Godís Messengerís can Expect Hostility

Acts 21:17-36

Jerry A Collins




  1. When should we give and receive advice?
  2. How do you discern direction from the HS?
  3. Why should Godís messenger expect hostility?


There may be situations you face that will require that you take a conciliatory course of action in order to avoid conflict. I was ushered into the side room of the church I grew up in one morning after a service by our new pastor. He asked me and two others to cut our hair above our ears and remove any sideburns so that he could use our gifts and leadership in the church. If we refused we could not expect to become part of the ministry leadership he hoped to have in the church. I had a decision to make. I was conciliatory enough not to cause any conflict so I left the church. Another situation involved a girl I dated while I was beginning college. I was beginning my study of NT Greek at the time and using a NASB. She informed me that in her family they only used the KJV and if her parents learned of my study and preference it might break their hearts knowing that she was dating me. Again, the opportunity to be conciliatory. No, I did not marry her! The Apostle Paul warmly received by the spiritual leadership when he arrives in Jerusalem, is also asked to consider a conciliatory course of action. They want Paul to avoid what they consider unnecessary conflict. In our passage we will learn how we should handle this kind of advice and when it might be appropriate to heed it.


(1) Delighted to receive Paul 17-21. In vs 17-21 the leadership in the Jerusalem church is delighted to receive Paul. They gather to hear his account of Godís wonders among the Gentiles and give God the glory due Him. We get the idea that they are free from any suspicions that others have displayed about Paul and his ministry. This is an official reception of Paul by the leaders of the Jerusalem church. James and all the elders were present. One by one, not in vague generalities or tedious statistics, he specified the events in his missionary journeys. They heard and praised God.

(2) Their joy is mixed with concern 20-22. a potentially serious problem had developed, one they needed Paulís help to resolve. First, they reminded him of large numbers of Jewish believers who remained devoted to the ceremonial aspects of the law vs 20 like the feasts, Sabbath regulations, ritual vows and dietary laws. But why would they still cling to these? 1. Apostles did not oppose the continuation of these practices. Nowhere are they condemned for observing them. The Jerusalem council in chp 15 did not prohibit this. 2. God seems to be tolerant of this during this period of transition in the church. In a few years this would no longer be a major issue in the church because Jerusalem would be destroyed by Rome in 70AD and Christianity would move away predominantly into the Gentile regions. Antioch, Alexander, Constantinople and Rome would ascend into prominence as church centers. 3. Their zeal for these customs and rituals seemed to enhance their love for God and desire to obey Him. Second, rumors, alleging Paul taught Jewish believers to abandon their Jewish heritage, was a serious threat to the unity and ministry of the church. The ones doing the telling of these lies have been drilling these false rumors to the Jews again and again. Of course, Paul nowhere taught this. However, keeping with the Jerusalem Council decision, he insisted that gentiles not be pressured into observing these Jewish rituals. So, the question, what then should be done? Vs 22. He is about to receive some advice.

(3) They advise him on a conciliatory course of action 23-25 Paul is advised to (1) associate with 4 men who have taken a ritual vow by participating in a ritual purification with them and (2) by paying their expenses for a head shaving as part of keeping their vow. In this way all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the law vs 24b. Then, after giving this advice, they reaffirm that they still stand behind the principle of gentile liberty in no sense retreating from or compromising this decision at the Jerusalem council. Why mite this be good advice?

1. Not lightly or hastily given 23. This had been an ongoing problem and seemed to begin having given a lot of thot to this. Contrasted with earlier advice (21:12,14) which was quick and not thot out. 2. Based on principle not subjective. 1st advice emotional but elders advice truthful. Even well-intentioned concern can produce ill-conceived advice. 3. 1st advice urged him to look out for self while Elders advice sought action to benefit others.

(4) Paul listens to their advice 26. Paul agreed to the proposal. Doing so would not compromise biblical truth as he himself will write in Romans 14-15, such matters are issues of Christian liberty (1 Cor 9:19-23). Paul had taken similar vows before (18:18). However, tho the advice is wise, and tho Paul graciously complied, nothing could penetrate the perverse blindness into which the Jewish nation had fallen in unbelief. A chain of events now set in motion culminating in Paulís arrest. We have little control over the consequences of the advice we either give or follow. Even with the elders and Paul the advice given and followed does not produce the hoped for result.


(1) Before this conciliatory gesture can be completed hostility erupts 27-29. It has been the same everywhere Paul has served. The grace and patience of god reaching out to the Jewish people thru his ministry never seemed to be allowed to run itís course but repeatedly met with violence and antagonism (13:44-45; 14:5, 19).

(2) The irony is that the slander against Paul at the moment is in direct contradiction to his present activity 28-29. Hatred jumps to slanderous conclusions with only slivers of evidence.

(3) Thru the most ill-founded slander a near riot provoked 30-32. Interesting that the doors to the temple were shut. This is the last time in Acts that the Temple appears. Dragged outside and doors shut, there is no real place in the Jewish Temple for the followers of Jesus. The nation has locked His testimony out dooming their own religious system and rituals.

(4) Once again the roman power appears as protector of the Christian witness (18;12-17; 19;35-41) 33-36. God is in control and the powers that exist are ordained of God and can serve His concerns against the violence and hatred of unbelievers.

1. You must decide for yourself if you will follow advice or not.

2. You may have to reject advice even when it represents majority view as in 1st view even Luke objected.

3. Do not base advice given or received on assumption that God does not want you to suffer.

4. Good advice will stand on scripture and not apart from it.5. Good advice can produce difficult situations.

6. Be sure you are willing to live with the consequences of advice you follow or not.