‘Come, Follow Me’ for July 31-Aug. 6: What have Church leaders and scholars said about Acts 22-28?

This week’s study guide includes Paul’s return to Jerusalem, his meeting with King Agrippa and his journey to Rome

This week’s “Come, Follow Me” study guide covers Acts 22-28, which includes the Apostle Paul’s return to Jerusalem, his meeting with King Agrippa and his journey to Rome.

Church News recently dug through archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to learn what leaders and scholars have said about these chapters.

Paul’s return to Jerusalem

“Paul’s arrival in Jerusalem sparked an emotional explosion about the regulations for gentile proselytes. Many Jewish members in Jerusalem thought that Paul had been preaching against Moses and the commandments — even to Jews. (See Acts 21:20–21.)

“James, the Lord’s brother, who was by then one of the apostles, requested on behalf of the Church leaders that Paul show his obedience to Jewish law by purifying himself in the temple with four other men. At the conclusion of the ritual period, some Jews from Asia (perhaps Ephesus) falsely accused Paul of taking some Greeks into the inner courts of the temple precinct. The punishment for such a crime was death, and an angry crowd mobbed Paul. A Roman garrison quartered in the Antonian fortress at the northwest corner of the temple precincts barely rescued him. He was chained and carried on the shoulders of the soldiers back to the stairs leading to the fortress, where he sought permission to address the crowd.

“The people were surprisingly quiet and attentive as Paul recounted the experience of his conversion, but almost certainly most in the crowd did not know they were supposed to be punishing a blasphemer (see a similarly confused crowd in Acts 19:29, 32) until he uttered the word gentile. That word inflamed the crowd and Paul was carried into the fortress for his own protection.”

— C. Wilfred Griggs, former professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, in the September 1975 Ensign article, “Paul: The Long Road from Damascus”

Paul’s Roman citizenship

“Roman society was based on status, and civil rights followed this system. Slaves had the least protection, and citizens had the most. The latter were mainly either Italians or provincial families that were rewarded for usefulness to Rome. Since they generally served by political or economic influence, Roman citizens in any city were probably at least middle class, the implication of Paul telling the examining tribune that he was born a citizen. (See Acts 22:28.)

“On that occasion, the mere claim of citizenship immediately stopped an intended interrogation under the whip. In the letter of Pliny to Trajan discussed earlier, that governor simply executed provincial Christians who did not forsake their religion, but others ‘possessed of the same folly’ received better treatment: ‘Because they were Roman citizens, I signed an order for them to be transferred to Rome.’ Paul could demand the same, which he did after facing either the danger of being murdered in another Jerusalem trial or further imprisonment after already being in custody for two years. He received fair treatment on several other occasions because of his Roman rights. Obviously the Lord called an apostle to the gentiles especially suited to survive the dangers of hot controversy.”

— Richard Lloyd Anderson, former professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, in the September 1975 Ensign article, “The Church and the Roman Empire”

“The deferred judgment lasted for two years, until Felix was replaced by Porcius Festus. Festus, anxious to conclude the case according to Roman law, desired Paul to go to trial in Jerusalem. Paul, fearing that the new procurator would conciliate the Jews by surrendering him, exercised his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to the emperor.

“Some time later Agrippa, vassal king of Chalcis and some territory around the Sea of Galilee, visited Festus and desired to hear Paul. After Paul’s famous speech to Agrippa, Luke reports that both Festus and Agrippa agreed that Paul was really innocent. (See Acts 26:31–32.) Nevertheless, Paul had taken the matter out of Festus’ jurisdiction by his appeal to the caesar, then Nero, who ruled from A.D. 54–68.”

— C. Wilfred Griggs, former professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, in the September 1975 Ensign article, “Paul: The Long Road from Damascus”

King Agrippa

“Often it is not convenient or comfortable to stand up for Christ. I am sure that was the case with Paul when he was called before King Agrippa and was asked to justify himself and tell his story. Paul, without hesitating, proclaimed his belief with such power that this intimidating king admitted he was ‘almost’ persuaded to be a Christian.

“Paul’s response witnessed of his desire for people to understand absolutely what he had to say. He told King Agrippa that it was his desire that all who heard him would not ‘almost’ be Christians but rather would ‘altogether’ become disciples of Christ (Acts 26:29). Those who speak with clarity can bring this to pass.”

— Elder Gregory A. Schwitzer, October 2015 general conference, “Let the Clarion Trumpet Sound”

“The Apostle Paul also bore fervent testimony of Christ and converted many through his missionary labors. He did not shrink in bearing his testimony before King Agrippa. So mighty were his words that even this influential representative of the Roman Empire was moved to exclaim, ‘Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian’ (Acts 26:28).

“The lesson, I believe, is clear: Having a testimony alone is not enough. In fact, when we are truly converted, we cannot be restrained from testifying. And as it was with Apostles and faithful members of old, so is it also our privilege, our duty and our solemn obligation to ‘declare the things which [we] know to be true’ (D&C 80:4).”

Then-Elder M. Russell Ballard, October 2004 general conference, “Pure Testimony”

“Festus accused Paul of having so much learning that ‘much learning doth make thee mad.’ (Acts 26:24.) Paul’s response was:

‘For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.

‘King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest.

‘Then Agrippa said unto Paul [some of the saddest words in all recorded sacred history], Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian’ (Acts 26:26–28).

“Almost. What a heartbreaking sound is the word ‘almost!’ Almost some of our good members keep the Word of Wisdom, or just about go to priesthood meeting and sacrament meeting, or almost hold family home evening. Some of us almost — but not quite — pay our tithing.”

