(Acts 21:1-14) – Clearing up confusion
Ok so, sometimes when I'm reading the Bible, I come across passages that force me to walk around all day thinking through it before I can make some sense of it.
Ever been there before?
This was one of those for me today. But I've walked with it today, and I think I have an answer for my question.
Here's the question…why, twice in this passage, does the text indicate that the Spirit of God encouraged Paul NOT to go to Jerusalem???
If you remember from chapter 20, the Apostle Paul very clearly articulated that He was bound by the Spirit of God to go to Jerusalem. As in, God wanted him to go.
And now, it seems as if God was instructing him to do the exact opposite of that, in the NEXT CHAPTER. So what's up with this?
Here's my thought. The seemingly contradictory statements don't come from the direct quotes from the Holy Spirit, but in the responses to those direct quotes from the prophets and friends of Paul.
The second occurance is easier to think through than the first. You can see the logical progression from verse 11 into verse 12.
The Spirit said WHAT was going to happen if Paul went, but no note is made from the Spirit about whether or not he should do it. I think the reason for that is that it had already been made clear what God wanted him to do, recorded back in chapter 20.
The attempt to dissuade Paul comes in verse 12 from the people who heard what would happen to him. And I don't necessarily blame them for that, nobody wants to see their friend go through torture.
The more difficult occurance to deal with is the first one in verse 4. It says that "through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem."
So, through the Spirit, as in, "the Spirit told them to?"
I don't think so. The phrase "through the Spirit" is referring to the fact that the Spirit of God is the One THROUGH whom the information about the incoming circumstances was brought to light.
So, "through the Spirit," as in, "through the information given by Spirit, they told Paul not to go."
The friends of Paul there in Tyre wouldn't have attempted to dissuade him without that info.
So here's the wrap up…it's not that God was contradicting Himself…the story never changed, and neither did His desire. But people, who didn't see all that God saw, responded to a piece of the puzzle with fear, when they needed to respond with faith.
That's why Paul says they were breaking his heart. He wasn't trying to run from God's will, he was embracing it.
Eventually they came around and trusted God's plan, and we should too.