“Thou Hast Testified of Me”
Lesson 38 – Acts 21 - 28
Is there a person in the scriptures with whom you feel you can identify, because of similar thoughts, experiences, or situations? Why do you feel a particular closeness to this person?
Looking back at his experiences after the First Vision, the Prophet Joseph Smith felt that his experiences were similar to the Apostle Paul’s. Read Joseph Smith–History 1:23-25 to discover why.
The Apostle Paul’s appearance before King Agrippa is one of the events covered in this lesson. In this situation and throughout his missionary journeys, despite rejection and persecution, Paul stood firm in the faith and courageously bore testimony of Jesus Christ. To appreciate how Paul fulfilled his life’s mission to testify of Christ, turn to the entry under “Paul” in the Bible Dictionary (pages 742-43). Then, turn to the maps of Paul’s journeys (maps 19-22 in the LDS edition of the King James Bible) and identify where each event took place. We would do well to follow Paul’s example and be faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ even in the midst of trials and tribulation.
After three successful missionary journeys that took him throughout the Roman Empire, Paul returned to Jerusalem, though he knew it was dangerous to do so.
Acts 21:10-12 Paul’s friends tried to stop him from returning to Jerusalem because they feared that he would be taken prisoner by the Jews and turned over to the Gentiles.
Acts 21:13 Paul responded to his friends’ concerns by saying that he was not only ready to be bound, but even to die for Christ. This demonstrates Paul’s total commitment to Christ.
Acts 21:17-19 The day after he reached Jerusalem, Paul reported to the Church leaders on his mission. This is similar to what missionaries today do after returning from their missions—they report their mission experiences to the stake president and high council and often to ward or branch members in sacrament meeting. Many members have benefited with strengthened faith and commitment from hearing about others’ missionary experiences.
Acts 15:1-35 Many Jewish Christians resented Paul for teaching that salvation came through Jesus Christ, not the law of Moses. To please these people, the brethren in Jerusalem asked Paul to go to the temple and undergo ritual cleansing as a sign that he still observed the law (Acts 21:20-25).
Acts 21:26-30 While Paul was in the temple he was seized by a mob of people who accused him of teaching against the law of Moses and polluting the temple by bringing a non-Jew into it.
Acts 21:31-36 Paul was rescued from this mob by the chief captain of the soldiers in Jerusalem.
Acts 21:37 – Acts 22 When the chief captain allowed him to speak to the people, Paul recounted his conversion story and told of a vision of Christ. Paul showed great courage in being a witness of Jesus Christ.
On a personal basis, think about a time when you have borne your testimony in a situation that required courage. How did you gain the courage to do this? Learning about Paul’s actions can help us have more courage to share our testimonies with others as we see his example.
Acts 22:22 The crowd outside the temple responded to Paul’s account of his conversion by condemning him and calling for him to be killed.
Acts 22:24 The chief captain’s purpose in removing Paul from the mob was to find out why the mob was so ready to kill him.
Acts 22:25-26 Paul was able to avoid being scourged when he pointed out that he was a Roman citizen. This gave him special rights and privileges in the Roman Empire, of which Jerusalem was a part.
Acts 23:1; see also Acts 24:16 The first thing Paul said when he was brought before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish council, was that he had a good conscience before God. (See D&C 135:4 for a similar statement made by the Prophet Joseph Smith.) Paul’s “good conscience before God” helped him at this time by giving him confidence that God was with him in his trials. Consider what changes you need to make in your life to have a “good conscience before God.”
Acts 23:11 When the Lord appeared to Paul following Paul’s examination by the Sanhedrin, he told him that he would also bear testimony in Rome just as he had done in Jerusalem. Ponder how the Lord has helped you “be of good cheer” during difficult times.
Acts 23:12-15 The day after the Lord appeared to Paul, more than 40 Jews plotted to kill Paul, vowing not to eat or drink until they succeeded.
Acts 23:16-35 Paul was protected from their plan when the chief captain sent him to Felix, the governor. This was the third time in just a few days that Paul was protected from death.
From Acts 24 we learn that Paul was sent to Felix, the governor, and testified boldly before him. Paul remained a prisoner for two years while Felix hoped to receive money to free him. When Felix was succeeded as governor by Festus, the Jews asked Festus to send Paul to Jerusalem for trial. Paul refused to go, knowing he would not get a fair trial there. Instead, Paul appealed to Caesar, as was his right as a Roman citizen. Festus agreed to send Paul to Rome, but Paul first had to appear before Herod Agrippa, the Roman-appointed ruler of Judea.
Acts 26:2-27 As you read Paul’s words to King Agrippa, think about what impresses you about them.
Acts 26:28 Agrippa responded to Paul’s words by saying that he was almost persuaded to be a Christian. Agrippa chose not to become a Christian. Consider the attitudes or other problems that keep people today from accepting the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Acts 26:24, 28 While Festus thought Paul was “mad”; Agrippa was almost persuaded by Paul. But neither was willing to accept and commit. Nothing less than complete devotion is acceptable to the Lord. Although Agrippa found Paul’s message almost believable while Festus rejected it outright, both failed the test of faith Paul offered them.
Agrippa had been willing to release Paul (Acts 26:32), but Paul had appealed to Caesar and so was sent to Rome. Paul’s journey to Rome can be traced on your LDS maps through such sites as Fair Havens, where Paul counseled the men to remain for the winter, and Malta (Melita), where the shipwrecked passengers swam ashore.
Acts 27:7-20 When the master of the ship rejected Paul’s warning that it was too dangerous to sail from Fair Havens, they sailed into a tempestuous storm.
Acts 27:11-12 The centurion chose to disregard Paul’s counsel and instead accepted the word of the owner of the ship. Some of us occasionally disregard our Church leaders’ counsel and suffer the consequences thereof at some point in our lives.
Acts 27:21-26 Paul knew that all of the passengers would arrive on land safely, though the ship would be destroyed in the storm, because an angel revealed it to him.
Acts 27:27-44 This prophecy was fulfilled as the ship ran aground and broke up, but without any of the occupants losing their life.
Acts 28:7-9 Paul used his priesthood power while on the island of Melita to heal the father of the chief of the island.
This incident suggests that one purpose of priesthood power is to serve as a witness of the Lord’s servants. Honoring the priesthood helps us serve as witnesses of Christ to those around us.
After several months, Paul finally reached Rome, where he was again imprisoned.
Acts 28:16-31 Paul turned this seeming setback to his advantage as he was given relative freedom, so he spent his time teaching the gospel and testifying of Christ.
Historians assume that Paul died a martyr’s death in Rome about A.D. 65. Throughout his life, he fulfilled his responsibility as an Apostle to “go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (Matt. 28:19). He also fulfilled the Lord’s prophecy that he would preach the gospel “before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). He was a faithful witness of Christ despite verbal and physical attacks, unjust imprisonment, and natural disasters. When we follow Paul’s example by being faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ in all situations, He will give us the strength to endure our trials.