Summary: The manner of Paul's life was consistent with the message God had given him to preach. Now Paul is telling these leaders to follow his example (his lifestyle) and hold to the same message. This is something we as Christians must do today.
Manner & Message of Paul
We take as our text today, Acts 20:17-27.
“From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. 18 And when they had come to him, he said to them: "You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, 19 serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; 20 how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, 21 testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. 24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25 "And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.
In this passage, Paul is facing some heavy trials. He is headed for trouble. He is headed for Jerusalem where there is plenty of opposition waiting for him. Everywhere Paul has gone on this journey the Holy Spirit has sent a prophetic words warning him of “chains and tribulation” in Jerusalem. God has not told him exactly how all that will transpire; but He has told him enough to prepare him for the ordeal. We see all that in verses 22 and 23.
That raises two questions in my mind. (1) Why doesn’t this man of faith just speak to that mountain of trouble and make it go away? (2) If that doesn’t work why doesn’t he just avoid Jerusalem and spare himself all that trouble. I raise those two possibilities because those solutions would definitely cross my mind if I were in that situation.” Let’s join hands and ask God to remove the opposition.” Maybe use the suggestion James and John had for Jesus concerning some of the Samaritans who were opposing Him: Luke 9:54 “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” Jesus said, “No, I didn’t come to destroy people but to save them.” OK, praying the opposition away does not seem to be working. So what about just avoiding all the trouble? There were times when Jesus did that. When the religious leaders were trying to stone Him, he just slipped out through the crowd (John 8:59) and got away from them. Once in Damascus the governor stationed guards at the city to arrest Paul; Paul’s his friends let him down over the wall in a basket and he got away that way (2Cor. 11:33). There are times when the answer is to simply avoid the trouble.
But in this situation God has told Paul to go to Jerusalem, trouble or no trouble. The Holy Spirit was (from within) compelling Paul to go. Verse 22, “And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem….” In the next chapter (Acts 21) Paul is still on his way to Jerusalem and makes a stop in Caesarea where Philip the evangelist lived. Turn with me to Acts 21:8 “On the next day we who were Paul's companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. 9 Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied. 10 And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 When he had come to us, he took Paul's belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, ‘Thus says the Holy Spirit, 'So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.' 12 Now when we (Luke is author) heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem.”
Now let’s pause for a moment and get the picture of what’s going on here. Paul is staying with his friend, Phillip. Phillip’s daughters all have prophetic ministries. A seasoned, recognized prophet, named Agabus, comes and gives a dramatic prophecy to Paul warning him of the trouble that is waiting in Jerusalem. Two things about this prophecy: First, it is demonstrative. Agabus takes Paul’s belt and binds himself with it. He doesn’t just speak the words; he acts out the prophecy. Just want you to see that can be biblical. Second, the prophecy is true and accurate. Later in this chapter what Agabus prophesied comes to pass. But notice something else, everybody’s interpretation of what to do about the prophecy was wrong. They heard a true and accurate prophecy; then added their interpretation to it: Paul, don’t go to Jerusalem! Paul’s response is in verse 13 “Then Paul answered, ‘What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’ 14 So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, ‘The will of the Lord be done.’"