Acts chapter 21      Next chapter          Back to Bible Studies 

The warning that Paul receives by the Holy Spirit - which reminds us very much of what he says in chapter 20 (v22-24) as regards what is going to happen to him in Jerusalem – is something we need to consider carefully. In our comfortable western mindset we would probably be prone to react in a completely different way to the way Paul did. We might take that warning - especially as it is clearly given by the Holy Spirit - as an indication that we must avoid the situation at all costs! However, the warning is given in this case to prepare Paul for what lay ahead.  In the midst of trouble, in the will of God and with Him by our side, is a better place by far than avoiding the trouble and being outside of His will but ”safe” by human standards!  

This chapter is also striking in terms of the similarities between Paul’s treatment at the hands of the Jews and the experiences of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We find this especially from verse 10 onward where the prophet Agabus declares what is going to happen to Paul in Jerusalem and the believers urge Paul not to go to Jerusalem. This reminds us of the words spoken to Jesus by his disciples in John 11:8: ”But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” Even more striking is the similarity between  Paul’s response (“Why are you breaking my heart…”) and that of Jesus in Matthew 16:23-25: “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” The similarities continued as we looked at Luke 22:41-43 and Luke 9:51. Most importantly, we considered Jesus’ own prayer in John 12:27-28 “…Father glorify Thy Son that Thy Son may glorify you…” We were also reminded of Paul’s statement in Phillipians 3:10 regarding sharing in the sufferings of Christ and how it indeed turned out to be so…

In verse 31, we found something very striking: “The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut...”We need to consider where Paul was when they first seized him – in the temple in the court of the Israelites (where only Jews were allowed to be). They then drag him out of that area  and into the court of the Gentiles and…quickly shut the door before proceeding to attack Paul. How interesting and how very telling about the lives of these Jews! As long as the temple area was not “defiled” by their attack on Paul, all was in order. Furthermore if we think about it a bit deeper, it also speaks of one life displayed inside the temple area and quite a different life displayed outside of the temple area…

Dear friends, how do our lives stack up? Do we also have a religious and pious side when we are at church or busy with God’s things but quite a different side when in normal life in our homes? Our very testimony as Christians is validated in that we are the same in all situations, showing that Christ truly does inhabit every fibre of our beings. We were reminded of James 3:11-12: “ Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”

© 2011 Werner Schreiber

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