Right before this section, Paul imparted some wisdom into the leaders of the Ephesian church for their last time face-to-face. He told them to:
Have no Regrets about Sharing Jesus
Look out for Wolves in the church
Look out for Leaders Leading AWAY from Jesus
Stay Close to God and His Word
Help the Weak and Give to Those in Need
When Paul was talking about going to Jerusalem, he says this: Acts 20:22-23 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.
Then, the tone shifts, and he says this: Acts 20:25 25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again.
I believe that we see a shift in this section, because the Holy Spirit drops that understanding on him in the moment.
In the section we're looking at today, we get more warning from the Holy Spirit through prophetic words about what will happen in Jerusalem. There are 2 prophesies given to Paul -
PROPHESY 1 (IN TYRE)
Acts 21:4 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.
#1. The disciples there prophesy to Paul that he should not go.
#2. It appears that it’s not a 1 time thing.
#3. We know Paul doesn’t listen.
Acts 21:5-6 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.
PROPHESY 2 (IN CAESAREA)
Acts 8:39-40 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
Acts 21:9-11 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.’”
So Agabus grabs a belt, wraps it around his hands and feet, and says, essentially ‘this is what the Lord showed me’… DON’T GO to Jerusalem!
Acts 21:12 12 When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem.
Acts 21:13-14 13 Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? 14 And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.”
What is Prophesy?
There’s a big difference between prophecy in the Old Testament, and the New Testament.
In the Old Testament, we saw people in the OFFICE of Prophet. Their entire lives were devoted to repeating the voice of God, verbatim. … These are INFALLABLE Prophesies.
In the New Testament, we see people with the GIFT of Prophesy. They are people with a spiritual gift of hearing God and repeating what He says for the edification of the church. … These are FALLABLE Prophesies, meaning we can get them wrong.
The GIFT of Prophesy is a very real, and very necessary thing in the church! Actually, there are 3 lists of spiritual gifts in the New Testament, that that Holy Spirit gives us: (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4) and Prophesy is the ONLY ONE listed in all 3 lists.
Ephesians 14:1 1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. 2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. 3 But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. 4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.
Prophesy is simply just God wanting to encourage and lead His people, and he does it, through His people.
A great example is the one we just saw with Agabus:
Acts 21:11 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 you
Why is Paul Ignoring the Prophesy?
In Tyre, they were telling Paul through the Spirit, not to go on to Jerusalem.
In Caesarea, they were telling Paul that the Jews at Jerusalem will bind him like with a belt, and he’ll face something truly horrific.
Outside of the Fallable/Infallable thing, the biggest difference of Prophesy in the New Testament and Old Testament, is who’s responsibility the outworking of the prophecy is.
The Application of how to handle the prophecy was Paul’s responsibility, not the disciples in Tyre, or in Caesarea. Paul was wise, and discussed it with the the rest of the church, but at the end of the day, he did what he was supposed to do, and went to Jerusalem.
So, why go through all of this?
I think He was inviting the WHOLE CHURCH, to be a part of what he was doing IN PAUL.
THE PASTORS OF THE EPHESIAN CHURCH
in Acts 20:37-38 all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.
THE DISCIPLES IN TYRE
in Acts 21:5-6 All of them, including wives and children, accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. 6 After saying goodbye to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home.
THE DISCIPLES IN CAESAREA
in Acts 21:14-16 gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.” … 16 Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and brought us to the home of Mnason, where we were to stay.
I think those prophesies were partially for Paul to prepare him for what he was going into… But I think those prophesies were also partially for the Church, to walk with their leader, and he marched towards his imprisonment.
What Should Prophesy Look Like in the Church Today?
It should look like the same thing it has always looked like since the Holy Spirit started divvying out gifts after Jesus:
The Church earnestly seeking direction, encouragement, and strength from God
People with the Gift of Prophesy sharing those words, pictures, and encouragements with people in the church to draw us closer to God, point out things He wants to do in us, and lead us into things we can’t do in our own strength .
The Recipients of those Words taking those words to God and Wise Counsel, to figure out how to respond to them.
I feel like I have the gift of prophesy and I want to encourage the church like all the disciples in this story.
I will pray this week and ask God if He has an encouraging word for someone in the church.
I will learn to trust God with the results of the world around me, and not think that I can control things with prophesy.