Acts 21–23

“Acts 21–23,” New Testament Teacher Resource Manual (2002), 152–54


The account of Paul’s third missionary journey to the Gentiles ends with Acts 21:16. During the roughly ten years of his three journeys Paul traveled many thousands of miles and boldly testified of Jesus “before the Gentiles … and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Acts 21:17–23:35records events that transpired between the end of these missions and his appearance before Felix, the Roman governor at Caesarea. They include Paul’s telling of his conversion and of other occasions when the Lord spoke to him. They end with Paul under arrest in Herod’s judgment hall in Caesarea awaiting a hearing before Felix. Notice Paul’s boldness as a missionary and his ability to seize every opportunity to teach the gospel, no matter how difficult the circumstances.

Prayerfully study Acts 21–23and consider the following principles before preparing your lessons.

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

Additional Resources

  • The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, 280–82, 339–41.

Suggestions for Teaching

Choose from the following ideas, or use some of your own, as you prepare lessons for Acts 21–23.

video iconNew Testament Video presentation 12, “Paul—A Chosen Vessel” (11:34), can be used in teaching Acts 21–28(see New Testament Video Guide for teaching suggestions).

calendar iconActs 21–28. The Lord prepared Paul to bear witness of Him throughout the world.

(20–30 minutes)

Ask students to consider the training athletes undergo to become competitive at a world-class level. Discuss their step-by-step preparation, from learning the basics of their sport through the years of practice, coaching, relearning, strength training, competing, and improving until they become the best they can be at their sport.

  • How is a missionary like a finely tuned athlete?

  • What step-by-step preparations are necessary for missionary training?

Explain that Paul did not become the Lord’s Apostle and missionary to the Gentiles all at once. The Lord prepared him from the time he was a child.

  • Read Acts 9:6. What did the Lord tell Saul to do?

  • Read Acts 9:15–16. What did the Lord tell Ananias about His purpose in calling Saul to the ministry?

Write the following questions on the board:

  1. What was Paul’s occupation? (see Acts 18:3).

  2. What languages could Paul speak? (see Acts 21:37–40).

  3. Where was Paul born? (see Acts 21:39).

  4. Who was Paul’s teacher? (see Acts 22:3).

  5. What was Paul’s citizenship? (see Acts 22:25–29).

  6. What was Paul’s religious training? (see Acts 26:4–5).

Have the students find the answers, and write them on the board. Then discuss how each of these things helped prepare Paul to be an Apostle and missionary. Explain that we too must prepare for our callings in the Church. Discuss the following questions:

  • How might we discover what the Lord would have us do?

  • Who can help us prepare to fulfill our responsibilities?

  • What kinds of preparation are the same for many of us?

  • What kinds of preparation might be different for each of us?

  • How might formal education help in our preparations?

  • Are we ever fully prepared for Church callings? Why or why not?

  • How can we help others discover and prepare for their future in the Church?

Read and discuss the following statement by Elder Neal A. Maxwell:

“God does not begin by asking us about our ability, but only about our availability, and if we then prove our dependability, he will increase our capability!“ (“It’s Service, Not Status, That Counts,” Ensign, July 1975, 7).

Acts 21:1–17. If we follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, we will be guided, protected, and comforted.

(25–30 minutes)

Share an experience in which you received guidance from the Holy Ghost. Invite students to share similar experiences they may have had. (Caution them not to share anything too sacred or personal.) Ask: Why is it sometimes difficult to follow the promptings of the Spirit?

Have students read Acts 20:22–25, and ask: What consequences did Paul know would come if he followed the Spirit’s direction to go to Jerusalem?

Ask students to imagine receiving a mission call knowing that if they went they would never be able to return to their family or friends. Ask:

  • Why would it be difficult to accept such a call?

  • In what ways would your faith be tested?

  • How is that similar to what Paul faced?

  • Read Acts 20:36–38. How did Paul react to his call?

Invite students to read Acts 21:1–17. Discuss some or all of the following questions:

  • How did Paul’s friends react to his decision to go to Jerusalem? (see vv. 4, 10–12).

