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“Arrested and Bound” – Acts 21:27-40

Sep 13, 2020

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The Apostle Paul, because of his love for the brethren, both Jew and Gentile, has stepped on a "hornets" nest.

His desire to reconcile both groups in the church (1 Cor. 1:10) has led to his arrest and "to be bound with two chains." (Acts 21:33)

But this was the result of Christ's command for the Gospel to reach "to the end of the earth," beginning in Jerusalem.

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

(Acts 1:8)

 For by his arrest, the Holy Spirit's plan:

"Paul purposed in the Spirit...to go to Jerusalem, saying: 'After I have been there, I must also see Rome.'"

(Acts 19:21)

would be accomplished, but not in the manner Paul expected.

Instead of visiting Rome as a free citizen, he would be brought to Rome as a prisoner of Caesar fulfilling God's will, and letting the government pay for it.

But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, "Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome."

(Acts 23:11)


Vs. 27

           "...the Jews from Asia..."

                * "Asia" - Asia Minor, modern day Turkey, Ephesus was the chief city.

          "...stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him..."

                * "The whole crowd" - It was Pentecost (Acts 20:16) and the temple courts would have been full of Jews from everywhere.

                 * "Laid hands on him" - Physically by force.  This was not the first time.  (Acts 19:8-10, 33-34, 20:18-21)

                 * There was bad blood between the Ephesian Jews and Paul, but Paul loved them. (Rms. 9:1-6)

Vs. 28

           "Men of Israel..."

                   * This phrase does not specifically apply to only residents of Judea, but to all Jews everywhere "Sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel).

           "...this is the man who teaches...against the people, the law and this place;..."

                * All untrue!

                * Jesus and Stephen were also unjustly accused of the same. (Acts 6:13)

               * "The Law" - The Law of Moses, Torah.  Jewish tradition held that the giving of the Law of Moses on Mt. Sinai took place around the same time as Pentecost.  So, to accuse Paul of being against the Law of Moses was an especially serious charge at this time and would greatly inflame the crowd.

               * "This place" - The Temple.

          "...he also brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place..."

               * A most serious charge, and again untrue.

By bringing any Gentiles (Greeks) into the two inner courts of the temple was a capital offense, punishable by instant death.

This punishment was approved by Rome.

On the wall dividing the outer court (“Court of the Gentiles”) from the inner courts was written in Hebrew, Greek and Latin:

 "No foreigner may enter within the barricade which surrounds the enclosure. Anyone caught so doing will have himself to blame for his ensuing death."

Christ tore down this wall forever!

For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,...    (Eph. 2:14)

Vs. 29

           "(For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)

              *"They supposed" - Assumed, as were all the accusations against Paul (Jesus and Stephen included).

Assumptions and rumors leading to false accusations are not based on facts, but on half-truths, prejudices and outright lies.

Vs. 30

           "And all the city was disturbed..."

                   * This was a full-scale riot.  There had been many temple riots in the past (Ex: Pilate and Caesar's image hung on Antonia).

                   * This mob was intent on killing Paul.

                   * Ancient peoples were very jealous of their temples. (Acts 19:27-29)

             "...seized Paul and dragged him out of the Temple and immediately the doors were shut."

                   * Bloodshed in the Temple would desecrate it, so Paul was "dragged...out."

                   * The doors were shut by the Levites who guarded the Temple to keep out rioters and bloodshed.

                   * The doors were 50' x 20' each cast of solid bronze.

Vs. 31

           "...news came to the commander of the garrison..."

                * "The garrison" - A Roman cohort of 600 troops under six Centurions commanded by a Roman Tribune, part of the 10th Legion.

                * The garrison was stationed here for this very purpose:  to keep the peace and quell riots.

Vs. 32

           "...and ran down with them..."

                 * Dr. Luke correctly depicts the layout of the Temple courts with the Antonia Fortress adjacent to the Court of the Gentiles on the north-west side.

Vs. 33

           "...the commander..."

                * Claudius Lysias (Acts 23:26)

                     - Claudius - For the Roman Emperor who granted his citizenship. (Acts 22:28)

                     - Lysias - A Greek surname, hence he spoke Greek.  (Vs. 37)

           "...and commanded him to be bound with two chains..."

                * Prophecy fulfilled:

And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.

(Acts 20:22-23)

                * A person bound this way would be chained between two soldiers, with a chain on each arm.

For the rest of Paul's life, he would be "bound" and eventually executed by Caesar Nero because of his witness for Christ. 

Vs. 34

           "...taken into the barracks..."

                * "The barracks" - The Antonia Fortress also housed the Praetorium where Christ stood before the Procurator Pontius Pilate, was scourged, mocked and spit on by the Roman soldiers. (Matt. 27:26-31)

Vs. 35

           "When he reached the stairs..."

                   * The stairs from the Temple court up into the fortress.

Vs. 36

            "...the people...crying out, 'Away with him!'"

                 * Again, same as Christ's arrest and trial.

But they cried out, "Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!" Pilate said to them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar!"

(Jn. 19:15)

Vs. 37

           "...may I speak to you?"

                 * In the midst of a murderous mob, chained to two Roman soldiers, Paul is still polite, demonstrating the Fruit of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

(Gal. 5:22-23)

           "Can you speak Greek?"

                  * Better translated - "You can speak Greek?"

                  * Paul spoke fluent "High" Greek, not Koine Greek (common Greek). 

Vs. 38

           "...the Egyptian..."

                * The commander mistook Paul for an Egyptian false prophet who raised an army in Jerusalem. The Roman's put down the rebellion but the Egyptian escaped.  His capture would have certainly advanced the Tribune's career.

           "...four thousand assassins..."

                * "Assassins" - Terrorists, "Sicarii" or dagger men who had been assassinating aristocrats in the Temple, and wreaking havoc in the Judean countryside.

Vs. 39

           "...Tarsus, in Cilicia..."

                * A Hellenized highly educated urban center.

                * The largest city in Cilicia, a center for commercial activity and trade.

                * "A free city" under Roman authority, granted by Caesar Augustus in 64 BC.

                * The location of the third greatest university in the Roman Empire after Athens and Alexandria.

                * Acts 9:30, 11:25

           "...no mean city..."

                * Not an insignificant city.

Vs. 40

           "Paul stood on the stairs..."

                 * The entrance to the fortress.

           "And when there was a great silence, he spoke to them in the Hebrew language..."

                  * "Hebrew language" - Aramaic (NIV). Either is probably correct, most "Hebrews" (Jews) spoke Aramaic in the provinces of Judea and Galilee, with Hebrew spoken by the ruling, religious class.



We'll study Paul's testimony and defense to the crowd next Sunday.


But consider Paul's situation.  He knew what the likely outcome was.  He had witnessed it, and been part of the hateful crowd previously:

Acts 7:51-8:1

In Paul's mind, his commission and call were clear as he remembered from Damascus:

But the Lord said to him (Ananias), "Go, for he (Paul) is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake."

(Acts 9:15-16)

And Paul understood this great truth from his Lord:


Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.

(Jn. 15:13)

Even if they hate you and seek your life!


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