There are eight distinct sections to the book of Acts. Each section ends with a verse that is both a summary and a conclusion to things that occurred in that section.
The first section concludes with the summary of Acts 2:47; the second section concludes with the summary of Acts 6:7; the third section concludes with the summary of Acts 9:31; the fourth section concludes with the summary of Acts 11:21; the fifth section concludes with the summary of Acts 12:24; the sixth section concludes with the summary of Acts 16:5; the seventh section concludes with the summary of Acts 19:20; and the eightieth section concludes with the summary of Acts 28:31.
The eighth section of the Book of Acts revolves around the life of the apostle Paul, specifically his trip to Jerusalem and the results of that trip. This section opens in Acts 19:21.
After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome.
The main purpose and focus for Paul's trip to Jerusalem, was to bring to the believers in Jerusalem the shared abundance from the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. He determined in his mind to bring this shared abundance to Jerusalem by the feast day of Pentecost, in the year 58 A.D.
1 Corinthians 16:1-4
Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. And when I come, whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem. And if it be meet that I go also, they shall go with me.
Paul was receiving an abundant sharing for the believers in Jerusalem who had need. He is writing 1 Corinthians while he is still in Ephesus. His plan, at this point, is to stay in Ephesus until Pentecost 57 A.D., then travel to Macedonia and possibly winter in Corinth.
Paul declared that whoever the Corinthians appoint to carry their abundant sharing to Jerusalem would be fine with him. If Paul himself needs to go, then he would travel with them.
1 Corinthians 16:5-8
Now I will come unto you, when I shall pass through Macedonia: for I do pass through Macedonia. And it may be that I will abide, yea, and winter with you, that ye may bring me on my journey whithersoever I go. For I will not see you now by the way; but I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit. But (de - moreover) I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost.
These verses provide us with a few pieces of information. First, although Paul has a general itinerary in mind, (Ephesus to Macedonia, to Corinth), he is open to hearing from the Lord, "If the Lord permit", about a change in plans. So, at this point in time, Paul has his itinerary set only up to Corinth. Where he goes from Corinth he does not yet know, he is waiting to hear from God.
From these verses we can also see that Paul did not feel the need to be in Jerusalem for each celebration of Pentecost. But over the course of the next days or weeks, Paul would develop the desire to be in Jerusalem at the next Pentecost. I mention this because so much emphasis has been placed on Paul's great desire to be in Jerusalem by Pentecost when he travels there with the abundant sharing. Although Pentecost becomes an important part of his timed arrival in Jerusalem, it is indeed secondary to the importance of the offering he brings.
Earlier in his ministry we saw how Paul looked to God and Christ, as the head of the Body, to determine his next destination.
Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.
This is the beginning of Paul's second missionary journey. He has just finished visiting Galatia to establish the fellowships in that area. Before he leaves Galatia he receives revelation not to stop in Asia Minor and preach. The word "forbidden" is in the passive voice and tells us it was Paul receiving revelation to pass through Asia Minor.
After Asia Minor Paul is considering the northern Galatia area of Bithynia and Pontus but once again he receives revelation telling him not to go into that area. Later, God will send the apostle Peter into the area of northern Galatia when Peter is in route to Babylon, to preach to the scattered, the diaspora, of Israel.
Finally, Paul receives revelation to go over to Macedonia. Paul's question to God since leaving southern Galatia has been, "Where do I go next?" He receives a vision about a man from Macedonia and "assuredly gathering" that this is his answer. He goes to Macedonia.
The words "assuredly gathering" are translated from the Greek word sumbibazo. Sumbibazo means to knit together, to unite or join together. I remember when I was a child I would watch my mother knit blankets, sweaters, and other things. She would take balls of yarn, sometimes different colors, or different textures and bring them together into a beautiful piece of clothing or a blanket. What my mother did with her different yarns was sumbibazo. This is what Paul did with his question and his vision. He united them, knit them together for his answer about where to go next.
We also learn, from these verses in 1 Corinthians 16, that Paul is writing 1 Corinthians prior to May of 57 A.D. since Pentecost has not yet come.
