Acts 20:1–23:22comment (0)
August 14, 2008
By Cecil Taylor
Related Scripture: Acts 20:1–23:22
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Dean, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
JERUSALEM: FACING CRITICISM
Visit to Macedonia and Greece (20:1–3)
Soon after Paul’s visit to Ephesus, he left for Macedonia. Luke, the author of Acts and companion of Paul, said little about his ministry there, but he may have stayed a year in that area. Originally Paul planned to sail directly from Cenchrea (also Cenchreae) to Syria, but news that some Jews planned to kill him on the ship made him divert instead to sail from Macedonia.
Journey to Jerusalem (20:4–21:16)
Paul’s group sailed from Philippi to Troas. The seven named here represent the churches that gave to the offering for the Jerusalem Christians. Luke and Paul stayed briefly at Philippi (compare “us” in Acts 20:5 with “we” in Acts 20:6) and then sailed to Troas where they spent a week. The incident involving Eutychus occurred their last day in Troas.
Luke and the others left by ship for Assos, while Paul traveled by land to meet them. From Assos, the ship went on to Mitylene, on to the islands of Chios (also Kios) and Samos and on to Miletus. Paul sent for the elders from Ephesus to come for a visit.
Audience members are called “elders” and “bishops.” In Acts 20:28, they are said to “pastor” the flock of God. The three terms are synonymous. Paul’s theme was faithfulness in ministry. First, the apostle called attention to his own example — his lowliness of mind, compassion, hardships and faithful preaching. Then, he spoke of his plans for the future following with a charge to the elders to take heed to themselves and shepherd the church. Finally he commended them to God and reminded them again of his example.
The next stop was Cos and then came Rhodes. Patara was on the coast just south of Asia Minor. Here the travelers changed ships and sailed to Tyre, where they paused a week. Certain believers warned him not to go to Jerusalem, but he did not take their words as direct prohibition from God.
Ending the voyage at Ptolemais, they stayed for one day and then pressed on to Caesarea. In Caesarea, the team stayed in the house of Philip, one of the seven (cf. Acts 6). His four single daughters were prophetesses, i.e., they spoke for God with utterances the Spirit gave them. Agabus (cf. Acts 11:28) here assured Paul imprisonment at the hands of the Jews awaiting him in Jerusalem. Everyone begged Paul not to go but he was determined. He took the Spirit’s warning as intended not to keep him from going to Jerusalem but to ready him for the fate that awaited him there.
Paul tarried in Caesarea long enough to enter Jerusalem “on the day of Pentecost” (Acts 20:16). There they came to the house of Mnason, one of the original Jerusalem disciples.
In Jerusalem (21:17–23:22)
The following day, Paul had a formal meeting with James (the brother of Jesus) and the Jerusalem elders. At the assembly, Paul detailed all God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. These men rejoiced, but told Paul that Jewish believers zealous for the Law had heard Paul was counseling Jews to turn away from the Law and circumcision. James and the elders did not believe the rumor. Paul having Timothy circumcised proved the charge was false. They suggested he join in Nazarite purification rites about to be performed by four Jewish Christians and pay their expenses to show the rumor wrong. Then they reaffirmed the Jerusalem Council agreement.
When the purification rite was almost over, fanatical Jews from Asia Minor caught sight of Paul and stirred up a mob by shouting that Paul had brought Gentiles into the temple precincts — a deed punishable by death.
Roman troops took him into protective custody. He offered his defense from the steps leading from the temple area up to the Roman fortress. The people listened quietly until he got to the word “Gentiles.” Then commotion broke out.
The Romans prepared to whip him but stopped when Paul said he was a citizen. When Paul spoke before the Sanhedrin, he divided it over an issue of truth — the resurrection. The Romans again rescued him from mob violence and held him until his nephew brought word to the commander of a plot on Paul’s life. For safekeeping, they moved him to Caesarea.