As Paul continues his journey back to Jerusalem here in Acts 21, we find him again in the company of his traveling companions – including the good Dr Luke, author of the book. What Luke narrates in this chapter comes at least in part from his own eye-witness experiences.
Paul’s journey to Jerusalem is interesting to me. At Tyre, (Acts 21:4), we read that some local believers prophesied through the Holy Spirit that Paul should not go on to Jerusalem. And yet he does. Were these believers wrong in their prophesy? Did God not want Paul to go to Jerusalem?It comes down to this: was Paul’s continuing on to Jerusalem an act of disobedience or an act of obedience? Paul certainly felt that it was an act of obedience. In Acts 20:22, he said that he was bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem, noting that although he didn’t know what lay ahead, the Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead. I wonder if it is possible that Luke is simply drawing a conclusion from what these prophets in Tyre actually said. Is it not possible that they said something similar to that which Agabus says in Acts 21:11. What Paul spoke of to the Ephesian elders is continuing: the Spirit is warning him of jail and suffering ahead.
So they press on – despite tears and entreaties. Arriving at Caesarea, they spend some time at the house of Philip the Evangelist – who played such a pivotal role in the early growth of the church beyond the borders of Israel. Here again, Paul is warned of what awaits him in Jerusalem.
Why does he continue on? Because Paul knows that whilst he will suffer, he will do so for the good of the church and the glory of Christ. He is willing, he notes, to die for Jesus. Being jailed would be horrible – but surely Christ is worth it. Note that Paul doesn’t long for the suffering that lies ahead. The entreaties of his friends break his heart, I think, because he feels the urge and temptation to not go; to keep himself safe; to avoid the suffering set before him. Yet, like our master and Lord, he does not scorn the suffering. No, he is resolute: he will do what God wills him to do; no matter what.
And, as expected, Paul is arrested. Arrested on trumped-up charges, whilst he is in the process of demonstrating that he is not antagonistic to the laws of Moses…. See Don Carson’s For the Love of God (Volume 2), January 21 for a great study on this part of the chapter. (Available on bible.faithlife.com here.)
Father, please make me as dedicated to you as Paul. Make me sensitive to the leading of your Spirit. Please grow my love for you – and my relationship with you – to the point where I can honestly speak Paul’s words for myself: that I am willing to suffer and even die for you. I want that to be true – please grow me and make me ever more like your Son Jesus. Thank you Jesus that although I so often am unfaithful, you are absolutely faithful and true.