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Acts of the Apostles: 41 - Acts 21:26-23:11

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Acts of the Apostles

41 - Acts 21:26-23:11

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Acts of the Apostles: 41 - Acts 21:26-23:11

MP4 Video - 1080p (1.76 GB)
MP4 Video - 720p (1.06 GB)
MP3 Audio (33.23 MB)

In this class we will discuss Acts 21:26-40; Acts 22:1-30 and Acts 23:1-11 and examine the following: Paul participates in a purification ritual in the temple to appease the Jewish believers. However, some Jews from Asia stir up a riot, accusing Paul of defiling the temple. The Roman commander intervenes, arresting Paul and allowing him to speak to the crowd. Paul addresses the crowd, sharing his testimony of his conversion to Christianity. The crowd becomes hostile, and Paul is about to be flogged when he reveals his Roman citizenship. Paul appears before the Sanhedrin, causing a dispute between the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Lord appears to Paul, encouraging him and assuring his testimony in Rome.


[Darris McNeely] Well, we are back in Acts. And last we saw our hero, the Apostle Paul, this is kind of a serialization. We leave off at one point and anticipate the next installment. He is about to go into the temple, and at this point, Paul will encounter a group of Jews who will be upset about him and he will be arrested. And this will be the situation we find him in for the rest of the book, as we go into this. But remember that Paul has resisted any effort and warnings by Agabus and other members not to go, there's danger, etc. And he says, “I must go, and I'm willing to deal with whatever happens, even if it is death.” And so this is a little different than walking into Philippi for the first time, or Athens, or even Corinth, where he encountered some mob action. And we must remember Ephesus and the great uproar in the amphitheater there over the temple of Diana, the silversmiths. This is a little different, and yet Paul knows what he's dealing with.

Now, keep in mind that though he may not have written Ephesians, the letter to the Ephesians at this time, if the traditional understanding that Paul writes that from a Roman imprisonment occurs, I mentioned to you a couple of classes back that the alternative thought is that Paul may have been imprisoned in Ephesus, and there actually wrote a letter to the Church at Ephesus. Some accept that some don't. It's neither here nor there. Either way, Ephesians was written from prison. But the conclusion that he comes to in Ephesians 6, I wanted to kind of read a comment here, again, from another edition of William Barclay's Daily Study Bible series. You can tell what I was kind of pulling off my shelf this morning before I came over to class. And I've got probably two dozen different commentaries and books specifically about Acts and this period of time that I just flip between at various places and times to read what so and so says about this.

So, this morning I started reading from Barclay's commentary, which is very old. Not very old, it's as old as I am. I'm not very old. I think he wrote this in the '50s, but it's still in print. And William Barclay was, I think he was Anglican theologian, English at any rate. His commentary on the letter to the Ephesians has a comment about what Paul writes in chapter 6 “That we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in high places,” if you'll remember that phrase. And it says here, speaking about as Paul writes and leaves out of the letter to the Ephesians. “As Paul takes leave of his people, he thinks of the greatness of the struggle which lies before them. Undoubtedly, life was much more terrifying for the ancient people than it is for us today. They believed implicitly in evil spirits who filled the air and were determined to workmen harm. The words which Paul uses, powers, authorities, world rulers, are all names for different classes of those evil spirits.” That's exactly what he's doing in Ephesians 6, where he writes that “we don't wrestle with flesh and blood, but against powers, but against authorities, against the world rulers of this darkness, against malicious spiritual forces in the heavenly places.”

And this is the insight God gave to Paul. And he understood as he walked in and around all the pagan demon world of his day. And he describes that that is who we wrestle against. To him, going on, “To him, the whole universe was a battleground. The Christian had, not only to contend with the attacks of man, he had to contend with the attacks of spiritual forces which were fighting against God. We may not take Paul's actual language literally, but our experience will tell us that there is an active power of evil in the world.” And indeed our experience does tell us that. And Scripture tells us that. And we should never forget that.

