Acts 21

Acts 21

Acts 21 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

This was a tough chapter for me. We read that the voice of the Holy Spirit is speaking through these believers and giving warnings to Paul of what he will face in Jerusalem. Yet, he continues forward to where he feels he’s being called despite these objections. What is going on? Was the Spirit really speaking through these believers? Did they not hear clearly? It’s difficult to reconcile because on the surface it seems like a contradiction.

Paul’s fellow believers give him warnings in two different places over this chapter.

After looking up the disciples, we stayed there seven days; and they kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem.

Acts 21:4 NASB

As we were staying there for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.  11  And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: ‘In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’”  12  When we had heard this, we as well as the local residents began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem.

Acts 21:10-12 NASB

Paul’s response to these warnings is, “I’m going anyway.” And that’s exactly what he does. Despite all the warnings and objections, he walks right into Jerusalem. Just like the Spirit had warned, he is beaten, arrested, and hauled away like a prisoner. So we ask ourselves, was Paul wrong? Was he too prideful in going, or was he supposed to be a fearless example to his fellow believers?

If we read the text closely, we can observe that the Holy Spirit does not specifically prohibit Paul from going to Jerusalem. He only warns him of what will happen if he does. This is a stark contrast to several chapters prior (Acts 16) where the Holy Spirit blocks Paul from traveling to Asia. So, this brings us to an even more difficult question. Are we brave enough to follow through with what God has called of us even after we know the consequences?

Sometimes God answers dangerous prayers in unexpected ways. We pray for peace and He places us in a storm. We pray for patience and He allows our last nerve to be tested. We pray for growth and into the fire we go! But when we have the peace of God, all those warnings don’t matter.

Paul was setting a standard for those who were following Christ. He was preparing them, much like Jesus prepared the disciples, to face the fear of persecution and suffering for the Lord’s name. Paul is a living example of faith in action. His life testifies to the fact that even though God has told him what is coming, he will still go. It’s the exact same response we see from Jesus when he is led to the cross. In Matthew 16, Peter was disgusted when Jesus foretold of his death and suffering. Jesus responded by equating Peter’s response to the mindset of Satan who is opposed to the will of God. Jesus had peace. Peter didn’t.

It’s really a mind-blowing thought. Do we really see the will of God? Or an even bolder question is, do we really want to follow through with it? Paul did. He left a legacy of following. He poured himself out to the Lord. He used every ounce of his being to bring glory to the name of Christ.  When the path marked by God is a path marked with suffering, will you relentlessly follow?

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