Sermon: Let the Lord’s Will Be Done Acts 21:1-16

Let the Lord’s Will Be Done

Acts 21:1-16

Introduction

In this text, Luke is showing that Paul has to go to Jerusalem. We remember that the believers there were suffering greatly and Paul and the others were to arrive with much needed aid that they had collected through the generosity of the churches.

There are many similarities between what Luke writes about Paul and what he writes about Jesus in his Gospel. As each one set their face like flint to go to Jerusalem. In a few weeks, we’ll cover this in more detail but for now we must see the general similarity between what Paul is about to suffer in Jerusalem and what Jesus suffered there. Jerusalem is the great city that persecutes the prophets sent to her for her salvation.

TT- Sometimes the hard path is the right path and the bitter cup is the God ordained cup.
Human need met by text

We have a fatal flaw in our thinking. We’ll see this even from the very godly missionaries helping Paul. We’ll see it from the church leadership at Ephesus and Tyre. And we see it all too often today. The flaw in our fallen reasoning is that it is impossible for God to want us to suffer. We frequently hear God correctly through His Word but then take that truth and process it through sinful fallen thinking and then we arrive at a conclusion completely wrong.

The need we have today that this passage meets is we cannot assume that if suffering is involved in a given situation then it is not God’s will. God is way less concerned with our comfort than we think He should be. He is not interested in comfort as much as He is with our maturity and His glory.
Do you think it would safe to say that God’s will for us is…A) whatever maximizes His glory…2) whatever causes us to mature as a believer? If this is true, then suffering is probably more in line with God’s will than we care to think. At any rate, I think we’ll at least learn today that suffering and God’s will can go hand in hand together.

Acts 21:1-16 (ESV)
1 And when we had parted from them and set sail, we came by a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara.
2 And having found a ship crossing to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail.
3 When we had come in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left we sailed to Syria and landed at Tyre, for there the ship was to unload its cargo.
4 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.
5 When our days there were ended, we departed and went on our journey, and they all, with wives and children, accompanied us until we were outside the city. And kneeling down on the beach, we prayed
6 and said farewell to one another. Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home.
7 When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais, and we greeted the brothers and stayed with them for one day.
8 On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him.
9 He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied.
10 While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.
11 And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’”
12 When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem.
13 Then Paul answered, “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.”
14 And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.”

15 After these days we got ready and went up to Jerusalem.
16 And some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us, bringing us to the house of Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we should lodge.

1. The Church at Tyre Begged Paul Not to Go to Jerusalem

1 And when we had parted from them and set sail, we came by a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara.
2 And having found a ship crossing to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail.
3 When we had come in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left we sailed to Syria and landed at Tyre, for there the ship was to unload its cargo.
4 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.
5 When our days there were ended, we departed and went on our journey, and they all, with wives and children, accompanied us until we were outside the city. And kneeling down on the beach, we prayed
6 and said farewell to one another. Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home.
The first verse of our passage for today has been translated with a phrase, when we had parted from them… Here is an example of how the English language often falls short in capturing the intensity that the original has. If you remember, Paul and the others were standing on the beach at Miletus with the elders and the others literally weeping as Paul was boarding the ship. They knew they would never see their beloved Paul again. They all understood the danger that awaited Paul when he went as it were to the lion’s den of Jerusalem. He barely escaped the multiple plots and schemes of the Jews to kill him as they followed Paul and now, he is headed straight to Jerusalem.

As Luke captures the scene he is purposely paralleling the Life of our Lord, as Jesus too had to go to Jerusalem.

I want to address verse, 4 because it sounds as if the Holy Spirit did not want Paul to go to Jerusalem.

4 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.
What is really going on here is that the Church leaders did hear correctly from the Holy Spirit that danger, beatings, and imprisonment awaited Paul in Jerusalem. They had that part right. But their conclusion to those words of warning was wrong. They thought much like Jesus’ disciples thought that because suffering awaited Paul in Jerusalem that meant he was not to go.
Acts 20:22-25 (ESV)
22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there,
23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.
24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again.

Notice that both Paul and the church received the same words from the Holy Spirit, namely that suffering awaited Paul in Jerusalem. But we must se the difference in their interpretation of those words. Paul concludes that the suffering is neither here nor there. In other words, he is going to complete his mission no matter the cost. The church concludes that because suffering is in store, he should not go.

I would argue there is absolutely no contradiction in these verses. God is gracious to warn Paul through the Holy Spirit of the danger in Jerusalem. That warning is in no way the same as the Holy Spirit telling Paul not to go.
Jesus also warned of the suffering Paul would endure for His namesake.
Acts 9:16 (ESV)
16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

The church at Tyre reacted as most people would react when hearing this type of warning. They adding it all up and concluded that because pain and suffering awaited Paul in Jerusalem that he should not go.

What do you think?
The Ephesian elders literally would not release Paul. He had to tear himself away.
The Church of Tyre was begging Paul not to go. Literally, with regard to this imperfect tense, they continually begged him not to go to Jerusalem.
2. Everyone Begged Paul Not to Go to Jerusalem

7 When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais, and we greeted the brothers and stayed with them for one day.
8 On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him.
9 He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied.
10 While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.
11 And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’”
12 When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem.
Notice how Luke continues to build this list of those who loved Paul and were seeking to persuade him not to go…
Ptolemais believers, Philip the evangelist and his four daughters who prophesied, Agabus the prophet, Luke and the others on the missionary team, and literally everyone else.
Here’s the issue again, everyone knew what the outcome would be. All the prophets, the evangelist, the missionary team, and everyone was hearing correctly but interpreting wrongly. They saw the picture as Agabus wrapped his own feet with Paul’s belt as a symbolic act to show Paul what was going to happen to him if he were to go to Jerusalem.