Remember when we covered Daniel 10, we talked about the Prince of Persia and the Prince of Greece contending forbidding an angel from God coming and delivering the message to Daniel, giving us a glimpse into the behind-the-headlines of the real world and world in which we live. We tend to forget that and we don't think about that as much as we should, I think, even today, because we're all caught up in our material world and we, we're dependent. People don't even believe in the devil, much less a demonic world, much less that world can influence world affairs. Nobody teaches that. Nobody believes that, except the Apostle Paul, except Daniel, except that's the word of God. And that is the reality that if we hold on to that and never forget, it helps us to understand the world as it is and also to appreciate God's power to an individual and to the Church to overcome that world and to work against it.

Paul is now at a point where he is going to be... He's dealing now directly with that as he goes into Jerusalem, of all places, into the temple complex of all places, but his own people. Then the Jews will be upset and come against him, and it will be Rome, the fourth beast. Remember, this powerful empire that for the moment will preserve Paul and through an arrest and imprisonment, take him into the end of the Book and act, in a sense, for a good for it for a good even though it's essentially the beast's power. How can that be? Well, keep in mind what we read back in Chapter 19 of Revelation. I forgot the exact verse, but when it talks about the 10 kings who give their power to the beast for a short time, that is by God's design, it says, to fulfill His purpose. God has put it into their heart, He said, to do that, to fulfill His purpose. God even manipulates the demonic world to His purpose. They cannot go beyond that. And in this case, now, we'll see how this kind of works into the relationship that Paul is having here as we move to this.

Acts 21:26 “Paul took the men that were with him,” those that were what needed to be purified by a sacrifice, “Having been purified with them, entered the temple.”

So, how were they purified? Well, remember when we studied Chapter 2 and the baptisms that took place on the day of Pentecost and the mikvahs, the water pools that were all around the temple, that was the purification site and the ritual by which a person, before they went into the temple, went into the bath. And they, in a sense, a type of baptism. They were purified, they came up and then they went into the temple. So, this would have been part of the process. Plus, the other matters regarding this particular Nazarite vow.

Acts 21:26-27 “They entered the temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each one of them.” And remember, Paul had to pay the expense for that. “And when the seven days were almost ended.”

So that's the period that it took for this. And so there's a period of time that has to take place for the ending of the Nazarite vow. No vows taken lightly. We don't do a Nazarite vow today. Sometimes we might make a commitment and sometimes a person might even make a promise to God. That's essentially what a vow is. And I would say that if you ever make a promise to God, you better keep that promise. Don't ever make any promise lightly to God. If your life comes to a crisis point, it's not necessarily something that's taught in the, let's say, New Testament beyond these vows of the Old Covenant. But baptism is a vow. That's a promise, and that's what we're talking about. But if you ever do something else, don't do it lightly. And if you do, intend to fulfill it. That's my advice there.

Well, Paul was spotted by the Jews and some from Asia. What does that mean? That means some Jews from Asia. Where's Asia? Well, that's Ephesus. That's this area over here where he's been for all this time. They, too, are down here for the Pentecost Festival. From up there, they know him. They know of him. Maybe he's being watched, probably in the crowd here.

Acts 21:27-28 “And they see him in the temple, and they stir up the whole crowd. And this crowd begins to act in a mob way. They lay hands on him, crying out, ‘men of Israel, help. This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law.’”

And this place, the people are the covenant people, the Israel, the descendants of Abraham. The law, well, that's the Old Covenant. That's everything. The five books of the law, Pentateuch. And this place, that's the temple, that's the sanctuary. So, taken together, that's the whole shebang, that's the whole lot. And they feel that Paul is teaching against all of that.

Acts 21:28-29 “And furthermore, he has brought Greeks or gentiles into the temple and has defiled this holy place for they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian, with him in the city, one of his companions that had come from Asia, whom they supposed Paul had brought into the temple.”

We're left with the feeling that Trophimus had not gone into the temple, but because they knew that Trophimus was a gentile, that they then trumped this charge up against him to make it stick. So, we're not told that he had, other than through the charge that this mob is making and that the instigators are making.

