Acts 21

Acts 21:8 Philip the evangelist

Joseph Smith

"An Evangelist is a Patriarch, even the oldest man of the blood of Joseph or of the seed of Abraham. Wherever the Church of Christ is established in the earth, there should be a Patriarch for the benefit of the posterity of the Saints." (History of the Church, 3:381.)

Acts 21:8 Philip...was one of the seven

Philip was one of the stalwart leaders of the ancient church. He was set apart as one of the seven men entrusted with administrative and welfare duties (Acts 6:1-7). Later, he performed miracles as a powerful missionary (Acts 8:12-13). Finally, we are told that he served as an evangelist or patriarch. Tradition indicates that he was martyred by hanging in Phrygia. (Fate of the Apostles, Times and Seasons, vol. 4, No. 24 November 1, 1843)

President Howard W. Hunter explained the nature of Philip's first calling, as one of the seven.

Howard W. Hunter

"In the brief statement of that episode (Acts 6:1-7), we learn these facts: First, that the Twelve determined they were not to...occupy their time in the details of administration; second, they appointed seven men, 'full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom,' to look after the day-to-day needs; third, the Twelve then devoted their energies to the 'ministry of the word'; fourth, the word of God increased, and the gospel was carried to greater numbers.

"In December 1978, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve made a similar determination that it was no longer advisable for the Twelve to occupy their time in the details of administration of the many Church departments. They delegated seven men, designated as the presidents of the First Quorum of the Seventy, to give supervision to these details so that the Twelve could devote their full energies to the overall direction of the work, and, as directed by the Doctrine and Covenants, 'To build up the church, and regulate all the affairs of the same in all nations.' (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, 226.)

Acts 21:9 four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy

"The book of Acts states that four daughters of Phillip were blessed with the gift of prophecy. (See Acts 21:8-9.) One of the two mortal witnesses of the divinity of the infant Jesus was the aged woman, Anna. She was a holy woman who 'departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.' (Luke 2:37.) When Anna saw the infant Jesus in the temple, she gave thanks to the Lord and 'spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.' (V. 38.) This is a classic illustration of prophetic testimony and utterance.

"The Inspired Translation of the Old Testament contains a prophetic utterance by our first mother, Eve. (See Joseph Smith Translation, Genesis 4:11;...)

"How can a woman have the gift of prophecy when she does not hold the priesthood? That question has confused some, because the nouns prophecy and prophet and their variations, such as the adjective prophetic and the verb prophesy, are used in several different senses.

"When we hear the word prophet in our day, we are accustomed to think of the prophet. These words signify him who holds the prophetic office and is sustained as the prophet, seer, and revelator...

"The spiritual gift of prophecy is quite different. As we read in the Book of Revelation, 'The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.' (Revelation 19:10.) The Prophet Joseph Smith relied on this scripture in teaching that 'every other man who has the testimony of Jesus' is a prophet. (Teachings, p. 119.) Similarly, the Apostle Paul states that 'he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.' (1 Corinthians 14:3.) Thus, in the sense used in speaking of spiritual gifts, a prophet is one who testifies of Jesus Christ, teaches God's word, and exhorts God's people. In its scriptural sense, to prophesy means much more than to predict the future." (Mary E. Stovall and Carol Cornwall Madsen, eds., A Heritage of Faith: Talks Selected from the BYU Women's Conferences, 34.)

Acts 21:13 I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus

The natural man is most concerned with preserving his own life. He would rather reject his principles, work as a slave, or betray his friends to preserve his life at any cost. But the saints of God fear rejecting the principles of truth more than they fear death. Paul undoubtedly remembered the word of the Lord as he contemplated his fate in Jerusalem, 'fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell' (Matt 10:28).

Elder John L. Herrick

"One of the testimonies that I have gained in the church is that we are prepared to sacrifice all ties for the good of God's work. When God gave His only begotten Son it seems that He has demanded, not only since that time but in all ages and dispensations when the gospel has been upon the earth, that those who love Him must be ready to die as He has done, if necessary-sacrifice that which is near and dear to them...[The original Twelve Apostles of this dispensation] had to be men of that character, men who were ready, not only to give their own lives but the lives of those who were near, and dear to them...When men have been ready to sacrifice all that they had in the world, that is the kind of men God has required since the beginning to take charge of His work. And so men have gone forth, leaving their wives and their families, even in destitute circumstances. What for? To go and preach the gospel to those who were in darkness." (Conference Report, October 1910, Outdoor Meeting. 112.)

