We’re looking at whether Paul missed the Lord when decided to go to Jerusalem. Take a look in II Timothy 4:7-8, Paul’s words to Timothy would strongly imply that Paul didn’t depart from God’s plans for him, but that he had fulfilled God’s will:
“I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith! Finally the crown of righteousness is reserved for me. The Lord, the righteous Judge, will award it to me in that day – and not to me only, but also to all who have set their affection on his appearing” —II Timothy 4:7-8
Now that was Paul’s estimation of his behavior. He didn’t sense any guilt or condemnation for disobeying the Lord. I mean when I miss the directions of the Lord, or if I flatout disobey him, I know it. But still, that was Paul talking there. I think our Lord’s evaluation carryies a whole lot more weight, don’t you think? Well, let see what he has to say about it:
“The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Have courage, for just as you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome’” —Acts 23:11
Think about this for a moment. Paul was been falsely accused, resulting in a riot where he was nearly killed. He was placed under arrest and shared his testimony with the Jerusalem Jews. That resulted in another riot. In chapter 23, we will find Paul standing before the Sanhedrin. Realizing that he won’t find any justice there, Paul identified himself as a Pharisee, which resulted in even more tumult. Paul was then confined to the military barracks for his own protection and until they can decide what to do with him. That night our Lord Himself stood beside Paul and spoke the words recorded in verse 11 as an encouragement to him.
They weren’t words of rebuke, severe or mild. They were words of commendation. Our Lord commended Paul for faithfully testifying about Him in Jerusalem. Paul had done well. There wasn’t so much as a hint that Paul shouldn’t have been where he was at that moment. And then our Lord assured Paul that just as he has been faithful to testify about Him in Jerusalem, he would do the same thing in Rome. In fact, that is when Paul learns (probably for the first time) that he must go to Rome.
The resistance of Paul’s brothers and sisters to his journey to Jerusalem seems to be based on the premise that Christians should avoid suffering at all costs. It was the obvious response to the news of what awaited Paul. If I heard the same thing was going to happen to one of my friends, you better believe I would try to convince them not to go . . . Paul, on the other hand, was convinced that suffering and persecution were a normal part of the Christian experience:
“After they had proclaimed the good news in that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and to Antioch. They strengthened the souls of the disciples and encouraged them to continue in the faith, saying, ‘We must enter the kingdom of God through many persecutions’” —Acts 14:21-22
Interesting . . . you mean that when the world applauds our efforts, we should be concerned whether we are doing the right thing? Yep. If you choose to faithfully follow Jesus, you better anticipate resistance, even hatred. Simply listen to the news programs and various talk shows. Do you think people appreciate being told they are in error; that their lifestyle offends God? That they will be judged and found guilty? That the punishment for refusing Yehoveh’s only means of Redemption (Yeshua Ha Meshiach) is eternal death? Of course not.
However, do I have a death wish? Am I looking forward to people ridiculing me, or beating me? Of course not. Acts has provided us with more than sufficient evidence that God can deliver His saints from suffering and death, if He chooses to do that (see Acts 4; 5:12-42; 12:1-17; 16:19-39; 18:12-17; 19:23-41). Acts also teaches us that God sometimes uses the suffering and death of His saints to accomplish His purposes (for example, the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7 and the death of James in Acts 12:2). God can deliver Paul from adversity if He chooses to do so, but sometimes Yehoveh requires the suffering of His saints. We are citizens of Light, and darkness hates the Light. Hate rebels against Love. Sin despises Righteousness. Lies reviles Truth. Paul has been chosen to suffer for His Lord, so going to Jerusalem is consistent with God’s will for him.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Story of Acts