Introduction and Timeline for Acts 21–28
The events of Paul’s ministry recorded in Acts 21–28 have notable similarities with the conclusion of the Savior’s mortal ministry. Both Paul and Jesus Christ traveled to Jerusalem; on the way, both foretold hardships that would come upon them in Jerusalem; both faced a plot by certain Jews in Jerusalem; both were arrested and handed over to Gentile authorities; both were tried before the Jewish council and a Roman governor. This portrayal of Paul is part of a theme in Acts emphasizing the continuity between Jesus Christ and His Apostles who followed Him.
In these chapters, Paul gave five speeches defending himself before religious and civil authorities in Jerusalem and Caesarea, culminating in his masterful defense before Agrippa (see Acts 22:1–21; 23:1–10; 24:10–21; 25:8–11; 26:1–29). Paul used these opportunities not only to defend himself against unjust charges, but also to bear testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. These speeches represent fulfillments of the Lord’s prophecy that Paul would testify before kings and rulers (see Acts 9:15). In addition, Paul’s journey to Rome helped fulfill Jesus’s commission to the Apostles to take the gospel “unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Commentary for Acts 21–28
Acts 21:1–12. Paul Finished His Third Mission
As Paul concluded his third mission, he journeyed toward Jerusalem, stopping at various cities along the way. In Caesarea, he stayed with “Philip the evangelist” (Acts 21:8). In the New Testament, an evangelist was one who preached the gospel (see the commentary for Ephesians 4:11). Philip had earlier been called by the Apostles to assist them in caring for the needs of the Church (see Acts 6:5; 8:5–13). While Paul and his fellow laborers were staying at the home of Philip, “a certain prophet, named Agabus” visited them and prophesied that Paul would be bound if he continued on to Jerusalem (Acts 21:10). It is obvious that Agabus had the Spirit of the Lord with him, for Paul was later bound in Jerusalem (see Acts 21:33).
Acts 21:13. “I Am Ready Not to Be Bound Only, but Also to Die”
Paul, who once persecuted and consented to the death of Christians (see Acts 8:1–3; 9:1; 22:4, 20; 26:9–11), was now ready to suffer persecution and even death for the Lord Jesus Christ. For some time Paul had sensed that in Jerusalem he would face opposition (see Romans 15:30–31). Yet he was determined to go in person to deliver the donations he had gathered for the poor Jerusalem Saints. From Paul’s determination to go to Jerusalem, we learn that even if a certain course in life will bring adversity, it may still be the right path to pursue. We also learn that we should put the Lord first regardless of the consequences.
President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) described the convictions of true disciples of Jesus Christ: “Men changed for Christ will be captained by Christ. … Their will is swallowed up in His will. (See John 5:30.) They do always those things that please the Lord. (See John 8:29.) Not only would they die for the Lord, but more important they want to live for Him” (“Born of God,” Ensign, Nov. 1985, 6).
Acts 21:17–21. Jewish Christians and the Law of Moses
When Paul arrived in Jerusalem, he discovered that many Jewish converts were troubled by reports that he had been speaking out against the law of Moses during his missions, and particularly against the practice of circumcision. The implications of the Jerusalem conference’s decisions concerning the law of Moses (see Acts 15:6–31) were still unclear to many Church members.
According to the Bible Dictionary, “the Church under direction of Peter and the Twelve, and acting under the guidance of the Spirit, declared that circumcision was not obligatory for gentile converts. However, it apparently did not settle the matter of whether or not Jewish members of the Church should have their children circumcised. As one reads the scriptures on the matter, it becomes evident that the real issue was not circumcision only but also the larger question as to continued observance of the law of Moses by members of the Church. …
“The Jewish part of the church membership, especially in Jerusalem, appears to have been very reluctant to cease from the rituals and ceremony of the law of Moses (Acts 21:17–25). This is a marked contrast to the Church among the Nephites, in which there seems to have been a cessation of the law immediately upon their awareness of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (3 Ne. 15:1–4; Moro. 8:8)” (Bible Dictionary, “Circumcision”).
