Acts Part 19

Notes on Acts

Part Nineteen




Read chapter 21.


The chapter begins with Paul receiving warnings from the Holy Spirit that he would be imprisoned if he went to Jerusalem. But, Paul was undeterred.


“Courageous commitment, stemming from strong convictions, is an essential quality found in all those whom God chooses to lead. Convinced that God had given Israel the land of Canaan, Joshua and Caleb argued forcefully for an immediate invasion – despite the fearful, cowardly recommendations of the other ten spies. Believing that God would grant his people victory over the Canaanite forces led by Sisera, Deborah urged Barak to lead the Israelites against him. Such was David’s conviction that God would defeat Goliath (one of the accursed Anakim) and deliver Israel from the Philistines that he willingly risked his life in battle with the giant. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were willing to forfeit their lives rather than give up their conviction that God alone is to be worshipped. Daniel, too, was willing to die rather than cease worshipping the true God.


The apostle Paul stood in the line of those saints who held such strong convictions. He was completing a critical mission to deliver relief funds from the gentile churches in Asia Minor and Greece to the many poor in the Jerusalem church. Because of the many pilgrims in that church, and the alienation and persecution of the Jerusalem believers, there were many poor among the congregation who were in constant need….Paul’s goal was not only to meet the basic needs of the Jerusalem congregation (Gal. 2:9-10) but also to solidify the loving unity between the Jewish and the Gentile churches (Eph. 2:11-17). As the apostle traveled to Jerusalem to deliver the money, he was repeatedly warned of the trials and persecution he would face when he got there. Despite those warnings, he never wavered in his conviction that he was to fulfill God’s will in the matter, which gave him the courage to see his ministry through no matter what the personal consequences.”[1]


Once in Jerusalem, a controversy arises, precipitated by the Judaizers, questioning Paul’s view on the law of God.


And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law, 21 and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs.[2]


And so, the elders in Jerusalem give Paul a direction to circumvent the controversy:


Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; 24 take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also live in observance of the law.[3]


“Displaying humility and a desire for unity, Paul agreed to the elders proposal. Doing so would not compromise biblical truth since, as Paul himself had written in Romans 14 and 15, such matters were issues of Christian liberty. In fact, Paul’s participation in the ceremony was an illustration of the principle he laid down in I Corinthians 9:9-23:”[4]


For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. [5]


The Judaizers then stir up the crowds by lying about Paul. The people were so angry with Paul that they sought o kill him (vs. 31)! They were going to beat him to death (vs. 32). (And some Christians will stop sharing Christ if they are only mocked a little bit! Such are not true followers of Christ.)


Read chapter 22.


Chapter 22 reveals the apostle’s apologetic for the faith and his personal testimony.


“Paul’s conduct throughout his ordeal provides an example for all believers of how to give a positive testimony in negative circumstances. Several principles can be noted:


First, Paul accepted the situation as God ordained it. Facing persecution never caused him to be unfaithful to God’s plan. He had known for some time that he faced arrest when he arrived at Jerusalem (20:22-23; 21:4, 10-13). He calmly accepted that as God’s will, telling those trying to dissuade him from going to Jerusalem, ‘I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’ (21:13)


Second, Paul used his circumstances as an opportunity. The crowd had not gathered to hear him preach but to beat and kill him. Paul, however, used that occasion to proclaim to them how God’s saving power had transformed his life.


Third, Paul was conciliatory toward his persecutors. He did not threaten the hostile crowd or seek revenge. Instead, he courteously addressed them as ‘brothers and fathers’ and even assigned to their vicious beating of him the noble motive of zeal for God. Paul practiced the command he has earlier given to the Roman Christians: ‘Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not’ (Rom. 12:14). He was like his Lord Jesus, who ‘being reviled…did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously’ (I Peter 2:23).


Fourth, Paul exalted the Lord. His defense to the crowd focused not on his impressive credentials and achievements but on what God had accomplished in his life.


Finally, and most important, Paul maintained the proper attitude – one of selfless love. It was his love for other believers that brought him to Jerusalem (to deliver the offering). It was his love for his weaker brethren and desire for unity in the church that brought him to the temple. It was his love for his unsaved countrymen that led him to evangelize the hostile crowd. And it was his love for God that motivated his love for people and caused him to give glory to Him.


Believers who practice these principles will, like Paul, be able to give a positive testimony in the most negative circumstances.”[6]


Read 23:1-11.