And again, it's highly doubtful Paul would have brought a full gentile into the fullest precincts of the temple. It's hard to imagine that, given the conditions and how he was being watched, that he would have done that. Because as we've talked about in our study of the temple, when you look at the temple and this map here shows it, there was a wall right here that divided the court of the gentiles from the inner court of Israel and the inner precincts. And it was kind of a low wall, and there was an inscription on that wall. We know exactly what it said, and it was this. And it forbid gentiles to enter into the inner areas of the temple, and it separated the court of the gentiles from the court of Israel. And here's what it said on that. There's an inscription there, “No foreigner may enter within the barricade which surrounds the temple and the enclosure. Anyone who is caught doing so will have himself to blame for his ensuing death.” So, if they crossed that 4-foot high wall and they were caught, Jewish law allowed them to be killed. And we presume Romans might have turned a blind eye to it at that time, but this was the warning, and this is what is being laid at Paul.

Acts 21:30 “All the city was disturbed and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple.”

I mean, the language here and the picture that is seen, it's a mob, it's anxiety, it's confusion, it's anger. He's seized. He's dragged out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. The doors to the temple were shut. Now, that's interesting. Josephus tells us that about the doors of the actual temple itself. And going into this most inner part, there were large bronze doors that would have taken 20 people, 20 Levites to shut. And so part of the job of Levites were to be gatekeepers. And so in the case of an emergency, that was shut, so everything would be protected within the temple. And so this is quite a confusion and a tumult that is being stirred up at this moment against Paul.

Acts 21:31 “They were seeking to kill him.”

So, it's Ephesus all over again now in the temple. Again, it's hard for us to imagine. You know, we tend to think of keep in mind, this is the Jewish anxiety and issues there. I would recommend any of you here in the class or watching, avail yourself at a certain time of just understanding the passion about this piece of real estate called the Temple Mount today. In recent times, the Temple Mount today is under the control of Muslims. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, actually. The royal family of Jordan have the custodialship of what is called the Haram al-Sharif, the Temple Mount where the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Golden Dome of the Rock is in that whole area that we call the Temple Mount. It's the most expensive, valuable, contested piece of real estate in all the world. And it's under the control of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and Muslim rule, Muslim. So, Jews can go up there, they cannot pray up there, they cannot sacrifice.

Some of them want to do this. But from time to time problems erupt on the Temple Mount today or around it, and there have been disturbances. And it would really erupt into something like what we're reading about now if the Jews started praying up there, or some of the Orthodox who want every year around the time of the Feast of Trumpets, they want to go up there and blow their shofar and have a service. And if they could get away with it, they'd have a sacrifice up there. Well, that would just inflame the entire Muslim world and create conditions of World War III, or what we read about in Daniel 11, beginning in verse 40, and what Jesus spoke about. And it hasn't happened yet.

I just finished reading a spy thriller in a series I've been going through in recent months. And it was set right in the Temple Mount, and there was a bomb that was going to go off. And the Muslims had put explosives right under the Temple Mount because according to the story, and it's true, they have dug out under there. They've actually put a mosque under there. And in doing so, they've destroyed a lot of archaeological evidence for the Jews being in Jerusalem. And this has been going on for several years. It's just upsetting the Israelis, but they can't stop it. And so the book was set in the idea that the chief Muslim cleric in charge of the Temple Mount has got enough bombs in there to blow up both mosques and collapse the whole Temple Mount just as the Pope is going through the way the Via Dolorosa on Good Friday and stopping at all the Stations of the Cross.

So, he's going to kill the Pope, he's going to destroy the Temple Mount, and he's going to set the world on fire. And the hero of the book, the Israeli Mossad agent, stops it. That's why I keep reading these books because it's got a real good plotline, and it's either Russian oligarchs, Arab terrorists, corrupt Vatican officials, and the Jewish Mossad. So, any story with all that, you can't go wrong. It's all pretty good. But that was the most recent one, and I was reading it with a little bit more interest because of what they were attempting to do with the Temple Mount area there. So all Jerusalem was in an uproar.

