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Acts 28: The Back Story
Part III: The Will of God
While writing 1 Corinthians, during his time in Ephesus, Paul had not yet come to a conclusion about travelling to Jerusalem.

1 Corinthians 16:5-6
Now I will come unto you, when I shall pass through Macedonia: for I do pass through Macedonia. And it may be that I will abide, yea, and winter with you, that ye may bring me on my journey whithersoever I go.

When writing to the Corinthians Paul only says that he may winter with them and that after his time in Corinth he didn't yet have a destination. But sometime, before he leaves Ephesus, the apostle Paul makes the decision to add Jerusalem to his itinerary. 

Acts 19:21
After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome.

Paul's location in Acts 19 is the city of Ephesus. The Greek word for "purposed" is tithemi and generally means, to place or set. In this verse an accurate translation for this word could be resolved. Paul resolved to go to Jerusalem. Although the Greek texts bring in the word "spirit", the Aramaic manuscripts give a different view of this verse.

Acts 19:21
But when these were fulfilled, Paul set in his mind to itinerate throughout Macedonia and Achaia, and to go to Jerusalem. And he said, when I shall have gone thither, it behoveth me Ruma to also see.

Acts 19:21
And when these things had been accomplished, Paul purposed in his mind, to make the circuit of all Macedonia and Achaia, and to go to Jerusalem. And he said: After I have been there, I must also see Rome.

Acts 19:21
When these things had been accomplished, Paul made up his mind to travel to Macedonia and Achaia, then to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome.  

These three Aramaic translations come from the Khabouris Codex, Peshitta New Testament, and the Syriac Manuscript as translated by Doctors John W. Etheridge, James Murdock, and George Lamsa.

Even the Greek text shows us that going to Jerusalem was more Paul's idea then the will of God.
While the Greek text says Paul, "purposed in the spirit" the Greek word translated "purposed" is in the middle voice, meaning that Paul was taking the action rather than the passive voice, meaning Paul was being acted upon, or moved by the spirit of God.

The question that immediately comes to mind is, was it the will of God for Paul to go to Jerusalem?

Paul’s Itinerary Changes

The purpose for a child of God in studying the Bible is to know God's will. You can't know the will of God unless you know the Word of God. Then, once the will of God is known, it is the individual believer’s responsibility to change his mind, his attitude, his habit of life to that which God's Word has declared.

Too many believers have settled for what they have heard about God or His Word, allowing second hand hearsay to determine God's will in their own lives. Most people who teach the Bible are very sincere in what they say. But as a godly man once said, "Sincerity is no guarantee for Truth."

There are some Bible teachers who find it abhorrent to consider that Paul went against the will of God by travelling to Jerusalem with this abundant sharing. Consider the following: "I submit that these events (the events of Acts 18 through 28) clearly indicate that Paul's trip to Jerusalem and Rome and his ultimate death were a long term plan orchestrated by God himself." 

There are so many things wrong with this statement, and on so many different levels, I'm at a loss to even comment on this teachers carnality. But we will consider more from this particular Bible teacher as we go through the events of Acts 21, we'll call him Mr. Laar, for Leaders are always right.

After many days of travel, Paul arrives in Syria, at the port city of Tyre.

Acts 21:3-4
Now when we had discovered Cyprus, we left it on the left hand, and sailed into Syria, and landed at Tyre: for there the ship was to unlade her burden. And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.

While in the city of Tyre, believers say to Paul, through, or by way of the spirit, that he should not go to Jerusalem. That means these believers were speaking by revelation from God. Since Paul continues on his journey to Jerusalem after hearing from these believers, it also means Paul ignored revelation from God.

We have already seen from Acts 19 that Paul had resolved in his mind to go to Jerusalem. It wasn't God working within Paul. It was simply something Paul felt he had to do. For most people, once we have made up our mind about a thing, it is very difficult to hear anything else.

