1. SUFFERING AS HIS MASTER
a. As an internationally renowned advocate for Christ entering the revered inner court of the temple at Jerusalem, to what peril did Paul expose himself? Acts 21:27, 28.
“Those who advised Paul to take this step [of ceremonial purification] 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 occasion was to risk his life.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 406.
b. What false accusation did the Jews thrust upon Paul as they violently dragged him from the precincts of the temple? Acts 21:29.
c. Relate the tumultuous uproar that followed. Acts 21:30–36. Of what might this whole scene remind us? Mark 15:12–14.
2. GOD’S SERVANT PRESERVED
a. What did Paul request (in the Greek language) from the man holding him in custody? Acts 21:37. Who had the chief captain wrongly assumed Paul to be—and why was he quick to grant Paul’s next request? Acts 21:38–40. What can we learn from the kinds of opportunities Paul was always seeking? 2 Timothy 4:2.
“Do not mingle with the world from choice; but if you have a word of warning, of invitation, of entreaty, do not fear to speak it. Lose no opportunity of witnessing for Christ. He is the source of all grace, and He will send to His people the precious golden oil, enabling them to witness boldly for Him. As we consecrate ourselves to God, the Holy Spirit will impart to us the holy oil, that our lamps may be kept bright and shining.”—The Review and Herald, May 16, 1899.
b. Why were Paul’s opening remarks in Hebrew relatively well received by many of his Jewish hearers? Acts 22:1–5. Why was Paul even able to continue his testimony until that certain point in his discourse when the Jews could tolerate it no more? Acts 22:6–22.
“Had [Paul] 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.
“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’ (Acts 22:21).
“Hitherto the people had listened with close attention, but when Paul reached the point in his history where he was appointed Christ’s ambassador to the Gentiles, their fury broke forth anew. 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.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 409, 410.
3. BEFORE THE SANHEDRIN
a. Unable to understand Hebrew, what action did the chief captain take against his prisoner, based solely on the fury of the mob against him? Acts 22:23, 24. How did Paul quietly avert the preparations for torture to be inflicted upon him, and what plan was arranged for him? Acts 22:25–30.
b. How strong were Paul’s chances of being allowed to testify properly before the Jewish council? Acts 23:1–5. Realizing the futile situation, what shrewd step did Paul take—and why did God have to use the heathen ruler to protect his servant? Acts 23:6–10. What does this experience bring to mind?
“Satan was bent on shutting out the divine light from the world, and he used his utmost cunning to destroy the Saviour. But He who never slumbers nor sleeps was watching over His beloved Son. He who had rained manna from heaven for Israel and had fed Elijah in the time of famine provided in a heathen land a refuge for Mary and the child Jesus.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 65.
c. What perspective do we need to have in considering the trials of Paul, as explained in his own words? 2 Corinthians 4:17, 18.
“This life at best is but the Christian’s winter and the bleak winds of winter—disappointments, losses, pain, and anguish—are our lot here; but our hopes are reaching forward to the Christian’s summer, when we shall change climate, leave all the wintry blasts and fierce tempests behind, and be taken to those mansions Jesus has gone to prepare for those that love Him. . . .
“When we contrast our circumstances with those of the apostle Paul, we should feel rebuked for ever harboring the least feeling of murmuring or complaint. We know but little by experience of self-denial, and persecution, and pain for Christ's sake. We are here as probationers, and we must be tested and proved.”—The Review and Herald, November 7, 1878.
4. LIGHT IN DARKNESS
a. While Paul was alone that night, ashamed of his countrymen, and bitterly persecuted for his Saviour, how did God remember him? Acts 23:11.
“While reflecting on the trying experiences of the day [when the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the multitude were divided], Paul began to fear that his course might not have been pleasing to God. Could it be that he had made a mistake after all in visiting Jerusalem? Had his great desire to be in union with his brethren led to this disastrous result?
“The position which the Jews as God’s professed people occupied before an unbelieving world, caused the apostle intense anguish of spirit. How would those heathen officers look upon them?—claiming to be worshipers of Jehovah, and assuming sacred office, yet giving themselves up to the control of blind, unreasoning anger, seeking to destroy even their brethren who dared to differ with them in religious faith, and turning their most solemn deliberative council into a scene of strife and wild confusion. Paul felt that the name of his God had suffered reproach in the eyes of the heathen.
“And now he was in prison, and he knew that his enemies, in their desperate malice, would resort to any means to put him to death. Could it be that his work for the churches was ended and that ravening wolves were to enter in now? The cause of Christ was very near to Paul’s heart, and with deep anxiety he thought of the perils of the scattered churches, exposed as they were to the persecutions of just such men as he had encountered in the Sanhedrin council. In distress and discouragement he wept and prayed.
“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 had been with him before the Sanhedrin council; 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 night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of Me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome’ (Acts 23:11).”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 412, 413.
b. What could Paul realize at that moment? Psalm 63:5–9; Deuteronomy 31:6.
5. RAYS OF LIGHT AMIDST THE TRIAL
a. What wise principles and promises echo down through the ages whenever we find ourselves in difficult, perplexing situations similar to those Paul suffered? Micah 7:7, 8; 2 Corinthians 4:8–10.
“Had the leaders in the church fully surrendered their feeling of bitterness toward the apostle, and accepted him as one specially called of God to bear the gospel to the Gentiles, the Lord would have spared him to them. God had not ordained that Paul’s labors should so soon end, but He did not work a miracle to counteract the train of circumstances to which the course of the leaders in the church at Jerusalem had given rise.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 417.
b. While Paul was in prison, what strange vow was being made—and by what means did God provide for the chief captain to be informed of what was going on and to take action in Paul’s behalf? Acts 23:12–30. How does the Lord look upon such fasting? Isaiah 58:2–5.
c. What did the soldiers do with Paul, and what did the governor decide? Acts 23:31–35. How did Christ prophesy this would happen to His followers—and why could Paul view this trial as a privilege? Luke 21:12; Psalm 119:46; Proverbs 22:29.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. How can we avoid the type of situation Paul had in the temple?
2. What was Paul’s foremost priority in this crisis?
3. How does the apostle describe his perspective in the midst of great trial?
4. In the night, how did Christ shower His mercy upon His troubled servant?
5. What principles do we learn from this chapter in Paul’s experience?