Monday, March 11

Bound

21:1 After we tore ourselves away from them, we set sail straight for Cos, the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. Finding a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, we boarded and set sail. After we sighted Cyprus, passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria and arrived at Tyre, since the ship was to unload its cargo there. We sought out the disciples and stayed there seven days. Through the Spirit they told Paul not to go to Jerusalem. When our time had come to an end, we left to continue our journey, while all of them, with their wives and children, accompanied us out of the city. After kneeling down on the beach to pray, we said farewell to one another and boarded the ship, and they returned home.

When we completed our voyage from Tyre, we reached Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed with them for a day. The next day we left and came to Caesarea, where we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the Seven, and stayed with him. This man had four virgin daughters who prophesied.

10 After we had been there for several days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 He came to us, took Paul’s belt, tied his own feet and hands, and said, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: ‘In this way the Jews in Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him over to the Gentiles.’” 12 When we heard this, both we and the local people pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem.

13 Then Paul replied, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

14 Since he would not be persuaded, we said no more except, “The Lord’s will be done.”

15 After this we got ready and went up to Jerusalem. 16 Some of the disciples from Caesarea also went with us and brought us to Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we were to stay.

17 When we reached Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters welcomed us warmly. 18 The following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present. 19 After greeting them, he reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

20 When they heard it, they glorified God and said, “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law. 21 But they have been informed about you—that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to abandon Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or to live according to our customs. 22 So what is to be done? They will certainly hear that you’ve come. 23 Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have made a vow. 24 Take these men, purify yourself along with them, and pay for them to get their heads shaved. Then everyone will know that what they were told about you amounts to nothing, but that you yourself are also careful about observing the law. 25 With regard to the Gentiles who have believed, we have written a letter containing our decision that they should keep themselves from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from what is strangled, and from sexual immorality.”

26 So the next day, Paul took the men, having purified himself along with them, and entered the temple, announcing the completion of the purification days when the offering would be made for each of them.27 When the seven days were nearly over, some Jews from the province of Asia saw him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd, and seized him, 28 shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this place. What’s more, he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” 29 For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian in the city with him, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple.

30 The whole city was stirred up, and the people rushed together. They seized Paul, dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut.

31 As they were trying to kill him, word went up to the commander of the regiment that all Jerusalem was in chaos. 32 Taking along soldiers and centurions, he immediately ran down to them. Seeing the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 33 Then the commander approached, took him into custody, and ordered him to be bound with two chains. He asked who he was and what he had done. 34 Some in the crowd were shouting one thing and some another. Since he was not able to get reliable information because of the uproar, he ordered him to be taken into the barracks. 35 When Paul got to the steps, he had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the crowd, 36 for the mass of people followed, yelling, “Get rid of him!”

37 As he was about to be brought into the barracks, Paul said to the commander, “Am I allowed to say something to you?”

He replied, “You know how to speak Greek? 38 Aren’t you the Egyptian who started a revolt some time ago and led four thousand men of the Assassins into the wilderness?”

39 Paul said, “I am a Jewish man from Tarsus of Cilicia, a citizen of an important city. Now I ask you, let me speak to the people.”

40 After he had given permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned with his hand to the people. When there was a great hush, he addressed them in Aramaic: 

22:1 “Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense before you.” When they heard that he was addressing them in Aramaic, they became even quieter. He continued, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the law of our ancestors. I was zealous for God, just as all of you are today.I persecuted this Way to the death, arresting and putting both men and women in jail, as both the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me. After I received letters from them to the brothers, I traveled to Damascus to arrest those who were there and bring them to Jerusalem to be punished.

“As I was traveling and approaching Damascus, about noon an intense light from heaven suddenly flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’

“I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’

“He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, the one you are persecuting.’Now those who were with me saw the light, but they did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me.

10 “I said, ‘What should I do, Lord?’

“The Lord told me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told everything that you have been assigned to do.’

11 “Since I couldn’t see because of the brightness of the light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and went into Damascus.12 Someone named Ananias, a devout man according to the law, who had a good reputation with all the Jews living there, 13 came and stood by me and said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight.’ And in that very hour I looked up and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our ancestors has appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the words from his mouth, 15 since you will be a witness for him to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now, why are you delaying? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

17 “After I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him telling me, ‘Hurry and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’

19 “But I said, ‘Lord, they know that in synagogue after synagogue I had those who believed in you imprisoned and beaten. 20 And when the blood of your witness Stephen was being shed, I stood there giving approval and guarding the clothes of those who killed him.’

21 “He said to me, ‘Go, because I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

22 They listened to him up to this point. Then they raised their voices, shouting, “Wipe this man off the face of the earth! He should not be allowed to live!”

23 As they were yelling and flinging aside their garments and throwing dust into the air, 24 the commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, directing that he be interrogated with the scourge to discover the reason they were shouting against him like this. 25 As they stretched him out for the lash, Paul said to the centurion standing by, “Is it legal for you to scourge a man who is a Roman citizen and is uncondemned?”

26 When the centurion heard this, he went and reported to the commander, saying, “What are you going to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.”

27 The commander came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?”

“Yes,” he said.

28 The commander replied, “I bought this citizenship for a large amount of money.”

“But I was born a citizen,” Paul said.

29 So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately. The commander too was alarmed when he realized Paul was a Roman citizen and he had bound him.

Act 21 - 22:1-29 (CSB)

Paul was bound and determined to go to Jerusalem, but both close friends and new acquaintances begged him not to go. At least twice believers with prophetic gifts warned Paul that he would be arrested and bound if he went to Jerusalem, and Acts 21:4 says specifically that “through the Spirit they told Paul not to go to Jerusalem.” So is this whole mess (and today’s reading is just the beginning) a big mistake? Did Paul disobey God?

No. Through the power and gifting of the Spirit, the disciples in Tyre knew what would happen to Paul—and their response was the natural human response: don’t go. Knowledge and wisdom are not the same thing, though. Because of their knowledge of the future, they wanted to protect Paul, especially since he played such a mammoth role in the planting and growth of the Church. Surely, such a negative outcome could not be God’s will. But Paul knew God was leading him to Jerusalem, whatever the outcome.

Paul responds to the threat of danger: “The Lord’s will be done.”

Paul knew the Gospel provoked harsh opposition, and he was not willingly to avoid hardship at the expense of preaching the Gospel. Consequently, he did not equate adverse effects with God’s displeasure.

Things did go badly in Jerusalem. As the prophet predicted, Paul was arrested and bound. Even then, though, Paul took advantage of the riot to preach the Gospel. That attempt didn’t go much better, but, as the rest of Acts will demonstrate, success or failure is not the litmus test of God’s will.


Reflection

Do you ever use success and failure as the litmus test of whether something is God’s will? Have you ever failed (or felt like a failure) pursuing something you knew was God’s will? Have you ever seen or experienced success, but knew that success had come at the high price of disobedience? How can we better discern God’s plan and pleasure, rather than using worldly standards?

Prayer

Heavenly Father, Your ways are not our ways, and sometimes we confuse success and safety with signs of Your will. May Your Word and Your Truth be our only standards; Your Spirit our only guide. May we always remember that Jesus’ death on a cross is foolishness to the world, but Your ultimate Wisdom and Good. May our response be the same as His, the same as Paul’s: Thy Will Be Done. Amen.

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  • Pray for Yourself, Your Family, Your Church, and the Lost.

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Megan NessonComment