Paul in the Image of Christ

06 May

Another perspective of Paul’s presence in Jerusalem beginning with Acts 21 would recall that of Jesus during his final week before his crucifixion. The Hellenist Jewish community was disappointed with Jesus (John 12:34), just as the Hebraic believing community at Jerusalem was disappointed with Paul’s ministry among the Diaspora (Acts 21:20-21). Both Jesus and Paul were misunderstood and rejected by those to whom they were sent.

I have already mentioned[1] that Paul’s commitment to reach Jerusalem (Acts 20:16, 22) pictures Jesus’ own desire to reach the Holy City (Luke 9:51), knowing full well that death did (or might) await them there. Both Jesus and Paul shared a final meal with those whom they loved where a farewell address was offered by both (John 13-17 and Acts 20:17-38).[2] Moreover, just as Jesus was betrayed[3] by Judas, one of his disciples (Luke 22:48), Paul was given over into the hands Jews through the advice of brethren (Acts 21:22-24), whether a clandestine plot by false brethren[4] or ill-conceived innocent plan by true brethren is not said, but one doesn’t get the sense of false brethren being involved in the natural reading of the text, but either way the parallel is there between Jesus and Paul.

When Jesus was arrested, everyone forsook him (Mark 14:50), and this was also the case with Paul. While it would be unreasonable to believe the disciples could force their will upon an angry mob, it is not without reason that we could expect the cool-headed disciples to intervene after the Romans had taken Paul, after all, they even permitted Paul to address the crowd of Jews who had just tried to kill him (Acts 21:31-40). Moreover, nothing is said of anyone coming later in Paul’s defense, telling the chief captain of Paul innocent activity in the Temple. Even if the silence in the text is not to be believed, it seems that Luke intends for us to view Paul in the image of Christ’s passion.

Jesus appeared before three courts, first, the Sanhedrin of the Jews (Luke 22:66-71), next before Pilate, the Roman governor, (Luke 23:1-5, 13-25) and finally before Herod (Luke 23:6-12). Even so it was done to Paul who was first tried by the Jewish court, the Sanhedrin (Acts 23:1-10). Then he was tried by the Roman governor, Felix (Acts 24:1-23), and finally appeared before Herod (Acts 26:1-32). In both Jesus’ case and Paul’s it was the Jewish authorities who want them executed. The civil authorities found no guilt in either of them.

Finally Jesus was crucified, but death had no power over him, in that he rose from the dead and through him men are saved. In the case of Paul, Luke’s account of his voyage across the Mediterranean in Acts 27 gives an image the sentence of death upon Paul and the crew, but it ends in life. Paul is saved from what seems to be certain death, and for his sake all others are saved—giving the image of a resurrection where all are blessed for the sake of Paul (Acts 27:24; cp. 1Corinthians 15:22-23).

[1] See my blog-post: Paul, Bound in the Spirit.

[2] A meal is not mentioned at Miletus, but it was a day’s journey from there to Ephesus. To believe Paul didn’t have a meal prepared for the group on their return is to expect too much of a literal reading of the text, especially if as I have argued previously that Paul delivered his farewell address on the second Sabbath counting to Pentecost.

[3] The word betrayed in the Greek (G3860) doesn’t have the negative sense of our English word. The same word is used of God who “delivered” Jesus into the hands of men (Romans 8:32) and of all things being delivered to Jesus (Matthew 11:27). Certainly, the Father cannot be accused of betraying Jesus, so the Greek word has a richer meaning than does our word “betrayed”.

[4] Paul’s letter to the Romans, which he wrote while spending the winter at Corinth (cp. Romans 16:1 and Acts 18:1,18 with 1Corinthians 16:6 and Acts 20:2-3), shows that he understood that enemies awaited him at Jerusalem (Romans 15:30-31) and prayed he would be both delivered from them and prevent them from forcing the Jerusalem church to reject the offering.


Posted by on May 6, 2013 in Kingdom of God, Paul in Jerusalem


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2 responses to “Paul in the Image of Christ

  1. Eddie

    October 29, 2015 at 22:24

    We have every indication that the offering was not rejected. James, the brother of the Lord and leader of the Jerusalem church, met with Paul and tried to work things out to show Paul was not against Judaism. James was murdered cir. 62 AD, and I believe he wrote his epistle just before he died. Moreover, Paul told Felix that he had come to Jerusalem bringing a gift to his nation (Acts 24:17). There is absolutely no indication that Paul’s gift in the name of the gentile churches was refused.

  2. Bill

    October 29, 2015 at 19:41

    Regarding footnote (4), (and not to spoil the ending), but do they reject the offering? or do we know?


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