The Apostle Paul’s Last Journey


 

The Apostle Paul’s Last Journey

INTRODUCTION

Paul is one of the most amazing figures in the entire Bible. His journeys are amazing lessons for all generations to learn and build upon. However, Paul made enemies of the Sanhedrin during his time. The Sanhedrin and Rabbis who were seen by the Jews as the leading council on all affairs saw Paul as a rising challenge to their own teachings. After the Sanhedrin has successfully crucified Christ they thought the Christians would die out. This belief is even one the Gamaliel used to encourage the Sanhedrin to let Paul go (Acts 5:33-39)[1]. Paul would arrive in port through Caesarea (Acts 21:8)[2], a port which he later left from to Rome (Acts 27:1)[3]. Paul is confronted by others who try to convince him not to go to Jerusalem. Some scholars will interpret this to mean that he is disobeying the Holy Spirit, but he is actually displaying the power of the Holy Spirit. When Paul is captured in Jerusalem, this is part of how he is led to his journey to Rome. Paul is then brought before the first Governor Felix, who leaves office before making any actual decision about Paul, except to leave him there to satisfy the Jews. As Festus takes over the governorship, he found in a peculiar situation with his people and this prisoner Paul. Festus Turns the matter over to King Agrippa he is almost convinced to become a Christian by Paul’s defense. These events lead us to Paul being taken to Rome on a ship he states will shipwreck. Paul displays Gods power in the event and tells the men how to survive the shipwreck alive in prayer and faith in God. Paul’s journey teaches us that we must live our lives with a mind of Christ and faithfulness that cannot be shaken, even when threatened with death.

Paul in Jerusalem 21:17-23:35

Paul knew that he must go to Jerusalem. It was Gods will for his life. Paul probably struggled with the same notions we do as Christians to find the right balance in our own lives of what to do and what Gods will for our lives is. When Paul first arrived in Jerusalem he did what I believe was the same thing he had done previously in verse 14:27, “When they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.”[4] Paul and James related to the elders what God had done. The elders praise God and seem to be happy with what has happened however, they are getting reports that Paul is telling the Jews that live among the Gentiles to forsake Moses. This is where it gets a little troubling for a lot of people to understand. David Pao states, “Two questions remain unclear in this account: First, the exact nature of the rites to fulfill the vows is unclear. The reason why Paul has to fulfill the vows with the other four men is also left unexplained. Second, has to do with the position of the Jerusalem leaders. The fact that they do not stand up to defend Paul against false accusations may reflect their own doubt concerning the missionary practices of Paul.”[5] You might find Pao’s commentary a little disconcerting at first however, he does bring to light so rather overwhelming evidence to back up the case in some sentences later. Pao states, “That none of these ‘many thousand’ of Jewish believers (21:20) defend him when he is later arrested (cf. 21:27-36) only strengthens this suspicion.”[6] So there is definitely some theological commentary to be discussed on what the Jerusalem leader’s intentions were and what was truly at the heart of their challenges to Paul. There is another view that supports a need for Paul to show his devotion. Stanley Porter writes, “The heard Paul taught dispersion Jews not to follow Mosaic Law. Thus, they were concerned that Paul display devotion to the law by taking four men into the temple and paying for their Nazirite vow – although this action seemed to confuse matters in light of what Paul had done among the Gentiles.”[7] So in either case, we find Paul with these men over the course of the next few days.

Seized at the temple 21:27-36

At this point we find many views in commentaries about what has occurred. This is what I believe occurs in the most simplistic broken view. The Jews knew Paul was in town and had been for a couple days. Now I believe it’s even possible that they have set him up with this whole Nazirite vow in order to keep him there while they get things in place. Paul was an overwhelming force for the Christ followers. The Sanhedrin had to have known that when they realized that the man once known as Saul was Paul. So I believe they set him up. I find it hard to believe that the Jews just stumbled upon Paul in the temple and grabbed him. Pao writes, “The accusation that Paul teaches people ‘against our people and our law and this place’ (21:28) recalls the accusation against Stephen in 6:13, but it is ironic to accuse Paul of this offense precisely when he is fulfilling his vow in the temple area.”[8] Now what is most interesting to point out about Paul being grabbed here and accused is what Walter Kaiser points out about the Gentiles not being allowed. Kaiser states, “Stone slabs were placed on the barrier between the inner and outer temple courts warning Gentiles of the death penalty for proceeding further. The Roman authorities were so anxious to appease the Jews in this regard that they authorized execution even if the offender was a Roman citizen.”[9] It is more disconcerting to me that everyone would just believe that so easily, yet there they were. Kaiser further states, “Trophimus was a Gentile Ephesian. Paul probably did not take him into the forbidden area. If he had, these Jews should have attacked Trophimus rather than Paul.”[10] However, we know that the Jews were never after some Gentile, they were after Paul. They were trying to kill Paul, not Trophimus. If they had assumed Paul had taken Trophimus into the temple as Kaiser had suggested the text stated, then why not at least drag Trophimus along and try to kill him to. Here is the giveaway to the truth in v33, the commander did not come and execute Paul. We have already established that Roman authorities had the authority to execute for this exact violation, so why was Paul not executed immediately. Now the obvious answer is Gods will for Paul’s life was a bigger plan than to be a martyr right then and there, but the immediate context would suggest that no such violation had occurred. So the commander came up and arrested Paul and because the crowd sounded like an angry mob with no reason to want the man arrested the commander proceeded to take Paul to the barracks.