Wilford Woodruff

"I heard Joseph Smith say a great deal in regard to the attitude this generation would assume in regard to the Gospel. He saw the situation. Said he: 'The world will fight you. The world will war against you. Towns will arise and mob you, counties will oppose you, cities will oppose you, and the United States will combine against you. The world is full of darkness. Sin and wickedness is overwhelming the world as the waters cover the great deep. The devil rules over the world in a great measure. The world will war against you; the devil will, earth will, and hell will. But you must bear testimony of me. You must preach the Gospel, do your duty, and the Lord will stand by you. Earth and hell shall not prevail against you.' 'Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both body and soul in hell.' And I would say to our friends, that is the spirit that vibrates in the bosoms of tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints in these mountains. We stand upon this pedestal. This is our platform. What fear have we with regard to our enemies? Why should we fear? We are in the hands of God. We have come to this earth in this time upon a mission. We have been born on purpose in this generation to take part in this work. The Lord required an element to labor with. He will build up Zion. And I bear my testimony here to all men, and would to all the world if I had the power, that the work in which this people are engaged, small and insignificant as it may appear, is the work of God. It will roll forth. It will become a mountain. It will fill the whole earth. It will break in pieces all other kingdoms, and it will stand forever; for God Almighty has decreed it. Write it down. Watch the signs of the times. See if these things are not true." (Journal of Discourses, 25: 210.)

Acts 21:14 The will of the Lord be done

There seems to be some resignation in the tone of Paul's companions. A beloved leader and valiant missionary, Paul had become dear to the hearts of all around him. Yet, Paul seemed to value his life much less than his friends did. They didn't want him to be imprisoned or worse, killed. Yet, they were resigned to say, 'The will of the Lord be done.'

How applicable is this attitude to us? How often are we faced with challenges in which our mortal desires are different than the Lord's grand design. Young mothers are taken from their children, missionaries are killed while in their prime. When these things happen some wonder whether God truly loves his children. Yet we must remember the word of the Lord, 'as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts' (Isa 55:9). Like Paul's companions, we must also declare, 'The will of the Lord be done.'

Heber J. Grant

"My wife Lucy was very sick for nearly three years prior to her death. At one time I was in the hospital with her for six months. When she was dying, I called my children into the bedroom and told them their mamma was dying. My daughter Lutie said she did not want her mamma to die and insisted that I lay hands upon her and heal her, saying that she had often seen her mother, when sick in the hospital in San Francisco, suffering intensely, go to sleep immediately and have a peaceful night's rest when I had blessed her. I explained to my children that we all had to die some time, and that I felt that their mamma's time had come. The children went out of the room, and I knelt down by the bed of my dying wife and told the Lord that I acknowledged his hand in life or in death, in joy or in sorrow, in prosperity or adversity; that I did not complain because my wife was dying, but that I lacked the strength to see my wife die and have her death affect the faith of my children in the ordinances of the gospel. I therefore pleaded with him to give to my daughter Lutie a testimony that it was his will that her mother should die. Within a few short hours, my wife breathed her last. Then I called the children into the bedroom and announced that their mamma was dead. My little boy Heber commenced weeping bitterly, and Lutie put her arms around him and kissed him, and told him not to cry, that the voice of the Lord had said to her, 'In the death of your mamma the will of the Lord will be.' Lutie knew nothing of my prayers, and this manifestation to her was a direct answer to my supplication to the Lord, and for it I have never ceased to be grateful." ("When Great Sorrows Are Our Portion," Improvement Era, 15 (June 1912): 726-27.)

Acts 21:18 Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present

James, the Lord's brother, was the presiding authority in Jerusalem at the time. Likely, Peter and John were on missions preaching the gospel. James, the son of Zebedee had already been martyred (Acts 12:2). The context of events in Acts indicates that James, the Lord's brother, took his spot in the First Presidency of the early church. He apparently played a prominent role in the church at Jerusalem. Although the record does not give us many details, "all ancient ecclesiastical writers agree on this fact, that James, the Lord's brother, was the first bishop of Jerusalem." (A. A. Ramseyer, Improvement Era, 1915, Vol. Xviii. No. 12. Oct. 1915)

Acts 21:20 Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law

"There is no question that Peter and the Brethren knew that the law of Moses was fulfilled by Christ. The doctrinal question was settled [see Acts 15]: The law was not any longer a requirement for salvation now that Jesus had made the Atonement. Missionary work among the Gentile nations could go forth directly and without impediment.

