Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.
Thoughts for Today:Remember when Paul complied with the request of the church leaders to take a vow of purification? It was intended to appease the Jews, not ignite them. In our passage today, we see a rather vivid example of what can happen to us when we compromise our core values by trying to fit in -- we get beaten and abandoned -- just the opposite of what we hoped to accomplish.
The Jews already knew what Paul believed because he had been preaching about it for years. As far as Paul was concerned, Mosaic Law never had the ability to deal sin, it could only identify what is was; and so on. For Paul to then go to the temple and put on the air of a "good old Jewish boy" by taking a vow of purification must have angered them greatly. It would have seemed he was making a mockery of their faith because the final act of the purification period was an atoning sacrifice -- one that Paul preached had been done once and for all by Jesus. So they rioted. But note that they only came after Paul.
What is the lesson? I think it's simple: Stay true to your beliefs even while trying to be a good "team" player. When a riot happens, you can be sure it will only be Jesus who will be with you -- everyone else will have a prior engagement. So make absolutely sure you are committed to whatever course of action you have chosen. It may have been much better for Paul (and perhaps the church as a whole) if he had confronted the ritualistic and legalistic faction head-on rather than trying to appease them. The issue was between Jewish and Gentile believers and rightfully should have stayed within the body of believers.
Questions to Ponder:Someone once wrote, "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." The only thing our community, country, and the world needs is Jesus -- with full, undiluted commitment. Have you been guilty or tempted to white-wash the message of salvation? Have you tried to make Jesus fit into someone's beliefs to make Him more accommodating? By trying to fit in we sometimes get beaten and abandoned. Do you feel like that today?