Acts 21

Acts 21:4

After looking up the disciples, we stayed there seven days; and they kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem.

Through the Spirit. Paul had purposed in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem (Acts 19:21). Indeed, he felt bound or compelled by the Spirit to go (Acts 20:16). But the disciples of Tyre had a completely different take. Through the Spirit they warned Paul not to go to Jerusalem. Were they wrong? Or was Paul wrong?

These questions lead to discussions about the perfect will of God and how even great apostles can miss it from time to time. But maybe neither of them was wrong. Perhaps the disciples understood, through the Spirit, that trouble awaited Paul in Jerusalem and knowing this they counselled him not to set foot in the city. This is supported by Agabus’s prophecy. Through the Spirit, Agabus said that Paul would be bound and taken into captivity in Jerusalem (Acts 21:11). Yet Agabus never said that Paul should not go to Jerusalem.

Acts 21:11

And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: ‘In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’”

What the Holy Spirit says. Paul was determined to go to Jerusalem but he did not know what awaited him in that hostile city (Acts 20:22). Now he knew. He would be bound by the Jews and delivered to the Gentiles, and this is what happened.

What Agabus said to Paul is just as significant as what he didn’t say. He said he would be bound in Jerusalem. He did not say, “The Holy Spirit says you should not go to Jerusalem” (see entry for Acts 21:4).

Acts 21:12

When we had heard this, we as well as the local residents began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem.

Begging him not to go. Like the disciples of Tyre (Acts 21:4), the believers of Caesarea did not want Paul to go Jerusalem. They rightly feared that he would be imprisoned.

Acts 21:13

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

Jerusalem. Paul felt compelled in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem (Acts 20:22). He was not going to let the threat of captivity deter him.

Acts 21:20

And when they heard it they began glorifying God; and they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law;

The Law refers to the Law of Moses, the commandments, ordinances, punishments, and ceremonial observances given to the nation of Israel through Moses (Jos. 8:31, John 1:17). This law is sometimes referred to as the law of commandments (Eph. 2:15) or the law of the Jews (Acts 25:8). See entry for The Law.

Acts 21:38

“Then you are not the Egyptian who some time ago stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?”

(a) The Egyptian. If this was the same Egyptian false prophet that Josephus wrote about, hundreds of his followers were killed by the Romans. Despite this tragic outcome the Jews didn’t seem to learn, and the pattern of deception and death repeated itself again and again (Antiquities, 20.8.6).

(b) The wilderness. Jesus warned that false prophets would lead their followers into the wilderness (Matt. 24:26).

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