God’s Word for You
Acts 24:17-21 Step by step by step
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, February 3, 2021
17 “Now after many years I came in order to bring a gift; offerings to my nation. 18 It was in connection with this that some Jews from Asia found me…
These two verses are really the only reference in the Book of Acts to the large offering collected by Paul for the Jerusalem congregations. This collection began around 54; it was now the summer of 58. Paul talks about this offering in his epistles. He instructed the Galatians and the Corinthians to set aside offerings weekly so that giving a larger amount wouldn’t be a burden to anyone (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). He made sure that those who collected the money traveled with “letters of introduction” (1 Corinthians 16:3). This offering was gathered because of the famine predicted by the prophet Agabus, when “the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. They did this and sent it to the elders by means of Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 11:29-30). It seems that throughout Macedonia and Asia Minor, this collection went well, but it stalled in Corinth. There was a dispute there (which shouldn’t surprise us) and led to Paul writing to them a second time, mentioning the generosity of the Macedonians who gave “beyond their ability” (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). Then he sent Titus back to Corinth to finish the collection there. This was what he and the others (including Luke) brought to Jerusalem to deliver to James in Jerusalem. It wasn’t presented to the priests in the temple, but Paul’s presence in the temple was, as he says, “in connection with” the collection from the Gentiles.
18 It was in connection with this that some Jews from Asia found me, having been purified in the temple, and not with a mob or any disturbance. 19 They are the ones who ought to be here before you to accuse me if they had anything against me. 20 Or else let the men who are here declare if they found any wrongdoing in me while I stood before the Sanhedrin, 21 unless it would be for this one outcry that I made, shouting as I stood among them: ‘It is concerning the resurrection of the dead I am being judged by you today.’”
Paul finishes his testimony with precision. The members of the Sanhedrin who were present could not testify as eyewitnesses of what happened in the temple. Only “some Jews from Asia” could have done that, and where were they? They should have been brought along, except the high priest and the others knew perfectly well that their testimony wouldn’t match (remember the men who accused Jesus, Mark 14:56,59). All that the Sanhedrin could testify to was what Paul said before Lysias the Colonel on the steps of the Roman fortress.
Paul finishes quickly and simply with the one key point: “I am here because I believe in the resurrection of the dead.” The Sadducees did not believe it but the Pharisees, the Christians, and the ordinary Jews in the pews did. So why was Paul on trial?
A neat point that I might have missed but which others have brought up is that no charges were raised concerning Paul’s insult to the high priest (Acts 23:3). If this had been brought up, Paul could have pointed out that the high priest had ordered Paul to be struck on the mouth, and that would have been a crime against a Roman citizen. We know that Paul had a good reason for keeping quiet about that. It might have caused Felix to drop all the charges against Paul, to punish Ananias the high priest, and let Paul go. But Jesus had appeared to Paul and had told him that he had to go to Rome. Bringing up the slap may have prevented that, so it was time to let things happen in whatever way circumstances might unfold. Paul needed to get to a boat that would carry him to Caesar. He had to put his trust in God for that. Solomon said: “Listen, my son, and be wise, and keep your heart on the right path” (Proverbs 23:19). “Your path led through the sea; your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen” (Psalm 77:19).
Maybe you are facing a difficult path, a road you can’t fully understand today. It might be scary, uncertain, and even doubtful. Maybe it’s a path you hoped you would never have to take, but here you are anyway. Trust that God will guide you. He will be with you. He may have set you on this path for your own sake, or for the good of other people, or both. “In all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28). The good thing might be something unexpected. The road there might be brief, or it might take a long time, like Paul’s. But long or short, painful or just confusing, your Lord is with you, step by step by step.
Pastor Timothy Smith