Agabus has already been mentioned on one other occasion.
Acts 11:28-30 (ESV)
28 And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius).
29 So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea.
30 And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.

In our text today, Agabus follows the OT prophets who acted is a similar manner. Many of the OT prophets would do comparable things especially to try to persuade Israel and Judah to return to God. They warned exile was coming if they failed to repent. (See Isaiah 20, Jeremiah 13, Ezekiel 4).
Agabus was right. Paul would be bound, but again, his conclusion was wrong.

I want to say at this point that what was getting everyone in trouble here is not that they were not hearing from God, they were. What was getting them in trouble was their interpretation of what God said.
This is why the church must listen to the Apostles and their writings. This is also why when the church places itself on the same level as Scripture or the Apostles it will get itself into trouble every time. We must allow the Holy Scriptures to be our interpreter because we are always coming at truth from a fallen, humanistic perspective. Here, in this case, the people heard from God and Paul the Apostle heard from God. What they heard was the same…basically, if Paul goes to Jerusalem there will be suffering for him there. What the church needed to do was affirm the truth they heard but submit to the Apostle’s true and accurate interpretation of the events.

I hope we see how when an opinion differs from what the Bible says (God speaking to us) and how an Apostle has interpreted what God has said (Epistles) we must change our thinking to be in line with their interpretation.

EXAMPLE…

Regardless what men say, namely, Paul do not go to Jerusalem, we must change our thinking. It was God’s will for Paul to go even though he would suffer when he got there.

Paul knows what God’s will is…

Acts 20:22-25 (ESV)
22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there,
23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.
The word translated constrained literally means bound by the Spirit, clearly showing that the Holy Spirit had taken Paul prisoner and they were both going to Jerusalem. The Spirit bound Paul and Paul was very willing to go even if it meant that he would die in Jerusalem.

3. May the Will of the Lord Be Done
13 Then Paul answered, “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.”
14 And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.”

15 After these days we got ready and went up to Jerusalem.
16 And some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us, bringing us to the house of Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we should lodge.

I’m reminded of the incident when Jesus told His followers that He would be going to Jerusalem and also be put to death. It was Peter who reprimands Him. Notice it was the exact same thing that was going on here. They loved Jesus and could not comprehend that He was to go to Jerusalem where suffering and death waited for Him.
Matthew 16:21-23 (ESV)
21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”
23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

You see, Satan would always have us take the easy path. He would always have us seek comfort and safety over God’s will.

Just like Jesus, there was no power on earth that would be able to keep him from going. At the end of the day, after being rebuked by Paul, they all gave up trying to persuade him not to go and surrendered their will to the will of the Lord.
Let the will of the Lord be done.

Additional Application

This passage shows us that sometimes well meaning godly people can misinterpret God’s will. We also see how committed Paul was to the will of God. He knew what God wanted and he was not about to be talked out of it.

When Martin Luther was on his way to face the diet of Worms where he was sure to conflict with religious authorities and possibly be imprisoned or put to death, his dear friend tried to dissuade him.  He answered, “If there were more devils in Worms than tiles on the roofs, still, I would go.”

We see here passion for God’s will. I pray we too would have a clear and committed passion for God’s will. Christianity needs some stubborn headstrong followers who are ready to do the Lord’s will…no matter the cost.
When his Christian friends realized that Paul was resolved to go to Jerusalem, they became assured themselves that he was in the will of God.  When they said, “The Lord’s will be done,” they were referring to the secret, sovereign will of God.  They were now ready to submit to God’s secret will for Paul’s life no matter what the personal loss to them.   They commended their dear friend Paul to the secret will of God, confident that whatever might occur was right for Paul.  “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).  Paul had already accepted the will of God for his life even if it meant death.  “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).
How committed to God’s will are you? I am wearied by those who continually ask over and over what is God’s will for my life? Most of time what they really want to know is can I buy this new car and still be within God’s will? How far into pagan lusts and idolatry can I go and still be on God’s side?

Here the secrete of knowing God’s will…obey what God has clearly revealed to be His will for you. When you obey that stubbornly then He will reveal more. If you struggle to know God’s will ask yourself where has God clearly revealed His will and I have disobeyed?

Do you obey the Lord in the things you know to be His will?
Matthew 16:24-25 (ESV)
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

We must discover and then pursue the will of God. Begin obeying Him in the things you know to be His will and God will reveal other things to you. Why should God reveal more when you are not obeying what He already has showed us?

Remember, sometimes the easy path is not the right path. Be determined to obey what you already know and watch God open the door to more.

The followers that day, even though they didn’t understand why Paul was so determined to go submitted their will to God’s. When they declared, the Lord’s will be done”, they were quoting from the Lord’s Prayer.
The Lord’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. When we do not understand God’s providence then we too must rest in the fact that God’s will on earth often doesn’t make sense but still it is right. God’s will often is that we take the more difficult way. The easy way often is the wide path that leads to destruction. The secret is that we keep going in the Christian life. I’m reminded of John Bunyan’s classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress when Christian began his path which took him up the Hill of Difficulty. By the time he reached the top, he was crawling but he was still moving forward. Staying faithful to the Lord does not mean we are always sprinting toward the prize, it may be, like Christian sometimes a slow crawl is all we can do. But we still are in the race.

 

May the Lord’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven…

TT- Sometimes the hard path is the right path and the bitter cup is the God ordained cup.
 

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