A Jewish citizen of Tarsus 21:37-22:30

On the way to the barracks Paul speaks to the commander to let him know that he is not some rebel rouser and that he is a Jewish citizen for Tarsus. The commander who in some translations is called chief captain granted him the right to speak, it changed the whole dynamic of things. The people were not going to rush the Roman commander and Paul was an excellent speaker. God knew the plan He had set forth. Matthew Henry stated this, “There he beckoned with the hand unto the people, made signs to them to be quiet and to have a little patience, for he had something to say to them; and so far he gained his point that everyone cried hush to his neighbor, and there was made a profound silence. Probably the chief captain also intimated his charge to all manner of people to keep silence; if the people were not required to give audience, it was to no purpose at all that Paul was allowed to speak. When the cause of Christ and his gospel is to be pleaded, there ought to be a great silence, that we may give the more earnest heed, and all little enough.”[11] From this point Paul gave a riveting defense and testimony of his background that most certainly defended what he was stating in other places where they had claimed he had violated Law. What is ironic about this particular crowd is that they remind me of the discriminatory way of modern society. Pao states, “The crowd was willing to listen to Paul’s conversion account, and they do not even object immediately to calling ‘Jesus Nazareth’ (22:8) the ‘Righteous One’ (22:14), but when Paul mentions the he was sent ‘to the Gentiles’ (22:21), the crowd erupts with anger.”[12] So you can see that even in biblical times, bias was so immersed that people react the same way as they do now. Albeit we have mediums that streamline the way in which people can be infused to this bias, Paul is still faced with it right here in Acts. The crowd grew loud again and this just got the commander down right confused as he was not up on all the Jewish customs. You know they did not have Facebook back then, but if they did you could say they commander was not on it and didn’t even know what it was. Because of this the commander had his men grab Paul and take him inside say they could flog him for some answers. Adam Clarke states, “As the chief captain did not understand the Hebrew language, he was ignorant of the charge brought against Paul, and ignorant also of the defense which the apostle had made; and, as he saw that they grew more and more outrageous, he supposed that Paul must have given them the highest provocation; and therefore he determined to put him to the torture, in order to find out the nature of his crime. The practice of putting people to the rack, in order to make them confess, has, to the disgrace of human nature, existed in all countries.”[13] Now Paul continued to claim to be a Roman citizen. “This claim of being a Roman citizen will pave the way for his later appeal to the Roman emperor (Acts 25:11),” stated Pao.[14] Because of all this confusion and obviously the Roman commander wasn’t getting anywhere, it was time to take Paul to the Sanhedrin.

Before the council, a conspiracy is contrived 23:1-22

Paul is brought before the Sanhedrin, the council where there were the Sadducees and the Pharisees and he caused quite a disturbance. As soon as Paul spoke the high priest ordered Paul to be socked in the mouth. Well, Paul did not take to kindly to the comment and called him a “whitewashed wall,” which is a hypocrite. Paul not realizing this was the high priest was in hot water now, but he realized something was amidst that he could bring up. Porter states, “Paul’s belief in the resurrection of the dead divided his accusers. The Pharisees, like Paul, believed in the resurrection, while the Sadducees, of which the high priest Ananias was a member, did not.”[15] Paul believed in the resurrection so he used it to his advantage and brought it up, while claiming to be a Pharisee. This caused a major argument in the council immediately and because of Paul’s safety the commander had his men remove Paul. Now the Jews started to form a plot to kill Paul. Now you have to be asking yourself who were the Jews, because if you can call the Pharisees and the Sadducees Jews as well, which Jews were the Jews forming a plot to kill Paul? Kaiser states, “These Jews were probably from the Zealots and Essenes or the ‘terrorists’ later responsible for the revolt against Rome.”[16] Within the Jews there were several different sects or groups and subgroups. Almost like there was a secret society that was more extreme than the other, except in some circles they were not very secret. In v.13 it states there are more than 40 men involved in this plot. I believe Ananias, although a Sadducee, knew full well of the plot and gave his support (Acts 23:14-15). Paul’s nephew heard the plot and ran and told Paul. Paul got one of the centurions and informed him of this plot to kill him.

