Tuesday, June 3, 2014

THY WILL BE DONE (Acts Chapter 21)

Acts 21:14, “And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, ‘Let the will of the Lord be done.’”

It was F. E. Marsh who once said, “The will of God--nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.”  That quote serves as an apt summary of the events which transpired in the Apostle Paul’s ministry recorded for us in this chapter.

It is sometimes difficult to discern the will of God in a matter.  It is generally a good idea to seek godly counsel, but ultimately it is the person himself who must assure himself, as to God’s leading, in a particular direction.  One of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made was to leave a good paying salary job at Trojan Nuclear Plant to attend Western Seminary.  There were countless reasons not to and there were plenty of people who advised against it, but in the end I ventured off in the assurance that God was calling me to do what I did.  Unbeknownst to anyone at the time was the fact that Trojan would soon close.  And unbeknownst to me at the time was the face that God was preparing me for a call to pastor the very church where the first member of my extended family had been saved.  If I had listened to the naysayers or my own doubts, things would have worked out far differently.

The Apostle Paul faced a far more difficult dilemma.  He was headed to Jerusalem and was not naïve to what lay ahead.  He had previously warned the elders in Ephesus, “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” (Acts 20:22-24).  He was going to Jerusalem, constrained to that path by the Spirit, who had enlightened him to the troubles that awaited him there.  He was nonetheless determined, by God’s grace, to fulfill the ministry God had given to him.

Three times, along the way, he received warnings from others regarding his plans.  Having landed in Tyre, he stayed there seven days with some disciples.  “And through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem” (Acts 21:4).  Was the Spirit contradicting Himself in what He had earlier instructed Paul to do?  Not possible.  Instead, by the Spirit, these disciples were given insight into what awaited Paul--so they lovingly urged him to detour from his destination.  He prayed with them and then continued on his way (Cf. Acts 21:5-6).

Paul and his companions made their way to Caesarea. While staying there a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea to speak to Paul (Cf. Acts 21:10).  “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’” (Acts 21:11).  Another confirmation, by the Spirit, regarding what awaited Paul in Jerusalem. 

Paul’s companions heard what was prophesied and “urged him not to go up to Jerusalem” (Acts 21:12).  Paul’s response?  “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” (Acts 21:13).  “And since he would not be persuaded, (they) ceased and said, ‘Let the will of the Lord be done’” (Acts 21:14).

When he arrived in Jerusalem he met with the leaders there (Cf. Acts 21:17-19).  They were well aware of the animosity of the Judaizers against Paul (Cf. Acts 21:20-21).  They leaders devised a plan through which they sought to appease Paul’s opponents (Cf. Acts 21:22-24).  Paul acquiesced to their plan, but it failed to mollify his opponents or deter them from their evil plans.  “They stirred up the whole crowd” (Acts 21:27).  “They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple” (Acts 21:30).  They were seeking to kill him (Cf. Acts 21:31).  He was beaten (Cf. Acts 21:32).  The tribune arrested Paul and “ordered him to be bound with two chains” (Acts 21:33).

Paul had been repeatedly warned of the danger.  He could have chosen to go down another path.  But he was Spirit-constrained to follow in the steps of Jesus who had Himself “set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).  He approached his ministry with the same “not my will, but as you will” perspective (Cf. Matthew 26:39, 6:10; Romans 8:27).  Paul was Spirit-led to fulfill God’s purpose and in submitting to that purpose the ministry of the gospel was extended in unexpected ways (Cf. Philippians 1:12).  Other voices and considerations might have led him down a different path, but he listened for and responded to the Spirit’s leading (Cf. Romans 8:14; Philippians 2:13).

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