Summary: Paul is warned not to go to Jerusalem, but he is bound and determined to trust God and go, even if it costs him dearly.
“Bound & Determined”
July 6, 2008
Two questions as we begin this morning: how do you know you are really trusting God? What do you do when the will of God involves doing something that will really cost you?
I. A Desperate Plea - :1-6
READ VV. 1-3 - This represents the beginning of the final leg of Paul’s journey to Jerusalem; next week, we’ll find him there in the city. The NIV gives a much more colorful description of the parting of Paul from the Ephesian elders: “after we had torn ourselves away”. “Emotional violence” is the term Richard Longenecker uses, and it evinces a sense of real agony at having to leave these friends behind. But leave them Paul did, and made his way by ship toward Jerusalem.
READ VV. 4-6 - Paul had had no previous contact with this group of believers in Tyre, and from the wording here, there was a search that Paul initiated in order to seek out this group. It’s likely that this group of believers came into being as Christians were scattered from Jerusalem when Stephen, the deacon, was martyred, and a widespread persecution broke out (Acts 11:19).
The Scripture records that the one significant interchange between Paul and the believers in Tyre involved them begging him, through the Holy Spirit, not to go to Jerusalem. How could the disciples in Tyre be telling Paul one thing “through the Spirit” when Paul says he was “compelled by the Spirit” to do the opposite (20:22)? Good question! I think that the answer is to be found in the fact that the Holy Spirit made clear to many people, including some of the believers of Tyre, that trouble awaited Paul in Jerusalem; in the very next paragraph, the same thing happens. There is no question about what Paul is going to face when he gets there (and it all proves to be true, of course!). When we care for people, we don’t want to see them come to harm, of course, and that’s just what awaited Paul. And so armed with this knowledge, the natural thing is for the people of Tyre to urge Paul not to go to Jerusalem.
Lloyd Ogilvie warns against a “sloppy sentimentalism” regarding the Lord’s will, the idea that “how could God guide someone into a situation which was bound to cause pain and suffering?” I think that that question is expressed with more frequency in the West, where pain and suffering are abhorred while ease and comfort are exalted, than it is in other places around the world where the general lot of Christians is scorn and persecution. We tend to think, for instance, that a church must be doing the will of God because it is drawing a great crowd of people and experiencing growth; perhaps, though, some churches grow precisely because of an unwillingness to take the hard stands that a church ought to take, to proclaim the whole counsel of God rather than to simply proclaim those parts which are more easily palatable. Every year, we get a recounting of the “100 Fastest-Growing Churches in America”, and the “100 Largest Churches in America”, but the interesting thing is that there seems to be neither rhyme nor reason as to the makeup of those churches. Some of them strongly proclaim the Word of God; others compromise it and tickle people’s ears. Some are theologically on track, while others are way off-track. Point is that it’s just not as simple as the 1-2-3 correlation that some folks would have us make. There are certainly some things we could do to draw a larger crowd, but just because something can be done doesn’t mean it ought to be done. And just because something we do conforms to our common sense concerns doesn’t mean it conforms to God’s will. And just because something we do meets with outward success—or because it doesn’t, at least in the eyes of people—doesn’t mean that it is not God’s will to do it. That’s the “Success Syndrome” of contemporary society talking, not necessarily the Word of God.
II. A Dramatic Display - :7-11
READ VV. 7-11 – Verse 8 speaks of Philip and his daughters. This is not a key point in the narrative; it’s mentioned in sort of a matter-of-fact way, and then Luke moves on. There are a couple of Philips in Scripture; this one is the deacon we see in Acts 6 chosen to take care of the practical needs of the Gentile widows. From the wording there, the likelihood is that these were very young daughters; according to Craig Keener, it likely connotes that these young ladies were virgins under the age of 16. And yet they played a role in forthtelling the truth of God. Now, this is neither enough of a text to build some doctrine on, regarding the roles of women in ministry, nor a text that we ought to skip by as though it does not exist. Why does Luke see fit to include it here? We learn from extra-biblical literature that these daughters were apparently vital sources of information regarding the early years of Christianity. But back to the question: what was Luke’s point in including this in the first place? Some have suggested that it’s to show that people of low status had significant roles in the early church. These four young ladies heard from God and spoke forth the truth of God; perhaps they are mentioned as well because they joined in the chorus of folks who, having heard from the Spirit of God that Paul would suffer hardship in Jerusalem, tried to persuade him not to go.