Acts 21:27 – 22:29
A. A temple riot v. 27-39
1. instigated by Ephesian Jews v. 27
a. people with an agenda
b. the strong negative sentiment against Paul had followed him from Asia and Europe
c. shouting the first outrageous things that came to mind that would get the desired results
d. they viewed Paul as a threat against Judaism and the Jewish way of (religious) life
2. fueled by false charges v. 28
a. teaches against the Jews
b. encourages law breaking
c. dishonored and defiled the temple
d. deja vu, it’s Stephen again Act_6:13-14
3. based on an assumption v. 29
a. saw Paul in the company of a Gentile – Trophimus
b. jumped to a conclusion – that the four men with him were Gentiles also
c. made a ridiculous charge – it should have been obvious why Paul was there; what would ever possess him to violate temple rules under those circumstances – in the midst of a purification rite?
4. resulted in a massive uprising vv. 30-39
a. people had their “religious radar” tuned to a fever pitch
b. anything out of the ordinary would set it off
c. were determined to kill Paul; prevented from doing so in the Temple proper by the temple guards shutting the doors. That also kept Paul from seeking sanctuary at the altar. Did Luke intend to show by this detail that established Judaism had slammed the door on the Gospel message?
d. timely providential intervention by Claudius Lysias (Act_23:26) saved Paul’s life even though he mistakenly identified him as an Egyptian insurrectionist
e. Chained to a soldier on each side, the commander tried and failed to make sense of what was going on. Decided to extricate Paul from the scene but was astonished by Paul’s question.
B. Apology Before the Jerusalem Mob 21:40-22:21
The term apologetics etymologically derives from the Classical Greek word apologia. In the Classical Greek legal system two key technical terms were employed: the prosecution delivered the kategoria (kathgoria), and the defendant replied with an apologia. To deliver an apologia then meant making a formal speech to reply and rebut the charges, as in the case of Socrates’ defense.
Paul’s defense (apologia) is not merely personal – it is a defense of Christianity against its detractors. In this instance Paul happened to be the target and thus the representative who could logically speak in defense of this new thing called The Way.
These chapters are the record of Paul’s Defence or Apology. And the defence is ‘complete’ (xix 21). We have his answer both to the Jews – to the People, the Sanhedrin, and to a Jewish king – and to the Romans; or otherwise, to the Jews (xxi-xxiii), Romans (xxiv-xxv), and the world at large (xxvi). But this apology is not merely a personal matter. Paul is ‘set for the defence of the gospel,’ and these chapters contain the apology for Christianity. They form in fact the first in that series of ‘apologies’ which were so important an element in the Christian literature of the first centuries. And as the typical apologist Justin Martyr addressed ‘apologies’ both to Jews and to Romans, so this apology is written for both of these ‘nations’ on whose attitude to the church so much depended. Richard Rackham, Exposition of the Acts of the Apostles
The early apologies usually answered a couple sorts of charges – one brought by the secular authority and the other by the religious types. No, we Christians are not atheists or criminals. No, we are not heretics?
Let me tell you what God has done!!
1. The early years vv. 1-5
a. I speak your language v. 2
b. I am one of you
i. by birth v. 3a
ii. by training v. 3b
c. I was one with you
i. by way of thinking v. 3c
ii. in persecuting this Way vv. 4-5
I was determined to kill this offensive and, to my way of thinking, blasphemous sect just as you are determined to right now. I know what it is like to stand in your sandals because I have thought the same thoughts, had the same passions and goals, and furthermore had the official sanction of the high priest in doing so.
2. The crisis experience vv. 6-11
a. it was not anything I initiated – God stopped me in my tracks vv. 7-8
b. I’m not making it up, my companions saw the heavenly light also. v. 9
c. God gave me new direction and a new commission v.10
3. The new life vv. 12-21
a. Commission was conveyed and confirmed by Ananias, a man of whom you would approve, who acknowledged me as his brother. vv. 12-16
b. Paul continues to affirm his Jewishness and Jewish connections throughout his defense:
– Ananias devout according to the law (a Christian but also a law-abiding Jew) v. 12
– “the God of our fathers”, “the Just One” (Jewish terms readily understood) v. 14
– “praying in the temple” as a traditional Jew would; conducting himself with proper decorum in the temple v. 17
– “consenting to [Stephen’s] death”, identifying himself with law-abiding Jews who were determined to preserve the purity of the faith v. 20
c. Paul indicates a preference to stay in Jerusalem and minister to his own people, a choice Jesus overruled. In spite of Paul’s love for his Jewish brethren Jesus had commissioned him to go far from Jerusalem to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles. v. 21
C. Another violent response 22:22-29
1. Tumult restarted vv. 22-23
It was not the idea of the supernatural – the direct intervention of God in the affairs of a Jew – that set them off. It was the idea that the Jewish people had been rejected in favor of the Gentiles that did it. Here we have another tangible example of what Paul had described in Rom_11:7-10.