Acts 21:32  “The commander of the garrison came and he immediately took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them.” And so here's what happened. This is a little place up here on this map called the Antonia Fortress. This is where the garrison was stationed, permanent Roman soldiers to just keep this thing such as this from happening and to keep the order on the Temple Mount, especially at the time of Pentecost. So, the commander brings his troops down into the temple area, see what's going on, and to stop it, because they were already beating Paul. It tells us in verse 32, when he saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. So, they were already, you know, in the first stages of killing him.

Acts 21:33 “Then the commander came near and took him and commanded him to be bound with two chains. And he asked him who he was and what he had done.”

So, Paul's now in manacles, he's bound according to exactly what he said would happen to him by Agabus.

Acts 21:34-35 “And some among the multitude cried one thing and some another.” So, there's this large cry going up now from the Jews in the temple area charging Paul. And he's got both hands chained and both feet, probably, to two different soldiers on either side. “So, when he could not ascertain the truth, the commander because of the tumult, he commanded him to be taken into the barracks.” that would be back up into the Antonia Fortress area. “When he reached the stairs,” and there was a staircase going up to it out of the Temple Mount area. “When he reached the stairs, he had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob.”

So, they put him up on their shoulders, it seems, to get out of the reach of the mob that wanted to continue to get at him, tear him limb from limb.

Acts 21:36 “for the multitude of the people followed after crying out away with him,” he's already seized, and away with him.

Acts 21:37-38 “Then as Paul was about to be led into the barracks, he said to the commander. ‘May I speak to you?’” Probably not that mildly, but can we talk? Can we have a conversation? He replied, “Can you speak Greek? Are you not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a rebellion and led 4,000 assassins into the wilderness?”

This is who they thought he was. They didn't recognize him immediately as Paul. And he speaks to him in Greek. The Roman soldier wouldn't have understood Aramaic. Paul knew that. So, he speaks to him in a language that Paul knew he would have understood, Greek. But then he says, “I thought you were this Jewish assassin,” is what he's accusing him of who wouldn't be speaking Greek to him.

Acts 21:39-40 “And Paul said, ‘No, I'm a Jew. I'm from Tarsus in Cilicia, citizen of no mean city, and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people.’ And when he had given him permission, Paul stood on the stairs and motioned with his hand to the people.” Kind of like he did in the Ariopagus on Mars Hill, back in Chapter 17. “And when there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language.” Paul was multilingual.

Let me pause just a moment on verse 39, where he says, “I'm from Tarsus in Cilicia.” We've already talked about that a little bit. Paul's hometown, which is Tarsus, right back here in the area of Cilicia, it's a major city at the time. Paul grew up there for how long, nobody knows. Probably when he was a teenager, he went to Jerusalem and studied at the feet of Gamaliel, which he tells us on another occasion. But he grew up in Tarsus. And you can go to Tarsus today, or the site of ancient Tarsus. We were there a year ago. You can't see too much. It's not been excavated. There's kind of some pavement from the 1st Century period that you can see and walk on, but that's about it. A few other things, a nice museum, but it's still there. It was a well-known city. Paul says, it was no mean city, meaning that it was a rather prestigious city. And here's what Tarsus was. It was one of the intellectual centers of Asia, rivaled only by either Alexandria or Athens in its day. It was a university town. We would call it today. There were a lot of different schools in Tarsus, Greek philosophical schools and all.

Our equivalent today in the United States, we will get certain cities that will gather a lot of research institutes and universities, and all around them. If you go down to North Carolina, you have what they call the Research Triangle and Raleigh-Durham, not Fayetteville, but I forgot the third part of that. You have Duke University, University of North Carolina, Wake Forest, North Carolina State. And they call it the Research Triangle because, not only do you have all these prestigious universities but a lot of research, and money, and all that have been poured in for the various disciplines to make it a magnet of people to go and study there.

