Lesson 25 | Sabbath, 20 June 2020
“Satan is constantly working through his agents to dishearten and destroy those whom God has chosen to accomplish a great and good work. They may be ready to sacrifice even life itself for the advancement of the cause of Christ, yet the great deceiver will suggest to their brethren doubts concerning them which, if entertained, would undermine confidence in their integrity of character, and thus cripple their usefulness. Too often he succeeds in bringing upon them, through their own brethren, such sorrow of heart that God graciously interposes to give His persecuted servants rest. After the hands are folded upon the pulseless breast, when the voice of warning and encouragement is silent, then the obdurate may be aroused to see and prize the blessings they have cast from them.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 418.
Agitation against Paul in the temple
- When he was in Jerusalem, where did the apostle Paul go on the advice of some brethren?
Acts 21:23-26 Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; 24Them 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, where- of they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law. 25As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication. 26Then 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.
“This was the golden opportunity for all the leading brethren to confess frank- ly that God had wrought through Paul, and that at times they had erred in permit- ting the reports of his enemies to arouse their jealousy and prejudice. But instead of uniting in an effort to do justice to the one who had been injured, they gave him counsel which showed that they still cherished a feeling that Paul should be held largely responsible for the existing prejudice….
“When we think of Paul’s great desire to be in harmony with his brethren, his tenderness toward the weak in the faith, his reverence for the apostles who had been with Christ, and for James, the brother of the Lord, and his purpose to become all things to all men so far as he could without sacrificing principle–when we think of all this, it is less surprising that he was constrained to deviate from the firm, decided course that he had hitherto followed.” –The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 403, 405.
- What happened suddenly while he was there and bothering no one? When some Jews from Asia saw him there, believing that he had polluted the temple, what scene ensued?
Acts 21:27-30 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, 28Crying 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. 29(For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) 30And 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.
“But instead of accomplishing the desired object, his efforts for conciliation only precipitated the crisis, hastened his predicted sufferings, and resulted in separating him from his brethren, depriving the church of one of its strongest pillars, and bringing sorrow to Christian hearts in every land….
“Those who advised Paul to take this step had not fully considered the great peril to which he would thus be exposed. At this season, Jerusalem was filled with worshipers from many lands. As, in fulfillment of the commission given him by God, Paul had borne the gospel to the Gentiles, he had visited many of the world’s largest cities, and he was well known to thousands who from foreign parts had come to Jerusalem to attend the feast. Among these were men whose hearts were filled with bitter hatred for Paul, and for him to enter the temple on a public occa- sion was to risk his life….
“That an apostate from Israel should presume to profane the temple at the very time when thousands had come there from all parts of the world to worship, excited the fiercest passions of the mob.” –The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 405-407.
Taking advantage of the opportunity
- Who became aware that a riot had erupted in the city? What precautionary measures did he take?
Acts 21:31, 32 And as they went about killing him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul.
“‘As they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar.’ Claudius Lysias well knew the turbulent elements with which he had to deal, and he ‘immediately took soldiers and cen- turions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul.’” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 407.
- What orders were immediately carried out, making the apostle a prison- er? Meanwhile, what were the people demanding?
Acts 21:33-36 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. 34And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude: and when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried into the castle. 35And when he came upon the stairs, so it was, that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the people. 36For the multitude of the people fol- lowed after, crying, Away with him.
“By the Jewish law it was a crime punishable with death for an uncircumcised person to enter the inner courts of the sacred edifice. Paul had been seen in the city in company with Trophimus, an Ephesian, and it was conjectured that he had brought him into the temple. This he had not done; and being himself a Jew, his act in entering the temple was no violation of the law. But though the charge was wholly false, it served to arouse the popular prejudice. As the cry was taken up and borne through the temple courts, the throngs gathered there were thrown into wild excitement….
“Ignorant of the cause of the tumult, but seeing that the rage of the multitude was directed against Paul, the Roman captain concluded that he must be a certain Egyptian rebel of whom he had heard, who had thus far escaped capture…. At once many voices were raised in loud and angry accusation….” –The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 407, 408.
- What did Paul want the captain to realize? What did the officer give the apostle permission to do, realizing that he was not the revolutionary that he imagined?
Acts 21:37-40 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? 38Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers? 39But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people. 40And 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….
“In the midst of the tumult the apostle was calm and self-possessed. His mind was stayed upon God, and he knew that angels of heaven were about him. He felt unwilling to leave the temple without making an effort to set the truth before his countrymen. As he was about to be led into the castle he said to the chief captain, ‘May I speak unto thee?’… ‘I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people.’ “The request was granted, and ‘Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people.’ The gesture attracted their attention, while his bearing commanded respect.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 408.
- With what words of affection did Paul address his fellow Jews? Among other things, what experience did he tell them about?
Acts 22:1, 6-8 Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence which I make now unto you…. 6And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. 7And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 8And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.
“None could deny the apostle’s statements, as the facts that he referred to were well known to many who were still living in Jerusalem. He then spoke of his former zeal in persecuting the disciples of Christ, even unto death; and he narrated the circumstances of his conversion, telling his hearers how his own proud heart had been led to bow to the crucified Nazarene. Had he attempted to enter into argument with his opponents, they would have stubbornly refused to listen to his words; but the relation of his experience was attended with a convincing power that for the time seemed to soften and subdue their hearts.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 409.
A wonderful testimony
- What did he relate to them about his divine call to the apostleship? What can be seen in this about his ability to take advantage of every opportunity to present the gospel? How can one learn to do this in our day?
Acts 22:10, 12-14 And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do…. 12And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, 13Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. 14And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth.
“He then endeavored to show that his work among the Gentiles had not been entered upon from choice. He had desired to labor for his own nation; but in that very temple the voice of God had spoken to him in holy vision, directing his course ‘far hence unto the Gentiles.’…
“Accustomed to look upon themselves as the only people favored by God, they were unwilling to permit the despised Gentiles to share the privileges which had hitherto been regarded as exclusively their own. Lifting their voices above the voice of the speaker, they cried, ‘Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live.’…
“In this dark hour the Lord was not unmindful of His servant. He had guarded him from the murderous throng in the temple courts;… He was with him in the fortress; and He revealed Himself to His faithful witness in response to the earnest prayers of the apostle for guidance.” –The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 409, 410, 413.
For additional study
“Paul’s heart was filled with a deep, abiding sense of his responsibility; and he labored in close communion with Him who is the fountain of justice, mercy, and truth. He clung to the cross of Christ as his only guaranty of success. The love of the Saviour was the undying motive that upheld him in his conflicts with self and in his struggle against evil, as in the service of Christ he pressed forward against the unfriendliness of the world and the opposition of his enemies.
“What the church needs in these days of peril, is an army of workers who, like Paul, have educated themselves for usefulness, who have a deep experience in the things of God, and who are filled with earnestness and zeal. Sanctified, self-sacrificing men are needed; men who are brave and true; men in whose hearts Christ is formed, ‘the hope of glory’ (Colossians 1:27), and who with lips touched with holy fire will ‘preach the word.’ 2 Timothy 4:2.” –Gospel Workers, p. 61.