Paul is in Jerusalem for approximately one week when a riot begins in the Temple and spreads throughout the city. Soldiers are immediately dispatched to control the crowd and restore order. When Paul is discovered at the center of the riot, the Romans keep him in their custody for fear the crowd will kill him.
And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place. (For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut. And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul. Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done.
Paul was in the Temple purifying himself with four others who had taken a vow of a Nazarene. Paul had not taken the vow of a Nazarene with them, but he was purifying himself with these four men. We'll see the reason for Paul's purification in a moment.
Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult.
While speaking to Felix, the Roman governor, after the Jews had charged Paul with crimes, Paul declared that he was in the Temple purified. The apparent contradiction between Acts 21, "the seven days were almost ended" and Acts 24, "found me purified" is best understood in light of the Aramaic manuscripts. The Syriac renders Acts 21:27, "when the seventh day had come." In other words, the time of purification was completed and it was now time to offer the sacrifices for the four men under a Nazarene vow.
The days of purification would have included Paul staying at the Temple, with the four men, in prayer and fasting. This ritual of purification, as well as paying the expense of their sacrifices, would have identified Paul with these four men and thus, showed respect for the Mosaic Law.
Remember, Paul was with these men in the Temple at the request of James and the other leaders in Jerusalem. Some have theorized that James, and the other leaders, conspired to have Paul arrested, realizing there would be trouble at the Temple. Yet God's Word shows us nothing of a conspiracy against Paul, nor really of any evil intent by James or the other leaders.
And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:
The Jerusalem leadership has an apparent disinterest in what Paul shares about God working among the Gentiles, but that can be attributed to their preoccupation with their own troubles concerning the believers in Jerusalem. The problem in Jerusalem is that the believers are zealous of the Law, meaning the Law of Moses. How could believers in the Messiah, The Christ, be zealous for the Law of Moses?
Wasn't Christ the fulfillment of the Feast of Passover when he offered himself as the perfect sacrifice? Wasn't Christ the fulfillment of the Feast of Unleavened Bread as he legally took away all sin? Wasn't Christ the fulfillment of the Feast of the Firstfruits when he presented himself to his Heavenly Father? Are not these feasts from the Law of Moses? Didn't Cornelius, a proselyte at the gate, receive God's gift of holy spirit without benefit of circumcision? Isn't this contrary to the Law of Moses? How then could these believers in Jerusalem think that they were still required to follow the Law of Moses?
But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
The "them" are the Gentiles who have believed through the ministry of Paul and Barnabas. This was the reason for the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15, circumcision of Gentiles and keeping the Law of Moses.
And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the LORD Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
The yoke Peter spoke of was the Law of Moses. No one, other than The Christ, could carry out the Mosaic Law. One false word, one lie, one act of disobedience broke the Mosaic Law. It was a yoke that no man from the line of Adam could bear.
After Peter finished speaking it was time for Barnabas and Paul to share what God had wrought during their travels through the area of southern Galatia. Then James, the leader of the Jerusalem Church, gave his guidance.
And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.
The first thing to recognize is that the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 is completely due to the overlap of the Revealing Administration and the Grace Administration. James is quoting a prophecy from the book of Amos referring to the Revealing Administration, of which James is a part. James is using a prophecy concerning the Gentiles in the Revealing Administration to justify Gentiles from the Grace Administration not being burdened with the Mosaic Law.
It should be noted that by the time of this council no doctrine concerning the Administration of Grace has been written. Not that it would have mattered, since Paul writes all of the doctrine concerning the Administration of Grace and it is his words, and his actions being called into question.
Next, James puts forth conditions pertaining to eating; abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. These things all point to believers from the two different administrations having the ability to fellowship one with another. The reason Peter was called on the carpet in Acts chapter 11 deals with the fact he went in unto Gentiles that were only proselytes at the gate, meaning Cornelius was not circumcised or following the Mosaic Law.
