Friday, July 3, 2020

Arrest in Jerusalem

"When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem" (Acts 21:12).

Acts 21 begins with Paul’s return trip to Jerusalem. Along the way, it was prophesied that he would be arrested and bound over for trial. The disciples begged him not to go, but he insisted. This begins an important theme in Acts, which is that Paul goes through the same steps as his Master. Jesus also set His face toward Jerusalem, and the disciples tried to persuade Him not to go when they learned that He intended to die (Matthew 16:21–23). Like Jesus, Paul would be seized and tried by the same three courts that tried the Lord: the Jewish Sanhedrin, the court of the Roman governor Felix, and the court of the Herodian Agrippa. Unlike Jesus, Paul would be delivered from death.

When Paul arrived at Jerusalem, he reported to James, the chief pastor of the church in Jerusalem, James and the other pastors told him that the Jews and Judaizers hated him intensely and had spread distorted stories about him. Since he intended to fulfill his Nazirite vow, they suggested that he do so publicly and in company with four Jewish Christians who had also taken this vow. Paul took it on both his second and third missionary journeys.

James’ wise counsel was thwarted when Jews from Asia saw Paul in the temple and raised a hue and cry against him. According to the Jewish oral law traditions, which Jesus abominated, no Gentile was allowed in the temple area on pain of death (contrast God’s generous law in Numbers 15:14–16). A mob was raised, and the)’ were engaged in beating Paul to death when Caesar’s troops arrived. Once again Caesar delivered the church from assaults by heretics and apostates (Acts 21:27–32).

Paul informed the Roman commander that He was a Roman citizen and asked to speak to the Jewish crowd. He proclaimed Christ and what He had called Paul to do. Then Paul brought Christ’s charge against the Jews. He told the crowd that Jesus had appeared to him and had told him that the Jews would reject the kingdom and that it would be given to the Gentiles. At this point, the crowd began screaming for Paul’s blood, and Paul was carried off by the Romans (Acts 21:33–22:24).

The theme recurs again and again: The Jews have rejected the Gospel and it is going to others. This has happened more than once in church history when the older church has tried to destroy those who sought to reform her, and the Gospel has gone to new nations. It could happen in our land.