New Testament Lesson 38 (Acts 21-28)
Acts 21–28 show Paul’s courage and of his devotion to Christ. His words and deeds serve as a witness to our Lord’s divinity.
● The Prophecy to Ananias: (Acts 9:15). Before Paul was baptized, the Lord declared to Ananias in Damascus his plans for the future Apostle: Paul would preach the gospel “before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.”
● Paul had fulfilled every aspect of this prophecy by this time in his ministry, except for testifying before kings. The events set in motion by his fifth visit to Jerusalem (since his conversion) would fulfill that prophecy. He came to Jerusalem from the Greek city of Corinth, possibly late in February, AD 58.
● Paul was aware of the dangers he faced when he returned to Jerusalem. But he was not afraid to meet them because the Spirit had directed him to return (Acts 20:22–24).
● He wanted to be there by Pentecost (Acts 20:16).
PAUL AT JERUSALEM
Journey to Jerusalem
● Journey to Tyre (Acts 21:1–3J). Paul’s voyage to Judaea took him from Miletus to Tyre by way of Cyprus. He spent several days in Tyre with convert friends.
— The Saints in Tyre tried to discourage Paul from going up to Jerusalem (Acts 21:4–6).
● Journey to Caesarea (Acts 21:7–9). Paul’s travels to Caesarea by way of Ptolemais. When he arrived in Caesarea he stayed with Philip (Acts 6:5; 8:5–13, 26–40).
— Philip was now an “evangelist” (Patriarch) in the Church (v. 8).
— Philip’s daughters had the spirit of prophecy (v. 9).
— Elder Bruce R. McConkie said: “Though men are appointed to hold rule in the home and in the Church, women are not one whit behind them in spiritual endowments. They prophesy, receive visions, entertain angels (Alma 32:23), enjoy the gifts of the Spirit, and qualify with their husbands for full exaltation in the highest heaven.”1
— Paul’s friends in Caesarea tried to persuade him not to return to Jerusalem (Acts 21:13–14).
— Paul said he was ready not only to be bound but to die for Christ.
Events at the Temple
● Paul reported to the Apostles, including James the brother of Jesus (Acts 21:17–19).
● In Jerusalem Paul confronted again Jewish members of the Church who refused to forsake the rituals of the law of Moses. Paul performed some of them in the temple to avoid conflict and to allow him to teach the gospel (Acts 21:20–26).
● Paul was accused of bringing Gentiles into the sacred precincts of the Inner Temple, beyond the Court of the Gentiles, thus polluting or desecrating the holy place (Acts 21:27–30).
● The prompt action of the captain of the nearby Roman garrison, Claudius Lysias, rescued Paul from the Jews and made him a Roman prisoner (Acts 21:31–36).
● Paul requested permission to speak again to the people of Jerusalem (Acts 21:37–40).
— The captain was surprised that Paul could speak Greek (v. 37).
— Lysias thought Paul was an Egyptian Jewish rebel (v. 38).
— Paul was multilingual; he spoke to the crowd in Hebrew (v. 40).
● Paul bravely spoke to those who had sought his life for his conversion to Christianity (Acts 22:1–21). This is the second of three versions Paul gives of this event.
Tried Before the Sanhedrin
● The crowd clamored again, shouting for Paul’s death. Lysias ordered him taken to the castle for questioning by torture. Paul avoided being scourged by pointing out that he was a Roman citizen (Acts 22:22–29). Scourging an un-condemned Roman citizen was illegal.
● Paul spoke of his clear conscience before both God and men (Acts 23:1–5; 24:16–17).
● Paul cleverly narrowed the focus of the accusation to his belief in the resurrection—a subject on which the Sanhedrin did not agree (Acts 23:6–10). The Saducees did not believe in resurrection; the Pharisees did.
● Jesus appeared a third time to Paul, with comforting assurances that his life would be spared and he would testify in Rome, the empire’s capital (Acts 23:11).
● The plot against Paul involved a conspiracy or secret oaths and curses. More than 40 people were involved in this conspiracy to kill him. Paul’s nephew was then living in Jerusalem and overheard the plot to kill Paul. He brought it to the attention of Roman authorities (Acts 23:12–22).
● Roman officers escorted Paul to Caesarea with 400 infantry and 70 cavalry. To avoid possible ambush, the contingent departed Jerusalem at 3 AM (Acts 23:23–24).
TESTIFYING TO KINGS
The Governor Felix
● Paul was delivered to Antonius Felix who was appointed procurator in AD 52 (Acts 23:25–35). Felix’s Jewish wife was Drusilla, a sister of Herod Agrippa II. They were living in an adulterous relationship because Drusilla had left her husband and “married” Felix, thus violating Jewish law.
● An eloquent orator was brought in to accuse Paul of being “a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world,” “a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes,” and one who goes about profaning the Temple (Acts 24:1–9).
