Acts #79 (chapter 21:7-9)
The Book of Acts
Single Hearted Purpose
Acts 21:7-9
We’re talking about the courage of conviction as seen in the life of the Apostle Paul and some of the details we find in Acts 21.
Last week we saw the courage Paul demonstrated in his life developed out of the conviction that he had about his ministry and calling. It was as if Paul just decided he was going to do what God called him to do and if the price for doing that was persecution or taking a beating or being thrown overboard in the sea, so be it.
That is important for us to see because Paul had no resources other than the resources that you and I have. I mean by that, he just had to rely on what God provided. So we can't say, “Well, I’m no apostle Paul.” Well, he wasn’t an apostle Paul either! He was just plain old Saul of Tarsus until God got hold of his life. It was the Holy Spirit that made him what he was. And you’re nothing either, and neither am I; but we do have the same Holy Spirit.
Paul was absolutely committed to the cause, and as we saw last week, this courage of conviction included,
- the knowledge of purpose
The courage of conviction knows its purpose. You cannot be convicted to fulfill something if you don’t know what it is. You’ve got to have an objective or goal that is driving your life or ministry.
As we saw in the first few verses of chapter 21, Paul was on his way to Jerusalem to deliver the love offering that had been received for the church in Jerusalem. And he was determined to get there with that offering, which leads us to the second characteristic of the courage of conviction and that is
- it can't be diverted
That’s illustrated in verses 4 to 6 where Paul encounters this group of believers who try to convince him it is too dangerous to go to Jerusalem. And every indication is that were sincere, faithful followers of Christ who believe God is using them to warn him.
But Paul was not going to be deterred, and as we see in verse 5,he departed and continued the journey. He could not be diverted from his objective.
Tonight we come to verse 7 where we discover the third characteristic of this courage of conviction.
verse 7
Now that is a rather benign verse, but it speaks to us of Paul's
3. Single-Hearted Purpose
It's interesting to me that they only have one day in Ptolemais, but they spend it with the Christians that are there. Paul absolutely staggers you with his commitment to the priority of his ministry.
I can pick up my Bible and ask you to turn to Ephesians 5, verses 15 and 16 where we says we are to walk circumspectly, not as fools, redeeming the time. And we can explore the nuances of the language and I could tell you Paul taught that we are to take maximum advantage of the time we are given and all that, and we could learn a lot from that.
But the message comes through a lot louder and a lot clearer when you watch his life through the book of Acts. He had no concept of wasted time. Here he is in the middle of a long journey, but instead of resting or relaxing for the day, he took advantage of that day by meeting with fellow Christians in the area.
Can you imagine what that day meant to them? What an encouragement it was? The questions that he answered? The solutions to problems he proposed? The doctrine he straightened out?
This was his life. He was totally committed. There was no point at which he sold out. Not for rest, not for money, not for saving his life, not for the failure to be punished or to have wounds. Nothing was his price. He couldn’t be bought off.
And here he is. He has one day, and he maximizes that day for the ministry of those saints there. Now, he didn’t found that church, so he didn’t have any particular obligation. Much like the situation in Tyre, it was probably founded in the overflow of the persecution that occurred in Jerusalem.
So it wasn't his congregation. He had no particular responsibility or obligation to them.
But at the same time, they are a part of his family and he felt a spiritual obligation to maximize this opportunity, so he spent the day with them.
verse 8
Without going into all the details, Caesarea is an important place, scripturally speaking. In fact, it was the most important city in Judea. And it just so happened that there was a man who lived there that’s well known to us. His name was Philip, and he according t verse 8, he was one of "the seven".
what does that mean? Well, back in Acts 6, the Church got started, everything's hopping and the church is growing and there are so many people to take care of, the apostles can't handle all the needs.
So what did they do? Chapter 6 tells us.
verse 2-4
And verse 5 lists their names.
verse 5
So that Philip is this Phillip. By the way, it's the same Phillip that we read about in chapter 8, verse 5, preaching in Samaria, and later leading an Ethiopian to the Lord, and listen to what we read in
Acts 8:40
Now here in chapter 21 he is identified as Philip, the evangelist. That’s the only time, in the book of Acts, anybody is given that title.
He started out as a deacon, a servant and God multiplied his responsibilities and he's been preaching for all these years, and one day, Paul arrives in Caesarea and he stays with Philip for a few days.
What’s interesting about that is that Philip was one of the ones directly affected by Paul's persecution of the church 20 years earlier. Twenty years before this, Philip had been driven out of Jerusalem by Saul. Stephen was martyred; the persecution flamed under Saul. The Gospel preachers were scattered everywhere, and they started preaching. Philip winds up in preaching in Caesarea, where he made his home.
And just knowing how Satan works, you have to wonder if Philip ever thought about what he'd say if he ever had the chance to talk to Paul. There are probably some in this room who've been harboring grudges and resentment for 20 years or longer. You've thought about what you'll say if you ever get the chance!
