Below are my notes from last night's Bible study. We discussed Acts 21:15-40, though most of our time was spent trying to figure out if Paul, James and the elders in Jerusalem were correct in asking Paul to accompany the four men into the Temple to participate in the Mosaic Nazarite vow. Was it sinful for Christians to participate in the bloody sacrifices required by that vow (see Numbers 6)? Was Paul compromising the message of the Gospel by again becoming a slave to the Law? Or was he simply becoming a Jew to the Jews so that he may win over the Jews? Was he becoming as one under the Law to win over those who were under the Law? (1 Cor. 9:20) In any case, Paul was providentially hindered from actually offering the blood sacrifices, due to the crowd being stirred up against him and the ensuing riot. One of the most interesting, and difficult passages in Acts, in my opinion! Here are my notes:
November 9, 2011
we packed and went up to Jerusalem. They could not dissuade Paul from going, but they would not let him go alone. See John 11:16, “Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.””
Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple. Apparently, he owned a home in Jerusalem and graciously opened it to Paul and his company. The NKJV translate “an early disciple” but the old KJV says and “old disciple”. If he was converted on the Day of Pentecost, it is close to 25 years since that time. Or perhaps one who had been converted through the preaching of the Gospel at Cyprus, Acts 13:4, “So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.”
the brethren received us gladly. The word used to receiving gladly was used in Acts 2:41, “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.”. NOTE: You cannot welcome the apostles without welcoming their teaching.
James. Since no other apostle is named, it is likely that the rest had left Jerusalem to preach in other places.
all the elders were present. This is a session meeting to deal with a specific matter.
those things which God had done. Paul is careful not to take credit for the work God has done. He is the instrument, God the worker. NOTE: This should be an encouragement to ministers: It is our duty to do as God has told us, and He will use us as He sees fit.
how many myriads of Jews. “Myriads” means not thousands, but 10s of thousands. Compare with Acts 1:15, “And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty)”. In Jerusalem alone, there had been a multiplication of at least 100 times in the last 20 years! See Romans 11:1, 5, 7, “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin....Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace....What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded.”
they are all zealous for the law. As the Gentiles were wont to give up their old ways, so the Jews were wont to give up their customs, which now had all been fulfilled in Christ.
you teach all the Jews...to forsake Moses. Was this true? No! Of course not! Paul taught Christians (Jew and Greek) that Christ had fulfilled the Law, he had enlightened their understanding of it, and now used it to instruct them in righteousness! Romans 7:4, “Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.” 1 Cor. 9:20, “and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law;”
pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads. The vow they had taken was the Nazarite vow (see Numbers 6). See also Paul in Cenchrea, Acts 18:18, “So Paul still remained a good while. Then he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him. He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he had taken a vow.”
when the seven days were almost ended. Note, these events take place BEFORE any blood sacrifice could be offered. God’s mercy to Paul?
the Jews from Asia. These Jews were the ones who attend the Temple worship the least, because the lived far from Jerusalem, and yet they appear the most zealous for the Temple!
crying out. “What is wanting in reason is made up in noise.” (Matthew Henry)
the law. But what Paul actually taught was “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.” (Romans 3:31)
and this place. The same charge which Paul had been compliant in, against Stephen. See Acts 6:13, “They also set up false witnesses who said, ‘This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law;’”
all the city was disturbed; and the people ran together. The Jews show the same zeal for the Temple in Jerusalem as the Ephesians did for the Temple of Diana. See Acts 19:29, 32, “So the whole city was filled with confusion...Some therefore cried one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together”
dragged him out of the temple. They condemned Paul for drawing people from the temple, and yet, when he himself was very devoutly worshiping in the temple, they drew him out of it.