Acts 21:1-14

Sunday Morning Bible Study

September 27, 1998

Introduction

Paul is on his way to Jerusalem. He and his companions are carrying gifts from the Gentile churches to help the poor in Jerusalem. As he makes his way back, Paul stops in various cities and meets with the Christians there. And every where he goes, the Spirit has been warning him of trouble up ahead.

:1-6 Stopover in Tyre

:1 we came with a straight course unto Coos

The small island of Cos is about thirty miles south of Miletus. They spent the night there.

:1 the day following unto Rhodes

Rhodes was a much larger island, about 45 miles southeast of Cos, and they probably also spent the night there as well. In the island of Rhodes ("rosy"), the sun shone most days producing beautiful rose bushes, hence its name. They would have spent the night at Rhodes.

:1 and from thence unto Patara:

Patara is 60 miles east of Rhodes on the coast of Asia Minor. Paul is on one of the major shipping routes. They would have spent the night at Patara.

:2 And finding a ship sailing over unto Phenicia

Phenicia Ė or Phoenicia, the coastal area to the north of Israel, mainly the areas of Tyre and Sidon.

Up to this point, Paul and his group were probably on a smaller ship, one that would take hops along the coast, a day at a time. Now he looks for the big 747 kind of ship, one that will be able to make the long voyage of some 400 miles to Tyre.

:3 Now when we had discovered Cyprus, we left it on the left hand, and sailed into Syria, and landed at Tyre

discovered Ė sighted

Luke doesnít say much to describe the voyage, but it was a long one (400 miles). Some (Sir William Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen) have suggested that they most likely sailed from Patara to the port of Myra, some 50 miles further along the coast of Asia Minor, then to Tyre. It was at Myra that the larger ships started their voyage to the Syrian coast.

The voyage from Patara to Tyre would have taken at least 4 days.

:4 And finding disciples

finding Ė aneurisko Ė to find out by search. This is Paulís first trip to Tyre. Heís not familiar with the Christians here, so he has to hunt them down.

The ironic thing is how the church in Tyre was probably started:

(Acts 11:19 KJV) Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.

It was the persecution of the church which HE, Paul, had been behind that had driven the Christians out of Jerusalem to start churches in places like Tyre in Phenice. Ironic, ainít it?

:4 we tarried there seven days

If you recall, Paul has been on a pretty tight schedule, getting from Philippi to Jerusalem in fifty days. Thatís why he didnít stay long in Ephesus.

Thereís a couple of reasons why Paul hangs around seven days:

1) The ship heís been on is a larger one, and is going to take that long to unload and reload for itís next voyage.

2) Theyíve apparently made such good time, that Paul can take the time to relax and get his land legs rather than try to locate another ship out.

:5 with wives and children Ö we kneeled down on the shore

This is quite a touching scene, this group of Christians in Tyre, having had the privilege of hosting the apostle Paul for a whole week. Theyíve grown quite close.

:6 And when we had taken our leave one of another

taken our leave Ė aspazomai Ė to draw to one's self; hugs and kisses for everyone.

:7-14 Stopover in Caesarea

:7 we came to Ptolemais, and saluted the brethren

The trip from Tyre to Ptolemais (about 25 miles) would be a short one, and they probably made it in one morning. Ptolemais is the modern city of Acre or Akko.

saluted Ė same word as in vs. 6 ("taken our leave") Ė hugs and kisses all around.

:8 came unto Caesarea:

From Ptolemais to Caesarea is about 30 miles, again a brief trip.

Caesarea was the most important city, secularly speaking, in Israel at that time. It was the seat of the Roman government in Palestine.

:8 Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven;

one of the seven Ė Philip was a guy who had been around in the earliest days of the church. When the church in Jerusalem had begun to get so large that the apostles couldnít keep up with all the work, seven men were chosen to help with the more menial chores (Acts 6). This title "one of the seven" makes it sound like he had a glorious high position, but he started out as a busboy in the church cafeteria.

:8 and abode with him.

Unlike Tyre, where they had to search for the Christians, they knew where they were going when they got to Caesarea. They went straight to Philipís house.

Caesarea was where Philip the evangelist had settled after his missionary journeys in the early days of the church (Acts 8:40)

Shortly after Paul had been saved, he went to Jerusalem to meet all the apostles. After his preaching got him into trouble with the non-believing Jews, the church sent him home to Tarsus, but by way of Caesarea (Acts 9:30).

I imagine that it was here that Paul first met Philip, some sixteen years earlier.

Paul at one time known as Saul, had been a persecutor of the church. He had been present and even a part of the death of the first martyr, Stephen, who like Philip, was one of the "seven". I imagine their first meeting had been kind of awkward. But this time itís Paul who has been off traveling and evangelizing.

