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21. Paul Arrives in Jerusalem
1And when it came to pass that were parted from them and had set sail, we came with a straight course unto Cos, and the next day unto Rhodes, and from thence unto Patara: 2and having found a ship crossing over unto Phoenicia, we went aboard, and set sail. 3And when we had come in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left hand, we sailed unto Syria, and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unlade her burden. 4And having found the disciples, we tarried there seven days: and these said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not set foot in Jerusalem. 5And when it came to pass that we had accomplished the days, we departed and went on our journey; and they all, with wives and children, brought us on our way till we were out of the city: and kneeling down on the beach, we prayed, and bade each other farewell; 6and we went on board the ship, but they returned home again. 7And when we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais; and we saluted the brethren, and abode with them one day. 8And on the morrow we departed, and came unto Caesarea: and entering into the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, we abode with him. 9Now this man had four virgin daughters, who prophesied. 10And as we tarried there some days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. 11And coming to us, and taking Paul's girdle, he bound his own feet and hands, and said, Thus saith the Holy Spirit, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. 12And when we heard these things, both we and they of that place besought him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13Then Paul answered, What do ye, weeping and breaking my heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. 14And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done. 15And after these days we took up our baggage and went up to Jerusalem. 16And there went with us also certain of the disciples from Caesarea, bringing with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we should lodge. 17And when we were come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. 18And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. 19And when he had saluted them, he rehearsed one by one the things which God had wrought among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20And they, when they heard it, glorified God; and they said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of them that have believed; and they are all zealous for the law: 21and they have been informed concerning thee, that thou teachest all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children neither to walk after the customs. 22What is it therefore? They will certainly hear that thou art come. 23Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men that have a vow on them; 24these take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges for them, that they may shave their heads: and all shall know that there is no truth in the things whereof they have been informed concerning thee; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, keeping the law. 25But as touching the Gentiles that have believed, we wrote, giving judgment that they should keep themselves from things sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what is strangled, and from fornication. 26Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them went into the temple, declaring the fulfilment of the days of purification, until the offering was offered for every one of them. 27And when the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the multitude and laid hands on him, 28crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man that teacheth all men everywhere against the people, and the law, and this place; and moreover he brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath defiled this holy place. 29For they had before seen with him in the city Trophimus the Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple. 30And all the city was moved, and the people ran together; and they laid hold on Paul, and dragged him out of the temple: and straightway the doors were shut. 31And as they were seeking to kill him, tidings came up to the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in confusion. 32And forthwith he took soldiers and centurions, and ran down upon them: and they, when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, left off beating Paul. 33Then the chief captain came near, and laid hold on him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and inquired who he was, and what he had done. 34And some shouted one thing, some another, among the crowd: and when he could not know the certainty for the uproar, he commanded him to be brought into the castle. 35And when he came upon the stairs, so it was that he was borne of the soldiers for the violence of the crowd; 36for the multitude of the people followed after, crying out, Away with him. 37And as Paul was about to be brought into the castle, he saith unto the chief captain, May I say something unto thee? And he said, Dost thou know Greek? 38Art thou not then the Egyptian, who before these days stirred up to sedition and led out into the wilderness the four thousand men of the Assassins? 39But Paul said, I am a Jew, of Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and I beseech thee, give me leave to speak unto the people. 40And when he had given him leave, Paul, standing on the stairs, beckoned with the hand unto the people; and when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew language, saying,
1. Luke reckoneth up briefly the course of his sailing; and that not only to win credit to the history, that we may know what was done in every place, but that the readers may weigh with themselves the invincible and heroic fortitude which was in Paul, who would rather be tossed and troubled with such long, unlevel, 452452 “Ac flexuosis,” and Winding. and troublesome journeys, that he might serve Christ, than provide for his own quietness. Whereas he saith that they were drawn and pulled away, it is not simply referred unto the distance of places; but because the brethren stood on the shore, so long as they could see the ship wherein Paul and his companions were carried. He nameth the havens where the ship arrived, 453453 “Applicuit,” touched, for this cause that we may know that they sailed quietly without trouble of tempest. Let us search the describers of countries 454454 “Consulantur geographi,” geographers may be consulted. touching the situation of the cities whereof he maketh mention; it is sufficient for me to show Luke’s purpose.
4. And when they had found disciples. Though the number of the faithful was but small, yet there came some seed of the gospel thither, according to the prophecies Of the prophets, (Isaiah 23:18) lest Tyrus should be altogether void of the blessing of God. And here, as in other places going before, Luke calleth Christians disciples, that we may know that those alone are numbered in the flock of Christ who have embraced his doctrine by faith. For that is a vain 455455 “Lusoria,” elusory. and false profession for a man to give his name to Christ, and not to understand what he teacheth or speaketh. And let the readers mark, that Paul stayed seven days at Tyrus, for no other cause, saving that he might strengthen them. So that we see, that whithersoever he came he foreslowed [neglected] no occasion to do good.
