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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,
17. They received us gladly. Luke reciteth this, therefore, that he may set forth the equity of the brethren, who did not credit rumors 467467 “Sinistris ramoribus,” sinister rumours. and false reports. Though many envious and wicked men did daily, one after another, endeavor to bring Paul in contempt, yet, because James and his fellows in office were well persuaded of his uprightness, they were not estranged from him. Therefore, they receive him now courteously and brotherly as a servant of Christ, and declare that he is welcome. This moderation must we observe diligently, that we be not too hasty to believe wicked reports, especially when those who have given some testimony of their honesty, and whom we have tried 468468 “Experti sumus,” experienced. to serve God faithfully, are burdened with crimes unknown to us, or else doubtful, because Satan knoweth that nothing is more fit to lay waste the kingdom of Christ, than discord and disagreement among the faithful, he ceaseth not to spread abroad false 469469 “Obliquos sermones,” indirect speeches, insinuations. counsel. speeches, which may cause one to suspect another. Therefore, we must shut our ears against false reports, that we may believe nothing concerning the faithful ministers of the Word, but that which we know to be true.
18. All the elders were present. We may gather that out of this place which we had already in the fifteenth chapter. So often as any weighty business was to be handled, the elders were wont to come together, to the end the consultation might be more quiet without the multitude. We shall see anon, that the people were likewise admitted in their order, yet after that the elders had had their secret consultation 470470 “Interius consilium,” more private among themselves.
19. And now Paul showeth his modesty when he doth not make himself the author of those things which he had done, but giving the praise to God, doth call himself only the minister whose industry [agency] God had used. As we must grant, that whatsoever thing is excellent and worthy of praise, it is not done by our own power, but forasmuch as God doth work in us; and especially touching the edifying of the Church. Again, it appeareth how far off the elders were from envy, when they glorify God for the joyful success. But because mention is made of no other apostle besides James, we may conjecture that they were gone into diverse places to spread abroad and preach the gospel as their calling did require; for the Lord had not appointed them to stay still at Jerusalem; but after they had made a beginning there, he commanded them to go into Judea and other parts of the world. Moreover, the error of those men, who think that James was one of the disciples whom Paul numbereth among the three pillars of the Church, is refuted before in the fifteenth chapter. And though the same commandment was given to him which was given to the rest of his fellows in office; yet I do not doubt but that they did so divide themselves, that James stood still at Jerusalem, whither many strangers were wont daily to resort. For that was all one as if he had preached the gospel far and wide in strange 471471 “Remotis,” remote. places.
Thou seest, brother, how many thousands. This oration or speech hath two members. For, first, the elders say, that so many of the Jews as were converted, seeing they be earnest followers of the law, are evil affected towards Paul, because they think that he endeavoreth, with might and main, to abolish the law. Secondly, they exhort him that making a solemn vow he purge himself, that he may not be had in suspicion any longer. They object to Paul, the multitude of believers, that he may the more willingly yield to them. For if they had been a few stubborn fellows, he would not have been so much moved. But now he may not neglect both much people, and the whole body of the Church.
Undoubtedly, that zeal of the law, which was in them, was corrupt, and assuredly even the very elders declare sufficiently that they like it not. For though they do not condemn it openly, neither sharply complain of the same, yet because they separate themselves from their affection, they secretly confess that they err. If it had been a zeal according to knowledge, it ought to have begun at them; [selves] but they contend not for the law itself, neither do they pretend the due reverence thereof, neither do they subscribe to those who are earnest followers of it. Therefore, they both signify that they are of another mind, and also that they do not allow [approve] the superstition of the people.
Notwithstanding it is objected, that they say that Paul was burdened with a false report or slander; again, when they require at his hands satisfaction, they seem to nourish that zeal. I answer, that though that were a true report, in some respect, wherewith the Jews were offended, yet was it mixed with a slander. Paul did so teach the abrogating of the law, that notwithstanding by this means the authority thereof did not only continue sound and perfect, but it was more holy. For as we said, in the seventh chapter, the ceremonies should be vain, unless the effect thereof had been showed in Christ. Therefore, those who say that they were abolished by the coming of Christ, are so far from being blasphemous against the law, that they rather confirm the truth thereof. We must consider two things in ceremonies; the truth, whereto is annexed the efficacy; secondly, the external use. Furthermore, the abrogating of the external use, which Christ brought, dependeth hereupon, in that he is the sound body, 472472 “Ipse est solidum corpus,” he himself is the entire body. and that nothing was shadowed in times past which is not fulfilled in him. This differeth much from the falling away from the law, to show the true 473473 “Legitimum.” legitimate. end thereof, that the figures may have an end, and that the spiritual truth thereof may always be in force. Wherefore we see that they were malicious and unjust interpreters, who laid apostacy to Paul’s charge, though he did call away the faithful from the external worship of the law. And whereas they command Paul to make a vow to that end, that he may prove himself to be a keeper of the law, it tendeth to no other end, saving that he may testify that he doth not detest the law like a wicked apostate, who did himself shake off the Lord’s yoke, and move others unto the like rebellion.
