The Book of Acts: Chapter 21 (pt 14 of 19)

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“Then Paul took the men the next day, and after he had purified himself along with them, he went to the temple and gave notice of the completion of the days of purification, when the sacrifice would be offered for each of them.

“When the seven days were almost over, the Jews from the province of Asia who had seen him in the temple area stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, shouting, ‘Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this sanctuary! Furthermore he has brought Greeks into the inner courts of the temple and made this holy place ritually unclean!’ (For they had seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him previously, and they assumed Paul had brought him into the inner temple courts.)

“The whole city was stirred up, and the people rushed together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple courts, and immediately the doors were shut. While they were trying to kill him, a report was sent up to the commanding officer of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in confusion. He immediately took soldiers and centurions and ran down to the crowd. When they saw the commanding officer and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. Then the commanding officer came up and arrested him and ordered him to be tied up with two chains; he then asked who he was and what he had done. But some in the crowd shouted one thing, and others something else, and when the commanding officer was unable to find out the truth because of the disturbance, he ordered Paul to be brought into the barracks. When he came to the steps, Paul had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob, for a crowd of people followed them, screaming, “Away with him!” —Acts 22:26-36

Paul didn’t seem to have any problem with the counsel’s suggestion that he perform this “Jewish” ritual and quickly set out to his Jerusalem brothers who were giving some type of vow. When the story takes up in verse 26, the week-long purification process was almost finished, when a group of Hellenistic (Asian) Jews started all the trouble. If you remember, it was the Hellenistic Jews who began the opposition of the gospel. They led the opposition against Stephen (Acts 6:8-14). Then they opposed Paul, a who himself was a Hellenistic Jew who had now come to faith in Jesus (Acts 9:29). And now these Asian Hellenistic Jews accused Paul of committing one of the highest crimes in Judaism—defiling the temple. This was a crime punishable by death.

Why would these men be so opposed to Paul? For one thing, Paul was once one of them. He had formerly opposed Christianity more strongly than they were. In their eyes, Paul was a traitor and a dangerous threat to their cause. Since these men were Asians, it is possible that they not only heard Paul preach the gospel there, they may have been among those who opposed him while he was in Asia:

“So Paul entered the synagogue and spoke out fearlessly for three months, addressing and convincing them about the kingdom of God. But when some were stubborn and refused to believe, reviling the Way before the congregation, he left them and took the disciples with him, addressing them every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all who lived in the province of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord” —Acts 19:8-10.

These Asian Jews were probably from Ephesus, because they recognized Trophimus the Ephesian who was with Paul. However, Trophimus wasn’t with Paul in the temple; although, as we already discussed, he had been with Paul earlier in the day. Since they had seen him earlier, assumed that when they saw Paul in the temple with four men, he had brought Gentiles with him, (thereby defiling the temple). But as the old adage goes, what happens when you assume? Yeah, you got it.

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