● Paul energetically defended himself. The accusations, he argued, were without foundation and these Jews knew it (Acts 24:10–21).
● Felix realized that these were matters of Jewish law, so he deferred judgment on Paul. He kept the Apostle under house arrest for two years, hoping to induce a bribe from him (Acts 24:22–27). Later, Porcius Festus, the new procurator of Judaea, arrived and agreed to hear the case of Paul (v. 27).
The Governor Festus
● Jewish leaders accused Paul before Festus but without any accompanying evidence. Paul denied their accusations (Acts 25:1–8).
● Willing to appease the Jews, Festus asked Paul if he would go to Jerusalem (Acts 25:9–12).
● “I Appeal unto Caesar” (v. 11). Under Roman law, each citizen accused of crime had the right and privilege of being heard before the imperial seat in Rome.
King Herod Agrippa II
● Before Paul could be sent to Rome, Agrippa (grandson of Herod the great) and his sister (and wife), Bernice, visited Festus. When they were told about Paul, Agrippa requested to hear him (Acts 25:13–27).
● Paul related his conversion story to Herod Agrippa II (Acts 26:1–29).
— The Prophet Joseph Smith had a similar experience with his own testimony, and he compared himself to Paul (JS-Hist 23–25).
● “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28). Elder Neal A. Maxwell noted that “Agrippa’s remark was not a flippant one; he was seriously touched.”2
● Festus and Agrippa agreed that Paul was “not guilty.” He might have been set free if he had not appealed to Rome (Acts 26:30–32).
JOURNEY TO ROME
● Journey to Myra (Acts 27:1–5). Paul’s first ship sailed north to Sidon, then after a day’s rest, they sailed around the north side of the island of Cyprus to Myra.
● Journey to Lasea (Acts 27:6–8). Boarding a different ship, they sailed west to Cnidus. From there they sailed southwest toward the island of Crete. Bad winds dictated sailing under rather than over the island, and they landed at Lasea.
Heeding a Prophet’s Voice
● “The fast” is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement (Acts 27:9–11). After this date, between September and October of each year, the waters were unsafe for travel until weather moderated again early the next spring. Paul warned them against continuing the journey, but they ignored him.
● Difficulties at sea from Clauda to Malta (Acts 27:12–20). They set forth in fair weather, but shortly thereafter they encountered vicious winds. They threw things overboard to lighten the ship, but eventually concluded they would die.
● Paul prophesied that they would not die, based on the words of an angel (Acts 27:21–26).
● When they were about to flee the ship, Paul advised them to stay (Acts 27:27–32). They did.
● As promised, they found land—the island of Melita (Malta)—and were able to swim to shore safely (Acts 27:41–44).
● We learn an important principle from these events. President Spencer W. Kimball said: “The authorities which the Lord has placed in his Church constitute for the people of the Church a harbor, a place of refuge, a hitching post, as it were. No one in this Church will ever go far astray who ties himself securely to the Church Authorities whom the Lord has placed in his Church. . . . And those people who stand close to them will be safe.”3
Miracles on Malta
● Paul received no harm from a snake bite (Acts 28:1–6).
● Paul used his priesthood to heal Publius’ father and others (Acts 28:7–10).
● Because of these miracles, the islanders treated Paul and the others kindly. They stayed on the island for three months until the weather improved.
On to Rome
● Journey to Puteoli (Acts 28:11–13). The missionaries boarded a third ship—from Alexandria—and continued their journey to Rome. They sailed first to Syracuse on the island of Sicily, then after three days rest they passed between Sicily and Italy at Rhegium. From there they sailed north to Puteoli, a principal port of southern Italy.
● They journeyed north on the Appian Way (Acts 28:14–15). This most famous of all Roman roads stretched from Capua to Rome. Once, after a slave rebellion led by Spartacus, six thousand slaves were crucified on poles along the whole length of the road.
EVENTS AT ROME
● At Rome, Paul was allowed relative freedom, which he used to teach the gospel. The first people he called on were his own people, the Jews (Acts 28:16–19).
● Paul taught them concerning Jesus, the Messiah, and some of them believed. He also taught the Gentile Romans (Acts 28:20–29).
● For two more years, the Apostle preached in Rome, “no man forbidding him,” as the Lord had promised he would (Acts 28:30–31). With many able associates, he was able to continue the Lord’s work.
The Epistles from Rome:
● While at Rome, Paul wrote epistles to many of the Saints in other cities that he had previously visited.
— Paul Wrote to the Colossians from Rome, about AD 61
— Paul Wrote to Philemon from Rome, AD 61
— Paul Wrote to the Ephesians from Rome, AD 61
— Paul Wrote to the Philippians from Rome, AD 62
1. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:181.
2. Taking Up the Cross, 255.
3. In Conference Report, April 1951, 104.