That they ought not to circumcise. It was so indeed; for Paul taught that both Jews and Gentiles were set at liberty. For these sentences are general with him. Circumcision is nothing (1 Corinthians 7:19). Again, We be circumcised by baptism in Christ, not with circumcision made with hands; again, Let no man judge you in meat or drink, or in the choice of feasts, which are shadows of things to come; but the body is in Christ (Colossians 2:11, 16). Again, Whatsoever cometh into the shambles, and whatsoever is set before you, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake (1 Corinthians 10:25). Again, Be not inwrapped again in the yoke of bondage (Galatians 5:1). Seeing that he spake thus everywhere without exception, he freed the Jews from the necessity of keeping the law.
And lest I stand too long upon this, one place shall be sufficient, where he compareth the law to a tutor, under which the old Church was, as in the childhood thereof; but now knowing the grace of Christ, it is grown up, that it may be free from ceremonies. In that place he speaketh undoubtedly both of the Jews and Gentiles. Also, when he saith that the hand-writing of the law, which did consist in decrees, (Colossians 2:14) is blotted out and nailed to the cross by Christ, he setteth free the Jews, as well as the Gentiles, from the ceremonies, which he calleth in that place decrees. But seeing that he did not precisely reject ceremonies, in teaching that the coming of Christ did make an end of the observing thereof, that was no revolting, as the envious Jews thought it to be.
Neither were the elders ignorant of Paul’s liberty. Therefore, seeing they understand the matter very well, their meaning is, to have this alone made known to the rude and unskillful, that Paul meant nothing less than to persuade the Jews to contemn the law. Therefore, they behold not the bare matter, but knowing what the common sort thought of Paul, by reason of the reports 474474 “Mallgnis rumoribus,” malignant reports. which went about concerning him, they seek to cure the same. Though I wot not whether this were more importunate than equal, [just] which they required at Paul’s hands. And by this it appeareth how preposterous the cruelty [credulity] of men is in receiving false reports, and how fast a false opinion, once rashly received, doth stick. It is certain that James and his fellows in office did endeavor to maintain and defend Paul’s good report, and to put away those lies which did hurt his estimation; yet let them do what they can, they will speak evil of Paul. Unless, peradventure, they were too slack in the beginning, that they might gratify their countrymen, so that they were not their own men [free] afterward.
22. The multitude must needs come together. The verb is a verb neuter, as if they should say, the multitude must of necessity come together. For it had been an absurd thing that an apostle, of such rare report, should not come before the whole multitude of the faithful. For if he had eschewed the light and sight of people, the sinister suspicion might have been increased. Nevertheless, we see how modestly the elders behaved themselves in nourishing concord, when as they prevent the offense of the people in time, saving that they bear too much 475475 “Nimis indulgent,” are too indulgent to. peradventure with their infirmity, in requiring a vow of Paul. But this moderation must be kept in the Church, that the pastors be in great authority, and yet that they rule not proudly as lords, neither despise the rest of the body. For the distinction of orders, which is the bond of peace, ought not to be any cause of dissension.
23. Do that which we say to thee. The elders seem (as I said even now) to be fallen unto a foolish pampering [indulgence] through too much love of their nation. But the manifest judgment of that thing 476476 “Liquidum ejus rei judicium,” a clear judgment on the case. dependeth upon the circumstances which are hid from us at this day: yet they knew them well. The whole body almost did consist upon [of] Jews, so that they needed not to fear the offending of the Gentiles. For in other regions this was the cause of departure, 477477 “Discessionis,” schism or dissension. because every man was wedded to his own custom, and would prescribe a law to others. Furthermore, they had at Jerusalem many things which might provoke them to keep the ceremonies of the law, so that they had a greater excuse if they did more slowly forsake them. And though their zeal were not void of fault, yet as it was an hard matter to reform it, so it could not be done at a sudden. We see how this superstition was scarce in long time pulled from the apostles; and because new disciples came daily unto the faith, the infirmity was nourished in all together. And yet, notwithstanding, we must not deny but that ignorance was coupled with obstinacy, which the elders did nevertheless tolerate, lest they should do more hurt by using violent remedies. I leave it indifferent whether they did pass measure or no. 478478 “An voturn exeesserint in medio relinquo,” whether or not they went farther than they wished, I do not take it, upon me to determine,
Having a vow upon them. Though these four be reckoned among the faithful, yet their vow was superstitious. Whereby it appeareth that the apostles had much trouble in that nation, which was not only hardened in the worship of the law through long use, but was also naturally malapert, and almost intractable. Though it may be that these men were as yet but novices, and therefore their faith was yet but slender, and scarce well framed; wherefore the doctors did suffer them to perform the vow which they had unadvisedly made. As touching Paul, because he made this vow not moved thereunto by his own conscience, but for their sakes, with whose error he did bear, the case stood otherwise with him. Notwithstanding, we must see whether this were one of the indifferent ceremonies, which the faithful might omit or keep at their pleasure. It seemeth, indeed, to have in it certain things which did not agree 479479 “Parum consectianea,” which ill accorded. with the profession of faith. But because the end thereof was thanksgiving, (as we said before in the eighteenth chapter) and there was nothing in the rite itself repugnant to the faith of Christ, Paul did not doubt to descend thus far to make his religion known. Therefore, Paul did that which he saith of himself elsewhere, because he made himself a companion of those which followed the law, as if he himself were in subjection to the law (1 Corinthians 9:20). Finally, he was made all things to all men, that he might win all; to wit, even unto the altars, so that he might pollute himself with no sacrilege under a color of love. 480480 “Sub praetextu charitatis,” under a pretext of charity. It had not been so lawful for him to go unto the solemn sacrifice of satisfaction. 481481 “Expiationis,” expiation But as for this part of the worship of God, which consisted in a vow, he might do it indifferently, so it were not done for religion’s sake, but only to support the weak. But it was neither his intent to worship God with this rite, neither was his conscience tied, but he did freely submit himself to his weak brethren.
