Acts 21: Git ‘r Done

Application

Acts 21 is the story of one man’s resolve to accomplish God’s will. As the chapter opens, it is on the heels of St. Paul’s revelation to the elders of the Ephesian church that he knows bad things are going to happen when he gets to Jerusalem, and yet he proceeds on his journey there. When he arrives at Tyre, the disciples there “urged [him] not to go on to Jerusalem” (v 4), but we are told that, when the time came, Paul and co. “left and continued on [their] way” (v 5). At Caesarea, they stayed for a few days with Philip the Evangelist (of Acts 8 fame) and his four daughters, all of which were prophetesses. As though that wasn’t enough, another prophet, Agabus, arrived and demonstrated what was to happen to Paul in Jerusalem. But in verse fifteen, Paul nevertheless went up to Jerusalem.

In Jerusalem, Paul went about the things that any visitor to the city was compelled to do. He visited the elders of the church, now led by James; participated in a Nazirite vow; and went up to the temple, all of which were actions carefully designed to demonstrate his commitment to the Jewish people and law.

But then, just before his Nazirite vow was to be finalized with the shaving of his hair – a confirming sign that no one could miss, trouble erupted at the temple, and by the end of the chapter, he has endured a beating at the hands of an angry mob and been arrested and bound by Roman guards, all despite having done nothing wrong.

To be honest, it seems a little unbelievable that these sort of events can happen in a civilized town, but then again, how often have we tried and convicted innocent people in the media and in our own minds long before any official trial was ever convened? And if you were alive in the early 90’s, you will surely remember what happened when officers in Los Angeles were acquitted of beating Rodney King. Clearly, such things can happen in a “civilized town.”

But why would Paul have let it go that far? I mean, for at least two chapters now, he’s known that he was on his way to Jerusalem and his trip there was not going to end well. Why would he continue? Why not just stop and hang out with the Ephesian church a while longer? Or minister among the believers at Tyre? Or even spend some time with the unmarried daughters of Philip (remember, Paul himself was unmarried!)? Surely, each of these things would have been honorable and even productive?

But they wouldn’t have been God’s will.

God had revealed that Paul was to go to Jerusalem. And while He didn’t want His servant to be completely in the dark about what was going to happen there, He still expected Paul to obey.

When God’s will has been revealed, the time for discussion or debate is over. There is no longer room for waffling or sidestepping, and stopping is no longer an option. It’s time for action, regardless of how scary, unfair, or even dangerous His will may be.

You know, the Bible is pretty clear that being a Christian is not going to be all fun and games. We’re called to follow Jesus, who was Himself beaten and even crucified. The very Son of God was persecuted, and He Himself warned us that we will be, too. In other words, we have the same warning that Paul did: if we’re going to do the will of God, it’s not going to be easy. The challenge is that, regardless of how difficult or dangerous God’s will for our lives may be, we are still not excused from getting it done.

Notes

  • (1) Again, we see the emotional investment that Paul and co. had in the people they ministered to and the agony with which they confronted the dangers that they all knew to be ahead.
  • (4) It is interesting that Luke accredits the believers’ protests to the Spirit. Could it be that Paul could have avoided Jerusalem and all that came next and till have been in the Lord’s will? Or could it be that the Spirit had forewarned these people of what Paul was going to endure, and out of compassion for their brother (i.e., their humanity), they encouraged him to stick around?
  • (8) Philip the evangelist makes an encore appearance. Check out Acts 8 and my associated blog entry for more on him!
  • (9) It is interesting that Philip is noted to have had four unmarried daughters, all of which prophesied. This didn’t necessarily mean that they told the future, but rather that they delivered the word of the Lord. Talk about an argument for women in ministry?
  • (10-11) On a personal note, if someone came and did this, said this, to me, I think I would have been shaking in my boots! Talk about confirmation of what Paul had been hearing from God all the way!
  • (14) What an interesting approach! Rather than bind Paul themselves and force him to stay away from Jerusalem for his own good, these people resigned themselves to – even embraced – the Lord’s will before their own!
  • (18) The fact that they went to see James confirms that James’ transition into the leader of the church is final.
  • (20-26) It is interesting that, even in the early church, the leaders recognized that you had to be at least a little diplomatic in order to lead.
  • (29) The power of an accusation, even false, when coupled with haste is clearly demonstrated here.
  • (39) A case of mistaken identity!
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