Reading for Friday, May 4: Acts 21
V4 – “And through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.” If it’s not clear by now, Luke gives us one more reminder: God is the one animating Paul’s missionary movement. As we read through Luke, we’re probably not surprised that Paul receives guidance in vision — Luke has already trotted out a few examples of this in his writing. But an equally important voice emerges here: the faithful community. They urge Paul not to go on to Jerusalem, even though Paul believes strongly that he must go there. But how do we resolve this tension? Is the Spirit telling Paul to go to Jerusalem, only to tell these believers that he must not?
The next episode may help us answer the question. Paul arrives at Ptolemais and the believers share another Spirit-inspired vision: Agabus, using Paul’s own belt, demonstrates the binding that will occur in Jerusalem. This vision is validated: “Thus says the Holy Spirit.” But when these believers see that Paul cannot be dissuaded, they shrug their shoulders and say “Let the will of the Lord be done,” (v14).
It seems we should distinguish between prophecy and interpretation of prophecy. The prophetic word concerning Paul is predictive, not prescriptive. Paul seems convinced that God will use his time in Jerusalem as a testimony to the Gospel. To this he commits himself. And the believers tearfully say, “Let the will of the Lord be done.”