Acts 21:21–37. Jewish Purification Rites
It is evident from Acts 21:21 that Jewish Christians in Jerusalem had misunderstood Paul’s teachings about the law of Moses. Even though Paul and the other Apostles had taught that circumcision was not a requirement for Gentile coverts, they had not discouraged Jewish converts from following the practice or from observing other aspects of the law of Moses. Jewish Christians continued to worship in the temple (see Acts 2:46; 3:1; 5:19–25, 42), and Paul still considered himself an observant Jew (see Acts 22:3; Romans 11:1; 2 Corinthians 11:22; Philippians 3:4–6).
To help dispel ill feelings toward Paul, Church leaders encouraged Paul to participate in the weeklong temple purification rites that observant Jews customarily underwent after traveling in Gentile lands. Paul’s public observance of these temple rites would demonstrate that he did not teach against the law of Moses or the temple, as was rumored. Sidney B. Sperry explained:
“The Apostle, realizing the gravity of the problem and knowing that it was important to hold the Jewish and Gentile groups of the Church together, readily agreed to assume the role of peacemaker. … The Temple rituals would occupy seven days of purification and sacrifice. Paul would pay for the four lambs and eight pigeons used for sacrifice and would attend the four men in their Temple appearances and rituals. … In so doing the Apostle would be obliged to cross the Court of the Gentiles and the Court of the Women, enter the Court of Israel, and finally approach the altar on which burnt offerings were made. He was bound to be in full view of either friend or foe in these Temple areas” (Paul’s Life and Letters , 208–9).
Paul followed the Church elders’ suggestion that he visit the temple and participate in the Jewish purification rites. At one point, Jews from Asia confronted Paul in the temple and caused a riot against him. They accused him of teaching against the law of Moses and the temple and of bringing a Gentile into the inner courts of the temple, where Gentiles were forbidden (see also the commentary for Ephesians 2:12–14, 18–19). Though Paul was innocent of these charges (see Acts 21:29), they were capital offenses, and Paul’s life was in peril as the crowd dragged him out of the temple and began to beat him.
The term “castle” in Acts 21:34, 37 refers to the Antonia Fortress, which was the military barracks where the Roman soldiers stayed.
Acts 21:38. “Art Not Thou That Egyptian?”
A Roman captain, later identified as Claudius Lysias (see Acts 23:26), and several soldiers broke up the mob that was assaulting Paul and took him into custody. The chief captain questioned Paul, mistakenly believing that Paul was an Egyptian rebel. About three years prior to that time, an Egyptian Jew had raised a large following in the wilderness and brought them to the Mount of Olives. He promised his followers that the walls of Jerusalem would crumble when they approached and that they would be able to drive out the Romans with ease. Felix, the Roman governor, met them with his army and defeated them, but he was unable to capture their leader, who still remained a fugitive.
Acts 21:39–22:23. Paul Preached to the Jews Who Opposed Him
Realizing that Paul was not a rebel, the Roman captain allowed Paul to address the crowd who had assailed him. The crowd at the temple listened to Paul tell his conversion story until he mentioned being sent to the Gentiles. At that point, they reacted with animosity, casting off their outer cloaks and throwing dust into the air—acts by which Jews commonly expressed abhorrence and indignation.
Acts 22:24–30. Paul Invoked His Rights as a Roman Citizen
The Roman chief captain could not understand Paul’s speech, which was delivered in Aramaic, nor could he discover why the crowd was angry at Paul. Therefore the captain ordered that Paul be scourged, or whipped, and questioned. A scourge, which was a whip or lash made of long strips of leather that were studded with bits of metal or bone and fastened in a wooden handle, was a weapon of torture that could maim and even kill. In response to the order, Paul protested that he was a Roman citizen and was therefore protected from examination by torture. Roman citizenship carried with it important privileges and was not easily obtained, as made clear by the conversation recorded in Acts 22:24–30.