Tarsus was like that. It was a magnate of schools, and that's the environment Paul grew up in. And some feel that, you know, because it was a port city, Roman control, the means by which Paul's family had Roman citizenship could have been because they supplied tents and sailcloth and other things for the Roman army. They're in Tarsus and could have been granted Roman citizenship, because we already know Paul has that. He's going to claim it again here in this scene. And that could be connected to Tarsus and the place there. It's all speculation. We don't really know from any source anything about Paul's family. We're going to run into a nephew here soon.

But that's about all that Scripture tells us about anything beyond Paul himself and his family. We don't know why they went to Taurus and whether it was his father, maybe a grandfather that first got the Roman citizenship, and exactly how. Always a lot of speculation. But you could logically assume that Paul, growing up in that environment, partook of certain elements of the Greek philosophical school, he probably learned when he had learned Greek. And then at some point, as a young adult, he went to Jerusalem and studied at the school of Gamaliel as a pharisee. And so he knew the Greek rhetoric.

Remember back in Acts 17, when he gives his sermon on Mars Hill, remember that Paul quotes two pagan poets that we talked about that. Well, he probably read those in Tarsus. So, what did he do, go to night school in a Greek institute there? I don't know how all of that would have come about, but he was exposed to it. He read it, probably read a lot more, and knew it. But he was through and through a Jew and a Pharisee. So, that's what it means that he was from Tarsus and Cilicia, a citizen of no means city. So, I'm like, hey, I'm so, you know, I'm not from the... Dare not say where. I'm not from Cape Girardeau. That's where I came from, so I can say that and offend myself. Small town in southeast Missouri, which I glad I did grow up there. It was a great place to grow up. So, anybody listening from Cape Girardeau, I love my hometown.

So, Paul was a bit pleased with growing up in Tarsus, and he knew that that would be an interesting thing to put down. Let me speak to the people. And so they allow him. So, now we move into Chapter 22:1.

Acts 22:1 “Brethren, he says, Fathers,”

He's speaking to his brothers at the fellow Jews, and he's even said, “Hey, fathers.” There's some older men down there, maybe some that knew him from his days as a Pharisee. And he says, “Hey, we're family. I'm one of you.” All right. So, this is really what is being said here is we get Luke's memory of it led by God's spirit to put together the speech.

But I would imagine, and again, I'm reading into between the lines here that Paul took a moment to shake hands with his audience. That's what he's doing. Guys, when you go over to wherever you're going to go and you might be asked when you go home to give a sermonette or split sermon or whatever, and one of the things public speaking you learn to do, you should do. When you get up before your audience, say hello or whatever, take a moment to do what we call shake hands with everybody. Crummy weather we're having or glad we're all... No, I don't say crummy weather, but you say something to kind of get acquainted or to set the stage and the mood for a moment. Good morning, everyone. Good to be back in Cincinnati, or Des Moines, or Bakersfield, and see you all again. And last time I was here, and maybe you're with a family or whatever, shake hands. That's what Paul's doing. He's shaking hands before he gets into his talk. And it's a good way to establish a rapport with your audience. And then you move into your prepared text.

Acts 22:2 “Hear my defense before you now. And when they heard that he spoke to them in the Hebrew language, they kept all the more silent.”

Oh, okay. He's speaking to them in their language. He's speaking my language, as we say, speaking like me. And what does he do? He's going to rehearse the story of his conversion.

Acts 22:3 “He said, ‘I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, Jerusalem, defeat of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our father's law and was zealous toward God, as you all are today.’”

Paul is giving them his origin story. All right? Those of you that know the art of narrative and how to tell a story, part of it is, what's the origin? Where did Luke Skywalker come from? We don't get that in the first scene of the first “Star Wars”, do we? How many more do we get into before we find out his origin? And then you know ultimately what the true origin is as to who his father is, right?

