Paul’s Arrest – Acts 21:27-22:24

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Sermon Study Sheets

Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

October 1, 2006

Paul’s Arrest

Acts 21:27-22:24

A person’s character is not proved by what they say but by what they actually do. I think everyone here would agree that it is easier to make a claim than it is to live it out. There are those who boast about what they would do in a given situation and then when the situation comes they do quite the opposite. Their claim to be bold and courageous is proved false by their actions of cowardice when the situation is actually faced. Likewise, the person who acts bold and courageous when facing the situation proves their character to be just that.

In our study last week we found that Paul was resolute to do the Lord’s will despite the repeated warnings that he would face bondage and affliction when he got to Jerusalem and the begging of his friends not to go because of that. Paul told them in Acts 21:13, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Paul was confident in what the Lord wanted him to do because he had known for a long time that he would face bonds and afflictions when he got to Jerusalem but the was “bound in spirit” to go there (Acts 20:22, 23). This week we will see how Paul reacts after he arrives in Jerusalem and actually faces the situation. It is a wonderful example for us to follow when we face bad situations.

Fulfilling His Vows (21:26)

26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purifying himself along with them, went into the temple, giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, until the sacrifice was offered for each one of them.

Recall from last week that Paul was doing this at the request of James and the elders as a solution to the slander that had been made against Paul saying that he was “teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the custom” (Acts 21:21). They reasoned that unnecessary turmoil in the church could be avoided if Paul could prove the slander to be untrue by showing respect to the Mosaic law and Jewish customs. Paul agreed to join four other men that had apparently taken a Nazirite vow (Numb. 6:1-21) and pay for their expenses. This would include having their heads shaved and the sacrifices required at the end of period of the vow. [The hair that had been cut off would have also been burned as an offering]. At the same time Paul would complete the seven days of Levitical purification rites since he had come from Gentile lands and would have been considered ceremonially unclean.

This was not done out of expediency but as a means of promoting unity among believers. It would require an act of self-sacrificial humility by Paul since the expenses would be high and Paul could not be required to do it. Paul did it because it was in keeping with the principles he lived by that are stated in 1 Corinthians 9:20-23. “And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law, though not being myself under the Law, that I might win those who are under the Law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. 23 And I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may become a fellow partaker of it.”

Paul would use his freedom to practice or not practice a custom in order to show love and preserve unity as long as it did not cause him to compromise either personal holiness or the truth of the gospel that it is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not by works. That is an example we should follow as well.

Here in verse 26 we find that Paul followed through on joining these men the very next day. The cleansing ceremony which would included going to the temple, being ritually sprinkled with the water of atonement and making sacrifices would take a total period of seven days. This was almost completed when Paul’s enemies stirred up a mob.


Attacked by the Mob (21:27-30)

27 And when the seven days were almost over, the Jews from Asia, upon seeing him in the temple, [began] to stir up all the multitude and laid hands on him, 28 crying out, “Men of Israel, come to our aid! This is the man who preaches to all men everywhere against our people, and the Law, and this place; and besides he has even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” 29 For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. 30 And all the city was aroused, and the people rushed together; and taking hold of Paul, they dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut.

The trouble is caused by Jews from Asia. Remember that peace had been restored to the church in Judea, Galilee and Samaria back in Acts 9:31 after Saul of Tarsus had been converted. Apparently the unbelieving Jews in those areas were tolerant of the Christian Jews as long as the Jewish customs were respected, and since that was the practice of the Jewish believers anyway the tension was minimal. That was not true among the Jews who were dispersed to the Gentile lands. Recall the great trouble Paul had with them on his missionary journeys. Remember that he had been stoned at Lystra and had been driven away from many cities. Even his trip back to Jerusalem had been delayed by a threat against his life which caused him to return by way of Macedonia instead of directly from Corinth by ship. That trouble had now followed him to Jerusalem in these Jews from Asia.

Recall that Asia was the western coastal province of what is now modern Turkey. The fact that they recognized Trophimus the Ephesian tells us that these men were either also from Ephesus or had been there enough to recognize both Paul and Trophimus. Their accusation is in two parts both of which were based on assumed falsehoods.

