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Get Serious

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Acts 20:13-24 (ESV)

But going ahead to the ship, we set sail for Assos, intending to take Paul aboard there, for so he had arranged, intending himself to go by land. And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and went to Mitylene. And sailing from there we came the following day opposite Chios; the next day we touched at Samos; and the day after that we went to Miletus. For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia, for he was hastening to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.

Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

Paul’s drive to get to Jerusalem is a thing of wonder. He knows that imprisonment and afflictions await him there, yet that doesn’t dissuade him at all. His desire to get there in time for Pentecost is so great that he decides to sail past Ephesus, missing a golden opportunity to encourage the brothers there. Why?

This seems to be the Nazirite vow Paul is completing. We saw that Paul was under some kind of vow in Acts 18:18b – “At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow.” The Nazirite vow’s a good fit.

Still, this doesn’t tell us why Paul wants to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost. There’s no evidence that the day of Pentecost was related to any vows; it just sounds like a reference date. Whatever it is, it’s the opposite of what Paul did in Acts 20:1-6. This time he’s walking right into a trap.

But this time it’s the Holy Spirit, not secular wisdom, calling the shots. “And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there.”

Actually, he sort of does know; he just doesn’t know the details. He’s afraid, but he’s going anyway.

This isn’t just about Paul’s connection with the Holy Spirit; it’s also about his seriousness.

We can’t be as tight with the Holy Spirit as Paul was; he was an apostle. But being as serious – that’s a real goal. Still, let’s not kid ourselves. You don’t get as serious as Paul overnight.

This isn’t a one-day prayer request; it’s a lifelong goal.

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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