Acts 21 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Acts 21)

Verse 3

[3] Now when we had discovered Cyprus, we left it on the left hand, and sailed into Syria, and landed at Tyre: for there the ship was to unlade her burden.

We landed at Tyre — That there should be Christians there was foretold, 27:4.

Verse 4

[4] And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.

And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days — ln order to spend a Sabbath with them.

Who told Paul by the Spirit — That afflictions awaited him at Jerusalem. This was properly what they said by the Spirit. They themselves advised him not to go up. The disciples seemed to understand their prophetic impulse to be an intimation from the Spirit, that Paul, if he were so minded, might avoid the danger, by not going to Jerusalem.

Verse 7

[7] And when we had finished our course from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, and saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day.

Having finished our voyage — From Macedonia, Acts 20:6, we came to Ptolemais - A celebrated city on the sea coast, anciently called Accos. It is now, like many other once noble cities, only a heap of ruins.

Verse 8

[8] And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.

We came to Cesarea — So called from a stately temple which Herod the Great dedicated there to Augustus Cesar. It was the place where the Roman governor of Judea generally resided and kept his court.

The evangelist, who was one of the seven deacons — An evangelist is a preacher of the Gospel to those who had never heard it, as Philip had done to the Samaritans, to the Ethiopian eunuch, and to all the towns from Azotus to Cesarea, Acts 8:5,26,40. It is not unlikely he spent the following years preaching in Tyre and Sidon, and the other heathen cities in the neighbourhood of Galilee, his house being at Cesarea, a convenient situation for that purpose.

We abode with him — We lodged at his house during our stay at Cesarea.

Verse 10

[10] And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus.

A certain prophet came — The nearer the event was, the more express were the predictions which prepared Paul for it.

Verse 11

[11] And when he was come unto us, he took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.

Binding his own feet and hands — In the manner that malefactors were wont to be bound when apprehended.

So shall the Jews bind the man whose girdle this is — St. Paul's bonds were first particularly foretold at Cesarea, to which he afterward came in bonds, Acts 23:33.

Verse 12

[12] And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.

Both we, (his fellow travellers,) and they of the place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem - St. Paul knew that this prediction had the force of a command. They did not know this.

Verse 13

[13] Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.

Breaking my heart — For the apostles themselves were not void of human affections.

I am ready not only to be bound, but to die — And to him that is ready for it, the burden is light.

Verse 14

[14] And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.

And when he would not be persuaded — This was not obstinacy, but true Christian resolution. We should never be persuaded, either to do evil, or to omit doing any good which is in our power; saying, the will of the Lord be done - Which they were satisfied Paul knew.

Verse 15

[15] And after those days we took up our carriages, and went up to Jerusalem.

We took up our carriages — Our baggage; which probably went by sea before. What they took with them now in particular was the alms they were carrying to Jerusalem, Acts 24:17.

Verse 16

[16] There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge.

The disciples brought us to one Mnason, a Cyprian, an old disciple — He was a native of Cyprus, but an inhabitant of Jerusalem, and probably one of the first converts there.

Verse 18

[18] And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present.

Paul went in with us — That it might appear we are all of one mind, to James - Commonly called the Lord's brother; the only apostle then presiding over the Churches in Judea.

Verse 20

[20] 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:

They are all zealous for the law — For the whole Mosaic dispensation. How astonishing is this! Did none of the apostles, beside St. Paul, know that this dispensation was now abolished? And if they did both know and testify this, how came their hearers not to believe them?

Verse 21

[21] 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.

They have been informed concerning thee, that thou teachest the Jews — not to circumcise their children, nor to walk after the customs - Of the Mosaic law. And so undoubtedly he did. And so he wrote to all the Churches in Galatia, among whom were many Jews. Yea, and James himself had long before assented to Peter, affirming before all the apostles and all the brethren, Acts 15:10, That this very law was a yoke which (said he) neither our fathers nor we were able to bear - Amazing! that they did not know this! Or, that if they did, they did not openly testify it at all hazards, to every Jewish convert in Jerusalem!

