(I did not post on ICF Facebook last week. The theme as presented below covers all of Acts 21).
When I last preached, I suggested that the people of the Way are a people on mission. Paul is perhaps our greatest example of a person on mission. He and his companions “set sail” from Miletus (21:1) and made many stops on their journey, as so aptly detailed by Chris last Sunday. The journey continues at 21:15, but it becomes much easier to describe: “After this, we started on our way up to Jerusalem.” Luke’s simple statement is loaded with implications. I will suggest three, all of which are a review of what we’ve already seen. The first implication for Paul, going to Jerusalem, was the unknown, and possibly even danger. “And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me” (20:22-23). The unknown, even when not dangerous, can sometimes be terrifying: “not knowing what will happen to me there.”
Paul’s decision to go to Jerusalem implied also a personal commitment. “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God” (20:24). Paul had placed his future, his very life, in God’s hands, not counting it “as dear to myself.” He was committed at whatever cost to completing the ministry that he had received from the Lord.
Then there was a strong implication of his purpose. “Now after these things were finished, Paul purposed in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem after he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, saying, ‘After I have been there, I must also see Rome’” (19:21). Notice how Luke worded it, “purposed in the Spirit.” This was not a determination of the human spirit, but an established purpose inspired by the Holy Spirit. “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Prov. 19:21, NIV). The “plans of the heart” can indicate the activity of the human spirit, while “the Lord’s purpose” indicates the inspiration and leadership of the Holy Spirit. There is an incalculable difference between the two!
These implications are valid for a disciple of Christ today. (1) There must be a willingness to face the unknown. Even if there is no known danger, the unknown can be stressful. But we must remember that the Lord will go before us, and be with us, every step of the way! (2) We cannot fulfill the Lord’s calling if we are not personally committed to the disciplines of discipleship and to the priority of His will in our heart. “Seek FIRST His kingdom and His righteousness…” (Mt. 6:33). (3) To “purpose in the Spirit” is to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to submit to His guidance. He inspires us and gives us courage to accept the assignment, but He also supplies the powers needed to finish the course and the ministry we have received from the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 5:24).