Summary: Exposition of Acts 21:1-15 about Paul hearing from two believers that he is out of the will of God, and how he goes on to Jerusalem as planned
Text: Acts 21:1-15, Title: Bad Advice from Good People, Date/Place: NRBC, 3/1/09, AM
Opening illustration: Pastor’s Conferences. Never have more children than you have car windows. Never loan your car to someone to whom you have given birth. Pick your friends carefully. A “friend” never goes on a diet when you are fat or tells you how lucky you are to have a husband who remembers Mother’s Day--when his gift is a smoke alarm. Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart. Know the difference between success and fame. Success is Billy Graham. Fame is Brittany Spears. Never be in a hurry to terminate a marriage. Remember, you may need this man-woman someday to finish a sentence. There are no guarantees in marriage. If that’s what you’re looking for, go live with a Sears battery. Never go to a class reunion pregnant. They will think that’s all you have been doing since you graduated.
A. Background to passage: Having made his last intentional stop on his way to Jerusalem, Paul really sets his face toward Jerusalem to carry out God’s will for his life. He boards a ship and heads that way. Bringing to a conclusion his third missionary journey in Jerusalem. Along the way three different people/groups of people warned him of struggles that lie ahead, and two of them pleaded with him not to go. We have all faced impasses from time to time as to the direction that our life is taking. So what is Paul to do? What are we to do? And how do we go about the process of discerning bad advice from good people.
B. Main thought: lets think together about God’s will and other believers’ advice.
A. Godly people can be wrong (v. 4, 12)
1. Now this wouldn’t be such a shocking statement if you didn’t read the text. Not many would argue that good people could give bad advice. Some of you can probably recall some advice that you’ve given that didn’t turn out so good. But the text says, “through the Spirit” these first believers told Paul not to go. This is the wrench in the situation. We know that Paul did go to Jerusalem here, so did he go against the Spirit? Did he make a mistake? And this not only happened once, but twice. And a third carried out this visual representation and prophecy about the owner of this belt. I think that probably these guys all got the same message, but some gave an interpretation rather than the actual prophecy.
2. 1 Cor 14:29, 1 John 4:1,
3. Illustration: Ronnie Owens’ preacher buddies all said, “don’t go into evangelism.” Chuck Swindoll’s parents disagreed with his choice of spouses, 54 wedding anniversaries ago, maybe share of my struggles about my break up with Carrie, and the advice that I was given that I would never be happy unless…
4. Sometimes even the most trusted, the most godly, the most loving brothers and sisters in Christ can be wrong. And usually their motives are good. Think about it: prophecy was bad things to Paul, interpretation: don’t go. They had Paul’s interests (or at least they thought) in mind. And this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t ever listen to wise, godly counsel. I would argue that if you have the right people that they are right most of the time. But be willing to consider the fact that they are wrong. Most of you consider the fact that I am wrong at least twice a week—one of the deacons told me so.
B. Believers have to be convinced (v. 13-14) 3 reasons that Paul goes on to Jerusalem
1. Paul is sensitive to the Spirit and convinced of God’s plan. Paul has a pretty recent history of being obedient to the Spirit’s promptings. And I am sure that if he was convinced that this was God’s will for his life, he would have obeyed. And it is also clear from the previous chapter that he viewed his mission to Jerusalem as God’s will for his life.
3. Paul has a kingdom-driven agenda that can include suffering. It is no surprise to Paul that he will suffer, be beaten, tortured, imprisoned. The Holy Spirit has already told him of these things. And still he is convinced that going to Jerusalem is God’s plan. Paul knows that he is a subject to the King. And that the King doesn’t have to give a reason, nor make the path straight or easy to convince him to go. Paul is ready to be spent for the kingdom. And it doesn’t have to make sense to everyone or anyone.
4. Paul is in love with Jesus, even more than life itself. This text is proof. And there are many others. Philip 3:8, 1:21, 2:17, 2 Tim 4:6, Gal 2:20, Acts 20:24, Tit 1:3, 1 Cor 9:17-18. Paul was willing to die if that’s what it meant to fulfill his ministry. Death was not a hindrance but a help to Paul. Like William Wallace, like the nameless private in September 1862 at the Battle of Anteitem who shouted, “rally, boys, rally, die like men, don’t run like dogs.” He was willing to walk through the fire, even if it meant getting burnt.