By these verses the apostle Paul would be staying in the Macedonia area for about six months, or for the seasons of summer and fall. This is the only possible time, during this six month period, Paul had the opportunity to preach the gospel as far as Illyricum. Illyricum is to the north and west of Macedonia.
Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.
During his second missionary journey, when he was in the area of Macedonia, Paul didn't have time to travel up to Illyricum because he went in the other direction travelling from Philippi, to Thessalonica, down to Athens, and finally to Corinth. The book of Acts does not record any time Paul spent in Illyricum because the words "round about unto Illyricum" could be translated, in a circle, or a circuit, as far as Illyricum. In other words, this verse in Romans indicates that Paul has now covered all of Macedonia preaching the gospel of grace.
This verse, combined with what Paul states in Romans 15:23 becomes interesting in light of this trip to Jerusalem.
But now having no more place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come unto you;
If Paul has fully preached the gospel of grace from Jerusalem to Illyricum, and he has no more place in these parts, meaning he has accomplished his mission from Jerusalem to Macedonia and Achaia. Then, he is not returning to Jerusalem because he has unfinished work in teaching them concerning the grace of God. It shows us that Paul is not returning to Jerusalem hoping for a reenactment of the original outpouring of holy spirit on the day of Pentecost in 27 A.D.
Jerusalem in Need
Approximately six months after leaving Ephesus, Paul leaves Macedonia and travels to Corinth, and there winters. In his letter to the Romans, written from Corinth, Paul speaks of the abundant sharing that is being collected for the believers in Jerusalem.
But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister (diakoneo - serve horizonally) unto the saints. For it hath pleased (eudokeo - seemed good to) them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution (koinoia - full sharing, shared abundance) for the poor (ptochos - needy, lacking) saints which are at Jerusalem.
This is what the leaders at Jerusalem had asked of Paul privately at the time of the Jerusalem council in Acts 15.
And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived (to know or understand) the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen (Gentiles), and they unto the circumcision (the nation of Israel). Only they would that we should remember the poor (ptochos); the same which I also was forward to do.
Paul's love for the nation of Israel and the people of Israel could never be questioned. Even when he was persecuting believers in the early chapters of the book of Acts, he acted on his passion and commitment to Israel. Yet God's Word is also very clear that Paul's ministry is to the "heathen", otherwise known as the Gentiles, or uncircumcision.
But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision (Gentiles) was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
As far as we have seen, while Paul was in Ephesus his travel plans extend only to Corinth. Yet, now that he is in Corinth he writes to those in Rome that he will be going to Jerusalem. There is not however, any scripture reference concerning revelation, to support this trip as there had been in the past concerning his traveling to Macedonia on his second missionary journey. Yet Acts shows us Paul's itinerary changed while he was still in Ephesus.
After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome.
This is the verse that opens the final section of the book of Acts.
From the last chapter of 1 Corinthians we learned Paul only had an itinerary up to visiting Corinth, and that he planned on staying in Ephesus until Pentecost. But now, from Acts 19 speaking of his time in Ephesus, we learn that while still in Ephesus he has added Jerusalem to his itinerary. So, after writing Corinthians, but while still in Ephesus, Paul adds Jerusalem to his journey.
For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.
How could the Gentiles be debtors to Jerusalem, figuratively speaking of the nation of Israel? The Greek word translated "debtors" is opheiletes and means a obligation, either legal or moral. When it comes to abundant sharing the obligation can't be legal because of what God declares concerning abundant sharing in the Pauline epistles.
2 Corinthians 8:12-15
For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.
Remember, Paul is writing 2 Corinthians from Macedonia during this same time frame after having left Ephesus. While explaining abundant sharing once again to the Corinthians, Paul emphasizes that this sharing is first from a willing mind. It's not a legal obligation. Then, it is out of abundance, not personal need, “so that there may be equality” among the believers.
The tithe of the Mosaic Law was ten percent across the board. It didn't deal with having an abundance. But in the administration, or dispensation of grace, God speaks of shared abundance. Under the Mosaic Law, Israel was five senses oriented men and women. If it wasn't a Law, they weren't about to give. According to our five senses, we need all we have, and then some.
God endeavored to teach Israel, people who overall did not have spirit from God, that He was their sufficiency rather than their personal labor or endeavors. He gave them manna, He gave them quails, He gave them water, He gave them the land, whatever they needed, He would provide. But due to a lack of holy spirit, God had to make it a Law.