For example: There is an account of a 911 operator concerning a call he received one night. The caller spoke in a slow, monotone voice, unlike most callers who were excited and pumped with adrenaline. The operator tried to get the caller talking to state his emergency, wondering if the call was simply a prank. Then the caller said he was about to take his own life. Stunned, the operator fumbled for the right words to help the man change his mind. The caller laid out his directions; send an ambulance, no sirens or lights because he didn't want to disturb his neighbors, or the church across the street that currently had a meeting taking place. The caller took his own life that night.

In the days that followed it was learned that the man had a terminal illness, his mate had recently passed away, his dog had been put to sleep, he had given away all of his furniture, and he had left a note explaining his decision. He called 911 so that his friends, or neighbors, would not be the ones to discover his body. He didn't want to put them through what they would discover. 

He was a man who had made up his mind to take his own life. It was a deliberate decision that the man had set in his mind. Nothing the 911 operator said would have changed his decision. Nothing anyone said would have changed his decision. He had thought it through, considered opposing arguments, and arrived at his deliberate decision. 

As normal people we often lack the disciple to control our minds when it comes to changing a habit, or establishing a good habit. But there comes a time for some people, that when a decision is made, when determination has set in, nothing can dissuade us from our selected course.

Paul was of such a mindset with this trip to Jerusalem. He was determined. He was committed. He was completely convinced. Whatever persuasive words the believers in Tyre used, the apostle Paul could rationalize not listening to what they said. He was going to Jerusalem.

Mr. Laar had this to say about Paul's encounter with the believers in Tyre. "Friends 'through the spirit' warn Paul not to go. Why? A test of Paul's faith and determination to do what the Holy Spirit has told him to do. They loved him as the disciples loved Jesus and didn't like his prophecy of death either. This is conformation to Paul through other brothers and sisters of his calling. Not a warning to stay away. I am guessing that this is the verse that people point to to say that Paul was arrogantly sending himself to his death."

First of all, when Paul is in Rome at the end of this journey he does not die. Secondly, "friends" did not tell him not to go, disciples spoke to Paul. Thirdly, the Holy Spirit has not told him "go to Jerusalem", but rather Acts 21:4 says the exact opposite. Fourth, Paul does not prophecy that he is going to die, he says, he does not know the things that shall befall him in Jerusalem (Acts 20:22).

I don't know about Mr. Laar's sincerity, but I do know about his accuracy. Like Paul, he has a predetermined opinion and nothing God's Word says will deter him from his already formulated conclusions. Mr. Laar began his study with this conclusion, "I did some quick research as to why I think that Paul did not act out of his attitude but was part of God's plan to go to Jerusalem, Rome, and death." It is never good to know your conclusion before you begin your study of God's Word.

Mr. Laar's is not evil because he doesn't know how to rightly divide the Word of God. Paul isn't evil because he had a predetermined mindset that cut off what God was trying very hard to tell him. Like every child of God, it makes them human. It makes them believers that have to deal with the old man nature, just like every other believer in the Body of Christ. Sometimes, that old man nature wins the day, but we are ultimately victorious through Christ.  

The Unrecorded Prophesy

Acts 21:8-9
And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him. And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.

Many teachers simply cover these verses by saying, "We don't know what they prophesied but the context gives us a very good idea of what they would have told Paul." Any teacher that holds forth this understanding is a good teacher that shows a respect for the Word of God. For God didn't give us the words of the prophesies, so we cannot be sure exactly what was said. But, the context does place these prophesies in such a way that we should have an idea of the direction they took. For the believers in Tyre told Paul, through the spirit, not to go to Jerusalem, and in the next few verses we are going to hear from the prophet Agabus who tells Paul what bad things will happen to him if he goes to Jerusalem. Placed between these two events, gives us the context of God telling Paul not to go to Jerusalem.

Yet still, there are problems with these verses that can be handled somewhat if we have an accurate understanding of administrations, or dispensations.

The problems with verse 9 are the following: First, Philip's daughters, all four of them, prophesy. Either Philip's daughters are operating the manifestation of prophesy, or they each have the office of a prophet.