For the Jews of the Revealing Administration and the Gentiles Paul is reaching, which would be proselytes at the gate to the Jewish mind, to have fellowship with one another, James asks the Gentiles to compromise on certain food restrictions which are important to the Jews. These restrictions are only concerned with the time when the Jews and Gentiles eat together. Yet, this compromise is completely in line with what Paul is already teaching believers in the Administration of Grace.
1 Corinthians 8:1, 7-9
Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.
Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.
To Paul, these food restrictions are no more than a matter of walking in love.
The final point to recognize about what James has to say to the Jerusalem Council demonstrates his failure to understand the grace of God that has been revealed to Paul, as well as the doctrine given to the twelve apostles sent to the circumcision.
James declares that Moses is read every week, or Sabbath, in every city at the synagogue. For James, the implication is that in time the Gentiles will fall in line with the Law of Moses as they hear it read and preached every Sabbath. After reading the scriptures, a Doctor of the Law, like Gamaliel, would expound upon, or give the sense of the scripture. This is what is meant by preaching concerning Moses. Consider Ezra.
Nehemiah 8:5, 8
And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up:
So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.
This is what is meant by the saying Moses is read and preached every Sabbath day in the synagogue. Another example would be Jesus reading from the scroll of Isaiah and then proclaiming, "this day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears."
Part of what James is saying comes to pass, but not how he intended it.
The Gentiles who follow Paul aren't going to be taught to go to the synagogue and thus, they will not hear and eventually conform to the Mosaic Law. However, James is sending the believing Jews back to the synagogue to hear the Law of Moses every Sabbath and it will send them back to the Law, as can clearly be seen by the time we reach Acts 21.
And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.
James did understand exactly what going to the synagogue every Sabbath would accomplish, a return to the Mosaic Law. However, he failed to apply this result to the believing Jews who he was leading. Therefore, all of the Jews that believed in Jerusalem became zealous of the Law.
Consider what representatives of the Sanhedrin say when accusing Paul before Felix later in the book of Acts.
For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes: Who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law.
What did the Jewish leaders in the synagogues promote every Sabbath? Did they declare Jesus to be the Messiah? Did they help James and the leadership in Jerusalem declare what was accomplished in Christ, or did these trips to the synagogue once again put believers under the yoke of bondage?
These trips to the synagogue would have denied Jesus as the Messiah every Sabbath. Remember in Acts 2, those who believed were steadfast in the apostle's doctrine, not the doctrine of the synagogue. In the early days, after having received God's gift of holy spirit, those who believed began to meet in homes, and they were taught the doctrine God had revealed to the apostles.
You cannot sit in the home of your enemy, listening to his myths and fairy tales that reject the Truth of God's Word, and expect your mind to grow in a knowledge of God's Word. James sent Jewish believers to be taught by the rejecters of Christ! James sent these believers to the same men who killed Jesus! Remember Romans chapter ten, believing comes by hearing, what is James setting these believers up to hear? Right believing comes from hearing the rightly divided Word of God!
What about the apostles you ask? Didn't they know that James was wrong? Why didn't they correct the direction James was setting?
In Acts 18 there is a confrontation that is spoken of in the epistle to the Galatians.
But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
Peter, moving with fear because believers from James were coming to Antioch, withdrew from the Gentile believers setting an example of fear and hypocrisy for all the Jewish believers that were present. You cannot walk with God, and be afraid of the opinions of others at the same time. The two concepts are mutually exclusive.
In Acts 15, Peter and John are at the council but the believers are obviously looking only to James as the leader. Perhaps Peter considered his statements about Cornelius to be sufficient to correct the wrong doctrine concerning the Mosaic Law. By the time of Acts 21, we don't know John's whereabouts. But Peter is either in Northern Galatia on his way to Babylon, or already in Babylon reaching out to the Jews that were scattered abroad from the days of Nebuchadnezzar.
The council of Acts 15 gave the apostle Paul all that he desired of the Jerusalem leadership; no circumcision, and no observance of the Law. While asking his followers to observe certain food restrictions when eating with the Jews that amounted to no more than walking in love. James, and the leadership in Jerusalem, thought the council of Acts 15 gave them all they desired; a compromise that offered peace and fellowship among the two groups, and eventual compliance to the Mosaic Law.