They said by the Spirit. Namely, with the approbation of speech, that Paul might know that they spake by the Spirit of prophecy. Surely this was no small temptation to cause him not to finish the journey which he had taken in hand, seeing the Holy Ghost did dissuade him from the same. And this was a very fair color 456456 “Color apprime speciosus,” a very specious pretext. to fly from the cross, if he had cared for his own safety, to be drawn back as it were with the hand of God.
Notwithstanding, he ceaseth not to hold on thither whither he knew he was called by the Lord. Notwithstanding, here ariseth a question, how the brethren can dissuade him by the Spirit from doing that which Paul did testify he doth by the secret motion of the same Spirit? Is the Spirit contrary to himself, that he doth now loose Paul whom he held bound inwardly? I answer, that there be diverse gifts of the Spirit; so that it is no marvel if those who excel in the gift of prophecy be sometimes destitute of judgment or strength. 457457 “Fortitudine,” fortitude. The Lord showed to these brethren, of whom Luke maketh mention, what should come to pass; yet, nevertheless, they know not what is expedient, and what Paul’s calling doth require, because the measure of their gift doth not reach so far. And the Lord would have his servant admonished of purpose, partly, that through long meditation, he might be better furnished and prepared to suffer whatsoever should come, partly that his constancy might more plainly appear, when as being certified by prophecies of the doleful event, he doth, notwithstanding, wittingly and willingly, make haste to endure whatsoever things shall befall him.
5. With their wives and children. This was no small testimony of love, in that they accompanied Paul out of the city with their wives and children, which thing Luke doth report, partly that he might commend their godliness according as it deserved; partly that he might declare that Paul had that honor given him which was due to him. Whence we do also gather, that he meant nothing less than to provide for his own commodity, seeing that he was not kept back with so great good will, which was a pleasant bait to entice him to stay. And we must also note the solemn custom of praying in weightier affairs, and that being certified by God of the danger, they are more stirred up to pray.
7. Luke doth briefly declare that Paul was also received at Ptolemais by the brethren. This is a city of Phenicia, standing upon the sea-coast, not far from the borders of Judea, from which Paul and his companions had no long journey to Cesarea. But if the readers be disposed to know farther touching the situation of regions, let them resort unto the describers of places and countries [geographers]. Furthermore, he saith, that when he came to Cesarea, they lodged with Philip, whom he calleth an Evangelist, though he were one of the seven deacons, as we may see in the sixth chapter (Acts 6:5). By this we may easily gather, that that deaconship was an office which continued but for a time; 458458 “Temporale munus,” a temporary trace, (appointment.) because it had not otherwise been lawful for Philip to forsake Jerusalem, and to go to Cesarea. And in this place he is set before us, not as a voluntary forsaker of his office, but as one to whom a greater and more excellent charge was committed. The evangelists, in my judgment, were in the midst between apostles and doctors. For it was a function next to the apostles to preach the gospel in all places, and not to have any certain place of abode; 459459 “Nec praeficerentur certae staticni,” and yet not be appointed to a fixed station. only the degree of honor was inferior. For when Paul describeth the order of the Church, (Ephesians 4:11) he doth so put them after the apostles, that he showeth that they have more room given them where they may teach than the pastors, who are tied to certain places. Therefore, Philip did for a time exercise the office of a deacon at Jerusalem, whom the Church thought afterward to be a meet man to whom the treasure of the gospel should be committed.
9. Four daughters. This is added for the commendation of Philip, not only that we might know that his house was well ordered, but also that it was famous and excellent through the blessing of God. For, assuredly, it was no small gift to have four daughters all endowed with the spirit of prophecy.
By this means the Lord meant to beautify the first beginnings of the gospel, when he raised up men and women to foretell things to come. Prophecies had now almost ceased many years among the Jews, to the end they might be more attentive and desirous to hear the new voice of the gospel. Therefore, seeing that prophesying, which was in a manner quite ceased, doth now after long time return again, it was a token of a more perfect state. Notwithstanding, it seemeth that the same was the reason why it ceased shortly after; for God did support the old people with diverse foretellings, until Christ should make an end of all prophecies. 460460 “Adventu suo,” by his advent. Therefore, it was meet that the new kingdom of Christ should be thus furnished and beautified with this furniture, that all men might know that that promised visitation of the Lord was present; and it was also expedient that it should last but for a short time, lest the faithful should always wait for some farther thing, or lest that curious wits might have occasion given to seek or invent some new thing ever now and then. For we know that when that ability and skill was taken away, there were, notwithstanding, many brain-sick fellows, who did boast that they were prophets; and also it may be that the frowardness of men did deprive the Church of this gift. But that one cause ought to be sufficient, in that God, by taking away prophecies, did testify that the end and perfection was present in Christ; and it is uncertain how these maids did execute the office of prophesying, saving that the Spirit of God did so guide and govern them, that he did not overthrow the order which he himself set down. And forasmuch as he doth not suffer women to bear any public office in the Church, it is to be thought that they did prophesy at home, or in some private place, without the common assembly.