Paul in Caesarea 23:23-26:32

Kaiser states, “Moving a prisoner for his or her own safety or to avoid possible violence or the threat of a riot is a tactic still used today. The commander made every possible provision for Paul’s security, sending him off in company of 470 armed soldiers under cover of darkness.”[17]

2 centurions, 200 soldiers, 70 horseman, and 200 spearman 23:23-35

Here is the ironic and funny thing about Commander Claudius Lysias; he states in his letter to Governor Felix that he came to Paul’s rescue upon realizing of his Roman citizenship. The irony is piled on when Lysias continues with ‘there is no charge against him’ (v.29), but because of the plot on his life and him being a Roman citizen I am sending him to you and letting the Sanhedrin bring their case to you.

Felix, Festus, & Agrippa 24:1-26:32

Paul is now in Caesarea to be seen before Governor Felix. Porter writes, “Felix, was originally a slave, became a procurator of Judea in A.D. 52, succeeding Cumannus. He was eventually removed from office c. A.D. 59 for bungling Jewish-Gentile conflicts in Caesarea.”[18] When Ananias arrives five days later with a caravan of elders and a legal eagle in Tertullus, he was there to make sure he could have Paul done for sure. Ananias had done his homework. He knew that Felix cared more for the political stability of region, so Tertullus focused in on stating that Paul incited riots. Albeit, at this point the only riot that had occurred was the one they probably had arranged in order to capture Paul. They had gotten pretty good at this if you remember. Paul’s defense is summed up very well by Pao. Pao states, “What he admits is that he worships God of Israel, he is faithful to Israel’s tradition, and he hopes for ‘a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked’ (24:15). Paul turns his defense speech into a testimony to the work of God through Jesus, who was the first to be raised from the dead (cf. 24:21).”[19] Felix lacked the ability to grant Paul his innocence and this led to his being replaces with Festus. The trial before Festus went very similar as it did with Felix with one major exception, Paul appeals to Caesar. This appeal to Caesar is what granted him the ability to possibly make to Rome or live longer. It is actually debatable. Now when Paul is brought before Agrippa the scene is quite different. Paul responds by acknowledging Agrippa’s knowledge of Jewish customs and is shifting the dynamic to Jewish customs rather than political crimes, which is what Tertullus had focused on with Felix. Agrippa’s response is here to affirm Paul’s innocence, because it is Gods sovereign plan and His will for Paul to go to Rome if you remember, but when Agrippa told him had he not appealed to Caesar he would have been set free it changed the tone of the Jews.

Alexandrian ship caught in a Euraquilo 27:1-28:10

Paul is put on an Adramyttiam ship to set sail and head for Rome. Once the ship reached Myra in Lycia Paul was boarded on an Alexandrian ship bound for Italy. Paul warns them not to set sail from Crete, but they do not listen. However, Paul does tell them that they will not lose their lives, only the ship. Could you imagine the comfort you would feel being told that? When it got a little to close the men let down the skiffs and Paul warns them if anyone escapes they will die. The soldiers cut the lines to the skiffs so no one could escape. They ate and gave thanks to God, then they through the grain overboard. Eventually they shipwrecked. When they got to shore they realized they were at Malta. Publius the leader of the island treated them well for three days. Publius father was sick and God healed him through Paul, so Publius helped them set sail again. After months they set sail once again in an Alexandrian ship.

Rome at last 28:11-28:31

Finally arriving in Rome, Paul was allowed to stay by himself with one Roman guard. Paul met with the Jewish leadership in Rome after three days. They had not heard of him or what had happened with his situation. They had heard of the Christians though. He witnessed and ministered to them for a long time. It seems as though the Jews in Rome were just as hardened to the same bias as the ones in Jerusalem against the Gentiles. Once Paul spoke this the leaders quit coming. Paul stayed two years and he proclaimed the Kingdom of God.

Footnotes

[1]. Zondervan, Life Application Study Bible [NASB] (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000).

[2]. Ibid.

[3]. Ibid.

[4]. Zondervan, Life Application Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000).

[5]. David W. Pao, The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2012).

[6]. Ibid.

[7]. Stanely E. Porter, The Apologetics Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007).

[8]. Pao, The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary.

[9]. Walter C. Kaiser, Archeological Study Bible NIV: Notes and Commentary on Acts (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005).

[10]. Ibid.

[11]. Matthew Henry, Matthew henry’s commentary on the whole bible – acts 21, http://mhcw.biblecommenter.com/acts/21.htm (accessed August 17, 2012).

[12]. Pao, The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary.

[13]. Adam Clarke, Clarke’s commentary on the bible – Acts 22, http://clarke.biblecommenter.com/acts/22.htm (accessed August 17, 2012).

[14]. Pao, The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary.

[15]. Porter, The Apologetics Study Bible.

[16]. Kaiser, Archeological Study Bible NIV: Notes and Commentary on Acts.

[17]. Ibid.

[18]. Porter, The Apologetics Study Bible.

[19]. Pao, The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary.

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