What the Council of Jerusalem really demonstrates is the principle stated in another teaching, that one must increase and one must decrease. It is the overlap of two administrations. The Revealing Administration by Acts 15 is almost completely held in abeyance, while the Administration of Grace is moving into full bloom.
Yet now, when we come to Acts 21, a new compromise is proposed by James but this compromise is completely wrong and the apostle Paul's agreement is also completely wrong. For now the compromise has moved from the eating of food to the doctrine of God's Word.
What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come. Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law. As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication.
In order for the two groups to come together James asks Paul to demonstrate that he walks orderly and keeps the Law. The Greek word for "walkest orderly" is stoicheo and means to live by, or to direct one's life by. The grammar, indicative mood, used for stoicheo declares it to be a fact that Paul currently and actively directs his life according to the Law of Moses. The Greek word translated "keepest" is phulasso and means to guard and protect.
Plainly stated, James and Paul agree to deliberately lie to the believers in Jerusalem so that they can put on a false face of unity. The strange thing is, even if this had worked, it would only have kept the believing Jews under the yoke of bondage spoken of by Paul in Galatians and Peter at the Acts 15 council.
It is while carrying out this deception that Jews from Asia Minor see Paul in the Temple and everything begins to go downhill very fast.
And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place. (For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)
Jews from Asia Minor, "supposed" Paul had brought a Gentile into the Temple. Another way to translate the word "supposed" would be assumed. On an assumption, these men were willing to see another man, Paul, beat to death!
It was a little more than a year earlier that Paul was in the city of Ephesus when another riot broke out.
For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen; Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands:
As Demetrius declared, Paul had a reputation throughout all of Asia. He had a reputation because the Word of God he taught prevailed throughout all of Asia, and many miracles were done by Paul. But it wasn't Paul's reputation that started a riot, it was Demetrius who started the riot!
Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused: and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.
People filling the streets, screaming and yelling, and causing havoc and chaos was the order of the day sought by Demetrius. But the town clerk calmed the people by pointing out the people were in danger of needing to answer for their actions. Further, the clerk pointed out that if Demetrius had a real claim he could take Paul before the law. On that note, we hear no more from Demetrius.
Why do we hear no more from Demetrius? Demetrius falls silent because he has no legal charge to lay at the feet of the apostle Paul. The real motives of Demetrius are financial. He wants to force people to follow the goddess Diana so he can sell them statues of her. His only concern is to force people to believe in Diana so he can make more money. As he said, "ye know that by this craft we have our wealth."
Neither God, nor those who have believed God, endeavor to force right believing upon another person. Right believing comes from the heart, not legislation or community pressure. The world on the other hand, will do whatever it takes to force you to follow their dictates while quietly, and deceitfully, only being concerned with filling their own pockets.
The world is continuously moving on assumptions and misinformation, like provided by Demetrius and the Asian Jews who started the riot in Jerusalem. The world moves on fear. Someone once said of fear that it is, False Evidence Appearing Real. Men that live in carnality are basically cowards, only moving on F.E.A.R.
Fear is always how carnality motivates people to action. Men like Demetrius promote fear from the secular side, while men like the Asian Jews promote fear from the religious side. Tapping into the fear of the average person is all these people know how to do.
Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned unto him to speak, answered, Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself:
When Paul was ordered to stand before Felix to answer the charges against him, this is the answer he gave.
Because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship. And they neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city: Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me.
Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings. Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult. Who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had ought against me. Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the council,
Did Demetrius take Paul to the law to prove his reason for a riot? Where are these Jews who started the riot in Jerusalem? Why aren't they standing before Felix to accuse Paul? Carnality only knows how to cause trouble. Then after starting trouble, these instigators fade into the back ground and let everyone else pay the price of their carnality. The same is still true in our day and time. Whether it comes from a union leader like Demetrius, or religious zealots like the Jews from Asia Minor, carnality is the enemy of God and thus, can produce no good thing.