First, they accuse him of preaching everywhere against the Jews, the Mosaic Law and the Temple. We know from what was said and done against Paul during his missionary journeys that what actually bothered the unbelieving Jews was that the gospel was being presented to the Gentiles without any requirement that they become Jewish proselytes first. Though they were looking for the return of Messiah they would not accept a message from Him that allowed people to be saved from their sins apart from keeping the Mosaic Law and the traditions that had developed over the centuries. They refused to accept the fact that Jesus Christ had fulfilled the Mosaic Law including its requirement of blood sacrifice for atonement and so they rejected the new covenant of the gospel of God’s grace. In doing so they also assumed that Paul was therefore also teaching against the Jews, the Law and the temple. The accusations are almost exactly the same as those made against Stephen back in Acts 6:13. The accusations were not true, but truth has never been the concern of evil people. They lie and slander however necessary to achieve their ends. (Keep that in mind as we are inundated with political ads in the next five weeks before the general election).

First, Paul had not preached to all men everywhere these things for he had not been everywhere. More importantly, if he had done this then the people in Jerusalem would already have first hand knowledge of Paul and his message. They would have no need for Jews from Asia to tell them what Paul was proclaiming.

Second, Paul did not preach against the Jews for he himself was Jewish and so is Jesus, his Lord. Though Paul opened the door wide for Gentiles to be included in God’s redeemed family, he still taught that there were great advantages to being Jewish (cf. Romans 3:1f; 9:4,5).

Third, Paul did not speak against the Mosaic Law though he did clarify its purpose, extent and fulfillment in Jesus. The purpose of the Law was to reveal to a person their sins against God, but the Law could not save from sin. Salvation from sin can only come through faith in Jesus Christ who fulfilled the law (Rom. 7:7-8:1).

Fourth, Paul did not speak against the Temple. The very fact that he was in the Temple fulfilling purification rites proved that.

The second wrong assumption was that that he had brought a Greek into the Temple because they had previously seen Trophimus in the city with Paul. This was false even on its surface because if Trophimus or another Gentile had come past the outer court into forbidden areas of the Temple they could have easily captured him and carried out the required punishment, which was death. Josephus recounts that the Romans had conceded to the Jews the death penalty for any Gentile that entered the Temple beyond the Court of the Gentiles even if was a Roman citizen. It is very unlikely a Greek would have wandered into those areas, and certainly not one who was with Paul. Archeologist have recovered two of the notices from that period that warned, “No foreigner may enter within the barricade which surrounds the temple and enclosure. Any one who is caught trespassing will bear personal responsibility for his ensuing death.”

But again, truth is of little importance to evil men, and the fact that they had seen Trophimus and Paul earlier in the city indicates they had spent some time planning how they would be able to bring a false accusation against Paul at the opportune moment. Truth is also of little importance to a mob once it is formed for they are controlled by confusion and emotion. Verse 27 & 28 tells us that they worked the crowd into a frenzy by grabbing Paul and then calling for help while shouting their accusations. The people around quickly joined in thinking they were helping to capture a serious blasphemer.

Word spread quickly and others joined the mob. In the process they drag Paul out of the inner courts to the court of the Gentiles and then shut the doors. They wanted to prevent rioting in the sacred areas of the Temple lest they be defiled by Paul’s blood if the mob killed him. They would have killed Paul just as they had done to Stephen except the second part of Agabus’ prophecy given in Acts 21:11 had to be fulfilled. Paul had to be handed over to the Gentiles.

Arrested by the Chilliarch (21:31-36)

Intervention (31-33)

31 And while they were seeking to kill him, a report came up to the commander of the [Roman] cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. 32 And at once he took along [some] soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them; and when they saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 33 Then the commander came up and took hold of him, and ordered him to be bound with two chains; and he [began] asking who he was and what he had done.

A person accused of such Temple defilement would not be given the benefit of any trial. They were simply to be dragged outside the city and stoned. Here we find the crowd was so agitated that they were actually trying to kill him while he was still in the Temple and they would have done so except for the intervention by the Romans.

Fort Antonius was built abutting the northwest corner of the Temple. It was about 75 feet tall which gave them a clear view into the Temple and a large portion of the city allowing the Romans to detect a civil disturbance and respond quickly. The uproar is quickly noticed and reported to the commander of the cohort of soldiers in the fort. He is a chiliarch which is an officer over a 1,000 men. An equivalent in our own military would be a major or colonel. A Roman cohort consisted of 760 foot soldiers and 240 horsemen.

The commander quickly responded by taking along centurions and an unspecified number of soldiers. Since a centurion was an officer over 100 men it could easily been 200 or 300 men or more. The mob stops beating Paul as soon as they see all the soldiers coming. The soldiers are able to arrive quickly because there were stairs from the fort that went directly into the court of the Gentiles.

Since the commander had no idea who Paul was and why there was such a commotion, he did what any good police officer would do. He secured the area and took into custody the one that was the focus of the riot. Who was guilty of what could be determined later. The first responsibility was to stop the riot and try to keep it from starting again. Once Paul was in chains and it was calm he began to ask questions about who Paul was and what was going on. That only increased the confusion and started it up again.

