Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Acts 21:17-29
Pastor Steve Schell
Sunday Acts 21:17-21
vs17, 18: When Paul and his team arrived in Jerusalem, the leaders of the church welcomed them gladly. The next day Paul went into a formal meeting with James (the Lord’s half-brother) and the elders, and took his entire team with him. vs19-21: After warmly greeting this assembly, Paul began to describe, one by one, the things God had done among the nations through his ministry. When he finished, James and the elders glorified God and then said to Paul, “Behold, brother, how many myriads (countless thousands) there are among the Jews who have believed, and all are uncompromisingly committed to practicing the Law. But they have had people come and tell them about you saying that you teach apostasy from Moses, that in nation after nation you tell all the Jews to not circumcise their children or continue walking in our traditional religious practices.”

Monday Acts 21:22-24
vs22-24: “How should we respond to this situation? Surely they will hear that you’ve come. So, do what we tell you to do: There are four men in our church who have placed themselves under a Nazarite vow. Take them to the Temple and be purified along with them and then pay for the offerings that they are required to present to the Lord before they can shave their heads and complete their vow (Nu 6:13-21; sin offering, burnt, grain, drink and peace). Then everyone will know that there is no truth to the things they have been told about you, but that you yourself walk in an orderly way, keeping the Law.”

Tuesday Acts 21:25
v25: “But concerning Gentiles who have believed, we already sent out a letter that stated our decision about what we require of them (Ac 15:23-29), namely to keep themselves from eating food which has been sacrificed to idols or from drinking blood; and also from eating the meat of animals that were strangled in order to keep the blood in them, rather than slaughtering them properly (Lev 17:10-14); and finally, from participating in any of the wide assortment of un-biblical marriage arrangements which are common among the Gentiles (Lev 18:1-24).”

Wednesday Acts 21:26
v26: The next day, Paul, having been purified with them (a ritual bath?), took the men and went into the area of the Temple called the Court of the Nazarites, to give notice to the priests of the day when their vow would be ended. On that day they would present themselves to the priests and they would bring with them the necessary offerings, including a 50 shekel “gift” from each man (Josephus, Antiquities, 4.4.4). At this point, we should remind ourselves that Paul had made the same type of vow five years earlier in Corinth (Ac 18:18), and then traveled to Jerusalem to present these same required offerings (Ac 18:22). So by taking the vow, Paul was not doing something which violated his conscience. For him, it was not a means of earning righteousness but an act of worship. By taking the Nazarite vow, he could show the believers in Jerusalem that he did not reject such things, though he made it clear in all his letters that his understanding of the purpose of the Law and the reason for doing such rituals had changed dramatically when he put his faith in Christ (Gal 3:19-26).

Thursday Acts 21:27, 28
vs27, 28: They announced to the priests that their vows would end in a week, and during those final seven days they would have remained in the Temple the entire time. Small chambers were provided along the inner wall of the Court of the Women in which people could live while fulfilling the final seven days of their Nazarite vows. By living in the Temple courts, a person would be protected from accidentally coming in contact with something that would make them ceremonially unclean (Thomas M. Lindsay, Handbook for Bible Classes and Private Students, Acts of the Apostles, Vol 2, T&T Clark, Edinburg, 1885, pp.113, 114). Tradition required that the Nazarite vow be kept for at least a month (Mishna, Naz. vi), so the four men had undoubtedly been keeping this vow for a while, but tradition also allowed them to invite someone to join them for their final week, especially if that person was willing to pay for their expenses.

Friday Acts 21:27, 28
vs27, 28 (continued): During that time they would have continued to refrain from eating or drinking anything produced from grapes, going near a dead person or cutting their hair (Nu 6:3-6). It seems likely they spent the time in prayer and worship (Ac 24:12, 18), but just when that week was coming to an end, Jews from “Asia,” which almost certainly meant from the city of Ephesus, spotted Paul in the Temple. Roman historians claimed that no less than two million Jews crowded into this city during such feasts (G. Campbell Morgan, The Acts of the Apostles, Fleming H. Revell, 1924, p.483), and since this was the time of the feast of Pentecost (Ac 20:16), it’s no surprise that Jews from Ephesus were present, nor that they were still furious at Paul for the humiliation they suffered in the amphitheater (Ac 19:23-41).

Saturday Acts 21:27-29
vs27, 28 (continued): Those who recognized Paul began to shout, stirring up the crowd of worshippers around them, warning everyone that there was someone present in the Temple who had committed an outrage against God. They grabbed Paul with their hands and began to call for help, saying, “Men, Israelites, come and help us, this is the man who has been reaching all men, everywhere, against our people and the Law and this place….” And then they added a blatant lie because it brought with it the death penalty, “…and he also brought Greeks into the Temple and defiled this holy place.” v29: Luke tells us these Ephesians were already aware Paul was in the city. They had seen him with Trophimus (Ac 20:4), a citizen of Ephesus, so they were probably watching for him when they came into the Temple. Luke says they “assumed” Paul had taken Trophimus and others into the Temple with him, and that’s undoubtedly what they claimed, but he had not done so. It appears they were inventing charges to make against him. Gentiles were welcomed into the Temple as far as the Court of the Gentiles, but no further. In fact, a barrier had been erected in front of the steps leading into the inner courts with a sign posted on it in Latin and Greek that warned Gentiles not to pass on threat of death (F.F. Bruce, The Book of Acts, Eerdmans, reprinted 1974, p.434). 

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