But, in the administration of grace, God has created holy spirit within every believer. With holy spirit within we see the spiritual side, the spiritual reality of life. We know our sufficiency is not in the senses realm but in the spiritual.
2 Corinthians 4:18
While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Our talents, our abilities, our finances are all temporal, but the spirit within, and the One who created that spirit are unseen and are eternal. Nothing is wrong with having an abundance. It's hard to share of your abundance if you don't have an abundance. But our abundance is not our sufficiency for the ebb and flow of the world.
2 Corinthians 9:6-8
But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:
According as a person "purposes" in his heart. For us, it's not a Law because we have holy spirit, our new nature, and it is God who works within our new nature both to will and do according to His good pleasure. Our sufficiency is God, not the things that come from our old nature of the flesh. The Philippians understood these things.
Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.
Why did the Philippians send of their abundance to Paul?
1 Corinthians 9:9-14
For it is written in the law of Moses, thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers (metecho- to share in a part only, to share in a portion) of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
Today we use machines that don't eat but then, they used oxen to turn grain into flour. If you stop the ox that is grinding the corn into flour from eating, then he will stop grinding. Today, if we don't feed the machine electricity, it will stop grinding. Next, Paul uses the example of the farmer. He plans on eating some of the grain he grows while selling the rest. Neither the oxen or the farmer eat all of the crop or all of the grain but only a portion. Paul uses these examples to speak of himself receiving a portion of the believers shared abundance.
The majority of any abundant sharing will remain in the area where the believer lives. For it isn't simply money, it is about all of your life, every aspect, every facet. All believers have holy spirit now. God can, and does, work within believers to share of their abundance right where they live. It is God who works within you. He knows when your neighbor has a need and He knows your abilities. The vast majority of a believers abundant sharing will be known only to God and that believer, as the believer walks with his Heavenly Father.
Abundant sharing that is sent to a leader, or a specific ministry, is only a portion, a part. That's what metecho is teaching us in 1 Corinthians 9. Lacking holy spirit within, the nation of Israel could not walk in such a manner and therefore, they required a Law. Israel could not see the things that are eternal, they only saw the temporal and like all men, the temporal is soon forgotten or misunderstood.
Now, when it comes to this abundant sharing for those who had need in Jerusalem, we are speaking of only money. But it is money because that was easy to transport across a long distance. Those who had grains, or other commodities, sold them and gave the money from the sales for those in Jerusalem.
Today, when something like a hurricane strikes a community and they suddenly have great need, the shared abundance can be other than money. A carpenter, an electrician, a plumber, can get on a plane and fly to the area to offer help. Today we can take vacation time, and still get paid, while travelling to help in another area. Today we have the ability to share of our talents and abilities, as well as our finances, when God works in our hearts to share in a specific area. But in Paul's day, abilities were not so easily transported to another location.
With this added understanding of abundant sharing, it becomes even more important to understand why Paul uses the word "debt" when speaking of the abundant sharing of the Gentiles for the believers in Jerusalem.
I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.
Paul was under a moral obligation to preach God's Word. It was not a legal obligation.
Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
We are under a moral obligation to not live after, or according to the flesh. God wants us to recognize that we owe the flesh nothing, either legally or morally. It is our duty, or moral obligation, to reckon the old man, the man of the flesh, dead.
The believers from Macedonia and Achaia were under no legal obligation but a moral obligation to the nation of Israel. Why?
Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
It was Israel that received the written Word of God beginning with Moses. It was through Israel that the Messiah, the Christ had come. The covenants, including the New Covenant, was cut with the nation of Israel, it was not cut with the Gentiles. If it had not been for the stand and believing of Israel the Gentiles would have received nothing!
Yes, as a nation, and with its religious leaders, they rejected God and His Christ. But David believed, Daniel believed, Anna believed, Mary believed, the apostles believed, Jesus The Christ believed. Because of the believing of many in Israel, the Gentiles have received. The Gentiles, in the Age of Grace, are under no legal obligation to Israel but there is a moral obligation that all Gentiles have to those who believed God from the nation of Israel.
