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Acts 21:27-22:29 – Paul is arrested in the Temple

Jews from Asia where Paul had proclaimed the gospel cause a riot in the temple which results in Paul being seized. If it had not been for the intervention of a Roman tribune Paul may very well have been killed. The riot is caused by the Jews from Asia who give the false testimony James had spoken of – that Paul was teaching against the law of Moses and the temple – and because they had seen Paul in Jerusalem with Trophimus the Ephesian and then made the assumption that he had brought Gentiles into the temple.

Paul is rescued by the Roman tribune although the tribune’s motivation was not so much to rescue Paul as to prevent a riot. Paul is able to gain the tribune’s permission to address the crowd. Paul speaks in classic Hebrew rather than common Aramaic which would have been harder for most people to understand and therefore caused the crowd to become quieter. Paul then proceeds with his personal testimony. This has already been shared earlier in Acts, but it is repeated because of its significance to the mission to the Gentiles.

First Paul outlines his credentials as a obedient and zealous observer of the law of Moses – educated as a disciple of the great Gamaliel, trained in the strict manner of the law of our fathers and having a zeal for the law. This zeal is illustrated in his having persecuted the followers of the Way endorsed by the high priest himself.

Next, he outlined his encountering Jesus of Nazareth in terms of a heavenly revelation and subsequent blindness. This in turn is followed with prophetic words spoken by Ananias – importantly for the context identified as a devout man according to the law well-spoken of by all the Jews who lived there. All of this goes in Paul’s favor with the crowd.

Finally, he speaks of a further divine revelation in the temple itself. At this point the crowd would have been in awe of Paul. However, Paul then indicates that the divine revelation spoke of the Jews’ rejection of the divine testimony and that God would favor the Gentiles. Luke records: Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.” And as they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air.

What the Jews from Asia and the Jewish crowd hated so much about the gospel is that God would favor the Gentiles alongside Israel.