So, Paul here gets into his origin. All right, I'm a Jew. That's his audience. I was brought up in the city, but I was taught by Gamaliel. You all know Gamaliel? “Sure.” Strictness of our Father's law, that's Abraham, that's Moses, and was zealous toward God, as you all are today. And so he tells them his origin is a Jew. “I'm one of you.” And he keeps the law. I'm like you. I go to Church on the Sabbath.

Have you ever run into somebody that keeps the Sabbath and a stranger? I have a few times. And I was going into my health club one time over in Indianapolis, and for some reason, I got into a conversation with the manager at the desk, and he said, “Well, I won't be here tomorrow.” There's going to be Saturday. And he informed me that. And I said, “Oh, you won't be here on Saturday?” He says, “No.” He says, “I keep Saturday as a Sabbath.” I said, “Oh, I do too.” He said, “Well, he was an Adventist, Seventh Day Adventist.” I said, “Well, I belong to the United Church of God.” And we had about a 5-, 10-minute conversation, and we had a connection. So, from that point on, every time I go in, we knew we were bros. We at least had the Sabbath connection there, together there.

So, Paul's saying, I've kept the law too, and I've been zealous, as you all are today. Now, they're a little bit overzealous because they're wanting to rip him apart. That's not the kind of zeal you want to get into, right? No.

Acts 22:4-5 But he said “I persecuted this way to death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, as also the high priest bears me witness and all the council of the elders,” not the United Council of Elders, but the council of the other group back then, “from whom I also received letters to the brethren and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished.”

So he's zealous. He repeats this in Philippians 3 when he gives his credentials there. So, it's along the same line as you read there in Philippians.

Acts 22:6-8 “Now, it happened as I journeyed,” so this is the next stage of the story. “And as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon.” And so he's back into that Damascus road experience. “Suddenly a great light from heaven shone around me and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And so I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’”

So, here's the third thing that he does. He says that he's been the recipient of divine intervention. Okay. He connects with him through his origin as a Jew. I'm zealous just like you. God has dealt with me in a unique way.

Acts 22:9 Says, “And those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they did not hear the voice of him who spoke to me.

So, he gives a little bit more detail, different from the first telling. This is the second of three tellings that Paul's going to have about his experience on the road to Damascus. And there's a difference in this one from the first.

Acts 22:10-11 “So, I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ The Lord said to me, ‘arise, go to Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do.’ And since Paul says, ‘I could not see for the glory of that light being led by the hand of those who were with me,’” remember he was blinded, “‘I came into Damascus.’”

So, he's led by the hand to go into the city.

Acts 22:12 Says “Then a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law.”

He doesn't say, this is not told to us back in, was it Chapter 9, where he has the first telling? Ananias is a devout man according to the law. And so this is the fourth element that sets up what he's doing here. He mentions Ananias, a devout Jew, devout according to the law. Okay? And having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there. These are his credentials that he's laying out to a group of people that are wanting to kill him. I'm like you. I'm a Jew. I grew up here. I've kept the law. God's hand is on me. And the witness of that is this man named Ananias, a devout person, well respected of.

Acts 22:13-16 “He came to me, he stood and he said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that same hour, I looked up at him and he said, ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will and see the just one and hear the voice of His mouth, for you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’”

And so Paul just walking them through here.

Acts 22:17-18 “It happened when I returned to Jerusalem now and I was praying in the temple, I saw that I was in a trance.” So, he's referring to another occasion, one of the earlier occasions when he had come to Jerusalem. “And I saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning me.’”

So, a warning from Christ to get out.

Acts 22:19-21 “And so I said, ‘Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believed on you. And when the blood of your martyrs Stephen was shed, I was standing by consenting to his death and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’” This is what he's recounting about that vision. “Then He, the Lord, said to me. ‘Depart for I will send you far from here to the gentiles.’”

And that's the word that he didn't want to talk about. But he knew what he was doing, I think.

Acts 22:22-24 “When they listened to him until this word, and when they raised their voices and said, ‘Away with such a fellow from the earth, he is not fit to live away.’ And as they cry out, they all tore their clothes.” The tailors were busy the next day. “They threw dust into the air and the commander ordered them to be brought to the barracks.”

