Paul the Prisoner

Acts 21:31-22:30

Paul had found himself part of a scheme to placate believers in Jerusalem who were erroneously zealous for the Levitical law. It was a scheme that the Lord did not allow to succeed. This scheme took him to the Temple where Paul finds himself the object of a violent protest by those enemies of the gospel who shared the same ideas about the Levitical law, many thousands of believers in Jerusalem did.

This is the beginning of the final chapter of Paul’s life and ministry. From this point on he is a prisoner of the Romans, eventually becoming a martyr under Nero.

I  FALLING INTO ROMAN HANDS.

Paul had already been  warned by the Spirit that this was to happen. Cp 21:11.

  1. A riotous assembly, v30-32. His enemies are prepared to use extreme violence to accomplish their aims. They are determined to kill Paul! Confusion prevails, v34, 38. At such a time it is vital to be resigned to the will of God and to His protection.
  2. Roman involvement. Initially the Romans are Paul’s protectors. They intervene to restore public order and to save him from death. The forces of Rome, themselves hostile to Christianity, become the means of preserving Paul and lengthening his ministry. Cp Ps 76:10
  3. Paul seeks for an opportunity to speak for the Saviour. Even in such circumstances Paul desires an opportunity to speak to the Jewish mob. In this he displays his courage and his burden for the souls of men—specially for his own nation.

II  PAUL’S DEFENCE.

He speaks to justify himself and his ministry. He simply tells the crowd the story of his conversion and call. The gospel calling of God must ever be the justification for what we are and do. All must rest upon that for the Christian! Cp 1Cor 9:23, 2 Tim 2:10, Mk 8:35.

  1. Points of identity with them. Cp v1-5. He underlines points of similarity between their present state and his former condition. How forcefully such memories must have affected him as he speaks. His heart must have been burdened for them to think that he was once what they are now. What a difference grace makes!
  2. He met the Saviour, v6-8. This is the turning point of his life. A personal encounter with the glorious Christ made what he now is. He was conquered by the Saviour and became His servant. This is what distinguishes between an ignorantly zealous religious fanatic and a true Christian.
  3. The call of God, v12-21. No doubt Paul expects his audience to reverence this call and acknowledge the work of God in his life. The audible voice of God had spoken to him as it had done on Sinai to communicate the law they were zealous for. That call was communicated both directly and indirectly through Ananias.

Confirmed by a miracle, v23. Here was a ‘sign’ that witnessed to the authenticity of his experience.

A sovereign call to preach, v14-15. Here are the basic elements of a gospel ministry. His Divinely given ministry is to all men.

He was to get baptized, v16. His audience were no doubt familiar with this rite—modified Levitical practice as it was! John the Baptist had been used of God to make it familiar in Israel many years before, as a symbol of repentance and spiritual cleansing through forgiveness.

His call repeated in Jerusalem, v17-21. In this very place, the Temple, God had spoken again. He is warned that despite his objections to the contrary, the Jews would reject him. He was sure that given the great change in his life they could not fail to be impressed by his ministry. He is sent by God to the Gentiles. Again these Jews are reminded of the consequences of rejecting Christ. They will lose communication with God. Fervent religion that rejects Christ cannot retain fellowship with God.

4. Violently rejected. His testimony is dismissed with a violent and passionate intensity. These are men whose religious fervour has no room for the Christ Paul knew and preached.

III   A PRISONER OF ROME.

  1. Proposed treatment, v24-25. Paul is introduced to the realities of being a prisoner.
  2. A simple protest, v25-30. Paul invokes the protections afforded him by the laws of Rome. He does so discreetly and quietly.
  3. A rendezvous with the Sanhedrin is arranged, v30. Paul is now scheduled to meet personally with his bitter and implacable enemies. What courage the Apostle displayed.

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