And having sought out the disciples, we stayed there for seven days. And through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. - Acts 21:4, ESV
Did Paul Disobey God in Going to Jerusalem?
[NOTE: Brent Prentice has a great post on this text here. Ray Stedman takes the opposite position here. You can check several commentaries on BlueLetterBible.org here.]
The actions of the Apostle Paul in today's passage seem very unusual. He is warned by the disciples in Tyre not to go to Jerusalem. Luke's language here is very strong: "through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem." So, did Paul disobey the Spirit when he decided to go to Jerusalem?
I think it's important to acknowledge that this is a difficult question to answer with certainty. On the surface, it really does look like God is warning Paul not to go to Jerusalem, both in verse 4 and with Agabus' warning in verses 11-12. Not everything the Apostles are recorded as doing in Scripture is necessarily right just because they did it. We do know that these were sinful men capable of stubborn self-will at times, so we shouldn't jump to conclusions.
Still, if we back up and put today's passage in the context of the book of Acts, it seems likely that Paul was being faithful in going to Jerusalem. His friends were being loving in wanting to stop him because they cared for him. He knew what he was facing, and was willing to pay the price to be an ambassador for Christ in Jerusalem.
Why do I think this? We need to keep in mind that none of the messages Paul received in today's passage were new information for him. In Acts 20:22-24, he had told the Ephesians elders:
Notice that Paul said he was "constrained by the Spirit." He felt like he did not have a choice. If he was going to be faithful, he had to go and he had to accept whatever awaited him. This is why Paul responded the way he did to Agabus' warning and the disciples' pleading in verse 13 by saying, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." (ESV)
Heavenly Father, give us the courage to stand for Christ and be willing to accept whatever opposition or consequences we may face. Lord, give us faithful hearts and keep us steadfast until we see You face-to-face. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Prayer Based on Proverbs 24:1-9:
Be not envious of evil men,
nor desire to be with them,
for their hearts devise violence,
and their lips talk of trouble.
Heavenly Father, give us contentment with Your good gifts,
and keep us from envy, which shows ingratitude for Your grace.
By wisdom a house is built,
and by understanding it is established;
by knowledge the rooms are filled
with all precious and pleasant riches.
A wise man is full of strength,
and a man of knowledge enhances his might,
for by wise guidance you can wage your war,
and in abundance of counselors there is victory.
Wisdom is too high for a fool;
in the gate he does not open his mouth.
Lord, we need You to give us wisdom,
for without Your wisdom we cannot live lives that honor You.
We long to reflect Your character,
so give us the grace to walk in true and faithful wisdom.
Whoever plans to do evil
will be called a schemer.
The devising of folly is sin,
and the scoffer is an abomination to mankind.
Father, keep us from deviousness,
for we know that our hearts are wayward and wicked,
and we need Your Spirit to rein us in and lead us.
In Jesus' name, Amen.
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