the parable of the vineyard and response of chief priests & scribes Luk_20:9-19
2. Imminent danger v. 24
Since Paul had spoken to the crowd in Aramaic, Lysias probably was no better informed at the end of his address than he was earlier as to what the real issue was. All he could see was the ire of the crowd, and assumed that Paul must be guilty of something really serious.
He thus ordered that Paul “be flogged,” a cruel beating with a whip (mavstix, mastix) that was made of leather thongs weighted on the ends with bits of bone and metal. Since the flogging was applied to the bare back of the victim, the physical damage done was enormous, often resulting in lifelong injury or even death. Paul’s previous beatings with the rod (16:22-24) or with the lash of the Jews (2 Cor 11:24) were mild compared to what this one would have been. College Press NT Commentary
3. Paul pleads his rights vv. 25-29
Paul chose his opportunity wisely to divulge to his captors that he was a Roman citizen. Lysias had in effect ordered him punished without the benefit of a trial, something especially egregious for a freeman. Further, he had ordered him bound with thongs and then scourged, both of which were illegal treatment of a Roman citizen who had not been convicted of any crime.
The act of binding a Roman citizen with such an intent, untried and uncondemned, was unlawful. Prisoners Who were to be scourged were usually bound by the Romans to a pillar or post; and a Similar custom prevailed among the Jews. That it was unlawful to bind a man with this intent, who was uncondemned, appears from an express declaration in Cicero (against Verres): “It is a heinous sin to bind a Roman citizen; it is wickedness to beat him; it is next to parricide to kill him, and what Shall I say to crucify him? There is no fitting word that can describe so horrible a deed.” Barnes’ Notes on the NT
At this juncture of Paul’s treatment, Lysias had gone far enough that if Paul wanted to press charges not only the commander but the centurion could be in serious trouble. They had broken the law by jumping to a conclusion and not doing a thorough investigation; both could lose their commission if not their liberty for such a miscarriage of justice. Paul rightfully objected to being punished without a trial and likely believed that Lysias would treat him with more consideration because of the compromising position he had gotten into.
“How very graciously the Lord was watching over his faithful servant the whole time”. He refers to God’s intervention as “preventing providences”, “circumstances in proof how the Lord Jesus watched over his servant in so critical a season though permitting the Apostle, for wise purposes, to be so sharply exercised! yet still overruling the whole as should ultimately promote the Lord’s glory and Paul’s welfare.” Robert Hawker, Poor Man’s Commentary
1. Be prepared 1Pe_3:15-17
Paul didn’t figure out his defense between the time the shouting started and when the soldiers arrived. He had developed a conscious awareness of God’s sovereign activity in the affairs of his personal life for the previous twenty-plus years. He also had the benefit of knowing to expect trouble at Jerusalem (from the warnings given him). Consequently he used his time wisely, at least to mentally prepare what he might say to his “brothers after the flesh” given the opportunity.
We may have warning and time to prepare as Paul did, God may not give us that luxury. Either way we must be prepared to give an apology for our faith.
2. Know when to exercise your rights cp. Act_16:22-23 & Act_16:37-40
Paul exercised his rights twice as a citizen (Act_16:37-38; Act_22:26) and once by appealing to Caesar (Act_25:11). At other times he did not do so – earlier at Philippi (Act_16:22-23), earlier that day at Jerusalem when he was chained (Act_21:33), and during his imprisonment in Caesarea and Rome where he was bound for a total of four years.
Paul doesn’t give his reasons for behaving differently in these various situations but he does provide a glimpse into his general mindset – 1Co_9:19-23 – written less than three years earlier.
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. ESV
All we do must be for the sake of the Gospel and not to promote our own interests.
3. Remember the Christian has dual citizenship Php_3:20, also Php_1:23-24
For Paul, however, citizenship in the kingdom of heaven is of far greater importance than civil rights. He writes, “But our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20, NIV). He does not point the Philippian believers to earthly citizenship (even though Philippi had special status but instead conveys the message that believers are residents in the city of God. Hendriksen, NT Commentary
How will our action promote the cause of heaven? If speaking up for our “rights” will do so, fine; if being silent will further the Kingdom in a more effective way, than do so.