Event(s): Paul encounters more warnings on the way to Jerusalem
Today’s Text: Acts 21:1-16
Tomorrow’s Text: Acts 21:17-39
After giving his farewell address to the Ephesian leaders, Paul and the team continue to set sail and make their way to Jerusalem.
Acts 21:4 “they told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem…” These disciples received revelation that great trouble awaited Paul. However, much like when Jesus told the disciples that He would be crucified and Peter basically responded “No way!” It appears these disciples responded in the same way. They assumed that the revelation must mean that Paul shouldn’t go.
This does not mean they were false, it just meant their prophetic gift most likely lacked a level of maturity. God gives us revelation, and oftentimes we will be tempted to jump to conclusions with what it means, or start giving instruction as if that’s what God is saying. Maturity teaches us to not add anything to the word. Remember, Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing and said only what He heard the Father saying.
Another great example of this is Joseph. When he interpreted Potiphar’s dream, he only gave God’s interpretation and added nothing to it. Then, once he was asked, “What shall I do?” he proceeded to give Potiphar advice, but did not communicate that, or lump it in, as if it was the word of the Lord. (The full account of this event can be found in Genesis 41.)
If we are given access or asked by someone for our input or advice, it is good to share it. However we must maintain respect for their ultimate decision, regardless if they take our advice or not. We give it freely, and we let the recipient operate in freedom with it. If there’s any hint of control or manipulation or holding it against someone if they didn’t heed “our word” then we have strayed from the truth and are most likely dealing with an issue of pride in our own heart.
Acts 21:8 “entered the house of Philip the evangelist…” Remember Philip? He was the one we read of in Acts chapter 8, who God had sent to minister to the Ethiopian eunuch (day 14 & 15 of our study). Luke triggers our memory, reminding us he was one of the seven who had initially been chosen to serve with Stephen and the others in ministering to the daily distribution of the widows (ch 6). What makes this so profound is that some 20 years earlier, Stephen, Philip’s companion and friend, had been martyred for his faith. Who consented to Stephen’s death? Paul. Yet now, here he is, a welcomed guest in Philip’s home. Only the grace and transforming love of God can reconcile like this.
Acts 21:9 “This man had four virgin daughters who prophesied.” God thinks and works in generations. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The gifts within each of us, which are waiting to be unlocked through the anointing of the Holy Spirit are not just meant for us. There are generations to come which will benefit from us walking in what we were designed to walk in.
Philip was a dedicated worker in the church; he was a dynamic evangelist who God used in a powerful way. But Philip was also a devoted father who taught his children how to operate in the things of the Lord.
Acts 21:10 “a certain prophet named Agabus…” This same Agabus was made mention of in Acts 11:28. He was a trusted, mature prophetic voice. Notice that on both occasions, he spoke only what the Lord was saying and left it at that.
“The character of a person bringing a word ought always to be weighed. Agabus’s credibility is related not to his claim of having a “word”, but to his record as a trustworthy man of God used in the exercise of this gift.” Dr Jack Hayford
Acts 21:13 “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart?” One of the best things we can do when we see a friend facing adversity is to be a strength to them – not pull them down with our own emotions about what they may be facing. For example, it’s really quite sad to hear that people who are struggling with the diagnosis of a severe illness oftentimes have to limit the circle of people who have access to them because instead of those friends standing with them and believing for the best, and increasing their faith, they bring negativity, unbelief or “gloom” whenever they come around.
If we’re facing difficulty, we must do whatever it takes to silence the voice of negativity or disbelief, even if it means distancing ourselves from others. But if we’re the ones coming alongside a friend through a difficult journey, let us be the ones who stand strong at their side, “drawing our swords”, so to speak and lend of our strength in times of need. Let us be the ones that point others to faith, hope and love.
A theme that seems to weave throughout today’s text is that of trust. Philip trusting Paul; Paul trusting Agabus, the disciples trusting ultimately, in God’s will with Paul’s life.
The topic of trust if often approached as it pertains to someone else earning our trust. But the best thing we can do is actually focus on what it takes to be a trustworthy person. As we do, we will actually grow to recognize those who have trustworthy qualities. You hardly ever hear a person who is trustworthy ask the question of how to know who they can trust, because they embody the qualities themselves. Like recognizes like.
“Many people claim to be loyal, but it is hard to find a trustworthy person.” (Proverbs 20:6 NCV)
Very simply put, there are three key things that form trustworthiness in us: character, confidentiality and consistency. Trust is earned over time, as we repeatedly demonstrate a consistence in our character (seen in how we respond to things) and we also prove we know how to handle information properly – in a way that covers other people, not exposes them. As we learned today from Paul’s example with Philip, even if we’ve messed up seriously in the past, the Holy Spirit can help teach and strengthen us in any (or all) of these areas, AND He can help us rebuild trust when needed. Today, as we consider which area(s) we can grow in, let’s soften that part of our hearts and allow Him do a renewing work in us.