It could be while staying here with Philip that Luke hears all of what Philip had done in the early days of the church, as he later recorded some of Philipís adventures.

:9 the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.

The thing that excites me most about this verse is not just that God was using these young gals as prophets, but the fact that we see here not only a man whom God has used, and that heís successfully passed it on to his kids.

Lesson:

Raise your children in the Lord.

This isnít always the case:

The high priest Eli had sons who were wicked, and caused people to hate going to church.

The prophet Samuel wasnít much of a success as a father. His sons were known for taking bribes.

We might look at David and think of his son Solomon, but donít forget that Solomon had older brothers who didnít turn out so great. Both Amnon and Absalom were great disappointments.

God wants us to take raising our kids seriously.

(Deu 6:4-7 KJV) Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: {5} And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. {6} And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: {7} And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

Teaching your children about the Lord MUST NOT be a "Sunday only" kind of thing. It must be every day.

Illustration

This is a story told by a former major league baseball superstar: One day when he was a boy, he and his friends and his father were out in their yard playing ball. They played there regularly and the grass had really taken a beating as a result. It didn't look very good anymore unless you were a child looking for a nice place to play ball. One day, as the kids and the father were playing and having a great time, the boy's mother leaned out one of the windows and called, "Can't you guys find somewhere else to play? You're killing the grass." The man looked at his wife and answered, "Honey, we aren't raising grass, we're raising kids." -- Dr. Tony Evans

Parents, what are we raising?

:10 And as we tarried there many days

many days Ė pleion Ė greater in quantity; more than expected. I almost wonder if Paul and his group were expecting to stay quite so long.

Where are we time-wise?

When Paul hit Miletus, he had already spent 24 out of 50 days if he intended to get to Jerusalem by Pentecost. Add two days for Miletus, then seven days to sail to Tyre, seven days in Tyre, then two days to Caesarea, that brings us up to about 42 days, or only 8 days left to get to Jerusalem (only 40 miles away, still easily accomplished).

:10 a certain prophet, named Agabus.

Agabus Ė This is a guy weíve seen before. Heís a prophet with a track record. This was the man who had prophesied fifteen years earlier about the famine that would hit the world (Acts 11:28).

Up to this point, weíve only been told that there have been certain "messages" in the churches concerning Paulís arrest. With Agabus, weíre going to have a clear message from a solid prophet.

:11 he took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet

girdle Ė zone Ė belt This is kind of a strange way to deliver a prophesy, but this is very consistent with the prophets in the Old Testament. Sometimes they got very visual and very graphic.

Isaiah went naked for three years (Isaiah 20:2-4) to illustrate how Egypt and Ethiopia would be conquered by Assyria and let away as naked captives. Ezekiel was told take a model of the city of Jerusalem (Eze. 4) and do certain things in front of the people of Babylon to show them what was going on in Jerusalem.

:11 and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.

This is just what happened.

:12 besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.

What was Godís will?

The question arises, who was correct in what Paul should do, the prophets or Paul? Were the people correct in telling Paul not to go? Wasnít it "through the Spirit" that Paul was told not to go to Jerusalem? I tend to side with Paul.

1) The wording used in the Greek in Acts 21:4 isnít an absolute "Donít go", but could translated something like, "that it seems like the Spirit is saying not to go up to Jerusalem". (Wiersbe)

2) Agabus did not forbid Paul to go to Jerusalem; he only told him what to expect if he did go.

3) The wording in 21:14; they werenít saying "maybe the Lordís will could still be done", they were finally giving in and agreeing with Paul that the Lordís will was going to get done.

4) Later, after having been arrested, Jesus encouraged rather than rebuked Paul in having gone to Jerusalem. (Acts 23:11)

Lesson:

The human element in prophecy.

It seems to me that as we stand back with the advantage of hindsight, we can piece together what was happening.

Godís message through all the churches was simply, "Youíll be arrested in Jerusalem". It was the people who added the part about not going through with it. That was their interpretation of what God was trying to say. And their interpretation was incorrect.

We need to exercise caution when someone says they have a "word from God" for us.

It may indeed be a word from the Lord. It may be totally bogus. It may be partly from the Lord with some added human touches.

Illustration

In a certain suburban neighborhood, there were two brothers, 8 and 10 years old, who were exceedingly mischievous. Whenever something went wrong in the neighborhood, it turned out they had a hand in it. Their parents were at their wits' end trying to control them. Hearing about a pastor nearby who worked with delinquent boys, the mother suggested to the father that they ask the pastor to talk with the boys. The father agreed. The mother went to the pastor and made her request. He agreed, but said he wanted to see the younger boy first and alone. So the mother sent him to the pastor. The pastor sat the boy down on the other side of his huge, impressive desk. For about five minutes they just sat and stared at each other. Finally, the pastor pointed his forefinger at the boy and asked, "Where is God?" The boy looked under the desk, in the corners of the room, all around, but said nothing. Again, louder, the pastor pointed at the boy and asked, "Where is God?" Again the boy looked all around but said nothing. A third time, in a louder, firmer voice, the pastor leaned far across the desk and put his forefinger almost to the boy's nose, and asked "Where is God?" The boy panicked and ran all the way home. Finding his older brother, he dragged him upstairs to their room and into the closet, where they usually plotted their mischief. He finally said, "We are in BIG trouble now!" The older boy asked, "What do you mean, BIG trouble ????" His brother replied, "God is missing and they think we did it!"

