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Acts #78 (chapter 21:1-6)
The Book of Acts
The Courage of Conviction, Part 1
Acts 21:1-6
The timing of where we find ourselves in the book of Acts at chapter 21, and what we saw Sunday night in the movie about the Apostle Paul is very interesting because this particular set of circumstances allows us to see how Paul's convictions drove his actions.
God's greatest servants have always believed their cause was worth dying for, and Paul was one of those people, and he inspired others to be that kind of people. As we closed our last study, Paul said to the Ephesian elders, "You will see my face no more."
He said that because he was going to Jerusalem and he was well aware of what kind of reception he was likely to receive. The Holy Spirit has warned him that bonds and afflictions await him. But that did nothing to stop him.
He realized the danger, but he also knew the Lord's direction and calling. Jerusalem was not really the destination. Rome was. But the stop in Jerusalem was necessary to deliver the offering that had been received.
It was dangerous and the threat was real, but so also was the need, and he realizes this could be the last time he sees his friends and fellow ministers from Ephesus. But Paul had a conviction about what God had called him to do, and so he did it. It was just that simple.
And what we see in chapter 21, is what happened because of what I want to call the courage of conviction in Paul's life. There are four aspects of that kind of life I want us to see. We'll look at two of them tonight, and save the other two for next time.
In the first three verses of chapter 21 we see that the courage of conviction
1. Knows Its Purpose
verses 1-3
Like many of the things we've learned about Paul's life and ministry, this one isn't obvious in the text. It's simply seen in what's happening. In these three verses, we have this little narrative of the journey they take from Miletus to the coastline of Palestine. And I don't know about you, but I'm tired just from reading it! And it describes for us the intentionality of the journey Paul is making.
And it's hard to imagine just how emotional this parting must have been. In fact, when verse 1 says,
"When we had departed from them," it literally translates "After we tore ourselves away from them."
But once they parted, set sail. And then we are told about all the components of the trip. They would sail a little ways, then stop for the night and repeat that process until they eventually arrived at their destination.
And the main thing I want to draw from that is to see that Paul is a man on a mission. He has a destination and that's where he's going. He sails on a course that will take him to Jerusalem.
The conviction is to get the money to Jerusalem as he had promised he would. That is the basis for his courage. And maybe we don't see the kind of courage that Paul had very often is because we don't see the kind of devotion that Paul had very often.
It just seems to me that the kind of courage Paul had was because of the kind of commitment he had. He had an objective, a goal that he had to reach. And I'm just afraid for most of us, we aren't too goal-oriented.
Go to the average Christian in America today and ask about their goals and objectives and you'll probably get a blank stare. We just go to church on Sunday and that's about it. If I were to ask you to take out a piece of paper and write down the three great objectives of your life, what would you write? And by the way, if you have to think very long, you don't have any.
But, as far as i can tell from Scripture, Paul never lived a day of his life, from the time of his conversion to the time that they cut his head off, when he wasn't going somewhere to do something that he was willing to die for it.
Ask Paul about his objectives, and you will hear his say, I wrote one of them down in Philippians 3:10, "That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death."
The overwhelming spiritual objective of Paul's life was to fully know Christ.
Anything else, Paul? Yeah, I wrote another one down in Philippians 1:21: "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." That was an objective. Once I know Christ, I'm going to follow Christ.
  1. else Paul? "Well, like I told Timothy, I determined to fight the good fight and finish the race and keep the faith. I want to end well." Those were all general objectives in the life of Paul that are easy to identify. And once you determine the big objectives, then the daily goals become much more clear.
It may be to see your husband come to the Lord or win a neighbor to Christ or grow in your understanding and application of Scripture at a certain need in your life. Those are worthwhile goals and we need to have some of those but they should flow out of the ultimate goal and objectives we've set.
But it is those ultimate goal that give us a cause worth dying for, and if you never have any, then you'll never know what it is to experience the courage that kind of commitment brings. So here is Paul, bound and determined to go to Jerusalem. That determination flows from his conviction to do the will of God, regardless of the cost or consequences.
Second thing: The Courage of Conviction
2. Cannot be Diverted
verse 4a
Now the attempted diversion comes in an unusual way. Paul arrives in Tyre, and the first thing he does is find out where the Christians meet. And he hooks up with them for seven days. The ship he's traveling on is unloading cargo, and whatever else was going on took about a week, and Paul stays with the Christians in town.
  1. these were Christians Paul didn't know. Paul didn't found the church in Tyre. Indirectly he had a lot to do with it, but he didn't found it. The church at Tyre started as a result of the stoning of Stephen and subsequent spread and escape of Christians from Jerusalem as a result of the persecution. And Paul was the catalyst for that spread. That's why I said he indirectly had a lot to do with its founding.
But these are Paul had never met. But notice, they warn Paul about going to Jerusalem.
verse 4b
This isn't anything new, same song, second verse. In fact, everywhere he's gone, they've told him the same thing. What did we read in chapter 20, verse 23? "The Spirit witnesses in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me." And notice, "they told Paul through the Spirit not t go up to Jerusalem."
