Acts 21: Did Paul sin in Jerusalem?

Acts 21: Did Paul sin in Jerusalem?

One of the beautiful things about inspired literature is the forthrightness to faithfully represent the characters therein, warts and all.

Noah was a great man and upright in his generation, but after the flood we find him drunk in his tent. Abraham is called “the father of faith,” yet we find him so faithless that he conspired to have Sarah lie about their relationship… twice! Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived (Jesus aside – Matt 12:42), yet he played the fool with wicked women who turned his soul from the Lord.

I believe today’s reading is the culmination of a number of Pauline transgressions.

Acts 21 finds Paul finally arriving in Jerusalem. But why in the world was he there? He had been warned repeatedly, and that by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, not to go to Jerusalem. Why would he simply shrug off these oft-repeated warnings?

Even Paul himself said in Acts 20-22-23, “And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.” When Paul said this to the Ephesian elders, there had been no divine record of said warnings. Yet, Paul attributed them all to the Holy Spirit. But Acts 21, we find two specific cases of Paul being divinely warned not to go to Jerusalem.

Upon landing in Tyre, we find multiple brethren warning Paul “through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem” (v 4). Still undeterred, Paul enters the house of Philip in Caesarea. While there, a prophet named Agabus (cf Acts 11:28) came from Judea and vividly illustrated exactly what would happen to Paul should he continue his journey to Jerusalem (vv 10-11). Luke now joins the din of weeping voices pleading with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem (v 12).

Finally, what do we find in Paul once he arrives at Jerusalem? He succumbs to pressure from James to misrepresent himself as one who still follows the customs of Moses (v 21), walks orderly, and keeps the law (v 24).

The result of this hypocrisy was a riot in the temple leading to Paul’s arrest and subsequent imprisonment. In fact, Paul remained a prisoner of the Roman government for the remainder of Luke’s record, some five or so years.

I reckon he should have listened to those warnings.

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