And so it's broken up, Paul said all of that he can say when he mentions the idea of a gentile could be made a proselyte. They didn't want to hear this. To be making gentiles Christians without becoming a Jew first was an abomination in their sight. But that's essentially what the Church, the New Covenant teaching was saying that a gentile could become a follower of the Messiah without first becoming a Jew. That the path to God was direct, without being circumcised, without converting to Judaism. And now there was a new road cut through the mountain, and a gentile could have direct access to God in faith through Christ accepting Him as the Messiah.

Verse 21, When he lays down that the G word, the gentiles. That's it. Keep in mind, when he was talking to the Jewish or the Athenian philosophers on Mars Hill, they listened, and they listened, and they listened until he talked about the resurrection. Then they shut their books. It was time for lunch, Martini time. It was the martini moment. That was the martini shot. That was it. It was all over. Break up. They didn't want to hear about the resurrection of the body and the idea that man could be resurrected as Jesus was.

This group doesn't want to hear about the gentiles and their conversion. And so they throw dust into the air. They start to grab at Paul, and the commander wants to bring him into the barracks to be examined and scourged. Notice this in verse 24. The commanders had another...you've had your 15 minutes, whatever your talk is. Now, we're going to interrogate you. And you know what? Just for good measure, we're probably going to tie you up to the stock and flagellate you for a while. So, he goes on that he might know why they shouted so against him. The commander wanted to get the story out of Paul.

Acts 22:25 “As they bound him with thongs.”

Meaning the whipping post would have been something that Paul probably would have had to kneel in front of. They would have strapped his hands with leather thongs around that where he couldn't get loose. Probably tied his feet up as well. And they were going to then take that, what we might call a cat of nine tails, but a long leather whip with metal studs at the end of it, just as Jesus had been scourged with. And they were going to scourge him and rip his flesh to get his story out. That's the way the Romans did it. The Jews, they wanted to tear his arms off. The Romans, well, they were going to let him keep his arms, but they were going to take a pound of flesh off, perhaps. So that was their way of doing it.

Acts 22:25 “When Paul said to the centurion who stood by, ‘Is it lawful for you to discourage a man who is a Roman and uncondemned?’”

Well, that was a rhetorical question. Paul knew the answer, the centurion knew the answer. The answer is no. There was no multiple choice. There was no 25-word essay that they had to write. It was not true or false. It was, no, it is not lawful to do that. And the commander came... The commander now, guys in charge of the garrison, he comes.

Acts 22:27-28 “He said, ‘Tell me, are you a Roman?’ He's got this big voice. “‘Are you a Roman?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ The commander answered, ‘I bought this. And it took me a lot of money to buy this citizenship.’”

You could buy Roman citizenship in that day, and if you had enough money and favor, you could buy it. He said, “I had to buy this.” Well, Paul said, “Hey, I was born.” Which tells us that at least his father, maybe his grandfather, already were Roman citizens. And Paul was born a full Roman citizen.

Acts 22:29-30 “Immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him. And the commander was also afraid after he found that he was a Roman and because he had bound him.” In other words, the whole thing has shifted here. “The next day, because he wanted to know for certain why he was accused by the Jews. He released him from his bonds and commanded the chief priests and all their counsel to appear. And they brought Paul down, and they set him before him.” And so this is the Sanhedrin.

Acts 23:1-2 Paul goes right into it. “He says, ‘Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.’ And the high priest, Ananias, commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth.”

Ananias is the presiding officer of this particular tribunal. He's a high priest. He's not a good guy. What we know about him from Josephus is that he was like the others, very corrupt. And he winds up being assassinated a few years later when the Jews revolt against Rome, first in the Galilee, then it spreads into Jerusalem, they take this man, some of the Jewish zealots, and he's assassinated. He was that bad. So, he commands Paul to be struck on the mouth.

Acts 23:3 “Paul then said to him, ‘God will strike you, you whitewashed wall.’”

