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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Acts 21:7-14. - Paul in Caesarea

Luke records a brief stay in Ptolemais on the journey from Tyre to Caesarea. He also informs us about what Paul and his companions did while waiting for the boat to leave – they went and found disciples of Jesus and spent the day with them. Why did they do this? It was not because they were lonely, nor was it because they could not have spent the time together engaged in spiritual activities. Yet they had a passionate desire to meet other Christians, and what they did was an expression of brotherly love.

In Caesarea, they stayed with Philip, one of the men mentioned in Acts 6 who years earlier had been regarded as suitable for sorting out with others a practical problem in Jerusalem concerning feeding widows. He had also been mentioned by Luke earlier in connection with the gospel going to Samaria and with the conversion of the Ethiopian treasurer. Since then he had been in Caesarea, no doubt helping in the church there.

Luke mentions that Philip’s four daughters were unmarried and that they prophesied. We might assume that Luke means that they gave predictions about the future, which is possible, although it is more likely that it was a gift they used in helping other believers to praise God for his goodness. It does not mean that they functioned as teachers in the church. The daughters are mentioned twice by Eusebius, the early church historian.

Sometimes, those who had this gift were given information from God about current events, and it is worth noting that the daughters of Philip do not seem to have had a message from God about Paul going to Jerusalem, which is a reminder that God may not use what we would regard as the easiest way. Instead, the details of the message about Paul and Jerusalem were conveyed by another prophet, Agabus, who arrived in Caesarea from Judea.

Agabus enacted what would happen to Paul in Jerusalem. He gave the information, but he did not say what the response should be, unless he is included among those who then began to urge Paul not to go. Whether Agabus did or not, Paul’s companions and the others present deduced that the prophecy indicated that Paul should not go, which is a strange way of responding to what God said would happen.

Paul was not moved from his determination to go to Jerusalem. We know that he had a collection to deliver, and while that could have been delivered by others, it looks as if Paul knew he had to deliver it himself. As we can see from his  words, his commitment to do for the Lord what was right was so strong that he was prepared to die in order to bring it about. It is obvious that, for Paul, personal safety and comfort were not his first priority.

The attitude of his friends and other believers was to leave everything in the hands of God. They were not offended or disappointed that he refused to listen to them. Instead they accepted the possibility that God had a plan for Paul which included danger. They took Paul’s response seriously and committed it all to the sovereign Lord. This only happened because they were prepared to talk to and listen to one another.

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