The Great Paradox: Acts 21:1-6
“1) When we had parted from them and had set sail, we ran a straight course to Cos and the next day to Rhodes and from there to Patara; 2) and having found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail. 3) When we came in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left, we kept sailing to Syria and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload its cargo. 4) After looking up the disciples, we stayed there seven days; and they kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem. 5) When our days there were ended, we left and started on our journey, while they all, with wives and children, escorted us until we were out of the city. After kneeling down on the beach and praying, we said farewell to one another. 6) Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home again.” Acts‬ ‭21‬:‭1‬-‭6‬
Paul took advantage of his journey. He was either building new relationships to share the gospel or gathering believers together to build them up. He was a master of redeeming the time.
However, there is a troubling mystery introduced in verse 4. The disciples through the Spirit were warning Paul not to set foot in Jerusalem. This is consistent with Acts 20:23. It seems like he was receiving the same warning in every city where he traveled. In Acts 21:10-11, the prophet Agabus issued the same warning.
So the question is perplexing; “Why did Paul ignore all the warnings?” I have no solid answer. There are two sides of the coin. Was God trying to prevent him or was He preparing him? Either answer would fit the context. This is one of the great paradoxes in the New Testament.
Paul’s mind was settled. He had made a vow. He was bound for Jerusalem. Whether right or wrong, every warning came true. He was arrested and endured much affliction. But there is a positive note, because of his ordeal, the gospel became focal point of every conversation. Error about the gospel was exposed as Paul was put on trial.
It can be argued that Paul’s afflictions from this point forward became the single greatest event to clarify, define and defend the gospel in church history. God was at work. Much of the New Testament was written because of Paul’s ordeal.
This lines up with the words of Jesus to Ananias at the time of Paul’s conversion; “15) But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16) for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”” (Acts‬ ‭9‬:‭15‬-‭16‬) And so it started happening.
I am convinced that we cannot thwart the plans, providence and sovereignty of God for our lives. This gives me great joy and confidence in walking with God. I do not live on egg shells. I believe God is greater than my strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures, and daily decisions. I am fully reconciled with my past, present and future. My life is in His hands to fulfill His Divine purpose.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global