Chapter 21 of Acts begins after Paul departed from the Ephesian elders and was on his way to Jerusalem. Paul had been warned numerous times about going to Jerusalem that chains and tribulations awaited him there. Between the previous chapter and this one, the third warning came from a prophet named Agabus while Paul was in Cesarea.
In verse 11, Agabus took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet and said “So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt.” These warnings of the Holy Spirit were meant to prepare Paul, not to stop him. Paul was ready to suffer for choosing God’s will and after Paul could not be persuaded from going to Jerusalem, the people came to accept the Lord’s will would be done.
Upon arrival in Jerusalem, Paul learns of his bad reputation among the Christians. False rumors were going around that he had been teaching all the Jews to forsake Moses and it was wrong to continue in the Jewish customs and traditions. To show that Paul didn’t have a problem with Jewish Christians continuing to observe the old laws and customs, the leaders of Jerusalem recommended Paul sponsor and join four other Christians who were going to participate in a purification rite.
Paul joined these four men in this vow of consecration that was similar to his Nazirite vow in Acts 18:18-21. Having been purified with them, Paul entered the temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification. As this seemed to convince everyone that Paul did not preach against Jewish laws and customs, another problem arose.
Jews from Asia saw Paul in the temple and stirred a mob in the city accusing Paul of being against the people, the law, and the temple. Paul was against any of these as a basis for righteousness before God, which comes only though Jesus Christ. Now as the Jews were seeking to kill Paul, the commander of the garrison rescued Paul from the mob and bound him with two chains.
Paul was then carried away and was going to be taken into the barracks when he requested to speak to the people. The chapter ends with the commander of the garrison granting Paul his request to address the mob that wanted to kill him.
What we can learn from this chapter in Acts is that for one, people will speak evil of us. Even with our best intentions, some people will say some unpleasant words about us or to us. We have to be reminded to “speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men”(Titus 3:2).
In addition, those who desire to live godly in Christ will experience persecution as Paul did. Jesus said if the world hates you, it hated me first. Paul said in Romans 8:35 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
Finally, we can learn that if you are convinced you are in a place where God wants you to be, He will make a way, just as Paul was saved by the Roman commander and granted an opportunity to address the angry mob. Isaiah says “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God, I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
Let’s pray. Lord God, in Your Word it says that when we commit our work to You, our plans will be established (Proverbs 16:3). I pray for all believers, for those who are treated spitefully because of their faith in you Jesus, that they would hold onto You. We are the redeemed and we have our citizenship in heaven. We have been separated from the world, from the kingdom of darkness and conveyed into your kingdom (See Colossians 1:13). And as we grow in Christ, we are continually transformed by your Word affecting how we walk and talk. I pray that all the brothers and sisters will stay strong in the Lord and in the power of your might, knowing that through faith, You are strong in us. And when the enemy uses people to attack us, we will take up the shield of faith and quench those fiery darts in Jesus’s name. Amen.