Paul begins his defense to the Sanhedrin by saying that he lived in accordance with his conscience. He had a good conscience. God has given us a conscience to let us know when we have done something wrong. However, our conscience partly functions according to our knowledge. That is, we must be taught what is right and wrong. There is also an innate sense that we possess. Everyone knows, for example, that it is wrong to murder and we do not need to be taught that. However, many things that we understand to be right and wrong are because we have been taught. (This is why conscientious parenting is essential. When parents do not teach their children right and wrong, the children do not have a good foundation for their life.) Thus, it is not either/or. It is both. We do have an innate sense of right and wrong, but we also need to be taught.


The problem that arises is that we can be taught the wrong things. If we are not taught certain things (e.g., that fornication and drunkenness are sins) then we may get involved in those activities and our conscience may not bother us. This likely happens in unbelieving households. The opposite can also occur. If a person is brought up Roman Catholic their conscience may bother them if they eat meat on a Friday, even though abstaining is only a man-made tradition. Likewise, evangelicals may have been taught that drinking any alcohol, dancing, or playing cards were contrary to God’s will and their conscience will bother them if they do any of these things.


However, Paul’s conscience was tempered by the word of God, not traditions. He states that he had a good conscience “before God.”


We need such a conscience – a conscience informed and grounded in God’s word.


Then the Lord Jesus appears to Paul, stands next to him, and speaks with him! See the very unique position that Paul had. Who else had the Lord appear to him (after the forty days of post-resurrection appearances to the other apostles)? No one! At least not as recorded in Scripture. Paul was greatly and mightily privileged. He is God’s messenger for this age! All his words must be heeded. To obey Paul is to obey the Lord. To disobey Paul is to disobey the Lord. We ought to rejoice in this because the more revelation that the Lord shows, the more we know what pleases Him. Paul was faithful. We can be faithful, too. Not in our own strength, but in the strength the Lord grants to every child of his.


Read 23:12-35 and chapter 24.


This entire portion is straightforward and requires little commentary. Paul is before Felix, the governor. Like a typical politician, he refrained from making a decision in order to placate the populace. He knew Paul was innocent and also knew that Christians were not revolutionaries (He was acquainted with “the Way;” 24:22). Yet, he would not release Paul because he knew that the Jewish leaders would be infuriated. Also, like a typical[7] politician, Felix was an immoral man. He was married to his second wife when he met Drusilla, who was at that time married to the king of Emesa (a former nation located where Syria is presently). She had been given to the king in her early teens. This in itself was not scandalous and was a common practice in the ancient world. When Felix met her she was only 16.  He was so taken up with her beauty that he hired a magician from Cyprus to lure her away from the king. The magician was successful and Felix then married her after unlawfully divorcing his second wife. Of course, his marriage to Drusilla was adulterous twice over. It is believed that she was 19 years of age during this exchange with the apostle Paul.


But some days later Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and summoned Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus.

25     But as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and answered, “Go away for the present, and when I find time I will call for you.”[8]




“Zeroing in on every sinner’s dilemma, Paul specifically was discussing righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come. Righteousness is the absolute standard demanded by God’s holy nature (Matt. 5:48; I Peter 1:15-16). Self-control is man’s required response to bring him into conformity with God’s law. Judgment is the inevitable result (apart from saving faith in Christ) of failing to control oneself so as to live up to God’s standards. Since Felix was living with a woman he had lured away from her husband, it is understandable that Felix became frightened. Because he lacked the first two virtues, he faced inevitable divine judgment.”[9]


Felix never repented. Those are terrifying words! Put anyone’s name there and it is frightening. “John never repented.” “Bill never repented.” May it never be said of you, the reader, that you never repented!


Repentance is a wonderful thing! When initiated by the Holy Spirit, it ushers in new life! This is true for the disciple of Christ as much as it is true for the lost. Indeed, a refusal to repent is powerful evidence of an unregenerate state (an unsaved state).[10]


[1] John MacArthur, TMNTC on Acts Vol. 2, 234.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 21:20–21). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 21:23–24). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] MacArthur, 253.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Co 9:19–23). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] MacArthur, 273.

[7] Of course, there are honest and upright politicians, but these seem to be few and far between, even in this age.

[8] Legacy Standard Bible (2021). (Ac 24:24–25). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[9] MacArthur, 310.

[10] The godly people in the Bible are shown to repent once they are confronted with their sin.