Confusion (34)

34 But among the crowd some were shouting one thing [and] some another, and when he could not find out the facts on account of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks.

It is hard to do anything with a mob because once it gets going there are no real leaders. There may be key agitators, but it is confusion and emotion that reigns. The same was true in this case. The agitators would easily take advantage of a situation like this resulting in confusion and a starting of the uproar again.

Violence (35-36)

And when he got to the stairs, it so happened that he was carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob; for the multitude of the people kept following behind, crying out, “Away with him!”

As the soldiers were taking Paul away the mob became increasingly violent. By the time they had arrived at the stairs the soldiers had to physically carry Paul to keep him away from the mob. The meaning of the phrase, “Away with him!” is “kill him!”

Paul’s Defense (21:37-22:23)

Permission (21:37-40)

37 And as Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the commander, “May I say something to you?” And he ^said, “Do you know Greek? 38 “Then you are not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?” But Paul said, “I am a Jew of Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no insignificant city; and I beg you, allow me to speak to the people.” 40 And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the stairs, motioned to the people with his hand; and when there was a great hush, he spoke to them in the Hebrew dialect, saying,

Paul is taken up the stairs and is about to be taken into the fort when, being out of the confusion and din of the mob, Paul gets the attention of the commander by speaking to him in Greek. This surprised the commander because he had assumed Paul was someone else. Josephus tells us that about three years earlier there had been a Jew from Egypt that had claimed to be a prophet and had lead a band of 30,000 from the desert to the Mount of Olives. He claimed that at his command the walls of Jerusalem would fall flat and they would then march in and overthrow the Roman garrison and take possession of Jerusalem. However, Felix, the procreator at that time, heard about it and had his army intercept them killing and capturing many, but the Egyptian and some followers escaped. At about the same time there were also those who are labeled here as assassins, literally “dagger men” ( sikarioV / sikarios), that had murdered Jonathan the High Priest and other pro-Roman Jews. They were often active when there were large crowds in Jerusalem such as those currently present for Pentecost because they could quickly stab someone and then just as quickly melt back into the crowds.

Paul explained who he was and where he was from. The detail that he was from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no insignificant city,” was meant to not only explain how he knew proper Greek but also to imply he was educated since Tarsus was the capital of that district and a center of education. Paul asked the commander for permission to speak to the people. It would take a bold and courageous man to want to speak to the mob that was trying to kill you. The commander apparently gained respect for Paul and granted his request.

Paul then positioned himself to address the crowd in the outer Temple court below and motioned to them with his hands to quiet down. Amazingly they did. Perhaps by the sheer boldness being shown. Paul then began to speak to “the people in the Hebrew dialect” (a reference to the common Armaic spoken then?).

Paul presents his defense in three parts. His background and history, his conversion and his commission to ministry.


History (22:1-5)

Acts 22:1 (NASB) “Brethren and fathers, hear my defense which I now [offer] to you.”

2 And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew dialect, they became even more quiet; and he ^said,

3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, just as you all are today. 4 “And I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons, 5 as also the high priest and all the Council of the elders can testify. From them I also received letters to the brethren, and started off for Damascus in order to bring even those who were there to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished.

Paul begins with an identification with them. He not only calls them “brethren” but show respect to the older ones present by calling them “fathers.” They become even more quiet when they recognize he is speaking to them in their own common language. Remember that the accusation was that Paul was from elsewhere and had even brought Greeks into the temple. Speaking in the common dialect allowed Paul to gain at least a temporary measure of curiosity if not goodwill so that he could present his defense.

His opening line of defense is an explanation of who he was, his heritage and that he had been a persecutor of Christians. In short, he was as Jewish as they are and he had previously been a persecutor of the Way (the church) just as they were doing now. He next explains what happened to change him.

Conversion (22:6-16)

6 “And it came about that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me, 7 and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ 8 “And I answered, ‘Who art Thou, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.’ 9 “And those who were with me beheld the light, to be sure, but did not understand the voice of the One who was speaking to me. 10 “And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Arise and go on into Damascus; and there you will be told of all that has been appointed for you to do.’ 11 “But since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus. 12 “And a certain Ananias, a man who was devout by the standard of the Law, [and] well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing near said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very time I looked up at him. 14 “And he said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will, and to see the Righteous One, and to hear an utterance from His mouth. 15 ‘For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16 ‘And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’

Paul recounts the story of his conversion including the glorious encounter with Jesus on the Road to Damascus and the healing of his blindness and commission in Damascus. We have covered this in detail back in chapter 9 so I am not going to do so again today.

