Bible Study of Acts: Lesson 20 - Paul's Arrest in Jerusalem (Acts 21 & 22)

Bible Study of Acts – Lesson 20

Paul’s Arrest in Jerusalem (Acts 21 & 22)


Welcome to Lesson 20 in your Bible Study of Acts.  In this lesson we want to take a closer look at Acts 21 & 22 and Paul’s return  to Jerusalem.

Paul’s arrival in Jerusalem (and his subsequent stay) is cause for great emotion, conflict and intrigue.  Paul’s stay in Jerusalem is narrated in several chapters in Acts and through various dramatic events (21:17-23:35):

1) James persuades Paul to placate the Jewish-Christians who were still observing the Mosaic (21:17-26).

2) Some Jews from the temple accuse Paul of various crimes and cause an uproar in the city such that the Roman government is forced to intervene (21:27-40).

3) Paul gives a speech to a Jewish crowd and recounts his conversion experience as well as his calling to the Gentiles (22:1-22).

4) The commander of the Roman army discovers that Paul is a Roman citizen and orders that a trial be held where Paul and his accusers can meet (22:23-30).

5) Paul defends himself before his accusers (23:1-10).

6) Paul’s opponents plot to kill him, which leads to his transfer to Caesarea (23:11-35).

For this study, we will only look at the first three episodes though we stress again that all six episodes belong together as one continuous story.

James, Paul and the Jewish-Christians

As Paul arrives in Jerusalem, it is surprising that he finds conflict not with the enemies of the gospel as is normal, but rather, from within the church itself.

Apparently, there were still many Jewish-Christians for whom the law of Moses was still an important part of their spiritual life.  Many were upset with Paul because he was telling Jewish-Christians that they no longer need to observe the laws of Moses.

Read Acts 21:17-26

  1. What does James tell Paul to do in order to appease his Jewish-Christian brothers?  (In this regard, it would be helpful to look up the practice of a Nazarite vow.)
  2. What do you think of James (a pillar of the church) asking Paul to submit to a ritual that is no longer valid or needed in the Christian faith?
  3. What do you think of Paul for consenting to perform that ritual especially in light of what he writes in Colossians 2:16-20?  Why do you think he would consent?
  4. Why do you suppose Jewish-Christians were still practicing aspects of their religion some 30 years after Christ’s death?
  5. Some folks who convert to Christianity do so from a Muslim or non-Christian tradition. Could one still legitimately practice certain rituals from those faith traditions as Paul did with Judaism?  Explain.

Paul’s speech to his Jewish compatriots 

As Paul is finishing up his vow, a major riot occurs in town as certain people in the city accuse him. He ends up before the crowd and asks permission to speak to those who are assembled.

Read Acts 21:27-30

  1. What was Paul accused of and who accused him?  (There are at least four charges.)

Read Acts 22:1-22 

  1. How does Paul answer his accusers?  Why do you suppose he would invoke that particular event in order to defend himself
  2. What are Paul’s Jewish credentials, what do they mean and why does he refer to them in his defense?
  3. What does Paul say about the role he played in Stephen’s death?
  4. In the discourse, Paul refers to four different witnesses who can attest to his life and conversion.  Who are they?
  5. Who are the biggest opponents of the Christian church today?
  6. How would you mount a defense against those who would attack you or the Christian faith unfairly?