By Barnabas Piper
How many times have you watched a movie and thought, or maybe yelled, “Don’t go in there!” when the main character is about to head up to the attic or into the cave but you know what awaits?
That’s a bit of the feeling we should have reading Acts 21, as Paul begins his journey back to Jerusalem. His friends pleaded with him not to go, but off he went. Paul knew it might be to his demise, but he also knew that ignoring the prodding of the Holy Spirit would have been even worse than death.
When he arrived, Paul went straight to James, the brother of Jesus, who was the most respected leader of the church in Jerusalem. Paul shared what God had done during his journeys and brought with him four young men, Gentiles, who had become followers of Christ.
This was significant. Paul was Paul, the most prominent of the apostles, but he went to James for counsel in a posture of humility. He didn’t arrive as the conquering hero or star preacher. He abided by decisions made by the counsel of elders. Paul saw himself as part of the Church, not the star of the Church.
What Paul did next was the true “Don’t go in there!” moment. We felt it when he headed toward Jerusalem, the ominous music in minor tones playing in our minds. But when he entered the temple with four Gentiles, we knew he was walking into the den of the beast (“beast” being the religious leaders of Israel who hated him and the work he was doing).
Ironically, Paul didn’t go to conquer the beast. He went to feed it. Paul’s intention was to see these young men through ritual purification so that they could be followers according to religious customs.
But the religious leaders turned on him. Through lies and false accusations they riled up a crowd so rabid Paul would have been torn apart if Roman soldiers hadn’t arrested him. The fervor and ire of the religious leaders echoed back to a number of years earlier in Jerusalem when a man was arrested on false premises and killed on a cross a few hours later. Jesus was the man who Paul sought to honor with his whole life. And this arrest would eventually lead to Paul’s death too.
But Paul knew this. He knew he “shouldn’t go in there.” Was Paul a fool? By human standards, maybe; but by that standard so was Jesus. What Paul did was the same as what Jesus did – the thing that the Holy Spirit compelled Him to do in order to give glory to God. Such actions are never foolish, no matter the cost.
Written By Barnabas Piper
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6 thoughts on "From Acts of the Apostles – Paul Goes to Jerusalem"
It’s difficult to think that I can simply go to a place knowing my imminent demise will happen there. By my own standards, I would have ran the opposite way. But I also struggle at times with obedience and faith. I see how beautiful this story is, following God’s will to the very end of your life, all to bring Him the glory. It’s something I pray for in my life that I can do as well. I ask God to help me be like Jesus and Paul, that I can follow His will to wherever it would take me, and that I bring Him the glory and not seek out glory for myself.
Paul was so brave. He really was.
“Don’t go in there” is exactly what I was thinking as I read Acts, when Paul was leaving to go to Jerusalem. And so we’re all of his peers in Caesarea. We picture Paul as a fool to have gone despite all of the “wise counsel” in his life advising against this journey. How often do we allow Godly counselors in our lives to take precedence over God’s word and His Spirit’s movement in our lives. God has undoubtedly placed God-fearing leaders in our lives for great purpose, but that purpose is not to take his place. I’m looking back, I have allowed the leaders and peers in my life to sway my decisions in several occurrences. Heir advice was not bad, in fact, it was quite logical. However, even though the advice of those around us may be wise, logical, and even sometimes biblical, the movement of the Holy Spirit must take precedence in our decisions as long as it still abides in the truth of the Word. Obviously if we “feel the Holy Spirit” moving but it does not align with the Biblical map, it is not the Spirit but in fact our flesh.
I really liked something that the devotion pointed out in Paul’s character, it says that Paul saw himself as a part of the church, not the star. The reasoning behind this statement is because when Paul came into Jerusalem, he went straight the James the brother of Jesus seeking his counsel. I think it is so relevant and important for our pastors in today’s church to see themselves in this way now more than ever. The members of the Church do not want a dictator, and I don’t believe that the Lord does either. If the Lord wanted dictators as pastors, don’t you think He would behave as one as well. We must be leading members of the congregation, fully accessible and part of the Body, not the star of the Body.
Reading the bold text that said “Paul sought to honor Jesus with his whole life”. This is my prayer today because I am terrible at this on my own. Lord help us men be faithful to you regardless of what it costs us. Tear down the idols in our hearts, comfort, or self or whatever they may be.
Gods will for you is what you need to follow, not just every so often but daily. Open your heart and listen because the lord will always do what’s best and sometimes not for you personally but for someone else.
Paul doesn’t ‘enter the temple with four gentiles.’ He enters the Temple with four Jews and is later (falsely) accused of bringing a gentile into the Temple.
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