Acts + Letters Lesson 25 Day 2

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Acts 21:16–36

3. Paul agrees to take part in temple purification rites.

Paul was free from the law of Moses, so why did he agree?

Most of the believers in Jerusalem were Jews. They grew up observing the law, and they still followed the Jewish customs.

They’d heard a rumor that Paul was anti-Jewish, telling Jewish Christians it was wrong to continue in Jewish laws and customs.1

This wasn’t true because Paul fulfilled a vow as mentioned in Acts 18:18-21.

The elders in Jerusalem already wrote their decision, limiting recommendations for the Gentiles to a few essential guidelines. (v. 25) But to stop criticism against his grace teaching, they urged Paul to join with and sponsor several Jewish Christian men in observing a purification rite in the temple.

“Paul didn’t need this oath to purify himself. Jesus had made him clean (John 15:3)”2

He submitted to the elders’ advice to keep from discouraging the Jewish believers.

The elders’ plan didn’t work.

Unfortunately, several Jews from Asia recognized Paul, and stirred up the crowd against him because they assumed he brought a Gentile into the temple.

They cried out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the [Jewish] people, and the law, and this place. Moreover, he also brought Greeks into the temple, and has defiled this holy place!” (v. 28)

So despite the elder’s plan, Paul was still publicly accused.

Some scholars believe these same men took part or stirred up the riot in Ephesus. (Acts 10:23-41)

Traditions versus the truth

Paul didn’t object to disciples following Jewish customs as long as they didn’t believe or teach others that those customs made them right before God.

This was Paul’s plan to win Jews and non-Jews to the Messiah.

When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. (1 Corinthians 9:20 NLT)

4. Similar accusations against Stephen and Jesus

The charges against Paul in Acts 21:28 were an echo of the charges Stephen was executed for (Acts 6:13). Paul helped preside over that execution; now he is accused in a similar way. He also may have remembered how he was part of a similar mob and approved.

Or, perhaps, it even reminded him of the trial of Jesus: “The shout ‘Away with him!’ which pursued him as he was carried up the steps was the shout with which Jesus’ death had been demanded not far from that spot some twenty-seven years before (Luke 23:18John 19:15).” (Bruce)

Jesus and Paul were both falsely accused.

They both went to Jerusalem knowing they would face suffering.

Responding to accusations

When he was cursed, he didn’t curse back. When he suffered, he didn’t threaten, but committed himself to him who judges righteously. (1 Peter 2:21-25)

Examine my heart. There may be some truth to the accusation.

Be slow to respond, if at all.

Speak if Holy Spirit gives me something to say. (Luke 12:12)

5. True disciples can expect persecution

Unbelievers beat and crucified Jesus. He warned his followers, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:17-25)

2 AWM Living Commentary

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My answers, research, and notes for BSF Bible Study Fellowship questions Acts and Letters of the Apostles Lesson 25 Day 2
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