The thrust of this story is that it was God that had directly intervened in his life changing his belief about Jesus the Nazarene. Paul was simply obeying God as any good Jew would strive to do. The claim of a visitation from God would have been particularly significant to those who were influenced by the Pharisees though those influenced by the Sadducees would have ignored it.

Commission (22:17-21)

“And it came about when I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, that I fell into a trance, and I saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste, and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me.’ “And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves understand that in one synagogue after another I used to imprison and beat those who believed in Thee. ‘And when the blood of Thy witness Stephen was being shed, I also was standing by approving, and watching out for the cloaks of those who were slaying him.’ “And He said to me, ‘Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'”

Paul recounts his return to Jerusalem and the vision he had then which included his own desire to testify of Jesus to the Jews because of his background. He is very careful here state again his previous involvement in the persecution of the followers of Jesus including his approval when Stephen was murdered. He is stressing again that he was changed by God and it was God that commanded him to go to the Gentiles.

Responses to Paul’s Defense (22-24)

Response of the Jews (22-23)

22 And they listened to him up to this statement, and [then] they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he should not be allowed to live!” 23 And as they were crying out and throwing off their cloaks and tossing dust into the air,

The mention of him going to the Gentiles was more than they could tolerate. They rejected Paul’s claims that He was converted and commissioned by God and believed the lies that he was speaking against the Jews, the Law and the Temple even though the very fact that he was in the Temple fulfilling a vow proved the opposite. All reason had departed from the crowd which had turned once again into a blood-thirsty mob. They wanted Paul dead and to prove the point they were throwing whatever was available – their coats and dust from the ground of the court. If they had been outside the Temple were there plenty of rocks available they would have been throwing them despite the presence of the Roman soldiers.

Response of the Commander (24)

24 the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, stating that he should be examined by scourging so that he might find out the reason why they were shouting against him that way.

The commander still did not know what the trouble was about, so he was going to follow standard Roman protocol. He would find out from Paul by questioning him only after scourging him under the illusion that was the way to get the truth. Be glad that we don’t live under such a terrible system of justice.

We will continue next week with what happens to Paul next and how he uses his Roman citizenship to his advantage. The important lesson today is that Paul proves his character by his actions. He was not just talk. He could have retreated with the soldiers into the safety of Fort Antonius. Instead he keeps his priority and acts boldly in proclaiming Jesus Christ in the midst of a very dangerous situation.

Is that an example you follow in your own life? It is not easy, but that is how we should act or at least try. Let us be bold in telling others what Jesus Christ has done in our lives.

Sermon Study Sheets


Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Keep track of how many times Paul is mentioned. 2) Talk with your parents about Paul’s response to his arrest.


Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.

How do you determine the real nature of a person’s character? Why was Paul “purifying himself” and going into the temple? Why were these Jews from Asia upset with Paul? What were their wrong assumptions? How do we know their accusations were false? Why did the people join in to become a mob? Why did they drag Paul out of the inner part of the temple and close the doors? Why did the Romans intervene? How were they able to get there so quickly? Why did they put Paul in chains? What caused the confusion in the crowd? What did they mean by saying, “Away with him”? How did Paul get the Commander’s attention? Who did the Commander assume Paul to be? What had that person done? Why did Paul want to speak to the crowd? What was their response when he spoke in Hebrew? How did Paul show respect for the crowd? Why did he begin with his background and history? What was the importance of the specific facts he included? How would the Pharisees responded to the story of Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus? The Sadducees? Why did Paul include the details about his earlier return to Jerusalem before relating God’s specific commission to go to the Gentiles? Why did the Jews respond with such violence? Why did the commander want to scourge Paul? How are you doing at telling others what Jesus Christ has done in your life? If you are hesitant, why? What fears are present? How can you overcome them?

Sermon Notes – October 1, 2006

Paul’s Arrest – Acts 21:27-22:24



Fulfilling His Vows – 21:26


Attacked by the Mob – 21:27-30

Source of Trouble

False Accusations

Arrested by the Chiliarch – 21:31-36

Intervention by the Romans (vs. 31-33)

Confusion (vs. 34)

Violence (vs. 35-36)

Paul’s Defense – 21:37-22:23

Permission to Speak (21:37-40)

His History (22:1-5)

His Conversion (22:6-16)

His Commission (22:17-21)

Responses to Paul’s Defense – 22:22-24

Response of the Jews (vs. 22-23)

Response of the Chiliarch (vs. 24)

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