Acts 22:30–23:10. Paul Appeared before a Jewish Council
When Paul was brought before the Jewish council, the high priest ordered that Paul be struck in the face. This violated Jewish law, which protected accused persons from being punished until found guilty. Paul’s angry response was not purposefully disrespectful to the high priest; he simply failed to recognize the high priest, perhaps because he had been away from Jerusalem for so long. When he realized that he had reviled the high priest, Paul immediately expressed deference to the office, if not the man.
Realizing that the council was composed of two factions—the Pharisees and the Sadducees—Paul cleverly turned the members of the council against one another by declaring that he was a Pharisee and believed in the Resurrection. The Pharisees on the council then defended Paul against the Sadducees, who did not believe in the Resurrection.
Acts 23:10–11. Paul Was Visited by the Savior
Fearing that Paul would be “pulled in pieces” by the angry multitude, the chief captain took Paul into protective custody (Acts 21:10). While Paul was being detained by the Roman soldiers, the resurrected Savior visited him and assured him that he would live to bear his testimony in Rome.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles discussed this visit: “In his persecuted and straitened state, Paul needed comfort and assurance from on high. How shall such be given him? The Lord could have sent an angel; he could have spoken by the power of the Holy Spirit to the spirit within Paul; or he could have opened the heavens and let him see again the wonders of eternity. But this time—thanks to his valiant service, his unwearying devotion, his willingness to suffer even unto death in the Cause of Christ—this time Paul was blessed with the personal ministrations of the Lord of heaven himself. Jesus stood at his side. Without question much was said and much transpired, of which there has been preserved to us only the promise that the Lord’s special apostle would yet bear witness of the Master in Rome” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–1973], 2:191).
Acts 23:12–15. A Conspiracy to Kill Paul
A group of Jews “bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul” (Acts 23:12). This conspiracy was similar to the secret combinations described in the Book of Mormon. Secret combinations work under a cloak of secrecy and are characterized by formal oath making, threats of violence (including murder) and plunder, and the seeking of gain and power (see Alma 37:25–31; Helaman 6:16–31; Ether 8:13–26).
Acts 23:16–24:21. Paul on Trial before Felix
Paul’s nephew heard of the secret plot to kill Paul and quickly told Paul, who sent him to inform the Roman officers. The chief captain, knowing that Paul was a Roman citizen, made arrangements to have Paul escorted by a contingent of soldiers to Caesarea to appear at a trial before the Roman governor Felix. Several Jewish priests from Jerusalem attended Paul’s trial in Caesarea, and they hired Tertullus, a Roman lawyer and orator, to convince Felix of Paul’s alleged wrongdoings.
Photograph by Richard L. W. Cleave
The charges levied against Paul were that he was a “pestilent fellow” (meaning he was an annoyance who endangered society), that he was the leader of a seditious group, and that he had profaned the temple (see Acts 24:5–6). (A similar charge of sedition had been brought against the Savior; see Luke 23:2, 5; John 18:30.) After listening respectfully to Tertullus’s oratory, Paul skillfully deflected the charges against him, stating that even though 12 days had passed since he was accused, no credible witnesses had been found to testify against him. He also affirmed his loyalty to God and mentioned that he had come to Jerusalem to deliver alms, showing that his purpose was to relieve suffering and not to incite rebellion.