It is out of this moral obligation that the Gentile believers in Macedonia and Achaia have shared of their abundance to those who had need in Israel.
The question arises as to why the multitude of believers in Jerusalem weren't able to care for those in Jerusalem that had need? Earlier in the book of Acts, the believers in Jerusalem had no problem taking care of needs among the believers.
And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.
Not long after the Day of Pentecost in 27 A.D., when Israel first received God's gift of holy spirit, those who believed had all things common. Those who had abundance, shared of that abundance so that no one lacked. The believers brought their abundance and laid it at the apostles feet. But things have changed since those early days, right after Pentecost. The Jerusalem Paul was now planning to travel to no longer had that heart of grace.
And when he (Paul) had saluted them (leadership in Jerusalem), he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. 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:
This verse is speaking of Paul's actual arrival in Jerusalem. He meets with the leadership in Jerusalem and they immediately declare the believers have become zealous for the Law, meaning the Law of Moses. When you are "zealous" for the Law of Moses you will not be placing your abundance at the feet of the apostles. You will be tithing to the Temple. A Temple that rejected the Word of God, rejected their Messiah, and cared little for the people.
Have you ever come to someone, with news that has you greatly excited, and when you share that news the other person says, "Great" but immediately, moves on to another subject that has nothing to do with what you just shared? That's what these two verses in Acts 21 bring to mind. It's almost like they didn't even hear what Paul had declared. What Paul is sharing would have included the news about the Word of God prevailing in Asia Minor in Acts 19! He would have shared with them how a believer was raised from the dead on his journey to Jerusalem! But the leadership in Jerusalem basically says, "Great Paul, but here…"
Something is very wrong in Jerusalem.
But Paul understood, while still in Corinth, that there were problems with Jerusalem receiving this abundant sharing. At the end of his epistle to the Romans, Paul asks them to pray for specific things, among which is the reception of the offering that he will bring to Jerusalem.
Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service (diakonia - bring the abundant sharing) which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints; That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed.
Strangely enough, when Acts gives us the account of Paul's arrival in Jerusalem, not one word is mentioned concerning the abundant sharing Paul carried with him. Some two weeks after his arrest at the Temple, when standing before Felix, Paul mentions his reason for coming to Jerusalem.
Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings.
Yet the only money mentioned by the Jerusalem leadership when Paul arrives is the cost for the men who are taking a vow, the vow of a Nazarene, under the Jewish Law. No word of an abundant sharing being received by the Jerusalem believers is mentioned at this time in the book of Acts, nor in any other of the Pauline epistles.
And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. 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. 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.
We'll consider other aspects of this meeting between Paul, James, and the elders at a later time. But I wanted you to see the context of verse 24. For now, I want you to focus on the words the Jerusalem leaders spoke to Paul in verse 24. They asked Paul to, "be at charges with them." Other versions translate these words more clearly than the King James Version.
Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses,…
New International Version
take these and be purified with them, and pay their expenses,…
take these and be purified with them, and pay their expenses,…
Young's Literal Translation
The only mention of money once in Jerusalem is that the leaders want Paul to pay the expenses of these four men who have taken a vow. Was the abundant sharing accepted by the believers and the leadership in Jerusalem, as Paul had prayed in Romans?
We never get that answer.
As I pointed out in the beginning of this teaching, God's Word declares that being in Jerusalem for the feast of Pentecost had become a priority for the apostle Paul.
For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost.
Paul was in a hurry to get to Jerusalem by Pentecost. Yet, there is no stated reason for the importance of this timing in the mind of Paul and opinions only entice us to start more denominations. When Paul arrives in Jerusalem there is no mention of the feast of Pentecost, although he is attacked and arrested because of Jews from Asia Minor who see Paul in the Temple.
And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia (Asia Minor), when they saw him (Paul) in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him,
These Jews may, or may not, have been in Jerusalem because of the feast of Pentecost. But that is as close as we come to an acknowledgement that Paul made it to Jerusalem by Pentecost.
Nonetheless, God's Word is very clear on the reason for Paul's journey to Jerusalem. The focal point of the entire trip to Jerusalem is to bring the abundant sharing from the Gentile believers to the believers in Jerusalem that had need.