Now when the seven days were almost ended, the Jews from Asia, seeing him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd and laid hands on him, crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who teaches all men everywhere against the people, the law, and this place; and furthermore he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” (For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, whom they supposed that Paul had brought into the temple.)
And all the city was disturbed; and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut. Now as they were seeking to kill him, news came to the commander of the garrison that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. He immediately took soldiers and centurions, and ran down to them. And when they saw the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. Then the commander came near and took him, and commanded him to be bound with two chains; and he asked who he was and what he had done. And some among the multitude cried one thing and some another.
So when he could not ascertain the truth because of the tumult, he commanded him to be taken into the barracks. When he reached the stairs, he had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the mob. For the multitude of the people followed after, crying out, “Away with him!”
The prophecy of the prophet Agabus is seen being fulfilled. Even as Paul is complying with the demands of his people, they turn on him with violence. Violence begets violence it is said and the one who so violently opposed this new belief system is now the object of that same violence. He once stood in the shoes of those now attacking him. In all of this God’s work will continue to be done and the message of Christ’s gift of salvation is still spread to all. Though it looks bad, it may be intended for good and that is something to keep in mind when we are tempted to complain during our times of stress or pain. We continue to be found faithful, following the examples of those who have gone before us and God’s will is done.
And when we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. When he had greeted them, he told in detail those things which God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law; but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come. Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law. But concerning the Gentiles who believe, we have written and decided that they should observe no such thing, except that they should keep themselves from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.” Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each one of them.
Showing submission to the leadership of the day and time, Paul complies with the request. The question remains; if Paul was teaching one direction why did he act out its opposite? If Paul taught we are free to worship in spirit and truth as Jesus said, we are free of the bondage of the law, then why did he comply with the laws? Jesus said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself. All the other elements of the law stem from these two.” (My paraphrase) We comply out of love for God and one another even if we are free from its bonds. Paul could either refuse or comply, he chose to comply. He chose to love and encourage, he chose to defer to the wishes of the others and in doing so demonstrated his total freedom, to do or not to do.