He departs therefore to Jerusalem; and when there, he goes to the house of James, and all the elders assemble. Paul relates to them the work of God among the Gentiles. They turn to their Judaism, of which the multitude were full, and, while rejoicing in the good that was wrought of God by the Spirit, they wish Paul to shew himself obedient to the law. The believers in Jerusalem must needs come together on the arrival of Paul, and their prejudices with regard to the law must be satisfied. Paul has brought himself into the presence of man's exigencies: to refuse compliance with them would be to say that their thoughts about him were true; to act according to their desire was to make a rule, not of the guidance of the Spirit in all liberty of love, but of the ignorant and prejudiced condition of these Jewish believers. It is that Paul was there, not according to the Spirit as an apostle, but according to his attachment to these former things. One must be above the prejudices of others, and free from their influence, to be able to condescend to them in love.
Being there, Paul can hardly do other than satisfy their demands. But the hand of God is in it. This act throws him into the power of his enemies. Seeking to please the believing Jews, he finds himself in the lion's mouth, in the hands of the Jews who were adversaries to the gospel. It may be added that we hear nothing more of the Christians of Jerusalem. They had done their work. I have no doubt that they accepted the alms of the Gentiles.
The whole city being moved and the temple shut, the commander of the band comes to rescue Paul from the Jews who wished to kill him, taking him however into custody himself, for the Romans were used to these tumults, and heartily despised this nation beloved of God, but proud and degraded in their own condition. Nevertheless Paul commands the respect of the captain of the band by his manner of addressing him, and he permits him to speak to the people. To the chief captain Paul had spoken in Greek; but, always ready to win by the attentions of love, and especially when the loved though rebellious people were in question, he speaks to them in Hebrew; that is, in their ordinary language called Hebrew. He does not enlarge upon what the Lord said revealing Himself to him, but he gives them a particular account of his subsequent interview with Ananias, a faithful Jew and esteemed of all. He then enters on the point which necessarily characterised his position and his defence. Christ had appeared to him, saying, "They will not receive thy testimony at Jerusalem. I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles." Blessed be God! it is the truth; but why tell it to those very persons who, according to his own words, would not receive his testimony? The only thing which gave authority to such a mission was the Person of Jesus, and they did not believe in it.
In his testimony to the people the apostle laid stress in vain upon the Jewish piety of Ananias: genuine as it might be, it was but a broken reed. Nevertheless it was all, except his own. His discourse had but one effect-to bring out the violent and incorrigible hatred of this unhappy nation to every thought of grace in God, and the unbounded pride which indeed went before the fall that crushed them. The chief captain, seeing the violence of the people, and not at all understanding what was going on, with the haughty contempt of a Roman, orders Paul to be bound and scourged to make him confess what it meant. Now Paul was himself a Roman citizen, and born such, while the chief captain had purchased that freedom. Paul quietly makes this fact known, and they who were about to scourge him withdraw. The chief captain was afraid because he had bound him; but, as his authority was concerned in it, he leaves him bound. The next day he looses him and brings him before the council, or Sanhedrim, of the Jews. The people, not merely their rulers, had rejected grace.