"But there remained a conflict between culture and doctrine. The Brethren were clear on the matter, but the long-standing culture and tradition persisted among many Jewish members of the Church even after the doctrinal question had been settled. There is generally a lag between revelation and actual practice. Latter-day scripture leaves no doubt that the law of Moses was fulfilled in Christ (3 Ne. 15:4-5; Moro. 8:8; D&C 74), yet we see that the moderate decision of the council allowed it to linger among Jewish Christians.

"The account of the Jerusalem council in the book of Acts gives our present generation an informative model as to how both Church members and nonmembers react when revelation confronts tradition and long-standing custom. Only prophets could correctly handle the situation then. Only living prophets can do so now." (Robert J. Matthews, Behold the Messiah, 309-10.)

"The letters of Paul make it absolutely clear that the law of Moses is fulfilled in the gospel of Christ and is no longer binding as a requirement for salvation. Thus most would consider this a 'Christian' doctrine. Yet in Acts 21:20 we read that James said to Paul, 'Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law.' These believers were not thrown out of the Church, even though they did not yet understand the fundamental doctrine of how the law was fulfilled in Christ. On the contrary, James even suggested to Paul a public relations maneuver designed to soothe their Jewish-Christian sensibilities (Acts 21:23-24). Even though their doctrine was defective, they were still counted as 'believers' and tolerated, even coddled, in the Jerusalem Church...Paul, the champion of grace...put himself to great trouble for the sake of Jewish Christians whose doctrine was, in part, in conflict with his own?" (Stephen E. Robinson, Are Mormons Christians? 6 - 7.)

Elder Dean L. Larsen

"This loyalty to and affinity for programs that were an outgrowth of the ritualism and regimentation of the past proved to be a great obstacle to accepting the simple, basic principles of the gospel. For the converted Jews, whose lives had been so filled with the programmed requirements of the law and whose religious commitment had been demonstrated by their outward observance of these requirements, the religious life outlined by the gospel of Christ must have seemed very open and unregulated. It was not easy for them to leave the feeling of security provided in the total regimentation of the Jewish law. Obviously, they could not understand how the gentile Saints could possibly be trusted to develop any of the qualities prescribed by the new beliefs without the same set of regulations and programs to guide them and fill up their lives. ("Some Thoughts on Goal-Setting," Ensign, Feb. 1981, 62)

Acts 21:23-24 We have four men which have a vow on them; Them take, and purify thyself with them...

Bruce R. McConkie

"At least from the days of Moses, both men and women in Israel were privileged to take vows setting themselves apart to serve the Lord in some special way for an appointed period. Such persons, while subject to their vows, were called Nazarites. Frequently the period of penance and pondering and worship and devotion was for thirty days. In the case of Samson it was for life, and John the Baptist is considered by some to have had the same lifetime obligation. As set out in Numbers 6:1-21, those so separating themselves unto the Lord, for whatever period was involved, must abstain from wine and strong drink and the eating of grapes or anything coming from the vine tree. They must let their hair grow and avoid any Levitical uncleanness. At the end of their period of separation, they shaved their heads and offered burnt offerings, sin offerings, peace offerings, and meat and drink offerings, with all their attendant formalities. Even Paul, as a temporizing gesture to the partially converted Jewish-Christians in Jerusalem-and after the law of Moses, including the law of sacrifice and the law of the Nazarite, had been done away-participated in these vows and the offerings made incident thereto. (Acts 21:23-26.)" (The Mortal Messiah, 1: 261.)

Acts 21:28-33 This is the man, that...brought Greeks also into the temple, and hath polluted this holy place

"Acts and Romans highlight Paul's inspired worries about returning to Jerusalem...In Jerusalem Paul met with James, the only apostle then there, and James counseled Paul to soften Jewish prejudice by accompanying some men in purification rituals in the temple. The principled Paul saw in this no basic conflict with his Christianity. As a Christian, he believed in the reality of God's past revelations to Israel, though he considered temple sacrifices not essential to salvation. Since Jews from Ephesus had seen Paul with a Gentile from their city, they angrily accused Paul in the temple of bringing a Gentile there. The inscription has been found that stood at the gates within the broad court of the Gentiles. Just as Josephus says, it forbids any Gentile to proceed past the separating wall of the inner enclosure: 'Whoever is caught will have himself to blame for his death, which will follow.'

