Heading Back to Jerusalem – Departing Tyre
After saying farewell to the Ephesian elders, we sailed straight to the island of Cos. The next day we reached Rhodes and then went to Patara. There we boarded a ship sailing for Phoenicia. We sighted the island of Cyprus, passed it on our left, and landed at the harbour of Tyre, in Syria, where the ship was to unload its cargo. We went ashore, found the local believers, and stayed with them a week. These believers prophesied through the Holy Spirit that Paul should not go on to Jerusalem. When we returned to the ship at the end of the week, the entire congregation, including women and children, left the city and came down to the shore with us. There we knelt, prayed, and said our farewells. Then we went aboard, and they returned home.Acts 21:1-6
Next Stop – Ptolemais and Caesarea
The next stop after leaving Tyre was Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed for one day. The next day we went on to Caesarea and stayed at the home of Philip the Evangelist, one of the seven men who had been chosen to distribute food. He had four unmarried daughters who had the gift of prophecy. Several days later a man named Agabus, who also had the gift of prophecy, arrived from Judea. He came over, took Paul’s belt, and bound his own feet and hands with it. Then he said, “The Holy Spirit declares, ‘So shall the owner of this belt be bound by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and turned over to the Gentiles.’”
When we heard this, we and the local believers all begged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. But he said, “Why all this weeping? You are breaking my heart! I am ready not only to be jailed at Jerusalem but even to die for the sake of the Lord Jesus.” When it was clear that we couldn’t persuade him, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.” After this we packed our things and left for Jerusalem. Some believers from Caesarea accompanied us, and they took us to the home of Mnason, a man originally from Cyprus and one of the early believers.Acts 21:7-16
I commented in the last Gem about Luke’s use of the words:
These believers prophesied through the Holy Spirit that Paul should not go on to Jerusalem. Yet Paul says, “And now I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me, except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead.Acts 20:22-23
This is highly significant. Is the Holy Spirit confused? Telling Paul one thing and telling the believers in Tyre another? I don’t think so. If and when the Holy Spirit speaks it ought to be consistent. Luke chooses his words deliberately so how can we account for this discrepancy?
At the moment I am working on writing the In-Class Handbook for Deeper Bible 701. As has happened many times before when I am working on something I feel the Lord has given me by His Spirit I will be given the resources by Him to complete the task. Just recently a brother I am training to teach Deeper Bible in Brazil has sent me a book in which I felt like I was reading my own thoughts in someone else’s book. It was uncanny. I find things like this very encouraging because what it tells me is that God is behind it all. Both the thoughts that I am thinking and the material I am working on. I was once told by my pastor in Matamata that when God brings out a Bible truth or restores truth to the church he does it worldwide. The concept will come forth through a number of different people because each is being inspired by the same Holy Spirit. Yes I can understand that I idea. I sense that God is giving me the insight at the same time he is causing others to think along the same lines. It makes perfect sense. But that is not what is going on here.
Luke uses the word prophesied for what the believers in Tyre told Paul concerning not going to Jerusalem and he (Luke) indicates that the same Holy Spirit was leading him to Jerusalem. The words “bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem” are very strong. So if each of these situations are correct we have the same Holy Spirit telling Paul to go to Jerusalem and not to go to Jerusalem. Does the Holy Spirit work in that way? No! Is God confused? Double No No! Somehow we have to work out what is going on here from the words that Luke has written for us. Otherwise we have nothing but confusion. We are encouraged to test every word of prophecy.
The Bible says that prophetic utterances should be allowed in the churches.
“Do not despise prophecies”.1 Thessalonians 5:20
Prophecies should not be despised, but they should be tested.
“Test all things; hold fast what is good”.1 Thessalonians 5:21)
Beloved, do not believe every Spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.1 John 4:1
So what should we do in this case? Who is right between Paul and what he is sensing and the believers in Tyre and what they are sensing? Luke makes it clear that the believers prophesied through the Holy Spirit and it is clear that Paul was bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I guess we could ask was Paul hearing the Holy Spirit or his own spirit. In the text Spirit is spelt with a capital S suggesting it is the Holy Spirit and not spirit (lower case s) suggesting the human spirit. So do we have confusion then in the words of Scripture? I asked you the question in the last Gem – Why does Luke include the story of Agabus? That was a hint as to where to look. Learn to connect the dots. I also told you that Luke is highlighting the word of prophecy in its various forms.
