospel but on the method of presenting it.
Paul’s Arrest in the Temple: Acts 21:27-40.
The unbelieving Jews saw Paul in the temple and mistakenly concluded that he had brought Trophimus, a gentile inside the temple with him (21:29). They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple. In the past Paul faced violent oppositions from the gentiles in his ministry. Now he is facing similar persecution from Jews as well (21:30-31). Paul was rescued by the Roman guards. The crowd became so violent that the soldiers had to carry him on their shoulders to protect Paul. The crowd followed him shouting “Kill him, kill him”. Once Paul was rescued from the crowd he requested the opportunity to speak to them. Paul assured the tribune that he is a Jew and he had the right to enter the temple. He is from the city of Tarsus in Cilicia and he is a Roman citizen in order to receive fair treatment. Thus Paul was given the permission to address the crowd in their own Hebrew language (21:39-40). Paul was not discouraged by the violent opposition. He preached the gospel hoping that Jews would receive Jesus as their King and the Savior. No one can preach the gospel from hate because it is the message of God’s love towards mankind.