Paul Sets His Face to Go to Jerusalem
As Jesus approached the end of his ministry and his upcoming passion, the Scriptures tell us that “he set his face to go to Jerusalem”; that is, there was no turning back (Luke 9:51). Jesus knew who he was and he knew his mission and he knew that the time had come for the Father to glorify the Son (John 12:23, 27). And so he traveled onward to Jerusalem knowing full well what lay ahead. Well, now we meet Paul and he is heading in the same direction—to Jerusalem. Unlike Jesus, Paul can’t be completely sure what shall happen to him there, but he does know that he may expect to suffer, and if it be God’s will, die. So why go? He said that he was “constrained [bound] by the Holy Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there” (20:22). Of course, he was to deliver the love offering to the Jerusalem church on behalf of the Gentile churches which he represented, but Paul also knows that he is not well liked and that his presence, if it should become known—and Paul being Paul, it will become known—shall most likely lead to strenuous opposition by some Jews. But he goes anyway, because he is bound by the Holy Spirit; that is, as Paul sees it, he has no choice.
The passage we read treats of some disciples from Tyre with whom Paul was staying telling him “through the Spirit” that he should not go up to Jerusalem. We are confused by this because Paul is certain according to the same Spirit that he should go to Jerusalem. I have read several interpretations (e.g., the prophets at Tyre just got it wrong), but I think that when the verse says that they were speaking to Paul through the Spirit, it means not that they were prophesying through the Spirit but that they were expressing their concern for Paul’s well-being through the Spirit. Indeed, as Christians, we are to approach one another just this way—through the Holy Spirit. They were wrong in telling Paul not to go but only out of love for him, certainly not an egregious sin. We later read that Agabus, that mysterious prophet who pops up twice in Acts, did rightly prophesy that Paul would be bound by the Jews and delivered over to the Gentiles (sound familiar?). Again the brethren beg Paul not to go but Paul’s resolution is firm regardless of the cost; he has been constrained by the Holy Spirit to go to Jerusalem.
We too have been constrained or bound by the Holy Spirit, first and foremost to give glory to our God and Father, and second to be ready to offer a word to someone either of witness or of encouragement. There may be times in your life when you feel constrained by the Holy Spirit to do something specific. First, make sure it’s biblical; and second, be sure to do it.