We have now seen Paul give his farewell address to the elders of the Ephesian church. We have seen that Paul’s address to these men moved them to tears, not because he was leaving them, but because he had told them that they were not going to see him again. And now today we are going to see Paul leave Ephesus and continue on his journey to Jerusalem and thus ultimately on his journey to Rome.
After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Kos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. 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. We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. When it was time to leave, we left and continued on our way. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. After saying goodbye to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.—21:1-6
This leg of the journey gets Paul from Asia Minor to Israel. The warning from the disciples in Tyre is the second recorded report of impending trouble in Jerusalem (v. 4). Paul did not heed the warning. Sometime such warnings are to prepare the believer for trouble rather than cause the believer to prepare an escape from it.
We continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed with them for a day. Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.—21:7-9
Philip the evangelist is not Philip the apostle. The reference to the “Seven” indicates that he was one of the men appointed in Acts 6 to minister to the widows. His nickname also suggests that the Lord redeemed many through Phillip’s witness.
After we had been there a number of days, 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 Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’—21:10-11
Agabus, one of the prophets who foretold the famine of AD 46, now predicts Paul’s arrest and imprisonment. The closer Paul got to Jerusalem, the clearer it was revealed to him what was in store (v. 11). Agabus’ prophecy did not say that Paul should not go to Jerusalem; it simply told what was ahead if he did go.
Notice that the New Testament never records an incident in which the legitimate gift of prophecy was used to give personal guidance to individuals in matters that could be decided by the principles already revealed in God’s written Word. Decisions related to moral issues, buying or selling, marriage, home and family must be made by applying and obeying the principles of God’s Word and not on the basis of a “prophecy” (something someone tells you when they claim to speak for God). Sometimes God will use such a message to confirm the direction he gives in his Word or to encourage, comfort (1 Corinthians 14:3) and guide a person in his or her God-given mission.
After we had been there a number of days, 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 Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’—21:12-16
The desire of the majority, or even the unanimous opinion of genuine, caring Christians, is not necessarily God’s will. Paul appreciated their deep concern; yet, he knew God’s plan and was determined to follow his course even though he would suffer through times in prisoned possibly death for the sake of the Lord Jesus.
Many disciples, as well as the prophet Agabus, warned of the suffering that would come to Paul if he went to Jerusalem. These Christians interpreted the prophetic message as a sign that Paul should not go to Jerusalem. Paul, however, recognized the truth and the real purpose of the revelation, which was meant to prepare him for what was ahead. He did not accept the disciples’ sincere interpretation of the prophecy. He relied on the personal guidance of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word to him personally for this important decision. When considering future plans and ministry, we ought to wait and base our decisions on personal confirmation from God through his Word and prayer, not only on the advice of others. And that is where we will pick up tomorrow, as we see Paul finally arrive Jerusalem.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
Esther 4-7, 1 Corinthians 12:1-26, Psalm 36:1-12 and Proverbs 21:21-22
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