Daily Devotional

October 16, 2019

Daybreak: Acts 21:18 through 22:30

“I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.” (Acts 22:3)

At times, people try to associate themselves with a person who is famous or has a reputation for excellence in a specific field. When I was in culinary school, some of the students would try to suggest they had a connection with a man named Auguste Escoffier. Escoffier was a French chef who systematized and organized the kitchen and also formed a kitchen brigade structure — a system of hierarchy found in restaurants and hotels employing extensive staff. He is highly regarded in the culinary field.

One day in Beginning Culinary class, our assignment was to roast a chicken. Many years before, my brother and sister-in-law had suggested roasting chickens breast-side down in the oven. This was so the fat in the skin would drip down and keep the white meat moist. The white meat needed to be cooked to just 165 degrees; at that temperature, the white meat would be cooked sufficiently and the dark meat would still taste good. I followed that method for the assignment.

Everyone presented their plates, which included a starch, a vegetable, and the chicken. The plates were not marked with our names. When the instructor tasted the meat from my plate, she said, “That was so moist and so good” and asked who made it. I raised my hand. At that point, I wished I could have said, “I learned that from Escoffier.” Of course I could not, and if I had said, “I learned that technique from my brother and sister-in-law,” it would not have carried any weight.

When Paul said he had been a student of Gamaliel, he was trying to establish credibility with his audience. His comment carried a great deal of weight in the Jewish community. The Pharisees paid particular attention to the Jewish oral law, which they depended upon to fill the gaps in the written commandments, and Gamaliel was well known as a wise man and teacher who was moderate in his viewpoint. Paul probably had been in Jerusalem to study when he was between the ages of fourteen and twenty. Consequently, he had a noteworthy education. In the culinary world, he would be one who did have a direct connection to Escoffier.

Paul wanted credibility with his audience because he wanted to present Jesus, and he earnestly desired that those listening would believe what he said. He used his education from Gamaliel as a device to establish his credentials, but the majority of his declaration on this particular day was his own testimony of conversion.

There is great power in a testimony. While our educations and testimonies may not seem as outstanding as Paul’s, God can still use them. When we are born again, we have a direct connection with Jesus. His love can shine through when others hear about how we came to know Him. This is the reason for sharing what God has done for us. May He help us to give our testimonies whenever we have an opportunity.

Background

Paul and his traveling companions had arrived in Jerusalem. This portion of Scripture tells about their meeting with the church leaders there, and Paul’s subsequent arrest and defense in the Temple.

The James in this text is traditionally viewed as the James who was a brother to Jesus. He was the leader of the church in Jerusalem and also of the Jerusalem Council — the Apostles and elders who had made the determination about what Jewish customs should be required of Gentile Christians (see Acts 15).

Paul and his team had brought an offering from the Gentile churches for the Christians in Jerusalem who were suffering and impoverished. There were several benefits to appearing together before the elders. First, multiple witnesses meant there could be no accusation of the donated funds being used inappropriately. Second, these emissaries would take a report home to their respective congregations about how the offerings were delivered, and the response of the elders. Third, this gave the Jerusalem leaders the opportunity to personally meet converts from the outreach efforts. The leaders rejoiced when they heard the report.

Meanwhile thousands of Jews had been converted in the Jerusalem area. Some of them seemed to have had the mistaken impression that Paul taught that Jewish Christians should forsake the Law of Moses and not circumcise their children or keep the customs. To prove that this rumor was incorrect, the church leaders suggested that Paul join with four brothers who had taken a vow. This was probably a Nazirite vow, which usually lasted about thirty days. Those who took this vow would not drink wine, eat grapes, or go near a dead body. At the end, each would shave his head and present an offering. Paul, who himself had a vow to complete (see Acts 18:18), agreed to do this, and went to the Temple with them (see Acts 21:21-26).

When the time of the vow was nearly completed, Jews from Asia (perhaps near Ephesus) stirred up a violent mob who beat Paul and tried to kill him. The Temple doors were shut to prevent defilement by the murder. The castle mentioned in verse 34 was the Antonia Fortress, a tower that housed the Roman military. It overlooked the Temple and was connected to it by two flights of stairs so soldiers could quickly go down to the Temple area to maintain order.

It had been important to Paul to be in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost (see Acts 20:16). Many Jews, even those from outside of Palestine, attended this feast, so the Temple would have been crowded. Perhaps two hundred or more soldiers came from the Fortress to control the riot. They bound Paul with two chains, and the crowd was so violent that they carried him up the steps to the Fortress.

Paul spoke to the military captain in Greek, which showed that he was not an Egyptian as the captain had thought. Tarsus was well known for its learning, so Paul was letting the captain understand that he was not a rebel. He asked permission to speak to the crowd, and they became silent to hear him.

Acts 22 gives Paul’s defense. He began by stating his credentials. He was a Jew, born in Tarsus, which indicated he was knowledgeable of Greek culture, and because he was educated by Gamaliel, he was well taught in the Scriptures. Then Paul told his testimony. This is the second of three times that his testimony is given in the Book of Acts (see also Acts 9:1-18 and 26:9-21). His Jewish audience listened until he said the Lord had commanded him to go to the Gentiles (verse 21). When he spoke the word “Gentiles,” the violence erupted again.

The chief captain ordered him brought into the Fortress and beaten. The phrase “bound him with thongs” means they stretched him out and tied him to a whipping post in preparation for the lashes. However, the centurion stopped abruptly when he learned Paul was a Roman citizen. Roman law prohibited binding or beating those with citizenship, and also indicated that a man must be granted an opportunity for a legal defense before he was condemned. Since Roman citizenship could sometimes be purchased from family members or friends of the emperor, the fact that Paul was “free born” may mean that either his father or grandfather had gained citizenship by some method. Being a citizen by birth was superior to obtaining citizenship by purchase.

Instead of beating Paul, the chief captain decided to have him appear before the Jewish Sanhedrin the next day to confirm the accusations against him.

Amplified Outline

(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)

IV.    The witness “unto the uttermost part of the earth”
    E.    The journey of Paul to Rome
        1.    His witness in Jerusalem
            a.    Paul’s report to the elders (21:18-26)
            b.    Paul’s arrest (21:27-36)
            c.    Paul’s defense
                (1)    His first defense (21:37 — 22:23)
                    (a)    The background (21:37-40)
                    (b)    The content (22:1-21)
                    (c)    The result (22:22-23)
                (2)    His second defense
                    (a)    The background (22:24-29)
                    (b)    The council (22:30)

A Closer Look

  1. What did the mob intend to do to Paul?

  2. In order to preserve unity among the believers, Paul was willing to join himself with the men who had taken a vow. What are some ways we can help preserve unity among our Christian brothers and sisters?

  3. What part of your own testimony prompts the most gratitude in your heart?

Conclusion

Salvation makes us one of God’s children; we have a direct connection to Him. Who might benefit by hearing your testimony today?

Reference Materials