Let's consider the possibility of these women having the office of a prophet. If they each function in the office of a prophet, why would God need four prophets living in the city of Caesarea? We know they would have to operate within the city because God tells us that they were virgins. That they are virgins means they are still single, and living in their father's house. The culture would not allow them to travel the countryside to function as a prophet. Further, if they were functioning in the office of a prophet, why would God need to bring up another prophet, Agabus, only a few verses later?

So it would appear that Philip's daughters are not functioning in the office of a prophet but rather that they operated the manifestation of prophecy.

1 Corinthians 14:3
But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.

The context is speaking of what should take place in the church, or the body of believers when they are come together. Prophecy, in the church, is for edification, exhortation, and comfort. Edification, oikodome, is a building up of a believer. Exhortation, paraklesis, is encouragement by way of instruction, supplication, or entreaty. Comfort, paramuthia, is to address calmly, soothingly, even tenderly, so as to consol and heal up. 

But understanding that the daughters of Philip were operating a manifestation of holy spirit, rather than the office of a prophet left me with a problem in the context of Acts 21. The context would suggest that Paul needed to hear about not going to Jerusalem. But what 1 Corinthians 14 describes as the manifestation of prophecy could not give such an prophecy to the apostle Paul. The definitions of edification, exhortation, and comfort do not leave the door open for guidance for the day, nor direction for tomorrow. What Paul needed to hear is not covered in the description of the manifestation of prophecy in 1 Corinthians 14.

These inconsistencies bothered me for a very long time. I simply could not see how the manifestation of prophecy fit within the framework of the immediate context and the more remote context that included 1 Corinthians 14. So I left it on the back burner, not wanting to squeeze my opinion and theology into God's Word. Whenever I was in this section of the book 
of Acts I would consider it, and generally set it aside again without any insight.

Finally, one night during a study night fellowship, the answer became as clear as day, like a light bulb going on in a very dark room.

What I wasn't doing was accounting for the change in administrations that takes place in the book of Acts. I, like most other believers in our day and time, was taught that the Age, or Administration, of Grace began in Acts chapter 2 on the Day of Pentecost. But that is a wrong dividing of the Word of God.

Matthew 26:27-28
And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

When Jesus shed his blood on the cross, he cut the new covenant with the nation of Israel that God had promised in the book of Jeremiah. As God had confirmed the old covenant, He confirmed the new covenant, by the shedding of blood. It was a blood covenant with the nation of Israel. However the covenant did not begin when he shed his blood. The new covenant began on the Day of Pentecost when God poured out His gift of holy spirit upon all those who believed from the nation of Israel. 

Acts chapter 1 through Acts chapter 12 is about the nation of Israel. It was the gospel of the kingdom of heaven that had been committed to Peter, and the other eleven apostles, and that Jesus had taught throughout his ministry to Israel.

The gospel of grace that God had committed to the apostle Paul did not get preached until the beginning of Acts chapter 13. Acts chapter 13 begins the transition into the Age of Grace, a transition that continues through Acts 28.

John 3:30
He must increase, but I must decrease.

This is what John the Baptist said concerning Jesus. John was the end of the Administration of the Mosaic Law, or the Law Administration. Jesus was the beginning of the Christ Administration. Yes, the Mosaic Law was still in effect during the Christ Administration, for Jesus was about fulfilling that Law. But now, while still living under the Law, Israel needed to accept the Living Word that stood before them and walked among them. 

Each administration in the Bible has an overlap, or a period of transition, when one administration is winding down and the new administration is coming to pass. John the Baptist and Jesus The Christ ministering at the same time is that point of transition. One must increase, Jesus, one must decrease, John.

After the Christ Administration comes the Revealing Administration, so called because of the revealing of Christ when he returns from heaven. Jesus Christ prepared his apostles and disciples to enter into the time of great tribulation, an aspect of the Revealing Administration and the final week of Daniel's prophecy, the next step in the prophetic calendar of the Bible. 

But something happened on the way to the final week of Daniel's prophecy and the return of Christ. God had a secret that He had hid in Himself and shared with absolutely no one. A secret that would bring the prophesies concerning Israel to a complete standstill.