"The shouts went up that Paul had 'brought Greeks' into the temple and had 'polluted this holy place' (Acts 21:28). In the menacing mob, whatever Paul said was unheard as he was pushed through the outer gate and given the first blows of an intended deadly beating. But the Roman garrison was trained to stop such riots before they spread, and they moved fast enough to save the apostle's life. Fortunately for Paul, he had been assaulted in the temple, for the Roman fortress Antonia loomed above the temple on the north with watchtowers high enough to see the first disturbance." (Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul, 230 - 231.)

Acts 21:36 the people followed after, crying, Away with him

The events in Acts 21 leave one with a feeling of familiarity. We have Paul falsely accused of the Jews, with some crying one thing, and some another. We have Roman soldiers taking him captive, though he has broken no Roman law. We have the Jewish multitudes clamoring for the punishment of a man of God saying, 'Away with him.' And we have another Roman authority confused as to the cause of the Jewish uproar.

History is famous for repeating itself. Less than 30 years prior, it was one Jesus who was falsely accused of teaching against the law and speaking against the temple. Back then, it was the Master who was taken by Roman authority before angry and jealous Jewish multitudes. Again, it was the people who wanted blood, crying 'Let him be crucified...His blood be on us, and on our children' (Matt 26:23-25). Hence, we are reminded that although the names and dates might change, Satan's servants employ the same methods year after year.

But there is one significant difference. The Master, who could easily have talked his way out of any punishment, went before Pilate 'as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth' (Isa 53:7). But Paul is excited to have such a large crowd at his disposal. He did not squander the opportunity to testify 'of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation' (Rom 1:16). We can only imagine how great the silence was when Paul raised his hand to speak to the people.

Acts 21:37 Canst thou speak Greek?

The chief Roman captain, who had brought Paul to "the castle" (the Roman fortress Antonia which was adjacent to the temple), was apparently impressed with Paul's mastery of Greek. It seems that he had him confused with an Egyptian troublemaker, and probably expected him to speak Egyptian.

Paul was multilingual. He probably spoke four different languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and possibly Latin. In verse 40, when he speaks to the Jews in 'the Hebrew tongue,' but this probably means Aramaic, which was the language of Jesus, and the common language in Jerusalem at the time. Hebrew was a more ancient language, but it was commonly known because it was the language of the Torah. Paul's multilingual talent made it possible for him to be effective amongst a great variety of peoples.

"Although we do not know the Judaism of his age too well, it is probable that at about six years of age Saul was sent to an elementary school, in a room connected with the Jewish synagogue. Here, with other Jewish boys of his age, he would be instructed in the reading of Scripture. This may have been in the Greek version known to us as the Septuagint, because in later years he seems to have quoted extensively from it. It is difficult not to believe that he knew the Scriptures in their original Hebrew and Aramaic languages, because Aramaic would be the vernacular of his home, and for a would-be Rabbi not to know Hebrew would be unthinkable. It should be kept in mind that although Aramaic may have been the vernacular in his Jewish home, Saul would always be exposed to Greek on the street. His writings display a good knowledge of it. In after years, Paul found no difficulty in speaking Hebrew (possibly Aramaic is meant) to a Jewish mob that sought his life. (Acts 21:40; see also verse 37.) So well would the future Apostle learn the Scriptures...that they would be practically memorized by him and become an important part of his mental equipment." (Sidney B. Sperry, Paul's Life and Letters [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1955], 5.)

Acts 21:38 Art not thou that Egyptian?

"Josephus, the Roman-Jewish historian, tells us of an Egyptian Jew who raised a large following in the wilderness and brought them to the Mount of Olives. (See Josephus...Wars 2. 13. 5) He promised his followers that the walls of Jerusalem would crumble when they approached and they could drive out the Romans with ease. Felix, the Roman governor, met them with his army and totally defeated them. However, the leader was not captured, and the chief captain mistakenly thought Paul was this man." (Institute Manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & his Apostles, 2nd ed., p. 341)

Acts 21:39 I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus...a citizen of no mean city

"[Paul's] credentials gave him immediate avenues of communication, as shown by his statement at his arrest in the temple riot that he was 'a Jew of Tarsus . . . a citizen of no mean city' (Acts 21:39). In Greek that is 'no insignificant city,' a label used in ancient literature for a place with distinguishing marks. Tarsus could boast of its size, commercial importance, and educational tradition. The largest city in its province, its fame compared well with the two dozen provincial centers of the empire." (Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul, 20.)