Acts 24:14–15. “The Way”
In Acts, the term “the way” is often used to refer to Christianity; it denotes the path or course of Christians (see also Acts 9:1–2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:22). Central to Christian belief is the doctrine that Jesus Christ is “the way” of salvation (John 14:6) and that through Him all will be resurrected (see John 5:28–29; 1 Corinthians 15:21–22). Paul declared that the real reason the Jews opposed him was his belief in the Resurrection (see Acts 24:14–15). However, he asserted that his message of the Resurrection was not heresy but was identical to the long-held hope of the Jewish nation (see Acts 26:6–8; 28:20). President Thomas S. Monson spoke of the universal hope that the Resurrection of Christ can bring to us all:
“Through tears and trials, through fears and sorrows, through the heartache and loneliness of losing loved ones, there is assurance that life is everlasting. Our Lord and Savior is the living witness that such is so.
“With all my heart and the fervency of my soul, I lift up my voice in testimony as a special witness and declare that God does live. Jesus is His Son, the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh. He is our Redeemer; He is our Mediator with the Father. He it was who died on the cross to atone for our sins. He became the firstfruits of the Resurrection. Because He died, all shall live again” (“I Know That My Redeemer Lives!” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 25).
Acts 24:16. “A Conscience Void of Offence” (see also Acts 23:1)
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about what it means to have a conscience void of offense toward God and man:
“One day each of us will give an account to the Lord. This awareness was evident in a serious conversation I had years ago with a dear friend facing the end of his mortal life. I asked him if he was ready to die. I’ll never forget his answer. With courage and conviction, he said, ‘My life is ready for inspection.’
“When the Prophet Joseph Smith faced death, he said, ‘I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men’ [D&C 135:4].
“Now is the time to prepare for your own ultimate interview. You might ask yourself: ‘Do I pay tithing with a willing heart? Do I obey the Word of Wisdom? Is my language free from obscenities and swearing? Am I morally righteous? Am I truly grateful for the Atonement that makes my resurrection a reality and eternal life a possibility? Do I honor temple covenants that seal loved ones to me forever?’” (“Personal Priesthood Responsibility,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2003, 44–45).
Acts 24:24–26. “When I Have a Convenient Season”
Felix’s time as Roman governor was marked by cruelty and licentiousness. Felix kept Paul in prison for two years, hoping to extort money from him (see Acts 24:25–26). Despite his corrupt nature, Felix was deeply moved by Paul’s testimony of Jesus Christ but delayed hearing him further, saying that he would call for Paul later when he had a “convenient season” (Acts 24:25).
Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counseled Church members to make decisions based on more than mere convenience: “Sometimes we are tempted to let our lives be governed more by convenience than by covenant. It is not always convenient to live gospel standards and stand up for truth and testify of the Restoration. It usually is not convenient to share the gospel with others. It isn’t always convenient to respond to a calling in the Church, especially one that stretches our abilities. Opportunities to serve others in meaningful ways, as we have covenanted to do, rarely come at convenient times. But there is no spiritual power in living by convenience. The power comes as we keep our covenants” (“Like a Flame Unquenchable,” Ensign, May 1999, 86).
Acts 24:27; 25:9. “Willing to Shew the Jews a Pleasure”
Rather than release Paul, Felix courted the favor of the Jews by leaving Paul in prison for two years (see Acts 24:27). Felix’s successor, Porcius Festus, acted with similar political interest when he proposed to send Paul to Jerusalem, where Paul’s enemies hoped to kill him (see Acts 25:3, 9). President James E. Faust (1920–2007) of the First Presidency spoke against acting solely to gain the approval of others: “Men and women often attempt to gain notice and approval of the group from whom they seek acceptance. Such peer pressure may cause them to do things they would not otherwise do. This is acting out of weakness, not strength” (“The Power of Self-Mastery,” Ensign, May 2000, 43–44).
Acts 25:11. Paul Appealed to Caesar
Paul realized that his life would be in danger if he returned to Jerusalem to be tried, as Festus suggested he do. Therefore, Paul chose to appeal to Caesar instead. As a Roman citizen, Paul had the right to appeal to have his case tried directly before Caesar in Rome.