Now, that's a euphemism for ‘you hypocrite.’ And maybe it was even a euphemism for something worse than the idiom of the day, but he was basically calling him a hypocrite, which was even that was pretty bad. Sometimes we throw epithets around today, and it just becomes a part of common language. But in some cultures, even today, there are certain things you don't say. We, as Americans might say, is typically a part of our language. And you say that in some other areas, and you've committed a verbal faux pas. To call this high priest a hypocrite in that setting is pretty strong.

Acts 23:3 “He said, ‘For you set to judge me according to the law, and you commanded me to be struck contrary to the law?’”

Paul is saying, and then the defenders of the high priest, return in verse four.

Acts 23:4 And they say, “You're reviling God's high priest.”

Who are you? You don't talk like that to the high priest. And maybe Paul didn't see who he was. Maybe he didn't know who he was. Some speculate. Paul backtracks in verse 5.

Acts 23:5 “Oh, I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest. For it's written, ‘you will not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”

Show them some respect. And so here's the presence of mind Paul has. Some speculate that maybe Paul had poor eyesight, that may have been the affliction that he talks about in 2 Corinthians that God never healed him of. Again, all that is speculation. And it could also be that Paul had not been in Jerusalem for some time and he just didn't recognize Ananias. But when he recognized that he had made a mistake, Ananias doesn't apologize, but Paul does. He backs off. He quotes Scripture. He says, “Oh, I've violated scripture or protocol here.” But then he's thinking, he's calculating in his head, he's reading the room.

Acts 23:6 “He perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, and he cried out.” So, he didn't miss a beat. Boom. “‘Men, brethren. I'm a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee.’”

So, it tells us something about his father, religious, wanted his son to get a good Pharisee education, maybe where he got the same education. So, he packed him off at age 15 or whatever to Jerusalem, boarding school, and he's going to Daddy's alma mater, the University of Gamaliel, maybe.

Acts 23:6-9 “‘Concerning the hope and the resurrection of the dead, I'm being judged.’” Drop the mic. “When he said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided.” He knew how to end this conversation, this assembly, real quick. “For the Sadducees say there is no resurrection.” We covered this earlier when we were talking about the groups. “And no angel or spirit but the Pharisees confess both.” That there is a resurrection, there is a spirit world. “So, there arose a loud outcry and the scribes of the Pharisees party arose and protested, saying, ‘We find no evil in this man. He's one of us. But if a spirit of an angel has spoken to him, let us not fight against God.’”

Kind of an echo of Gamaliel earlier when Gamaliel told the council, “Let these men go. If it's of men, it'll come to nothing. If it's of God, you're going to be fighting against God.” So, there's some wisdom here. They started arguing. There was a great dissension.

Acts 23:10 “And the commander,” this is the commander of the garrison, “who's with him, fearing lest Paul might be pulled to pieces by them, commander the soldiers to go down, take him by force from among them, bring him back into the barracks.”

So, Paul has been probably down in this area, here in the southern part of the Temple Mount area, and they take him all the way back up to the Antonia Fortress area and to the barracks. And Paul then, the next night, has a vision.

Acts 23:11 “The Lord stood by him and said, ‘Be of good cheer, Paul, for as you've testified for me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.’”

Cheer up, Paul. They've tried to tear you apart, the council was trying to run their trumped-up charges against you. Cheer up. And Paul was probably thinking, okay, where do we go from here? And you're going to go to Rome. You're going to bear witness at Rome.

Keep in mind at the end of the Book of Romans, which Paul had written some months back in Corinth, he told the Romans, “I'm going to come, I'm coming out.” Now, Paul didn't realize that he was going to go as a prisoner when he wrote that. But now, Christ is telling him, you're going to bear witness at Rome. This is where all of this is heading. So, it's now coming into a clear focus. And so we'll end it there with that vision. That's a good place. We'll pick this up after the break. And continue moving ahead. We've got several other scenarios and scenes to get into. And got to get him down to Cesarea. So, we'll move quickly. So, we'll pick that up at the next class.