Ephesians 3:2
If ye have heard of the dispensation (administration) of the grace of God which is given me (Paul) to you-ward:  

Ephesians 3:8-9
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship (the text reads administration) of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:

God's secret, that He had kept hidden throughout all the administrations, was the Administration of Grace. Adam didn't know it. Abraham didn't know it. Moses didn't know it. None of the prophets knew it. Jesus Christ didn't know it. God kept it a secret until He revealed it to the apostle Paul.

Consider, a group of adults are sitting in a living room watching a very intense movie. The movie is nearing its conclusion, the drama is building, who will live, who will die? Will our hero make it, will the bad guy succeed? Then, without a word, the man in whose home you are watching the movie, gets up, hits the pause button and announces he is going to go play with his children for awhile. He'll start the movie again when he is done playing with his dear children.

The other adults are shocked, confused, and caught completely off guard. The adult invites the others to come join him with his children but most just sit in shocked amazement. At first they sit in silence, dumbfounded and perplexed. Then anger begins to set in, complaints are raised, theories are formed, and some begin to adlib concerning the absent movie.

When God brought in the Age, or Administration, of Grace in Acts chapter 13 Israel was held in abeyance, God hit the pause button concerning all that was written pertaining to Israel. Israel will stay in abeyance until Christ returns to gather the Church of his Body, as spoken of in 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4. After the Church of the Body has been gathered together, or raptured as some call it, then…then the Bible will pick up where it left off in Acts chapter 12 with the nation of Israel. 

Most of Christianity today mixes that which is addressed to Israel, the Bride of Christ, with that which is addressed to the Church of the Body, this time of the gospel of grace. This mixing has caused no end of confusion, and wrong doctrine has abounded in our day and time.

When Paul arrived in Caesarea he entered the house of Philip. Philip was part of the Church of the Bride. Philip was a minister to the nation of Israel. He was not part of the Administration of Grace. 

Acts 6:1-6
And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.

Philip was one of the seven chosen to minister to the nation of Israel. He was part of the apostles commitment to take the gospel of the kingdom to the circumcision, the Jews. The manifestation of prophecy to the nation of Israel is different than the manifestation of prophecy to the Church of the Body.

Luke 1:67
And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,

This is the father of John the Baptist. He prophesied on the day John was to be named. We won't consider his entire prophecy because it isn't relevant to understanding the difference between prophecy in the two administrations. But the end of what Zacharias prophesied is very relevant.

Luke 1:76-79
And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

This is guidance concerning his son for years in the future. This does not fit with the definition of 1 Corinthians 14 which is addressed to the Church of the Body.

Also consider Mary and Elizabeth and what they have to say in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke.

Luke 1:41-45
And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.

This is the manifestation of prophecy as given to the nation of Israel. This is guidance for tomorrow. This is different than what 1 Corinthians 14 taught us about prophecy in the Administration of Grace. Philip's daughters could give the type of prophecy that was available to the nation of Israel and contextually, they could tell Paul not to go to Jerusalem!

The detail and accuracy of the Word of God is beyond amazing! If God had put the words of their prophesies in the text of His Word, we would have simply breezed by it and never realized they were operating the manifestation of prophecy according to what God had given Israel. We would have simply read their prophesies and equated them to 1 Corinthians 14 and begin to teach that the manifestation of prophecy to the Church of the Body could give guidance for today, or tomorrow. Some have actually made that mistake because they have failed to rightly divide God's Word pertaining to these different administrations. 

Now we can see, even without the actual prophesies, that Philip's daughters fit within the context of telling Paul not to go to Jerusalem.

Some may find it strange that we have such an overlap of two different administrations: Paul, declaring the Gospel of Grace and Philip, declaring the Gospel of the Kingdom. The commonality between the two is their relationship to God, both are sent by God, yet to minister to different groups and with different gospels. Both are sent by God to reconcile man back to God, through Christ Jesus.

Matthew 11:2
Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,

In Matthew chapter 10 Jesus had just chosen twelve of his disciples and named them apostles. Then Jesus sent his apostles forth.

Matthew 10:5-7
These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.

