Introduction: Where we last left Paul he had just raised Eutychus to
life as he was about to leave the city of Troas. From there Paul did
a little more missionary work. Then in Acts 20:16 we read that Paul
is in a hurry to get to Jerusalem in time for the feast of Pentecost.
He reports that he is compelled to go by the Holy Spirit (Acts
20:22), but we have seriously conflicting signals on that. Our study
this week is about Paul’s difficult experience in Jerusalem. Let’s dig
into our study of the Bible and learn more!

  1. Conflicting Signals

    1. Read Acts 21:2-4. Who is behind the warning not to go to
      Jerusalem? (The Holy Spirit!)

    2. Read Acts 21:10-12. Who is behind this very specific
      warning message? (Once again, the Holy Spirit.)

    3. Let’s read the text I referred to in the Introduction,
      Acts 20:22. What worrisome note do we find? (Paul says he
      does not know what will happen to him. This would make me

    4. Paul says the Holy Spirit has “compelled” him to go to
      Jerusalem – though he suggests that trouble might be
      there. Then we read two subsequent warnings, attributed to
      the Holy Spirit, that Paul should not go to Jerusalem. How
      do you explain these conflicting messages from the Holy
      Spirit? (Read Acts 20:23. Now we see that in every city
      the Holy Spirit warns Paul that trouble awaits.)

    5. Read Acts 21:13-14 and Acts 20:24. What is Paul’s answer
      to this conflict? Why is he doing what the Holy Spirit
      warned him against doing?(Paul says that this is the
      natural tension in his life. His is a dangerous job. But,
      he has a great goal to share the gospel.)

      1. Read Acts 9:13-16. Has Paul been warned? (Paul, of
        all people, understands. He used to be a persecutor
        for religious reasons. He understands the conflict
        between good and evil. I think the Holy Spirit warns
        him because he does not have to be injured. But, Paul
        is completely devoted to advancing the Kingdom of

  2. Jerusalem

    1. Read Acts 21:17-19. How does Paul’s visit to Jerusalem

    2. Read Acts 21:20-21. Are the church leaders totally
      delighted with Paul’s work? (They think it is great that
      he is doing such wonderful work with the Gentiles, but
      reports of his work are creating trouble in Jerusalem.)

    3. Read Acts 21:22. How would you answer this if you were

    4. Read Acts 21:23-24. Have you had this happen to you?
      Someone asks you for your opinion about what you should
      do, and before you can answer, they tell you what they
      think you should do?

      1. What do you think about the advice of James and the

      2. Are the charges true – that Paul says that Jews
        should not circumcise their children or follow Jewish
        “customs?” (Read Galatians 5:6 and Galatians 5:12.
        Should we say that Paul’s true position is “super
        circumcision?” Those zealous for the law should cut
        off their entire organ? You can argue that Paul is
        not telling the Jews to avoid circumcision, but he is
        clearly hostile to the idea that Gentiles must be
        circumcised. Plus, he says that circumcision does not
        make any difference.)

    5. Read Acts 21:25. Why do James and the elders add this
      note? (They want Paul to know that they are not backing
      down on their view of the limited requirements for

      1. The good news is that Paul and the church leaders in
        Jerusalem agree on the distinction to be made between
        the Jewish and the Gentile Christians. What do you
        think about members of the same church having
        completely different standards?

        1. How can you have church unity when different
          standards apply to different people? (It
          appears that unity exists when the leadership
          agrees on the point.)

    6. Read Acts 21:26. If the leaders of the church had not
      suggested this, would Paul on his own think this is a good
      idea? (Read 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. We do not know what is
      going through Paul’s mind at this moment, but this is
      exactly the kind of thing Paul reports that he would do.
      He is flexible on this kind of issue to help win and
      retain converts.)

  3. The Arrest

    1. Read Acts 21:27-29. What is the main charge? (Not defiling
      the temple, that seems to be an “add on” charge. Rather,
      it is teaching against our people and our law.)

      1. Where do the accusers live? (Where Paul has just been
        teaching. Paul has been evangelizing the Gentiles in
        Asia, and if the main charge is not exactly true, it
        seems close enough to me.)

        1. If Paul had not gone through the purification
          ritual as suggested, do you think he would have
          been arrested anyway? (I feel certain that he
          would have been arrested given the main charge
          against him.)

    2. Read Acts 21:30-32 and Acts 21:35-36. Do you think this is
      how the Jewish people normally reacted? Are they just an
      undisciplined mob that hates free speech rights? (I think
      this is demonic. The followers of Jesus can expect this
      kind of reaction even among “refined” people when demonic
      influences are high.)

      1. There are dark periods of history when Christians
        persecuted and killed Jews. Do you think this story
        has something to do with it? (It seems reasonable
        that Satan loves to use his own work to incite
        hatred. The abuses that He inspires he uses to incite
        abuses from the other side.)

    3. Read Acts 21:39-40. In Acts 22:1-21 Paul tells the crowd
      his conversion story while they quietly listen. Since we
      have studied Paul’s conversion, we won’t consider
      questions about it. Read Acts 22:21-22. Why should Paul’s
      mission make the crowd want to kill him? (Imagine that you
      are removed as the head of an company and your job is
      given to someone else. Paul tells them that they are no
      longer exclusively God’s people. Gentiles now enjoy the
      favor of a relationship with God. Paul’s story rebukes
      what they are doing right now.)

    4. Read Acts 22:24-25. What do we learn about Paul asserting
      his legal rights? (Once again, we see him insisting on his
      rights as a Roman citizen.)

    5. Read Acts 22:29-30. How has Paul’s legal position changed?
      (The original plan was to beat out of Paul the reason for
      the mob wanting to kill him. Now, the Jewish leaders are
      required to prove whatever charges they have against Paul.
      In the meantime Paul is released from custody.)

  4. The Trial

    1. Read Acts 23:1-3. We discussed a couple of weeks ago
      Jesus’ instruction to turn the other cheek ( Matthew 5:39),
      and the fact that Jesus later asserted His legal rights
      against being slapped ( John 18:22-23). What is Paul doing
      here? (Strongly objecting to being struck.)

    2. Read Acts 23:6. Is this true? (Yes. If Jesus merely died,
      then He would not have fulfilled all of the Jewish customs
      that were the cause of the riot. Those practices are no
      longer relevant.)

      1. Is this a sly defense, too? (Read Acts 23:7-10. Yes!
        Paul identifies with one faction, the Pharisees, and
        says he is on trial for believing as they do.)

    3. Read Acts 23:11. Do you think Jesus appeared to Paul? Or,
      is this the Holy Spirit? (The text says “the Lord” and in
      my Bible the words are in red letters, meaning the
      translators thought they were the words of Jesus.)

      1. We have debated whether Paul is following the
        direction of the Holy Spirit. What do Jesus’ words of
        encouragement teach us? (Jesus does not leave us.
        Paul is determined to share the gospel no matter
        what. Jesus comes personally to encourage him in his
        time of trial.)

    4. Let’s summarize the rest of our study by reading the
      official letter to Governor Felix. Read Acts 23:26-30. Why
      is Paul still in custody? (In part it is to protect him.
      In part, it is to obtain a judgment by a higher official.)

    5. Friend, what does this study teach you about following
      God? It teaches us that we might have rough times, but
      that God is with us every step of the way. It also teaches
      us that claiming and defending our legal rights is
      appropriate. Will you ask the Holy Spirit to help keep you
      faithful in difficult times?

  5. Next week: Confinement in Caesarea.