Acts 25:13–22. Herod Agrippa II
Herod Agrippa II (also called Marcus Julius Agrippa) was the seventh and last king in the Jewish Herodian dynasty. He ruled the territory northeast of the Sea of Galilee from about A.D. 55 to 93. He was the son of Herod Agrippa I, who ordered the death of James and imprisoned Peter (see Acts 12:1–4); the grandson of Herod Antipas, who had John the Baptist beheaded (see Matthew 14:1–12); and the great-grandson of Herod the Great, who ordered the slaughter of the infants of Bethlehem (see Matthew 2:16).
Agrippa’s kingdom lay to the north of Festus’s territory. Agrippa and his sister Bernice (whom some believed he was having an incestuous affair with) visited Festus in Caesarea while Paul was imprisoned there. Because Agrippa was a Jew and was therefore more familiar with Jewish affairs than Festus, who was a Roman, Festus hoped that Agrippa could help him understand the accusations against Paul and also help draft his letter to Caesar (see Acts 25:24–27; 26:3).
Acts 25:23–26:29. Paul’s Defense before Agrippa
When Paul spoke before King Agrippa, he recounted how he had persecuted Christians as a Pharisee, how he had seen a vision on the road to Damascus, and how he had thereafter preached the gospel. In this defense before Agrippa, Paul took a different approach than he had taken when he spoke before the Roman governor Felix (see Acts 24:10–21). To the governor, Paul had emphasized that he was innocent of sedition—the charge that would have been of most concern to a Roman ruler. To Agrippa, who was Jewish, Paul emphasized his faithfulness as a Jew. Discerning that Agrippa believed the writings of the Jewish prophets (see Acts 26:27), Paul explained that his teachings to Jews and Gentiles were in the tradition of the prophets (see Acts 26:22–23; compare Isaiah 42:6; 49:6).
Acts 26:19–21, 24–25. Differences in Paul’s Accounts of His Vision of Jesus Christ
During his defense, Paul recounted his vision of the Savior on the road to Damascus. The book of Acts contains several accounts of Paul’s vision, and each account differs to some degree (see Acts 9:3–20; 22:4–21; 26:9–19; see also Galatians 1:15–16). For example, the description of the “light” is different in each account (see Acts 9:3; Acts 22:6; Acts 26:13); only Acts 9:17 indicates that Ananias restored Paul’s sight by the laying on of hands; and the account in Acts 26 provides less detail about what Paul’s companions experienced.
Furthermore, in the account Paul gave to Agrippa, Paul blended the words of three different revelations as though they were one: the words the Lord spoke to Paul on the road to Damascus (compare Acts 26:14–16 with Acts 9:4–6; 22:7–10); the words Ananias later spoke to Paul (compare Acts 26:16 with Acts 22:15); and the words the Lord spoke to Paul still later in a vision at Jerusalem (compare Acts 26:17 with Acts 22:21). These variations are likely due to the different audiences and purposes of each account.
Some critics have found fault with the Prophet Joseph Smith because there are variations in the several recorded accounts of his First Vision. However, as with Paul, these variations do not discredit the essential truth that the Prophet saw a vision of Heavenly Father and the Savior.
Acts 26:19. “Not Disobedient unto the Heavenly Vision”
Paul declared to Agrippa that he had been true to the heavenly vision he received. Like Paul, we should obey the directions we receive from the Lord, whether they come in the form of promptings from the Holy Ghost, the words of scriptures, or the voice of living prophets. President Ezra Taft Benson taught:
“The great test of life is obedience to God. ‘We will prove them herewith,’ said the Lord, ‘to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them’ (Abraham 3:25).
“The great task of life is to learn the will of the Lord and then do it.