Then-Elder James E. Faust, October 1982 general conference, “Stand Up and Be Counted”

“Too many of us are like King Agrippa. We listen with rapture to the message of our leaders; we marvel at their words; we are stirred. But the world tugs mightily, and, instead of Nephi-like adherence to the word and will of the Lord, we respond, Agrippa-like, with the words, ‘Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.’

“Sad words, the almosts of the scriptures — the almosts of Cain, of King Saul, of Laman, of Lemuel, of the rich young disciple, of Pilate, of Judas Iscariot, of Sidney Rigdon, of our down-the-street neighbor, of ourselves? How sad the words: ‘I almost earned the celestial kingdom’; ‘I almost sought first the kingdom of God’; ‘For the most part well done, thou usually good and faithful servant.’ Almost.”

— Richard H. Cracroft and Neal E. Lambert, former English professors at Brigham Young University, in the 1973 New Era article, “Thoughts on the Book of Acts and the Epistles: Voices of Admonition and Warning”

Paul’s travels

The Colosseum in Rome, Italy.
The Colosseum in Rome, Italy. During the week of July 31-Aug. 6, 2023, the “Come, Follow Me” study guide includes Paul’s return to Jerusalem, his meeting with King Agrippa and his journey to Rome. | Kevin Miller

“The historical period from Alexander to Augustus is called ‘Hellenistic,’ and its culture grew to be homogeneous. Rome accentuated this process by the mobility of political and military assignments and trade throughout all parts of the empire. The Augustan peace meant that travel was better protected, and the seas were free for commerce. Rome’s basic grain supply was shipped from Egypt, which explains why the centurion taking Paul to Rome was twice able to commandeer passage in large Alexandrian ships going to Italy. (See Acts 27:6, Acts 28:11.) Security in an empire also demanded good roads, many of which still exist. So the efficiency of moving from land to land was never better before modern inventions.

“The usefulness of commercial shipping for transportation is shown by Paul’s recorded missionary travels: subtracting some 3,000 miles for walking and riding, Paul went over 5,000 miles of his journeys by ship — and this is an incomplete statistic, for he had been shipwrecked three times before Acts picks up his narrative. ... the comparative efficiency of travel aided all church business — for most of Paul’s letters and the majority of all New Testament letters utilized shipping for their delivery. Thus international commerce in a wide empire made possible a world Church. …

“Many scholars of competence realize that Christianity entered a world strangely prepared for it. Within three decades of the crucifixion, Paul could say in overview that the gospel had been ‘preached to every creature which is under heaven’ (Col. 1:23). Such a result is astounding, even if it mainly relates to the Roman world. It could never have happened without God’s direction, both within and without the ancient Church.”

— Richard Lloyd Anderson, former professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, in the September 1975 Ensign article, “The Church and the Roman Empire”

What happened to Paul after the events of Acts?

“Paul’s arrival in Rome brings the reader to the end of the book of Acts, but not necessarily to the end of the life of the apostle. Luke concludes: ‘And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him’ (Acts 28:30).

“Why doesn’t the account continue? If Paul had lost his case — and his life — before the emperor, an account of his martyrdom would have been a most appropriate seal for his testimony and ministry. However, he may not have died at this time. Neither Felix, nor Festus, nor Agrippa deemed Paul guilty of crime, let alone worthy of death. Furthermore, Paul is rather optimistic about his own future in the so-called ‘prison epistles’ written during this time from Rome. (See Philip. 1:21–26; Philip. 2:23–24; Philem. 1:22.)

“A number of other evidences hint that Paul was acquitted and traveled for some time before another imprisonment and death. Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus do not fit into the chronology of Acts, and therefore must have been written later. From these epistles, one notes that Paul visited Ephesus (see 1 Tim. 1:3; 1 Tim. 3:14–15), Miletus (see 2 Tim. 4:20), Troas (see 2 Tim. 4:13), Corinth (see 2 Tim. 4:20), Nicopolis (see Titus 3:12) and Crete (see Titus 1:5). The prison epistles show that Paul also intended to travel to Philippi (see Philip. 1:26; Philip. 2:24) and Colossae (see Philem. 1:22) if he was acquitted. In Romans 15:24, 28, Paul writes of a planned trip to Spain...

“Tradition is substantially uniform, however, in stating that some time in the later part of Nero’s reign, Paul was executed in Rome. Behind him, he left the rich treasures of his epistles and the record of his faithful friend Luke, which portrays an example of devoted service and missionary zeal that 20 centuries of time have only burnished brighter.”

— C. Wilfred Griggs, former professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, in the September 1975 Ensign article, “Paul: The Long Road from Damascus”

Paul’s legacy

“Paul suffered imprisonments, whippings, cold, hunger, thirst, stoning, shipwreck and other perils. (See 2 Cor. 11:23–27.) He suffered also the loss of all physical goods (see Philip. 3:8) and eventual martyrdom (see 2 Tim. 4:6–7). Only a certain kind of disposition could tolerate such a life for a period of 25 or 30 years. Through all that time, he built up the Church throughout the northern Mediterranean and wrote many epistles to the branches there, some of which are preserved in our present New Testament. ...

“His records that have come to us display a great love for the Savior. And no one of that day has given us a more extensive discussion of the mission of Jesus Christ in fulfilling the law of Moses and in being the savior of all nations and peoples. Paul is most eloquent when writing of the Savior’s grace, mercy and love for mankind. ...

“Paul was the right man in the right place at the right time. This was not a coincidence but the result of divine foreknowledge and selection — Jesus appointed him as a special witness, not only for the time of his own mortality, but also to leave an example and a written record for all future generations.”

Robert J. Matthews, former dean of Religious Education at Brigham Young University, in the September 1987 Ensign article, “Saul of Tarsus: Chosen for a Special Need”

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