We have been covering Paul’s decision to go Jerusalem, but another thing I see in this chapter, concerns the will of God for our lives. I know I have hinted at this, but when you stop to think about it, what I’ve been talking about isn’t just about taking advice; it’s about knowing God’s will for our personal life. Going to Jerusalem was about fulfilling the prophecy revealed to Paul at the time of his salvation. This prophecy revealed the will of God for Paul’s life:
“But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, because this man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before Gentiles and kings and the people of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name’” —Acts 9:15-16
So going to Jerusalem was just as important for the life and ministry of Paul as going to Jerusalem was for the life and the ministry of Jesus. Now, please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here. The work of our Lord at Calvary was vastly more important than Paul’s work, the consummation of which commenced in Jerusalem. What I am saying, though, is that for Paul, his life’s work was consummated as the result of his journey to Jerusalem, just as our Lord’s work was consummated at Calvary. It was God’s will for Paul. If he had followed the well-intentioned but incorrect counsel of his friends, he would have been turning away from God’s will.
If I were to ask you what book of the Bible comes to mind when I mentioned wisdom, I’m sure that most of you would think of Proverbs, and I wouldn’t blame you, because the words of “wisdom” (I’m including several related terms such as “wise,” “wisdom,” and “wiser”), occur well over 300 times in the Book. In Proverbs and elsewhere, “wisdom” is referred to as a “way” or as a “path” people of faith are to follow. In the New Testament, Jesus and others speak of faith in Jesus as a way. Jesus calls Himself “the way” (John 14:6) and He calls men to “follow” Him (for example, Matthew 4:19; 8:22; 9:9). Satan tries to distract us and to divert us from the path we were called to follow.
Paul knew the path. The day of his salvation, that path was spelled out for him. All the other events simply served as confirmation for this path. When Paul proclaimed the gospel in Damascus, the Jews there tried to kill him. Also, when Paul went to Jerusalem, the Hellenistic Jews wanted to kill him. On his first missionary journey, Paul was stoned and left for dead in Lystra. No wonder Paul was able to encourage believers by talking about the need to endure persecution and affliction.
That’s not all. On his second missionary journey, Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned at Philippi. Everywhere Paul went there was opposition to him and to the gospel he proclaimed. And when Paul purposed to go to Jerusalem, it was far from shocking to learn that persecution and imprisonment awaited him there. This was the path he had been called to travel.
I’m saying this because some appear to approach “finding the will of God” as though each decision in life were, so to speak, a blank slate, as though each decision in life regarding God’s will is made as though it were independent of all other decisions. I see Paul’s decision regarding God’s will for him as a convergence of factors, all of which point in the same direction. Think about this in the context of the Book of Acts.
I was called to create a group on Facebook called “Doulos Studies,” and share this study (along with others). Along with me, you were called to parent your children and guide them in the ways of the Lord (a task you never outgrow, by the way). Some of you have been called to be plumbers or carpet-layers or mechanics . . . each of us was called to do something.
Think about the theme of suffering, for example. From the beginning (for Paul, this would be Acts 8) to end, Paul experienced opposition and great suffering for his identification with Christ. There are no surprises here, for Paul or for any other Christian. When Paul came to faith, he chose to identify with our Lord Jesus and to follow Him. Jesus pressed on to Jerusalem, against the wishes of His disciples, to face rejection, suffering, and death. So why would Paul expect otherwise when he went to Jerusalem? One aspect of the good news of the gospel is that Jesus rose from the dead, and because of this, we will also be raised from the dead to spend eternity with Him. When Paul was saved, he saw a vision of the risen Lord Jesus. Why would death terrify him? We know it didn’t. Maybe our problem is that we see only what’s around us. We hold too tightly to all the things we see, feel, taste, smell and hear. Maybe we need to learn to expand our vision and let loose of those things, and grab hold of eternity? I still love the quote from Jim Elliot: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
At least that is something for you to ponder . . .
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Story of Acts