Both the disciples of John the Baptist and the apostles of Jesus were ministering at the same time as God moved from one administration to the next administration. "He must increase, I must decrease" but both men, and their disciples, followed the will of God as they were given direction by God.

A Prophet Arrives and the believers hear him

Now while Paul was still at the home of Philip, the prophet Agabus comes to Judea.

Acts 21:10-11
And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. And when he was come unto us, he took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.

After Philip's daughters prophesy, God sends Agabus, a man with the office of a prophet. Agabus, like everyone else, tells Paul that nothing but trouble await him in Jerusalem.

Acts 21:12
And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.

The "we" are those that are travelling with Paul, among whom are Luke and Timothy. The "they" are Philip, his daughters, and the believers in Caesarea. Everyone is telling Paul not to go to Jerusalem. What do you suppose is the will of God?

So, after the believers at Tyre, and Philip and his daughters, and Agabus the prophet tell Paul not to go to Jerusalem, why is he still headed to Jerusalem? The simple answer is, we don't always hear what God is telling us, especially when we have already made up our mind to do something. Paul has made up his mind to go to Jerusalem.

Acts 21:13
Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.

Remember what I said earlier about sincerity, it is no guarantee for Truth. Paul is very sincere and very committed, but he is also very wrong. 

Everyday God's children are faced with a multitude of decisions. Some are for the immediate, others are more into the future. What happens when we make our decisions and we forget to include God, or Christ, in our decision making? Does God ignore us because we are so sinful and arrogant to think we can do something on our own? Does God punish us because we have moved in the wrong direction or taken a wrong action? Looking at the life of Paul between Acts 19 and Acts 28 gives us a very clear answer. God stood with, worked with, and loved Paul every step he took in the wrong direction. When you make a mistake, or go off in the wrong direction, what do you think God will do with you? If you truly know God, then you know the answer to that question in the depth of your heart.

Acts 21:14
And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.

In the original texts there is no punctuation. No commas, no periods, nothing. So originally this verse reads like this: 

Acts 21:14
And when he would not be persuaded we ceased saying The will of the Lord be done

Personally, I'm thankful for the punctuation editors have added to the Bible. But we must also realize the punctuation has no godly authority. Sometimes the editors have erred in their placing of commas, and semi-colons, and periods.

The context demands the punctuation be placed more like this:

Acts 21:14
And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased saying, The will of the Lord be done.

In other words, the believers are exhorting Paul to do the will of the Lord rather than his own will. Their final words to Paul, do the will of God.

Acts 21:14
And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.”
English Standard Version

Acts 21:14
Since he would not be persuaded, we stopped talking and simply said, “The Lord’s will be done!”
Holman Christian Standard Bible

Jerusalem and the Law

The final piece of evidence that demonstrates how far outside the will of God Paul has travelled is in verse 24.

Acts 21:24
Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law.

James, and the leadership in Jerusalem, asks Paul to go into the Temple to demonstrate to the believers in Jerusalem that he "walks orderly, and keeps the Law" meaning the Law of Moses. To this request, Paul agrees. Paul agrees to prove he keeps the Law of Moses!

Yet, just prior to beginning this journey to Jerusalem, in his epistle to the Romans, God inspired Paul to write these words:

Romans 10:4
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

Christ is the end of the Law to everyone that believes. Paul knew this in his heart, but because he had made up his mind about this journey to Jerusalem, he could rationalize his actions. He rationalized being "all things to all men." In the same context of 1 Corinthians Paul says, "unto the Jews, I became as a Jew." Rationalization is something that every person excels at with the smallest of effort.

Galatians 5:1-4
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

As for Paul's journey to Jerusalem, Paul had become entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

The great lesson here is not that Paul was wrong or made a mistake. All of us do that, and sometimes on a daily basis. The greater reality here is God's commitment to one of his children. Consider how God patiently works with Paul to not make this mistake. There is no judgment, no condemnation, no forsaking. There are many consequences as a result of Paul's mistake, but through each one God is right there, through Christ as the head of the Body, to guide, to encourage, to comfort, to love Paul with every step he takes.

1 Timothy 1:16
Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.

God, through Christ, has the same longsuffering for each of His children.