If it weren't for that little phrase, this verse would be a whole lot easier to handle. We could just say they came to love and respect him and wanted to protect him and they knew he was so hated by the Jews and that the people were after him, and there was no sense in putting his life on the line.
But they said to him through the Spirit not to go to Jerusalem. So now the question becomes "Did Paul get a word from the Holy Spirit not to go to Jerusalem?" If he did, then he went anyway, he was disobedient. So the question that comes up, is Paul disobedient? Did he make a mistake in going to Jerusalem?
I don't know. Paul was certainly capable of being disobedient and he certainly could have ignored the warning. But I don't think that it's conclusive that's what he did, just because of this little phrase.
The phrase, "Through the Spirit," means, through the exercise of the spiritual gift. Now in the early church there were many who had the gift of prophecy and the gift of prophecy was manifest two ways: one was through preaching the truth of God's Word and the other was predictive which is more of what we typically think of as prophecy.
Now spiritual gifts can be used in the true energy of the Spirit or in the energy of the flesh. And again, I don't think it's conclusive here how it was used, but my inclination is that somebody exercised the gift of prophecy and said Paul shouldn't go. And if they were genuinely speaking for God and Paul disregarded it and went to Jerusalem anyway, he disobeyed.
Some think Paul disobeyed, and he may have. But if he did it, he did it with a clear conscience motivated by his love for God and needy brothers and sisters and with the threat of losing his life because of it. I think Paul was convinced he was doing the will of God and that's what drove his decision to disregard the warnings and complete the trip.
By the way, if Paul was just headstrong and belligerent and hell bent on going, that doesn't change by opinion about Paul one bit. In fact, it kind of encourages me because that makes him human.
I find some solace in the fact that Peter blundered and Paul and Barnabas disagreed. John got his mama to interfere in kingdom work. Thomas doubted. It's encouraging to me.
In fact, if you read in the Bible you'll find that everybody that God ever used, His choicest people fouled up. Noah failed after the flood and got drunk, Abraham lied about his wife, Moses failed and was left out of the Promised Land, David had a terrible blot on his life.
God could have written failure over every one of those lives but listen people, God's in the business of picking up failures. So I'm not bothered by the fact that Paul might have messed up.
However, I don't believe that's true in this case. I don't believe he made a mistake or willfully sinned against the Spirit of God. After all, his life was lived in sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Just the trip he made to Macedonia is enough to illustrate his reliance on the Spirit's guidance.
I cannot see the Apostle Paul, all of a sudden, becoming carnal, without any indication from God that he did. He lived his life in sensitivity to the Spirit. And all of his reasons are right for going to Jerusalem. His motives were pure.
expecting him to be obedient, why did he say what he did in Acts 20:24 about what awaited him once he got there? Paul believed with every fiber of his being that the Lord Jesus Himself, had commissioned him to go to Jerusalem So why would the Spirit now come along and say the opposite?
His motives were right all the way along the line and Paul never gives any indication at all that he thought he had sinned against the Spirit. In fact, after he finally arrives in Jerusalem, his testimony is, "My conscience is clear before God".
So it seems to me the message the Holy Spirit was giving him was this, and here's the point, "Paul, don't go to Jerusalem unless you're willing to suffer what's going to happen." And he was. He understood his purpose and he could not be diverted. That is the courage of conviction.
Soon after the beginning of the reign of Bloody Mary, in England, an officer was sent to bring various preachers in for trial. A particular officer went to take the good and godly preacher, by the name of Hugh Latimer, and to bring him to London. Latimer had six hours’ notice that they were on their way to get him.
But instead of running, fleeing, he just packed and prepared for his journey, a journey which he knew could end in execution. When the officer arrived to take him, Latimer said to him, "My friend, come in, you're welcome. I go as willingly to London to give an account of my faith, as ever I went to any place in the world.
And I doubt not that as the Lord made me worthy formerly to preach to two excellent princes, he will now enable me to bear witness to the truth before the third, either to her eternal comfort or discomfort."
And off he went to London and Bloody Mary burned him at the stake. She didn't burn him alone; she burned two other preachers with him. And as the flames were leaping up Latimer said these words: "We shall light a candle in England today that will never go out."
The costliest fire the Roman Catholic Church ever lit was that fire. It became the flame that ignited the English Reformation and the death of Catholicism in England. A man who had conviction and who had the courage to die in flames for his conviction, and the confidence to believe that in the sacrifice of his life, God would bring to fulfillment the goal and the dream that he had in his heart. That's the courage of conviction. But friends you'll never have the courage unless you've got the goal.
Well, quickly, notice
verses 5-6
The same thing we say in Miletus with old friends we now see in Tyre with new friends. When the faith is genuine, it doesn't take long to develop a sweet fellowship, the kind of love that would protect and embrace a beloved servant of God. But Paul could not be diverted. His conviction was he knew his purpose and his courage is seen in that he could not be diverted.
Let's pray.
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