“[C]rying out, ‘Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law and this place. Moreover, he even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.’ For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple” (Acts 21:28f ESV).
Acts records Paul being arrested. Having returned to Jerusalem with financial aid for the churches of Judea, he was in the temple out of respect for James’ words. Many people had heard Paul was an enemy of Moses, so he sought to disprove that rumor by taking part in a Nazarite vow. While in the temple, he was accused and assaulted. Finally, he was arrested by the Romans for causing a disturbance.
Let’s consider the accusations against Paul. It was claimed he was teaching everyone against the Jewish people, against the law of Moses, and against the temple. For a moment, think back to Stephen, one of the seven chosen in Acts 6. He was killed for similar reasons. Interestingly, Paul had agreed with that verdict and execution. I’m sure this irony was not lost on Paul.
But were these accusations true? Did Paul teach these things? Of course not! He taught Jews to continue observance of the law—though not for salvation. However, he did teach that Gentiles were not required to become Jews. Finally, did Paul bring a Greek into the temple?
Entering the inner area of the temple was only for circumcised males. There was a sign warning that anyone who entered uncircumcised would lose their life. Their fear was that the temple would now be defiled if an uncircumcised man entered. They had dealt with such things many times. Samaritans snuck in and scattered the bones of dead people. Antiochus Epiphany set up an altar to Zeus. Herod the Great installed a Roman Eagle (an unclean animal) over the temple. All resulted in a great deal of bloodshed. The people had fought throughout recent history to keep their temple undefiled. Paul was being accused of bringing a Greek into the inner precinct. To us, a minor thing. To them, a catastrophe.
Again, let’s consider the truth of this. The passage tells us some people had seen Paul with a Greek and assumed he had brought the man into the temple. The reasoning seems to go, “We saw Paul with a Greek. Now, Paul is here in the temple. He must have brought the Greek in with him.” When making such assumptions, people seldom ask, “But is the Greek here?”
The accusations against Paul were not true. Did they care? Probably not. When accusations fit an agenda, those who share them seldom worry about the truth. This reminded me of something from our own day. Take a moment to look at Social Media posts. How many people share something not because they know it to be accurate but because they assume it would be?
Do you check to ensure what you share is true, or do you click to share with little concern for veracity? I understand that much of what is shared is because of emotion or because it attacks someone we disagree with. We see an article about some despised person being involved in an evil plot, so we share it. We do so without checking. We read about some conspiracy and share it because it aligns with our view of what certain people would likely do. No checking. No Google search. Nothing other than assumption.
When we do this, what are we actually doing? We may think that we are just sharing information for others to consider. But that is not all. When doing this, we are testifying to the truth of what we shared. When we click share, others take it as “This is true, and I want you to know about it.” But since we have not checked, we are bearing false witness. Scripture condemns this. As the people of God, we should not share anything we are not confident is accurate. But confidence is more than assumption. To be confident that something is true means looking into it. You may say, “But I don’t know how to look into it.” Then you can’t know if it is true. You choose to risk “bearing false witness” or remain silent by not sharing it. Perhaps you say, “But I don’t have time to check.” Then you don’t have time to share.
Even on Social Media, God’s people should be careful that their testimony is true. We must not share it if we don’t know it to be such. Some may think, “But then I won’t have much to share on Social Media.” I can only say, “And that is its own blessing.”