Jerusalem: Facing Criticism

Explore the Bible Series

August 17, 2008


Background Passage: Acts 20:1-23:22

Lesson Passage: Acts 21:17-29, 39




Throughout more than twenty years of missionary work, the Apostle Paul faced many disappointments and dangers; however, at the end of his Third Missionary journey, he stood at the threshold of the most difficult trials of his life.At the time of Paulís conversion, the Lord had told him that he would suffer many things for the sake of the Kingdom of God, and the apostleís greatest difficulties began when he returned to Jerusalem, as we shall see in this weekís lesson.


Dr. Curtis Vaughan estimates that Paul was about sixty years old at this point in the narrative.The physical and emotional hardships of two decades of missionary work, no doubt, had taken a toll on the aging apostle.Nevertheless, he did not retire or retreat from the work to which the Lord had called him.The church leaders from Ephesus encouraged the apostle as he initiated his journey to Jerusalem. This precious time of fellowship gave Paul an opportunity to reflect on the principles of Christian ministry (See Acts 17:38).As you study the lesson, meditate on these characteristics of the gospel ministry.


  1. Humility
  2. Passion
  3. Fidelity
  4. Perseverance
  5. Selflessness
  6. Wisdom
  7. Love



Lesson Outline:


I.                   Paulís Journey to Jerusalem (20:1-21:14)

A.    Final stages of Paulís Third Missionary Journey (20:1-3): After the riot in Ephesus, Paul left for Macedonia.F.F. Bruce suggests that the apostle remained in Macedonia for a lengthy period, perhaps as much as a year.Then, he traveled to Greece where he preached for three months.Jewish opponents plotted Paulís murder; so, the apostle returned, for a time, to Macedonia.Seven friends accompanied Paul on this portion of the journey, and they eventually arrived in Troas. Luke apparently rejoined Paul on this leg of the return to Jerusalem, and II Corinthians 8:6 recalls the presence of Titus with the missionary band.

B.     Ministry at Troas (20:7-12):At the end of a week of ministry, the brethren in Troas met, on the first day of the week, for communion and instruction in the gospel.This is the first reference to worship on Sunday, and, at a late hour, a young man fell asleep, lost his balance, and plummeted from a third story window.The believers found the poor man dead, but Paul, by the power of God, raised the lad from the dead.

C.     The journey to Miletus (20:13-38)

1.      Lukeís detail of the journey (vv. 13-16): The missionary band stopped briefly at Assos, Mitylene, Chios, Samos, and Miletus. At Miletus, Paul decided not to visit nearby Ephesus because he wanted to visit Jerusalem for Pentecost.

2.      Paulís meeting with the Ephesian elders, at Miletus (vv. 17-38): This tender meeting reveals Paulís philosophy of ministry, and contains the only sermon in Acts, directed only to believers (See Vaughanís Study Guide Commentary).

D.    Final leg of Paulís journey to Jerusalem (21:1-16): Paul sailed through the southern Aegean and stopped at Cos, Rhodes, and Patara. After several days, Paul arrived in the Phoenician city of Tyre.The Holy Spirit moved Paulís friends to warn the apostle of the dangers he would certainly face in Jerusalem, but the determined servant of Christ resolved to continue his pilgrimage.Paul briefly visited the believers at Ptolemais, and then he traveled to Caesarea, the home of Philip the evangelist.Vaughan points out that about twenty years had passed since Philip witnessed to the Ethiopian official (Acts 8:4-40).Again, loving friends, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, warned Paul about the hazards he would experience in Jerusalem.Finally, Paul and some friends arrived in Jerusalem, and a disciple named Mnason opened his home to the weary apostle.


II.                Paulís Sojourn in Jerusalem (21:17-23:22)

A.    Paulís meeting with James (21:17-26): The brothers in Jerusalem welcomed the apostle warmly, and shortly after his arrival in Jerusalem, Paul met with the leader of the church, James. Some of the Jewish believers, upset by reports of Paulís ministry to the Gentiles, expressed their concerns.James encouraged Paul to allay these fears by making a vow of purification. Also, the Jerusalem leader reminded everyone of the decision of the Jerusalem Council concerning the conversion of the Gentiles.

B.     Paulís confrontation with the Jews (21:27-23:22)

1.      Riot in the Temple (21:27-36): After seven days of purification, Paul entered the Temple. Jews from Asia Minor, recognizing Paul, stirred up the crowd by accusing the apostle of teaching others to disregard the Mosaic Law.The chaotic scene quickly became violent as the crowd determined to kill Paul.The tumult aroused the attention of the Roman soldiers, and they rushed to calm the volatile situation.Apparently the Jews had already begun to beat Paul, and the soldiers had to carry him away from the mob.

2.      Paulís address to the crowd (21:37-22:21): As the soldiers escorted Paul into a barracks, he asked the tribune, in Greek, if he could speak to the murderous mob.The tribune was amazed the Paul spoke Greek, and opined that Paul was a notorious rebel who had recently led a violent revolt.The apostle assured the††††††

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† tribune that he was a native of Tarsus, in Cilicia; then, Paul turned to the crowd and addressed them in Hebrew.†† The apostle centered his testimony of his experience on the road to Damascus and Godís commission to carry the gospel to the Gentiles.

3.      Paulís defense before the Roman soldiers (22: 22-29): The Romans determined to flog Paul, but, when they discovered that the accused man was a Roman citizen, they determined to let him stand trial before the Sanhedrin.

4.      Paulís defense before the Sanhedrin (22:30-22): Paul tried to defend himself before the Jewish elders, but the high priest Ananias had Paul struck in the mouth, as the apostle spoke.The crowd again erupted, and Paul, realizing that both Sadducees and

Pharisees were in the mob, spoke of the resurrection.These two groups had a long-standing dispute about resurrection, and the assembly broke into spirited theological debate.The frenzied situation prompted the Romans to whisk away Paul to the relative safety of the soldierís barracks.That night, the Lord appeared to Paul and assured the poor man that he would not die in Jerusalem but would preach the gospel in Rome.

5.      The Jewish plot to murder Paul (23:12-22): Certain Jews took an oath that they would murder Paul, and would not eat or drink until they carried out their sinister plot (I wonder how long they kept this vow!).Paulís nephew alerted the tribune to the conspiracy, and the Roman official swore the young man to silence.This sequence of events set in motion Paulís eventual appeal to Felix, Festus, and Rome itself.

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