Acts chapter 21

English Standard Version

New International Version

New American Standard Bible

17After we arrived in Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters received us gladly. 18And the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 19After he had greeted them, he began to relate one by one the things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20And when they heard about them, they began glorifying God; and they said to him, 'You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law; 21and they have been told about you, that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to abandon Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. 22So what is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. 23Therefore, do as we tell you: we have four men who have a vow upon themselves; 24take them along and purify yourself together with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads; and then everyone will know that there is nothing to what they have been told about you, but that you yourself also conform, keeping the Law. 25But regarding the Gentiles who have believed, we sent a letter, having decided that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and what is strangled, and from sexual immorality.' 26Then Paul took along the men, and the next day, after purifying himself together with them, he went into the temple giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, until the sacrifice was offered for each one of them.
Christian Standard Bible

New Living Translation

King James Version

15And after those days we took up our carriages, and went up to Jerusalem. 16There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old 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 declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. 20And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord, and said unto him, Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: 21And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs. 22What is it therefore? the multitude must needs come together: for they will hear that thou art come. 23Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; 24Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law. 25As touching the Gentiles which believe, we have written and concluded that they observe no such thing, save only that they keep themselves from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from strangled, and from fornication. 26Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple, to signify the accomplishment of the days of purification, until that an offering should be offered for every one of them.
27And when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews which were of Asia, when they saw him in the temple, stirred up all the people, and laid hands on him, 28Crying out, Men of Israel, help: This is the man, that teacheth all men every where against the people, and the law, and this place: and further brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place. 29(For they had seen before with him in the city Trophimus an Ephesian, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.) 30And all the city was moved, and the people ran together: and they took Paul, and drew him out of the temple: and forthwith the doors were shut. 31And as they went about to kill him, tidings came unto the chief captain of the band, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32Who immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down unto them: and when they saw the chief captain and the soldiers, they left beating of Paul. 33Then the chief captain came near, and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and demanded who he was, and what he had done. 34And some cried one thing, some another, among the multitude: and when he could not know the certainty for the tumult, he commanded him to be carried 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 people. 36For the multitude of the people followed after, crying, Away with him. 37And as Paul was to be led into the castle, he said unto the chief captain, May I speak unto thee? Who said, Canst thou speak Greek? 38Art not thou that Egyptian, which before these days madest an uproar, and leddest out into the wilderness four thousand men that were murderers? 39But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people. 40And when he had given him licence, Paul stood on the stairs, and beckoned with the hand unto the people. And when there was made a great silence, he spake unto them in the Hebrew tongue, saying,

What does Acts chapter 21 mean?

Between Paul's three missionary journeys, God granted him rest in his home church at Syrian Antioch (Acts 14:26–28; 18:22–23). He may have also taken a trip to Jerusalem (Acts 15:1–4; 18:22), but for the most part, he was able to stay with the church that had commissioned him to spread the message of Jesus to the Gentiles in modern-day Turkey, Macedonia, and Greece (Acts 13:1–3). At the end of his third missionary journey, however, he doesn't even get a chance to visit.

In Acts 21:1–6, Paul, Timothy, Luke, and several others (Acts 20:4) leave the port city of Miletus in southwest Turkey and sail to Tyre on the Phoenician coast where they visit with the local Jesus-followers. The Holy Spirit has revealed that when Paul goes to Jerusalem he will be arrested. The Tyrians are so distraught they try to convince Paul to avoid the city and stay safe, but after seven days Paul and his companions reboard and sail south.

Acts 21:7–16 recounts an even more intense encounter in Caesarea Maritima. The team lands briefly in Ptolemais before finally disembarking in Caesarea. They stay with the evangelist Philip who first brought the message of Jesus to the Samaritans and who has four daughters who prophesy (Acts 8:4–8). In addition, Agabus arrives from Judea and confirms Paul's impending arrest by wrapping his own feet and hands in Paul's belt. The friends try to keep Paul from continuing, but he focuses on how his arrest will further the spread of the gospel.

Acts 21:17–26 sets the stage for Paul's arrest. In Acts 15, the leadership of the church in Jerusalem determined that Gentile Jesus-followers did not have to obey the Mosaic law to properly follow Christ. However, it was decided they should make minor concessions so Gentile and Jewish Christians could eat, live, and worship in unity. Paul, himself, taught the churches the council's findings in person and in letter (Acts 15:30; Galatians 3; 6:11–16). Several years later, unknown persons spread a rumor that Paul is teaching Jewish Christians to not obey the Law—a crime punishable by death (Deuteronomy 13:1–5). James, the half-brother of Jesus and pastor of the Jerusalem church, asks Paul to prove his Jewishness by helping a group of men fulfill their Nazirite vow (Numbers 6:1–21). Paul agrees.

In Acts 21:27–36, everything comes to a head. Among the Gentile Jesus-followers who have come with Paul is Trophimus. He is from Ephesus, in the province of Asia, in southwest Turkey. He has brought his church's donations to James and the church in Jerusalem. At some point, Jews from Asia see Paul with Trophimus in the city. Later, they see Paul in the temple and assume he has brought Trophimus. They rile up the worshipers into dragging Paul from the temple, shutting the gates, and beating Paul. The Roman guards bring Agabus's prophecy to fruition as they bind Paul in chains and arrest him.

Acts 21:37–40 is quintessential Paul. He knows he will not be released, but he must take every opportunity to share Jesus' message—even to an angry mob that wants him dead. He asks the tribune if he may speak to the crowd. The tribune is massively confused and confirms that Paul is not, indeed, an Egyptian revolutionary who leads a pack of assassins. When Paul convinces him that he is a Jew from Tarsus, on the other side of the Mediterranean, the tribune lets him speak.

Of course, Paul's speech will fall on deaf ears. The crowd listens to his conversion story, but when he reaches the part where Jesus commissions him to spread the news to the Gentiles, they remember their initial complaint. The tribune, still confused, decides to get the truth out of Paul by flogging him, which Paul manages to avoid by reminding them he is a Roman citizen (Acts 22). The next day, Paul faces the Sanhedrin and deflects any further charges by pitting the Sadducees and Pharisees against one another. He then escapes an assassination attempt thanks to his nephew. The tribune decides his little outpost cannot resolve so much drama and sends Paul to the governor in Caesarea (Acts 23).
What is the Gospel?
Download the app: