James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
And it came to pass, that after we were gotten from them, and had launched, we came with a straight course unto Coos, and the day following unto Rhodes, and from thence unto Patara:
And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.Acts 21:18-23:35
TUMULT IN JERUSALEM
The stirring events in this lesson are:
1. Paul’s Ceremonial Vow (Acts 21:18-26) 2. His Apprehension by the Jewish Mob (Acts 21:27-30) 3. His Speech to Them from the Castle Stairs (Acts 21:31 to Acts 22:21) 4. His Colloquy with the Roman soldiers (Acts 22:22-29) 5. His Defense before the Sanhedrin (Acts 22:30 to Acts 23:11) 6. The Plot to Murder Him (Acts 23:12-22) 7. The Escape to Caesarea (Acts 23:23-35).
As to Paul’s vow, it is to be kept in mind that the Judaizing element in the church increased as its numbers increased, and while they had accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, yet they were also zealous for the law of Moses. They can be sympathized with in this, considering their past history as Jews; but not when they attached a saving value to the law, or attempted to force its observance upon the Gentiles. To propitiate them and promote peace, Paul was tempted to compromise in the matter of this vow whatever it may have been, and he fell into a snare. It might be said in extenuation that the pressure was exceedingly strong upon him.
Of course it was not these Judaizing Christians who set upon him in the temple, but out and out Jews who hated Christianity altogether, and to whom the opportunity had been given by the action of Paul in yielding to the prejudices of the others.
This speech on the castle stairs constitutes: first, an account of himself as a Jew (Acts 22:1-5); second, the story of his conversion (Acts 22:6-16); and third a declaration of his divine commission (Acts 22:17-21). In the story of his conversion some have found a difficulty in that Paul says his companions saw the light but heard no voice, while in chapter 9, Luke reports that they heard the voice. The explanation probably is that they heard the sound of the voice but were unable to understand the words. What he says of his divine commission here is not given in chapter 9, and is especially interesting and important on that account. It is a chapter of his inner life which otherwise never would have been known.
In Paul’s defense before the Sanhedrin some think he was acting in the flesh, and after his own will rather than in the Holy Spirit. This is a serious charge to make and great caution is necessary, but the circumstances supposed to justify it are the abruptness of his beginning without waiting to be questioned, and his apparently self-righteous spirit (Acts 23:1), his offensive epithet to the high priest (Acts 23:3), and his cleverness in dividing the council (Acts 23:6). If there be anything in such a supposition, we are all the happier for the evidence in Acts 23:11, that it was all right once more between the Lord and himself before the next day arose.
We need not continue our comments further in this case.
1. Give the outline of this lesson.
2. How would you explain the occasion for Paul’s vow?
3. Do you see the distinction between Jews, and those here called Judaizers?
4. Analyze Paul’s speech on the castle stairs.
5. What serious reflection is sometimes cast upon Paul at this crisis, and on what grounds?
6. What Divine comfort or justification of Paul does the record contain?