Take note of the following:
- These believers prophesied through the Holy Spirit that Paul should not go on to Jerusalem.
- The next day we went on to Caesarea and stayed at the home of Philip the Evangelist, one of the seven men who had been chosen to distribute food.
- He had four unmarried daughters who had the gift of prophecy.
- Several days later a man named Agabus, who also had the gift of prophecy, arrived from Judea.
- He came over, took Paul’s belt, and bound his own feet and hands with it. Then he said, “The Holy Spirit declares, ‘So shall the owner of this belt be bound by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and turned over to the Gentiles.’”
Do you see now when you read further on, the confusion is cleared up. Luke has stacked up prophetic experience to enable us to work out what was happening and to test the prophetic words that were coming. The link between these elements Luke has strung together are all related to the prophetic. Each place Paul has gone the prophetic gift is mentioned. So once again Paul (and those of us reading the text centuries later) need to take into account the whole counsel of God and the Holy Spirit. Once Paul has heard the input from a string of words of prophecy, God the sends along Agabus who has not only a word of prophecy but acts it out. This is another level of the prophetic. I have taught participants in Deeper Bible to pay attention to words but also when those words are acted out in prophecy. That is important. There are examples all over the Old Testament. Here in the New Testament we have such an example. There has been confusion it seems to what the Holy Spirit is saying. Now it is made clear when Agabus comes along and dramatizes with actions as he says the words “The Holy Spirit declares, ‘So shall the owner of this belt be bound by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and turned over to the Gentiles.’” Now it has been definitively made clear. Paul is to go to Jerusalem.
But note too the reaction after Agabus delivered his strong word from the Lord.
When we heard this, we and the local believers all begged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. But he said, “Why all this weeping? You are breaking my heart! I am ready not only to be jailed at Jerusalem but even to die for the sake of the Lord Jesus.” When it was clear that we couldn’t persuade him, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”Acts 21:12-14
This reaction included Luke and those travelling with Paul. It is clear that it was hard for Paul to actually follow the will of God and pay attention to what God was telling him he needed to do. Even Luke and his travelling companions were allowing their human empathy and their revulsion to the news of what was going to happen to him to sway them from the words God had said prophetically. That is clearly where their reaction was coming from. Their own heart-felt emotions for their friend and their desire that he didn’t suffer. How often we allow our emotions to get in the way of God’s work. I could add much on this topic but I will restrain myself. It is a parallel to Peter’s comments to Jesus when he heard what awaited Jesus in Jerusalem. “Forbid it Lord . . . “ Jesus then said, “Get behind me satan . . .” Stop and look carefully. Do you see there is a parallel here between Paul and Jesus and their pending respective journeys to Jerusalem? I suspect it is deliberate. Learn the other lesson too. To step back and take in the wider panorama in order to fully understand why Luke has written the account as he has. Once we see the prophetic link it becomes clearer. It is most likely that the reaction of Luke and the travelling companions mirrored the reaction of the believers in Tyre. They were empathizing rather than prophesying.
Be careful it doesn’t happen to you.
What is considered impossible is just the consensus of outdated beliefs.Bernie Siegel
Don’t allow your heart-felt emotions for a friend to confuse the things God is saying to them. Painful and all as God’s message may be.Ian Vail
Learn to step back and take in all the counsel of God before you reach your decision.Ian Vail
There are a great many things in Christianity that cannot be understood until after you’ve gone a certain distance along the Christian road.C S Lewis
Waiting to develop courage is just another form of procrastination. The most successful people take action while they’re afraid!Earl Deason
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen , not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.C S Lewis
The light that we have in the world does not shine on him and reveal his truth. He is the light of the world and in his light we see light.John Piper