Heroic or Submissive?

Same look; different feeling.

Acts 21:10–14

And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’ ”

Now when we heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, “The will of the Lord be done.”

This is cold. The chilling bit is that Paul doesn’t doubt Agabus, not one little bit. His reply has nothing to do with thinking Agabus is wrong. In fact, he knows he’s right.

“And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.” — Acts 20:22–23

But Agabus doesn’t have Christian eyes.

Or maybe he does. Agabus isn’t the one telling Paul not to go. In fact, his prophesy isn’t conditioned on whether Paul goes to Jerusalem; he just explains what’s about to happen. It’s we and those from that place [who] pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem.

It’s Luke who doesn’t have Christian eyes. He’s admitting it in this passage. He’ll develop them by the time he writes Acts, and he’ll recall his earlier limitations.

Meanwhile, Paul’s Christian eyes (or is it ears?) are fully functional. He’s bound in the spirit to Jerusalem. So, is having Christian eyes primarily a listening skill?

Or is it more of a submissive spirit?

A submissive spirit is essential to Christian eyes. It like the line, “Who you gonna believe? Me or your lying eyes?” That’s what our sinful selves say.

We are masters of denial. Anything we don’t want to hear or see, we somehow manage to miss. If it’s impossible to miss, we’ll somehow manage to not remember it. Or explain it away. Or that’s not what God meant. Or that’s not what the scripture passage is really saying.

One of the wonderful things about a submissive spirit is that it comes across as heroic. Paul notices that everyone around him is literally weeping. It breaks his heart, but not his plans.

Paul’s not being brave; he’s being obedient.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

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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