  • Why do friends sometimes try to keep you from doing something you feel you should do?

  • When this happens, how do you react?

  • How did Paul respond to his friends? (see v. 13).

  • What does that show about Paul’s testimony?

  • In what ways could we follow his example?

  • How did Paul’s friends react to his commitment? (see v. 14).

  • Have you ever had an experience in which a friend’s standing up for truth helped you follow the Lord? (Invite any who wish to share such experiences to do so.)

Read to students the following statement by William Law, an eighteenth century English clergyman:

“If you have not chosen the Kingdom of God, it will make in the end no difference what you have chosen instead” (in Neal A. Maxwell, The Smallest Part [1973], 1).

Testify of the importance of following the Lord in spite of any opposition we receive from other people.

Acts 21:16–26. We need to be patient and understanding with new converts as they learn the gospel.

(20–25 minutes)

Show students a map of the world and discuss questions like the following:

  • How does the culture differ in other parts of the world? (Indicate one or two specific countries.)

  • About how many people join the Church each year? (see the annual statistical report from the most recent May Ensign).

  • What are the religious backgrounds of some of these new converts?

Ask students:

  • What challenges might a person from another religion face when joining the Church? (Point out that there are many concepts, doctrines, beliefs, and practices that new converts need to abandon in order to fully embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ.)

  • What teachings or practices of the Church do you think new converts might have the hardest time adjusting to? Why?

Have students read Acts 21:16–20, and ask:

  • Where did Paul’s missionary journey lead him?

  • How did the Jewish members of the Church in Jerusalem feel about the law of Moses?

Read verses 21–26 and ask:

  • What did Paul do out of respect for the feelings of Jewish converts in his day?

  • How might their feelings be similar to the feelings of new members of the Church today?

  • What can we learn from Paul’s example?

Ask a student to read the following quotation from President Gordon B. Hinckley:

“Unfortunately, people can’t seem to be tolerant and respectful of the views of others in so many cases. We must cultivate … an attitude of tolerance and respect for the beliefs and rights of others. We must cultivate an increased spirit of civility among people in their expressions one to another, and toward the beliefs and practices of others. We can disagree with people without being disagreeable. We can disagree without raising our voices and becoming angry and vindictive in our ways. We must learn to do so. We … must practice a greater spirit of Christ in our lives, of love one for another, and extend that to all people regardless of whom they worship or how they worship, so long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 666–67).

Ask: How do you feel about this statement? Invite students to think of an individual in their ward, stake, or school who recently joined the Church or is just becoming active. Ask: What could you do to show tolerance and charity toward this individual? List answers on the board, and encourage students to follow Paul’s example of respecting the feelings of new converts.

Acts 23:11–31. Sometimes the Lord accomplishes His will for us through the actions of other people.

(20–25 minutes)

Invite the class to pretend that you are a student who wants to get better grades in school. Ask: Who can help me get better grades? (Answers might include parents, teachers, tutors, friends.)

Tell students that certain people helped Paul accomplish something that Heavenly Father had in mind for him. Have students take turns reading verses from Acts 23:11–31. As they read, pause to discuss questions like the following:

  • What did the Lord desire Paul to do? (see v. 11).

  • What plans were made to prevent Paul from doing the Lord’s will? (see vv. 12–15).

  • Who helped make it possible for Paul to accomplish the Lord’s will? (see vv. 16–18, 23).

Help the students understand that other people sometimes help us accomplish what the Lord wants us to do. You might use questions such as these:

  • How do other people help us prepare for missions?

  • How do other people help us enjoy the scriptures?

  • How do other people help us give service?

Point out that sometimes the Lord even enlists other people to help Him answer our prayers. For example, when we pray for help in understanding a gospel principle, He might prompt a teacher to discuss that principle in a lesson. Invite students to share examples from their own lives where this has happened to them.

Remind students that the Lord may also use them to help other people accomplish what the Lord wants them to do. Encourage students to be prepared to help whenever the Lord calls.