Acts 26:21. Both Paul and Joseph Smith Were Persecuted
The Prophet Joseph Smith (1805–44) compared the persecution he experienced after his First Vision to the experiences of the Apostle Paul:
“I felt much like Paul, when he made his defense before King Agrippa, and related the account of the vision he had when he saw a light, and heard a voice; but still there were but few who believed him; some said he was dishonest, others said he was mad; and he was ridiculed and reviled. But all this did not destroy the reality of his vision. He had seen a vision, he knew he had, and all the persecution under heaven could not make it otherwise; and though they should persecute him unto death, yet he knew, and would know to his latest breath, that he had both seen a light and heard a voice speaking unto him, and all the world could not make him think or believe otherwise.
“So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true. … I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it” (Joseph Smith—History 1:24–25).
Acts 26:26. “This Thing Was Not Done in a Corner”
Paul testified of the gospel (see Acts 26:18) and of the Savior’s death and Resurrection (see verse 23) to both Festus and King Agrippa, who was a Jew. After Festus objected to his teachings (see verse 24), Paul declared to King Agrippa that the king knew what he was teaching, “for this thing was not done in a corner” (verse 26). The truth of the gospel is not hidden or “done in a corner,” but rather it is a light shining on a hill. This was true in the Savior’s day and in Paul’s day, and it is true in our day as well.
Acts 26:22–31. “Almost Thou Persuadest Me to Be a Christian”
Acts 26:22–29 provides us with a glimpse into Paul’s teaching style. He taught what all prophets, including Moses, have taught—that Jesus Christ should suffer, die, and “rise from the dead” (Acts 26:23; see also Jacob 4:4; D&C 52:9). Paul recognized that King Agrippa knew the truth of these teachings, and Paul wished that the king would make a total commitment to the truth (see Acts 26:27, 29). Instead, Agrippa’s reply, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28), shows that Agrippa chose not to act on his knowledge that Paul had taught the truth.
President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973) applied the words of King Agrippa to members of the Church who attempt to excuse themselves from obedience:
“A good bishop made an interesting comment about what he called the saddest words that he knows of a man in high station. He read from the words in the days of the Apostle Paul when Paul before King Agrippa had borne his powerful testimony of his conversion. King Agrippa’s reply was, ‘Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.’ (Acts 26:28.) Then the bishop said, ‘The king knew the truth but he lacked the courage to do that which would be required. …’
“And then [the bishop] characterized some things that he discovered in his own ward in a short but powerful sermon. ‘In response to the Master, “Come … follow me” (Mark 10:21), some members almost,’ he said, ‘but not quite, say, “thou persuadest me almost to be honest but I need extra help to pass a test.”’ …
“‘Almost thou persuadest me to keep the Sabbath day holy, but it’s fun to play ball on Sunday.
“‘Almost thou persuadest me to love my neighbor, but he is a rascal; to be tolerant of others’ views, but they are dead wrong; … to go home teaching, but it’s so cold and damp outside tonight; to pay tithes and offerings, but we do need a new color TV. … Almost! Almost! Almost!’” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1964, 23–24).
Elder Bruce C. Hafen of the Seventy emphasized: “If we must give all that we have, then our giving only almost everything is not enough. If we almost keep the commandments, we almost receive the blessings” (“The Atonement: All for All,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 98).
Agrippa’s famous response to Paul is sometimes translated as, “In so short a time are you trying to persuade me to be a Christian?” or “In a short time you will persuade me to be a Christian!” In the varying translations, Agrippa implied that Paul’s reasoning was persuasive, but he refrained from saying that he personally believed Paul.
Acts 27:9. “The Fast Was Now Already Past”
Agrippa, Bernice, and Festus conferred together and decided that Paul was not guilty of any crime; however, they could not release him because he had not yet been tried by Caesar. Agrippa told Festus, “This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar” (Acts 26:32).
Paul and his companions were sent to Rome by ship, escorted by a Roman centurion. However, sailing was dangerous because the “fast was now already past” (Acts 27:9). “The fast” probably referred to the Jewish holy day called the day of Atonement, which marked the beginning of the season during which it was generally regarded as unsafe to travel on the Mediterranean Sea because of violent storms. The day of Atonement usually took place in late September or early October.