10. A certain prophet. Though Luke doth not plainly express the same, yet do I conjecture that this Agabus was the same of whom mention is made in the eleventh chapter, (Acts 11:28) who foretold that there should be famine under the reign of Claudius Caesar. And when as Luke calleth him a prophet, as of late he called, the four daughters of Philip, he signifieth that it was not a common but a peculiar gift. Now, we must see to what end the persecution which was at hand was now again showed by Agabus. As concerning Paul, he was sufficiently told already. 461461 “Jam satis superque admonitus fuerat,” he had been more than sufficiently warned already. Therefore, I do not doubt but that this confirmation was added for other men’s sake; because the Lord meant every where to make known the bonds of his servant, partly that they might know that he entered the combat willingly, partly that they might perceive that he was appointed of God to be a champion to fight for the gospel. It was surely a profitable example of invincible constancy, seeing that he offered himself willingly and wittingly to the violence of the adversaries; and no less profitable is it for us at this day, that his apostleship should be confirmed with this voluntary and no less constant giving over of his life.
The man who owneth this girdle. It was an usual thing among the prophets to represent those things which they spake by signs; neither did they confirm their prophecies by using signs, through their own motion, but at the commandment of the Spirit, as when Isaias is commanded to go barefoot, (Isaiah 20:2) Jeremiah to put a yoke upon his neck, to sell the possession and to buy it, (Jeremiah 27:2, and Jeremiah 32:7) and Ezekiel to dig through the wall of his house privily, and in the same night to carry forth burthens, (Ezekiel 12:5). These and such like might seem to the common sort to be toys; 462462 “Ludicra,” ludicrous. but the same Spirit, who did apply signs to his words, did inwardly touch the hearts of the godly, as if they had been brought to the very thing itself. So this spectacle, mentioned by Luke, did no less move Paul’s companions, than if they had seen him bound in deed. The false prophets did afterward essay to delude the simple by this policy, as Satan is in a manner God’s ape, and his ministers do envy the servants of God. Zedekias made himself horns, wherewith he promised Syria should be pushed. Ananias, by breaking Jeremiah’s yoke, put the people in a vain hope of deliverance. God hath suffered the reprobate to be deluded with such delusions, that he might punish their unbelief.
But, forasmuch as there was in them no force of the Spirit, their vanity did no whit hurt the faithful. This is also worthy to be noted, that Agabus doth not set before their eyes a dumb spectacle, but he coupleth therewith the word, whereby he may show to the faithful the use and end of the ceremony.
12. Both we. Because they had not all one revelation, it is no marvel if their judgments were diverse. For seeing these holy men knew that there consisted much in the life or death of one man, they would not have him to come in danger rashly. And their desire is worthy [of] praise, in that they desired to provide for the common safety of the Church by keeping back Paul. But, on the other side, Paul’s constancy deserveth so much the more praise, when as he continueth so steadfast 463463 “Inflexibilis,” inflexible, in the calling of God. For he was not ignorant what great trouble he should suffer by reason of his bands. But because he knoweth the will of God, which was his only rule in taking counsel, he maketh no account of all other things, that he may follow it. And, assuredly, we must be so subject to the will and pleasure of God, that no profit, no kind of reason may remove us from obeying him. 464464 “A simplici ejus obsequio,” from simple obedience to him. When Paul doth reprehend the brethren, because they afflict his heart with weeping, he doth sufficiently declare that he was not hardened, 465465 “Ferreum,” iron-hearted. but that he was brought unto some feeling and suffering together with them. 466466 “Quin amore ad συμπαθειαν induceretur,” but by love was induced to sympathy. Therefore, the tears of the godly did wound his heart; but that softness did not turn him out of the way, but that he proceeded to follow God with a straight course. Therefore, we must use such courtesy toward our brethren, that the beck or will of God have always the upper hand. Now Paul doth again declare by his answer, that the servants of Christ cannot be prepared to do their duty, unless they despise death; and that none can ever be well encouraged to live to the Lord, but those who will willingly lay down their lives for the testimony of the truth.
14. We ceased saying. If they had thought that he ran rashly unto death, they would not have ceased so. Therefore, they yield lest they resist the Holy Spirit, whereby they understand that Paul is governed. For that which they had heard before, by the mouth of Paul, that he was drawn, as it were, by the bands of the Spirit, was quite out of their heads by reason of the sorrow which they had conceived; but when they be taught again that it was the will of God that it should be so, they think it unlawful for them to resist any longer. And with this bridle must all our affections be kept in, that nothing be so bitter, or doleful, or hard, which the will of God may not mitigate and mollify. For so often as any thing which is hard or sharp doth fall out, we give God small honor, unless this cogitation prevail with us, that we must obey him.
15. When we had taken up our burdens. Paul’s companions declare, that when they went about to call back Paul from danger, they did rather care for the common safety of the Church, than every man for his own life. For after they had taken the repulse, they do not refuse to take part with him in the same danger; and yet this was a plausible excuse that they were bound by no law to be hauled to suffer death, through one man’s stubbornness. And this is truly to bring our affections in subjection to God, when we are terrified with no fear, but every one of us endeavoreth, so much as he is able, to further that which we know doth please him. Also, it appeareth more plainly what great ferventness of godliness was in the rest, who of their own accord accompany him, and bring him an host; whereas, notwithstanding, they might well have feared many discommodities.