24. Which they have heard of thee are nothing. They seem to persuade Paul to dissemble. For the rumor rose not upon nothing, that he did call away the Jews from the ceremonies, and that he did not walk in observing the law. But we must remember that which I said even now, that it was sufficient for Paul and the elders, if they could remove the slander which was unjustly raised, to wit, that he was a revolt [apostate] from the law, and there might a better opportunity be offered shortly, that in purging himself he might call them back by little and little from their error. Neither was it good or profitable that Paul should be counted an observer of the law any long time, as the disciples were then commonly; for by this means a thick 482482 “Crassius,” a thicker. veil should have been put before their eyes to darken the light of Christ.
Wherefore, let us know that Paul did not dissemble, but sincerely professed that he did not hate the law, but that he did rather think reverently of it. They will him to bestow cost together with them, because they were wont to put their money together that they might offer sacrifice together.
25. And as concerning those which have believed. They add this lest they be thought to go about to take away or call back that liberty which they had granted to the Gentiles, so that they may be burdened with some prejudice. But, in the mean season, they seem to keep the Jews in bondage, from which they set free the Gentiles alone in plain words. I answer, forasmuch as the estate of all was alike, like liberty was granted to both. But there is mention made of the Jews, who were so addicted to their observations and ceremonies, that they would not take to themselves that liberty which they might well challenge. But the apostles did by name provide for the Gentiles, lest the Jews, after their wonted custom, should reject them as profane and unclean, because they were neither circumcised, neither nousled up [educated] in the worship of the law. Moreover, lest I load the paper with a superfluous repetition, let the readers repair unto the fifteenth chapter, (Acts 15:20) where they shall find those things which appertain unto the exposition of this decree.
26. Whereas some accuse Paul of subtilty, 483483 “Astutiae,” craftiness. as if he did play the hypocrite, I have before refuted this. Yet I do not deny but that he granted to do thus much at the request of the brethren, being thereunto in a manner enforced. Therefore, it hath more color, and is (as they say) more disputable, that he was too easily entreated, and too ready to obey; and yet I do not admit that which some men say, that it went not well with Paul, because, taking upon him a new and unwonted person, he did not so constantly, as he was wont, maintain the liberty purchased by Christ. I confess, indeed, that God doth oftentimes punish foolish purposes with unhappy success; but I see not why this should be applied to Paul, who through voluntary subjection sought to win the favor of the rude, and such as were not thoroughly instructed, that he might do them good; being about to do that not willingly, but because he had rather yield to the brethren than stick to his own judgment. Furthermore, when he was once admitted, he might fitly have passed over to moderate that zeal. His courtesy doth rather deserve great praise, in that he doth not only gently abase himself for the unskillful people’s sake, but doth also obey 484484 “Morem gerit,” defer to. their foolishness who did unworthily, and against reason, suspect him. He might well have reproved 485485 “Expostulasset,” expostulated with. them, because they had been so ready to believe reports contrary to his estimation [reputation]. In that he abstaineth, he showeth great patience; in that he winneth their favor so carefully, it is singular modesty.
Moreover, he might have been more rough and round with 486486 “Durior,” more severe on. James and his fellows in office, because they had not been more diligent to root out errors from among the people. For though it be certain that they taught faithfully, yet it may be that the sight of the temple, and the very seat of the law, did hinder them in defending the use of liberty. But Paul, whether he went from his right of his own accord, or whether he think that they see better what is expedient than he, doth follow 487487 “Acquiescit,” acquiesces in. their counsel. And whereas false Nicodemites, following this example of Paul, go about to color their treacherous dissimulation, whilst they pollute themselves with all filthiness of Popery, it needeth no long refutation. They boast that they do this to win the weak brethren, (or that they follow their vein thus far) as if Paul did yield to them in all things without choice. If, being Jews, they should take upon them according to the pre-script of the law, to fulfill among the Jews a vow infected with no idolatry, then might they prove themselves to be like Paul. Now, forasmuch as they inwrap themselves in gross and altogether wicked superstitions, and that because they will escape the cross, what likelihood is that which they imagine? 488488 “Qualis ista est quam fingunt similitudo,” what resemblance is there in it to that which they feign.