Verse 22

[22] What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come.

What is it therefore — What is to be done? The multitude must needs come together - They will certainly gather together in a tumultuous manner, unless they be some way pacified.

Verse 23

[23] Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them;

Therefore — To obviate their prejudice against thee: do this that we say to thee - Doubtless they meant this advice well: but could Paul follow it in godly sincerity? Was not the yielding so far to the judgment of others too great a deference to be paid to any mere men?

Verse 24

[24] 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.

And all will know — that thou thyself walkest orderly, keeping the law - Ought he not, without any reverence to man, where the truth of God was so deeply concerned, to have answered plainly, I do not keep the Mosaic law; neither need any of you. Yea, Peter doth not keep the law. And God himself expressly commanded him not to keep it; ordering him to go in to men uncircumcised, and to eat with them, Acts 11:3, which the law utterly forbids.

Verse 26

[26] Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.

Then Paul took the men — Yielding his own judgment to their advice, which seemed to flow not out of spiritual but carnal wisdom; seeming to be what he really was not: making as if he believed the law still in force.

Declaring — Giving notice to the priests in waiting, that he designed to accomplish the days of purification, till all the sacrifice should be offered, as the Mosaic law required, Numbers 6:13.

Verse 27

[27] 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,

And when the seven days were about to be accomplished — When after giving notice to the priests, they were entering upon the accomplishment of those days. It was toward the beginning of them that Paul was seized.

The Jews that were from Asia — Some of those Jews who came from Asia to the feast.

Verse 28

[28] 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.

Against the people — The Jewish nation; and the law - Of Moses; and this place - The temple.

Yea, and hath even brought Greeks into the temple — They might come into the outer court. But they imagined Paul had brought then into the inner temple, and had thereby polluted it.

Verse 30

[30] 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 immediately the gates were shut — Both to prevent any farther violation of the temple; and to prevent Paul's taking sanctuary at the horns of the altar.

Verse 31

[31] And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar.

And as they went about to kill him — It was a rule among the Jews, that any uncircumcised person who came into the inner temple, might be stoned without farther process. And they seemed to think Paul, who brought such in thither, deserved no better treatment.

Word came to the tribune — A cohort or detachment of soldiers, belonging to the Roman legion, which lodged in the adjacent castle of Antonia, were stationed on feast days near the temple, to prevent disorders. It is evident, Lysias himself was not present, when the tumult began. Probably he was the oldest Roman tribune (or colonel) then at Jerusalem. And as such he was the commanding officer of the legion quartered at the castle.

Verse 33

[33] 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.

Then the tribune — Having made his way through the multitude, came near and took him - And how many great ends of providence were answered by this imprisonment? This was not only a means of preserving his life, (after he had suffered severely for worldly prudence,) but gave him an opportunity of preaching the Gospel safely, in spite of all tumult, Acts 21:40.

And commanded him to be bound with two chains — Taking it for granted he was some notorious offender. And thus the prophecy of Agabus was fulfilled, though by the hands of a Roman.

Verse 35

[35] And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people.

When he came upon the stairs — The castle of Antonia was situate on a rock fifty cubits high, at that corner of the outward temple, where the western and northern porticos joined, to each of which there were stairs descending from it.

Verse 37

[37] And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek?

As Paul was about to be brought into the castle — The wisdom of God taught to make use of that very time and place.

Verse 38

[38] Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers?

Art not thou that Egyptian — Who came into Judea when Felix had been some years governor there! Calling himself a prophet, he drew much people after him; and having brought them through the wilderness, led them to Mount Olivet, promising that the walls of the city should fall down before them. But Felix marching out of Jerusalem against him, his followers quickly dispersed, many of whom were taken or slain; but he himself made his escape.

Verse 40

[40] And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying,

In the Hebrew tongue — That dialect of it, which was then commonly spoken at Jerusalem.