Acts 27:10, 21–22, 31. Paul Exercised the Gift of Seership
Photograph by Richard L. W. Cleave
Paul foresaw the danger that was to befall the ship that was carrying him to Rome. He perceived that the voyage would end with “hurt and much damage” (Acts 27:10), that there would be “no loss of any man’s life” (Acts 27:22), and that the passengers would be preserved only if they stayed on board the ship (see Acts 27:31). These verses provide an example of Paul acting as a seer. The Book of Mormon teaches that “a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, … and hidden things shall come to light, … and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known” (Mosiah 8:17).
Elder John A. Widtsoe (1872–1952) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles declared: “A seer is one who sees with spiritual eyes. He perceives the meaning of that which seems obscure to others; therefore he is an interpreter and clarifier of eternal truth. He foresees the future from the past and present. This he does by the power of the Lord. … In short, he is one who sees, who walks in the Lord’s light with open eyes” (Evidences and Reconciliations, arr. G. Homer Durham , 258).
Acts 27:10–44. Safety in Following Prophetic Counsel
Paul’s warnings of impending danger were ignored. President Henry B. Eyring spoke of people today who choose to disregard prophetic counsel: “Every time in my life when I have chosen to delay following inspired counsel or decided that I was an exception, I came to know that I had put myself in harm’s way. Every time that I have listened to the counsel of prophets, felt it confirmed in prayer, and then followed it, I have found that I moved toward safety. Along the path, I have found that the way had been prepared for me and the rough places made smooth. God led me to safety along a path which was prepared with loving care, sometimes prepared long before” (“Finding Safety in Counsel,” Ensign, May 1997, 25).
Acts 27:11–12. Rejecting the Counsel of Apostles
Acts 27:11–12 illustrates several reasons why individuals sometimes choose to reject the counsel of Apostles or other Church leaders. (1) Worldly experience and training. Just as “the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship” (Acts 27:11) rather than the counsel of Paul, a tentmaker, people today sometimes reject the words of seers or other Church leaders because their counsel does not coincide with the opinions of “experts” in the world. (2) Convenience. The ship’s crew contended that they should continue their journey because “the haven was not commodious to winter in” (Acts 27:12), meaning it was not a convenient location to spend the winter months. Likewise, adhering to the counsel of Church leaders is not always convenient. (3) Majority mentality. “The more part” of the passengers advised the centurion “to depart” (Acts 27:12). For many individuals, it makes more sense to agree with the majority than to agree with a servant of God, whose words are not meant to be popular.
President Ezra Taft Benson taught the following regarding prophetic teachings:
“The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.
“Sometimes there are those who feel their earthly knowledge on a certain subject is superior to the heavenly knowledge which God gives to His prophet on the same subject. They feel the prophet must have the same earthly credentials or training which they have had before they will accept anything the prophet has to say that might contradict their earthly schooling. …
“… The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know. …
“How we respond to the words of a living prophet when he tells us what we need to know, but would rather not hear, is a test of our faithfulness. …
“… The prophet can receive revelation on any matter—temporal or spiritual” (“Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” in Brigham Young University 1980 Speeches , 3–4; speeches.byu.edu).
Acts 27:14. “Fair Havens” and “Euroclydon”
Paul encouraged those in charge of the ship to remain at a place called the “fair havens,” located on the southern coast of Crete (Acts 27:8), but they rejected his counsel. After departing, the ship encountered Euroclydon (Acts 27:14), a violent, cyclonic Mediterranean storm that threatened the lives of everyone aboard the ship. This experience is representative of what happens to people when they reject the counsel of Apostles and choose instead to go their own way; they leave the calm waters of spiritual safety and sail into tempestuous winds that threaten their spiritual lives (see Mosiah 8:20–21; Mormon 5:18).
