The Book of ACTS
James J. Barker
THE APOSTLE PAUL GOES TO JERUSALEM
- It was a sad and emotional farewell in Miletus (20:36-38).
- Acts 21:1 says, "And it came to pass, that after we were gotten from them..." This literally means "to tear away from them."
- Paul was traveling once again, this time sailing southeasterly in the Aegean Sea. He was determined to get to Jerusalem for the day of Pentecost (21:1-3; cf. 20:16).
- Furthermore, Paul had with him a gift for the poor saints at Jerusalem. Paul referred to this collection in Romans 15:25 and 26, "But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem."
- A few stops along the way are mentioned -- first the island of Coos, aka Cos, and then the island of Rhodes (21:1).
- Standing in the entrance of the harbor in Rhodes was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world -- a colossal bronze statue dedicated to the Greek god Helios. The statue was so large that ships in full sail could pass between its legs.
- After Rhodes, they continued sailing southeasterly, stopping next at the coastal city of Patara, a coastal city of ancient Lycia where Paul and Luke changed boats (21:2).
- It was providential that they found a ship sailing to Phenicia, because that was the direction they were going, and Paul was eager to get to Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost (21:2).
- When they had "discovered" (sighted) the island of Cyprus, they passed it on the left hand.
- The island of Cyprus is mentioned eight times in the book of Acts.
- Acts 4:36 tells us Barnabas was from Cyprus.
- Acts 11:20 says some members of the church in Antioch were men of Cyprus.
- Paul and Barnabas visited Cyprus on their first missionary journey (Acts 13).
- After Paul and Barnabas split up, Barnabas took his nephew John Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus (15:39).
- Cyprus was in the news a few months ago when there was a serious bank panic. The Cyprus government took nearly seven percent of the money of ordinary citizens from their bank accounts.
- Then the government closed down all the banks, and there were very long lines at ATMs all over Cyprus as people scrambled to get whatever money they can out of the banks. Unfortunately, some ATMs were not working and others ran out of cash.
- This is a preview of what could happen here in America very soon.
- After they passed Cyprus on the left hand, they sailed into Syria, and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload her "burden" cargo (21:3).
- While the ship was unloading in Tyre, Paul and Luke spent a week there some disciples (21:3, 4).
PAUL IN TYRE (21:3).
- Tyre and Sidon were the most noted of the Phoenician cities.
- Joel 3:4 says, "Yea, and what have ye to do with me, O Tyre, and Zidon, and all the coasts of Palestine?"
- Our Lord said, "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you" (Matt. 11:21, 22).
- Acts 11:19 says, "Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice (Phoenicia, the land of Tyre and Sidon), and Cyprus, and Antioch," and so there was a church established in Tyre, and Paul and Luke and the others searched Tyre and found disciples there (21:4).
- Strong's Concordance says the Greek word translated "finding" (21:4) means, "to find out by search."
- Once again, Paul was warned about trouble waiting for him in Jerusalem (21:4; cf. 20:22-24).
- These warnings (cf. 21:10-14) have stirred debate. Some believe Paul was wrong to disregard these warnings since they came "through the Spirit" (21:4, 11).
- Certainly the Holy Spirit was trying to warn Paul that "bonds and afflictions" were inevitable if he went to Jerusalem (20:22-24).
- But it would be wrong to say that Paul was disobedient to the Holy Spirit (cf. 21:12-14).
- Right after Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus, the Lord told Ananias, "Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake" (Acts 9:15, 16).
- Paul would not have been able to stand before governors and kings, and proclaim the Gospel had he not first gone to Jerusalem.
- It was only after his arrest in Jerusalem that Paul was able to witness to Felix, and Festus, King Agrippa, and other officials.
- It seems best to understand these warnings to Paul (21:4, etc.) not as commands but simply as warnings letting him know what to expect.
- Paul understood the warning and told his friends, "For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus" (21:13).
- When the week in Tyre came to an end, they all met together, including wives and children, down at the sea shore and prayed (Acts 21:5).
- Once again, Paul and Luke climbed on board a ship, this time heading for Ptolemais, where they only stayed one day (21:6, 7). Note that there were Christian "brethren" in this Phoenician seaport (21:7).
PAUL IN CAESAREA (21:8-13)
- Caesarea was south of Ptolemais, and Luke does not say if they arrived there by land or by sea. Caesarea was the Roman capital of Palestine.
- Caesarea was built near the Mediterranean Sea by Herod the Great, and named in honour of Caesar Augustus. It was about 70 miles northwest of Jerusalem, and it had a magnificent harbour.