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, (the law of God that is after the inward man from Romans 7, and the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus of Romans 8, not the Mosaic Law) neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
Demetrius demonstrated for us what a Gentile can do when he walks in carnality, when he walks according to the law of sin and death, he can cause a riot that tares a city apart. Why do I say it tore the city apart? Have you ever seen a riot that cleans up or builds something in a city?
But what about these Jews from Asia Minor?
And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.
Some of the Jews is Ephesus didn't like what Paul was saying and what Paul was doing, so they started speaking evil of that way. To speak evil means they verbally abused and cursed Paul and what he had to say. Notice the Jews of Ephesus weren't cursing or verbally abusing Demetrius and the worshippers of the goddess Diana. Notice the Jews of Asia weren't worried about the outright idolatry in worshipping Diana. One might call these religious zealots hypocrites.
Why? If these Jews were so upset by a different doctrine, why didn't they take a stand against the pagan worshippers of Diana? They were silent about Diana because carnality stands with carnality. False religion, even with the correct label, is no different than worship of a false god.
What was Paul doing that got these Asian Jews so upset, that a year later they were willing to start a riot in Jerusalem? Why where they willing to have a man beat to death over an assumption?
But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.
Paul didn't start a riot. Paul didn't cry to the magistrate that their verbal abuse was unfair. Paul didn't take them to court for slander. Paul didn't respond in kind with words of anger or hate. Paul took the guys that wanted to listen to him and moved down the street. For two years he stayed down the street teaching about Jesus Christ and what God had accomplished in Christ. Special miracles were done by the hands of Paul. People were healed, devil spirits were cast out, people were delivered because of the words and the actions of the apostle Paul.
We've seen what the hands of Demetrius caused, a riot. What about the hands of these pious Jews from Asia Minor? Their words spoke slander and verbal abuse, what about their hands?
And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut. And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul.
At the hands of these Jews from Asia Paul was beaten with the intent to kill him! The Asian Jews learned well from the unbelieving Gentiles who followed Demetrius, they learned how to start a riot! I remember someone Jesus Christ spoke of who's goal was to steal, kill, and destroy.
At the hands of the apostle Paul people were healed and delivered from devil spirits. At the hands of the apostle Paul people received holy spirit into manifestation and spoke in tongues and prophesied.
Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.
The hands of a standing believer are the hands of God, they bring deliverance. The hands of people standing in carnality are the hands that steal, kill, and destroy.
The chief captain of the Roman soldiers, an unbeliever, came to Paul's rescue. It took an unbeliever to rescue Paul from the hands of the "so called" people of God.
Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done. And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude: and when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle. And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people. For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him.
With no evidence of any wrong doing, the soldiers had to carry Paul away because of the violence of the people. Carnality will only produce pain and suffering, death and destruction, chaos and confusion. In Acts 21 it brought arrest and imprisonment to the apostle Paul and havoc to the city of Jerusalem.
Paul will spend the next four to five years under arrest because he made up his mind to travel to Jerusalem against the will of God. These years in prison aren't God's punishment for disobedience, they are simply the result of not listening when God told him only trouble awaited him in Jerusalem.
For example, when a parent tells their child not to touch the hot stove because he will get burnt, it is the child's choice to listen and obey. The burn that follows the touch isn't punishment by the parent, it is the result of not listening. The parent does not punish the child, but rather will gently, and tenderly bandage the burn and care for the child, until the result of disobedience is gone. Every single day, the parent will lovingly protect the child until the burn is completely healed and the child's hand is restored.
Some find it hard to believe that the great apostle Paul failed to obey God; that he failed to walk in the spirit. Those who find it hard to believe only find it so because they have not yet learned that all believers have this treasure, the gift of holy spirit from God, in an earthen vessel.
And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you,…
Paul and Barnabas declared these words to the people of Lystra, in Acts 14, after a man was healed. Those who have believed God are perfect spiritually, but in the flesh, all still have an old man nature that must be reckoned dead, even apostles, prophets, pastors, evangelists, and teachers.
I have been walking physically for over sixty years now, and yet, I still manage to physically trip every now and again. The same is true for a child of God. No matter how long we have been walking by the spirit, we still manage to spiritually trip every once in awhile.