Acts 27:20–36. Prophetic Assurances
Paul assured the ship’s crew and passengers that they would not perish in the storm. His words brought comfort to those who had lost all hope (see Acts 27:20). Similarly, we can find hope and reassurance in the words of modern prophets and seers, despite the trials and hardship that are so prevalent in our times. President Thomas S. Monson taught:
“The moral footings of society continue to slip, while those who attempt to safeguard those footings are often ridiculed and, at times, picketed and persecuted. Wars, natural disasters, and personal misfortunes continue to occur.
“It would be easy to become discouraged and cynical about the future—or even fearful of what might come. …
“The history of the Church in this, the dispensation of the fulness of times, is replete with the experiences of those who have struggled and yet who have remained steadfast and of good cheer as they have made the gospel of Jesus Christ the center of their lives. This attitude is what will pull us through whatever comes our way. It will not remove our troubles from us but rather will enable us to face our challenges, to meet them head on, and to emerge victorious. …
“I testify to you that our promised blessings are beyond measure. Though the storm clouds may gather, though the rains may pour down upon us, our knowledge of the gospel and our love of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior will comfort and sustain us and bring joy to our hearts as we walk uprightly and keep the commandments. There will be nothing in this world that can defeat us.
“My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith” (“Be of Good Cheer,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2009, 89, 92).
Acts 28:1–5. A Viper Fastened onto Paul’s Hand
Those on board the ship found safety on the island called Melita, also known as Malta. The term “barbarous people” (Acts 28:2) means speakers of a strange language, not brutal ruffians. After their ship wrecked, Paul and the other passengers made it safely to land. Later, while Paul was building a fire on the shore, he was bitten by a poisonous snake. However, he was unaffected by the venom (see Acts 28:3–5). This incident was a fulfillment of the Savior’s promise that His disciples would “take up serpents” and “it shall not hurt them” (Mark 16:18).
Acts 28:17–31. Paul Preached the Gospel in Rome
Paul finally reached Rome and gained the desire of his heart to preach the gospel there (see Romans 1:11; 15:23–24). As far as we know, Paul was the first missionary to preach the gospel in Rome. As he had done in other cities, Paul preached first to the Jews, some of whom believed him, and then turned his attention to “all that came in unto him” (Acts 28:30), many of whom were likely Gentiles. While under house arrest, Paul wrote what some term his “prison epistles”—Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon, and Philippians. After he spent two years under house arrest in Rome, it is believed that Paul was tried and released and that he thereafter ministered in Asia, Greece, and perhaps Spain before being imprisoned again in Rome. According to tradition, he was killed during the persecutions under Nero, sometime between A.D. 64 and 68. Paul alluded to his future death in 2 Timothy 4:6–8.
Paul declared that he had lived a life “void of offence toward God, and toward men” (Acts 24:16; see also Acts 23:1). What actions might you take to help you to have a conscience free of offense toward God and man?
In Acts 27, the people on board the ship with Paul were preserved because they hearkened to Paul’s warnings and words of encouragement. In what ways have you been protected by hearkening to the words of modern prophets, seers, and revelators?
Which of Paul’s experiences in Acts 21–28 show that Paul was always ready and willing to testify of Jesus Christ? What do you learn from Paul’s example about sharing your testimony with others?
Points to Ponder
Write a paragraph briefly explaining how Paul was true to the heavenly vision he received from the Lord (see Acts 9:6, 15–16, 20; 26:19). Write another paragraph explaining what it means for you to be true to the heavenly messages you receive through the Holy Ghost and other means.
In Acts 26:29, Paul said that he wished Agrippa was not just “almost” but “altogether” persuaded to be a Christian. Compile a list of doctrines of the gospel that you feel you are “altogether” converted to. If there are areas of your testimony in which you feel “almost” but not “altogether” converted, write a plan to increase your understanding and conversion in those areas, and pray for help as you follow that plan. Consider sharing what you write with a family member or friend.