Having been rescued from the mob, Paul gives his testimony in Aramaic, the heart language of the people (vv. 1–21). He addresses and identifies with them respectfully, “Brothers and fathers,” and tells them of his own Jewish heritage and training. They listen respectfully until he says that God has appointed him to minister to the Gentiles (v. 21). He asserts that “the God of our ancestors” (v. 14) has purposed that by Jesus alone, without embracing Judaism and the Mosaic law, the Gentiles—the unclean and “far away” nations, outsiders in His kingdom— can be saved.
The commander of the Roman barracks at Jerusalem makes two mistakes. Firstly, in Acts 21:38, he mistakes Paul for an Egyptian terrorist—a self-proclaimed prophet—who recently led a revolt against Roman rule. Paul’s request in polished Greek puts paid to this assumption (Acts 21:37), for the Egyptian terrorist probably could not speak Greek.
Secondly, having rescued Paul, he orders Paul be flogged in order to extract information from him (v. 24). As in Philippi, so in Jerusalem, the flogging of a Roman citizen is illegal and so Paul calls upon his rights as a citizen. All Roman citizens had to be treated according to proper legal processes.
Meanwhile, where now are the thousands who believe and are zealous for the law that we read of in Acts 21? Where now are James and the elders?
Paul is left to face the hostility alone. He later testifies that although man might abandon him in his trials, “the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength” (2 Timothy 4:17).
What a sight this must have been—Paul being beaten up by his own countrymen on the steps of the barracks.
Having been beaten, Paul is rescued from the angry crowd and taken to be flogged. We might wonder: will he survive? Will God’s plans be thwarted by such aggression?
Tension mounts at the end of the chapter, as the Roman commander summons the Sanhedrin and brings Paul before them (v. 30).
John Wesley said that having narrow interests is always the enemy of the gospel. Why do you think the crowd was so upset in verse 22?
Paul is well qualified to reach the Jews (vv. 3–4), but God sends him to the Gentiles instead. What lesson can we learn about using our spiritual gifts in His service?