Acts 21:1-14 (ESV)
And when we had parted from them and set sail, we came by a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. And having found a ship crossing to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail. When we had come in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left we sailed to Syria and landed at Tyre, for there the ship was to unload its cargo. And having sought out the disciples, we stayed there for seven days. And through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. When our days there were ended, we departed and went on our journey, and they all, with wives and children, accompanied us until we were outside the city. And kneeling down on the beach, we prayed and said farewell to one another. Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home.
When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais, and we greeted the brothers and stayed with them for one day. On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied. While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul's belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.”
Is the Holy Spirit being inconsistent? Today’s passage has Paul being warned about going to Jerusalem.
And through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. … And coming to us, he took Paul's belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’”
But earlier the Spirit specifically told Paul to go to Jerusalem. How can that be?
The answer is that in today’s passage the Spirit warns Paul of trials in Jerusalem, but doesn’t actually say, “Don’t go.” The disciples telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem are simply reacting to the Holy Spirit’s warning. The warning serves an important purpose, but that purpose is to prepare Paul, not to dissuade him.
The disciples jumped to the wrong conclusion.
Americans have raised jumping to conclusions to an art form. “When is dinner?” means, “I’m hungry,” not, “How much time do I have?” It’s amusing when we do it with each other, but we do it with God too. The Lord is full of surprises; we must be careful to take His messages at face value. Pray for help with this. We can’t see our own “lenses.” Only God (or, maybe, a really useful friend) can point out our biases.
Ask Him to call you out. Better yet, ask Him for a serious accountability partner.
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