Paul's return trip to Jerusalem in the Book of the Acts - God's Will?


January 25, 2010

Dear Mr. ______,

I felt I should write to you after having recently viewed your sermon on Breaking the Heart of Obedience.  I agreed with the thrust of all that you said – especially the principle that, to be able to properly and concretely address and help others in their problems and circumstances, oneself has to have personally undergone at least in some degree those same types of trials and exercises.  We have often mentioned here that Christianity is not an “armchair” matter.  I believe that there is much prevalence, at least with many, as to the “mirror” of James 1:23,24.

I just yesterday read something whereby a brother spoke of evangelistic service, and that it was a greater matter to have entered into it through love for souls than as a result of the activity of the conscience.  By this I understood him to mean that it was good to do it if the conscience required it; however, it was a better thing if the movement was prompted primarily by an unaffected love for Christ and the souls of men.

I thought I should bring to your attention one facet of your preaching noted above in which I believe you have, unknowingly, misapplied a section of scripture.

You indicated in your sermon that, when Agabus sought to dissuade Paul from going to Jerusalem, it was right that Paul refuse to follow his admonition and, instead, continue on his course to Jerusalem.

However, seven verses earlier we read that in Tyre there were disciples “who said to Paul by the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem.  This was a clear directive from God against Paul’s trek to Jerusalem.  He said he was willing to go up to Jerusalem and to die if needed; however, Heaven had in view the need for Paul to write more Epistles to be included in our Bible – what if Heaven had not, ultimately, intervened in Paul’s affairs?  Paul was ready to die; but, the Lord wasn’t ready for Paul to die.

It is interesting that, some time fairly soon after Paul’s conversion, he argued with the Lord as to a ministry (see Acts 22:18-21) for the Jews.  It is evident that this longing after his natural brethren was retained and led him many years later – in the time frame to which we are referring – to deflect in degree from the calling that the Lord had originally given him (which was to go to the nations – Peter was the apostle for the circumcision).  He was, instead (Acts 20:16 – Paul bypasses his Christian brethren) traveling back to the seat of Judaistic power which was in Jerusalem.

Having evidently deflected a bit at this time from that to which the Lord had appointed him, it appears that he was further influenced to the end that, after having come into Jerusalem relative to all the above, he acceded to a Jewish demand for purification and shaved heads (Acts 21:20-26).   Prior to this, Acts 16 shows that he had Timothy circumcised “on account of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew his father that he was a Greek.”  This is made the more painful when recognizing what Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians 7:18-19.

When Paul had his sought-after opportunity to speak to his Jewish brethren (Acts 22) it is evident that his heartfelt plea to them had no effect – “Away with such a one as that from the earth, for it was not fit he should live.”  The Lord had advised Paul as to all this, of course.

It is of note, as well, that there is no record that, during Paul’s subsequent captivity in Caesarea for about two years, there was any result at all to any Christian testimony he rendered.  The Lord had originally given Paul a mandate to go to the nations with his ministry, and it is a bit ironic that he actually, ultimately, landed in the heart of Gentile power – i.e., Rome.  This is made a bit more telling since “Agrippa said to Festus, This man might have been let go if he had not appealed to Caesar.”

I have stated all the above with the understanding that Paul is one of the greatest of all servants in the Bible – in our dispensation, perhaps second only to the Lord Himself (I speak with the utmost reverence as to the place of the Lord).  Yet, it is evident that, while the desires of Paul’s heart were understandable, in the activity of his natural mind he was actually running contrary (in this trip back to make a final - if need be - appeal to his Jewish brethren in Jerusalem) to the intent and activity of Heaven which was to bring in the nations in this dispensation - Israel as a nation being, for the time, set aside.  This raises a great question for us all as to our apprehension of and full compliance with the mind of Heaven at any given time.

I hope all this is agreeable to you.

The above I think to be largely a matter of doctrinal understanding – albeit, important as it is important to strive always to be in the right understanding of Scripture.  However, I must say that it was a matter of great dismay to see, at the end of your sermon, a woman praying.  The Scripture so clearly states, “I will therefore that the men pray in every place.”  Any attempt could be made, of course, to try to bend this scripture; however, the meaning is simple and unassailable, and the scripture cannot be broken, isn’t that so?

I see you as an attractive[1], intelligent Christian, articulate and zealous for souls.  In today’s broken times I have felt a desire to reach out to you.  I had already written something to you towards the end of last year; however, I have heard nothing back.  Perhaps you didn’t get my letter?

I wonder what you think as to all of the above.

                                                                             Your brother in Christ,


[1] I am referring to a Christian attractiveness