Somehow, I donít think thatís exactly what the pastor meant. But the little boy kind of added his own interpretation to what the pastor said.

Weíve been talking a lot lately about the importance of good communication. One of the things weíve seen is how important it is that we really understand a person before we try responding to them.

(Prov 18:13 KJV) He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.

So often we get mad at something someone says, and it isnít too unlikely that weíve simply misunderstood what they were saying.

Be careful to understand what God is saying to you. Donít finish Godís sentences for Him.

:13 Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart?

break mine heart Ė sunthrupto Ė break in pieces, to crush; to break one's heart; to deprive of strength and courage, dispirit, incapacitate for enduring trials

Lesson:

Donít persuade people away from Godís will.

I think that sometimes we too, in our well meaning ways, can discourage people from doing what God has called them to do.

When we think of some of the troubles they face, we donít want them to have to be hurt or anything, and so we say, "perhaps you shouldnít do this"

Some what ifís Ö

What if Kay Smith had been able to persuade her husband Chuck to not leave their successful church of 200 in Corona, to pastor a little struggling group of 25 people in a church known as Calvary Chapel down in Costa Mesa? Where would the 700+ Calvary Chapels across the country be today?

What if, back in 1949, Billy Graham had given in to his friend Chuck Templeton, and began to doubt the validity of the Scriptures, and had not gone on to his crusade ministry? Where would millions of people be who have been led to the Lord through his crusades?

What if someone had successfully persuaded Martin Luther to not "rock the boat" and just go along with what the Roman Catholic Church wanted to keep doing? What if the Protestant churches never broke off and teach the Bible?

I think we need to be careful not to over-generalize this. I think that there are times when we need to burst some peopleís little bubbles.

But I think we also need to be careful not to keep them from what God is calling them to do.

Are you a person who tends to encourage peopleís dreams, or throw a wet blanket on them?

:13 for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.

God had been preparing Paul for the persecution ahead of him.

That was the whole point of the prophecies. They werenít intended to scare Paul off, they were intended to prepare him for what was up ahead.

There was a time earlier in Paulís life where he might have bolted and ran. The first time he had come to Corinth, he had been through such heavy persecution, that he was terrified. And the Lord showed up one night and told him:

(Acts 18:9-10 KJV) Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: {10} For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city.

Godís will isnít always a scary proposition like dying in Jerusalem, but sometimes suffering is a part of His will.

Lesson:

Be ready to do His will.

How do I make myself ready? This is what Paul wrote just a few months earlier, just prior to this mad 50 day dash to Jerusalem:

(Rom 12:1-2 KJV) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. {2} And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

When we give ourselves wholeheartedly to God, we will find Him working out His will in our lives.

And in addition, we will prove to the world that Godís will for our lives is good, acceptable, and perfect.

Illustration

Hudson Taylor is often looked at as the father of modern missions. God used him to open the doors of evangelism in China. What was it that made Hudson Taylor the man he became and was, right to the end? His son and daughter-in-law, who traveled constantly with him in his later years, testify that very often they would be traveling over a hard cobblestone road for many hours in a springless cart. Arriving at a Chinese inn late at night, they would endeavor to obtain a little corner in a room for their father, for usually in those inns there was just one large room where everybody slept. He was now an aged man; but without fail, every morning just before dawn there would be the scratching of a match and the lighting of a candle, and Hudson Taylor would worship God. This was the key to his life. It was said that even before the sun rose on China, Hudson Taylor was worshipping God. -- Joseph Carroll, How To Worship Jesus Christ (Nashville: Riverside Press, 1985), p. 15-16.

Do you want to be prepared to do Godís will for your life?

Give yourself to Him, over and over. Youíll see His will being worked out in your life. Youíll know itís good.

:14 And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased

ceased Ė hesuchazo Ė to keep quiet; to be silent, i.e. to say nothing, hold one's peace

:14 The will of the Lord be done.

be done Ė an imperative. It could be translated, "Let the will of the Lord be done", not "Well I sure hope that Godís will can still be done Ö".

These people are coming to the point where they are realizing that it is Godís will for Paul to go to Jerusalem and be arrested. They are yielding to the will of the Lord.