- Since Philip the evangelist lived in Caesarea, Paul and Luke stayed at his home (21:8).
- Philip "was one of the seven" original deacons in the church in Jerusalem (21:8; cf. 6:5). After chapter 6, he is mentioned next in Acts 8:5 where we are told he was preaching the Gospel in Samaria.
- Though his ministry in Samaria was very successful, with many souls saved, the angel of the Lord instructed Philip to go "toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert" (Acts 8:26).
- In this lonely stretch of desert, Philip led the Ethiopian eunuch to Christ (8:26-40).
- After he baptized the Ethiopian eunuch, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, and he "was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea" (8:40).
- The events recorded in Acts 21 took place about 25 years after Philip left the eunuch out in the Gaza desert. Apparently Philip had settled down in Caesarea. Since he is referred to as "Philip the evangelist" he was probably still doing some traveling (21:8).
- Verse 9 says Philip's four daughters prophesied. This does not suggest they prophesied or preached in church services, for that would contradict I Corinthians 14:34, which says, "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak."
- It would also contradict I Timothy 2:11 and 12 -- "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence."
- Some have used Acts 21:9 to justify lady preachers, but the book of Acts is a transitional book and should be understood in that light (cf. Acts 21:10, 11; 22:17, 18).
- A.C. Gaebelein said, "These four daughters possessed the gift of prophesying, and of teaching, and they also made use of the gift. But did they preach and teach in public? Certainly not. If they exercised their gift it must have been in their sphere, that is, in their home, the house of their father."
- We first met Agabus in Acts 11. Acts 11:27 and 28 says, "And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar."
- Agabus' prophecy came to pass and so his warning to Paul was very serious (21:10-12). His dramatic gesture of taking Paul's girdle, and binding his own hands and feet is reminiscent Ezekiel and some of the other Old Testament prophets.
- Luke and the other believers there in Caesarea urged Paul not to go up to Jerusalem (21:12). They loved him very much and did not want to see him arrested, imprisoned, and executed.
- The warning about imprisonment did not change Paul's mind. He was ready not only to be bound, but also "to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus" (21:13).
- And when Paul would not be persuaded, Luke and the others stopped pleading with him, saying, "The will of the Lord be done" (21:14).
PAUL ARRIVES IN JERUSALEM (21:14-17).
- After several days, Paul and Luke and the others, took up their "carriages," and went up to Jerusalem (21:15). The phrase "took up our carriages" means "took up our baggage" (Scofield margin).
- Nowadays we use the word "carriage" to refer to a vehicle for conveying people or items, etc. But the original English word meant simply that they prepared themselves; they made themselves ready.
- Some of the brethren from Caesarea accompanied them, including an old disciple named Mnason of Cyprus (21:16). The group stayed with Mnason at his place in Jerusalem. This was Paul's last visit to Jerusalem, and this completed his third missionary journey, which began in Antioch (18:22, 23).
- I have noticed that many preachers and commentators refer to a statement made by the famous 19th century preacher, Henry Ward Beecher.
- Beecher was a Congregationalist pastor in Brooklyn. Unfortunately he was also an adulterer and rather liberal. He was the son of Lyman Beecher, who was also a well-known preacher, and the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote the famous novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin.
- When Harriet Beecher Stowe met President Abraham Lincoln, not long after Civil War began, he is said to have said, "So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war!"
- Regarding the apostle Paul, Henry Ward Beecher said Paul was "devoid of artistic sense," because "he traveled through these cities of Asia, packed with things of beauty and artistic merit and value, and never by a line referred to any of those things.”
- Now, it is true that Paul does not refer to the beauty and art of the old magnificent cities and magnificent sights of the Roman Empire. Paul was not a tourist or a sight-seer.
- So far as we know, Paul was not interested in that at all because nothing is said in Scriptures about his interest in things like that.
- But it is not accurate to say that Paul had no artistic sense. What is important to note is that Paul had his priorities right.
- As far as Paul was concerned, there was one thing that was really important, and that was the work of the Lord.
- And so far as Paul was concerned, he was interested in the things that God had told him that he was to do.
- One preacher put it this way, "There was no scenery to Paul. There was no geography to Paul. There was nothing but lost humanity, and the redeeming grace of the Cross of Christ, and he felt this burden upon him to make known that Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to men who are lost. This was the thing that pressed upon his spirit and upon his soul. I do not feel that the apostle was devoid of any sense of culture or art. He probably had an outstanding sense of that. He had been brought up in such a way as to have just that very thing. But when it comes to priorities, the things of the interest of the Lord God are first with the apostle" (S. Lewis Johnson).