reynaldo reynoso (admin)
Some time ago, I was contemplating the issue of knowing God?s will in our lives. I wound up touching on the source of ?closed doors? and made mention of progressing the thoughts to an experience in Paul?s life.
In Acts 21, we see Paul on his way to Jerusalem. We know from other texts that he carries with him a gift for the Jerusalem saints, gathered by those in Macedonia and elsewhere. During these particular days, Paul and company (one of which was Luke the Gospel writer) were housed in Caesarea, the house of Philip the evangelist who was one of the seven originally chosen deacons (Acts 6:5), the preacher to the Samaritans (Acts 8:5), and the baptizer of a certain Ethiopian (Acts 8:37,38). Philip?s four virgin daughters are described as being prophetesses (Acts 21:9).
As if this great cloud of witnesses is not enough, up comes Agabus the prophet from Judea?a prophet who by his words, speaks like God?s oracles of old. If you recall, this same Agabus stood in the midst of Antioch and spoke (by the Spirit) that there would be a great famine?and this occurred (Acts 11:27, 28)!
He came with a mission to the house of Philip. Taking Paul?s belt he bound his own feet and hands and proclaimed that the owner of the belt would be similarly bound and delivered to the Gentiles.
Now, many people have taken this passage (and a later passage about a certain vow) to mean that Paul was sinning against the Lord and that the subsequent imprisonment was punishment of Paul?s sin. I don?t believe that is the case?and yet, I have painted a picture of such an amazing force of wise counselors around Paul, that it makes one wonder.
Paul?s company and friends began to beg Paul not to go to Jerusalem as did all the local residents with much weeping ( 21:12,13) and Paul (some may say) defiantly remained resolute in his decision to go south and his friends silently remarked that the will of the Lord is to be done.
Who was right? Paul states that he is ready to be bound and even die for the name of the Lord Jesus and his friends beg him not to go down and meet with what the prophet spoke about. Was the Holy Spirit telling Paul not to go to Jerusalem because he was to be bound and delivered to the Gentiles?
If we were in the room of much heart-rending tears, I wonder if we would have noticed through our own tear-blurred vision who was not adding their note of pleas to Paul. Agabus was not a local, nor is he part of the ?we? which Luke refers to. Agabus, the prophet of the Lord, is (by absence from the text) silent.
What else do we notice? The message of the Lord was not ?Turn away because this will happen? nor was it ?Because you will sin, therefore this will happen?. The message merely states a fact that the Jews in Jerusalem will bind Paul and deliver him to the Gentiles.
As the story progresses, we eventually see an arrested Paul after an amazing uproar where he was almost torn to pieces (Acts 23:10), being comforted at night by the Lord Jesus Himself. Does the Lord go on to explain where Paul erred in his obstinacy? Perhaps, illustrate Paul?s gross backslide into the Levitical ordinances? Did He forgive him? No, in fact He praises Paul saying ?Take courage. For as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.?( 23:11)
The same words of Agabus but modified by what Paul has managed to do?and that is to solemnly witness! By reading the rest of the book of Acts we know that when Jesus had originally revealed Himself to Paul (in or around his early converted life) He had told Paul that he would be delivered from the Jews and would be sent to the Gentiles (Acts 26:15-18).
The difficulty then is found not in the heart of Paul for his heart was set for the Lord, but in his friends. He knew that he would have to suffer many things for the name of Christ Jesus?and yet, his very godly friends tried to persuade him from his course. In the life of a godly man, godly counselors and friends tried to persuade him from his God-given duty. Indeed, the very message of the Lord was enough to make a man shudder and lose his steam…and yet the Lord seems gracious that He was offering Paul an option. Almost as if He?s saying ?Paul, this is going to happen now?if you so wish, you can stay here?? but Paul, following in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus lets his will be swallowed up in that of the Lord and effectively proving to be a solemn witness.
What does this mean today? Are there people going around doing the work of the Lord in a place where beloved and godly brethren and family may weep at the work they have chosen to do? Should such people be persuaded? Surely some people have been persuaded not to go to dangerous mission fields and have become effective preachers in the homeland while others have gone away and been torn asunder and mourned.
I am reminded of young Jim Elliot in South America. Married to Elisabeth Elliot, the young man had a heart on fire for God. His desire was to preach the gospel to those who have never heard. The Aucas Indians had killed strangers for centuries and Jim Elliot and his four friends managed to make friendly connections with the tribe. January 8, 1956 they were speared to death?look up past issues of Life magazine for the article. I had my hand on the magazine and I foolishly gave it up.
Horrible event. Is it wrong to go home after such an event and mourn the loss of your spouse, your life, and the evil of men? I don?t think it is, yet this young widow, Elisabeth, went back to those same Aucas Indians and preached the gospel. They were amazed at her love and her willingness to return?and many of those Indians were saved.
I think that there are times when God gives his people an option to plateau or to go over and beyond and be completely swallowed up in His will to become the ultimate advertisement to the masses. Those times won?t come to an immature believer?s life, but one who is consistently bending to the will of the Lord, such an option is offered. I believe that at those times, the Lord Jesus Himself via the Holy Spirit illumines in the heart the potential cost of such a decision and gives the believer the free choice to decide?and He rejoices that in the end, His will is to be done.