Acts 20:16 – Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time…in Asia for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem.”
The Apostle Paul was on his way to Jerusalem. He knows if he stops in Ephesus, it will be hard to get away. He helped start a church there and the congregation just loves him. But he has something to tell them because he wants them to pray for him, so…
Acts 20: 17-19: From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them, ‘You know how I lived the whole time I was with you…I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews.’”
Acts 20:22a – “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem.
“Compelled by the Spirit…” The King James Version says, I go bound in the Spirit,” bound like the rudder on a ship that’s been tied down so the ship can only sail in one direction, or like the steering wheel on a car that’s been locked in place so the car can only travel straight ahead.
I am bound. I am compelled. I am focused. I am unexplainably and irresistibly driven by something deep inside me. I can’t explain it, but I know it’s from the Lord. The Lord is calling me. The Lord is sending me. The Lord wants me to go to Jerusalem.
Acts 20:22b “I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there“ I am going…not knowing.The purpose is unclear. The future is uncertain. I’m going in faith and I believe the Lord is asking me to trust Him.
Acts 20:23 – “I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardship are facing me.” I’m sure it won’t be easy, but because the Lord wants me to do this and He is with me, as long as the Lord is in control, I know it will all be worth it,
Acts 20:24 – “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace,”
The only thing that keeps me going; the only thing that gives my life any purpose or direction is to finish the race and complete the task. Paul saw the Christian life as a race; a long distance, cross-country marathon that required a lot of discipline, a lot of determination, patience, and perseverance on the part of the runner.
The Amplified Version says, “I want to finish my race with joy.” I want to sprint across that line with a big smile on my face and both arms raised in praise and victory; the way all winners finish a race.
In this series of teaching posts, we’re going to be watching the Apostle Paul, paying particular attention to the people the Lord brought into his life and the situations the Lord led him into, to see how the Lord used these people and these situations to help Paul finish the race and joyfully complete his task.
We won’t be conducting a strict verse-be-verse study of Paul’s complete itinerary. We’ll just be looking at a few key stops along the way. The whole objective of this study is to learn how to recognize and fulfill the will of God for our lives.
After saying good-bye to the elders from Ephesus, Paul gets back on the ship and continues his journey toward Jerusalem.
Acts 21:3-5a “After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre where our ship was to unload its cargo. Finding the disciples there, we stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit, they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. But when our time was up, we left and continued on our way.”
Paul says he is being “compelled by the Spirit” to go to Jerusalem. These disciples in Tyre are urging Paul “through the Spirit” not to go to Jerusalem. Isn’t it supposed to be the same Spirit? What’s going on here?
When Paul gets to Caesarea, (21:8) he meets Agabus
Acts 21:10b-12 “A prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, ‘The Holy Spirit says, in this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and hand him over to the Gentiles.’ When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem.”
Paul’s response was (21:13b) “I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord, Jesus.” “For me, to live is Christ.”(Philippians 1:21) Life only has meaning for me; life only has value when I’m living for Jesus. Dying for Jesus is even a greater honor.
Acts 21:14 “When he would not be dissuaded;” when he would not allow himself to be un-persuaded; when it became painfully obvious that he was not going to let anyone or anything change his mind; “we gave up.”
Do you know who those “we” happened to be? “We” included Luke, one of Paul’s best friends who’s writing this all down. It included Philip, a fellow apostle, one of the original 12 apostles. It includes the prophet Agabus and the congregation in Caesarea. The prophet couldn’t talk him out of it. The church couldn’t talk him out of it. Even his best friend couldn’t talk him out of it. He’s going to Jerusalem. “We gave up and said, ’the Lord’s will be done.’”
Does that mean that if I believe God is calling me to do something and my wife, my friends, my pastor and the rest of the church think I’m crazy and keep trying to talk me out of it; I shouldn’t listen to them? I shouldn’t take anyone’s’ advice. I should just do what I believe God is calling me to do regardless of what others are saying or what others think? Does that mean I’m not being stubborn; I’m just being “compelled by the Spirit.”
Before I allow myself to jump to that dubious conclusion, I’d better take a closer look at what is happening to Paul here. There are3 things to consider when we want to know what the Lord’s will is. (1) What does God want for me? (2) What do I want for me? (3) What does everybody else want for me? We need to reconcile all three of these areas before we can figure out what the will of God might be.
Lord willing, we’ll get into that next Tuesday. Hope you’ll continue to follow along and find these posts to be relevant and helpful. Invite someone else to get in God’s Word with Pastor Buj.