And then, one day, Paul shows up at the front door, unannounced, and asks to spend a few days in your home! Can you imagine how that went down?
By the way, this wasn't the only time something like this happened.
Galatians 1:18-24
Can you imagine what it must have been like to meet your original persecutor and know that he had been a preacher of Christ all through the years?
God must be a glorious God if He can transform a into a preacher! I imagine Paul and Philip must have had some interesting notes to compare.
But there was something else I think that is significant about this meeting. Paul is primarily thought of as a missionary to the Gentile world. But the very first guy that ever got involved in Gentile evangelism was Philip when he led the Ethiopian eunuch to the Lord.
So, in a sense, he was the predecessor to Paul began what God used Paul to expand. And it's interesting to think about what they must have talked about in this time they had together.
Then, in verse 9, we have this little statement that is rather difficult to figure out why it’s here and what it’s all about.
verse 9
And that’s all it says. They didn’t prophesy anything particular; it just says they were prophesying. These four daughters had the gift of prophesy.
So Philip has been in Caesarea about 20 years, and God has blessed him with four daughters. Not having any daughters myself, I can only assume that would be a blessing. We hope he had at least one son to soften the blow a little bit, but we cant' be sure about that.
But we know he had these four daughters who were unmarried since they are referred to as virgins. He could have had four frustrated sons-in-law. But we will assume they are unmarried and who prophesied.
Now, I think it’s significant that the Holy Spirit includes this verse, it's just hard to determine why it's significant, but I think the most significant detail is that they prophesied.
From a New Testament perspective, the gift of prophesy functioned in two capacities. One, the gift of prophesy functioned in terms of revelation where God spoke directly through an individual such as we see in the Old Testament where a prophet would declare, "Thus saith the Lord."
In the next set of verses we will see that gift in action through a man named Agabus who predicts a famine, and that comes right from God.
  1. sometimes, the gift of prophecy is just preaching or proclaiming the truth. For example, Paul is called a prophet in Acts 13, as well as Barnabas. In preaching terms, prophesy includes instruction and teaching and preaching the Word to build up the body of Christ.
So, prophesy was two-fold. It was to foretell or to speak revelation, and it was to teach or preach. So which part of that did these girls practice?
Well, I hope it was in revelation, because if they had the preaching part, then Paul contradicts himself, or we have trouble trying to fit them in as an exception.
Paul was very clear about women preachers.
And it seems to me that the practice of these girls must be submitted to the test of Scripture, therefore, I don’t think these four women girls were teaching pastors in the Caesarean church.
Which leads us with two options: either they were prophesying unscripturally or they were functioning in the area of revelation. God spoke through them with revelation, which is not inconsistent with the presentation of other women in the Bible who served as prophets such as Miriam and Deborah and Anna.
So here, we have this one statement with no other details about the daughters of Philip who were gifted by God to receive revelation from the Holy Spirit that was strategic to the life of the church.
In fact, I will speculate that much of what we read in the book of Acts may have been provided to Luke through these girls. And it may be that this little notation is just included as a hint of their involvement in the revelation of the book of Acts.
So what makes me think they were involved with Luke in writing the book of Acts? Well we know Luke didn’t know what he knew because he was always there, because he wasn’t always there in the book of Acts. He didn’t have firsthand experience of everything. So, the Holy Spirit had to get it to him in some way. And obviously, the Holy Spirit used revelation.
But the Holy Spirit could have also used a human vehicle to give him that revelation and it may have been that some of this information came to Luke through these girls.
After all, Luke spent a lot of time in Caesarea. He is there at this point in Scripture with Paul. Plus, once Paul gets to Jerusalem, Luke becomes a prisoner and gets shipped back to Caesarea, and he stayed there two years.
So there is two more years of time that would have been in close proximity to these girls.
And then, there was an early Church father by the name of Papias who said that Philip’s daughters were commonly known as the informants on the early history of the Church.
In fact, early church historian Eusebius, quotes Papias, and gives some credence to the fact that these four daughters were used to transmit the revelation of the Holy Spirit; in some cases, that they even got the Gospel’s information, as well as the information of the book of Acts.
So, that’s a possibility. And historically, in the Church, has been agreed upon by those in the first century after the early Church.
Another interesting note that I want to draw to your attention here is the fact that these four virgins who did prophesy didn’t prophesy on this occasion.
The prophecy on this occasion comes through a man named Agabus, and we'll look at his prophecy next week.
But since these girls didn't prophecy here, and it would have been inconsistent for them to preach in a traditional sense of the word, many embrace the idea that they were used by God for the specific ministry of delivering the revelation of the history of the church to Luke.
We don't know and can't know for certain. But it's sure fun to consider it!
So anyway, back to our text, Paul arrives in the house of Philip. Then having met Philip and his four lovely daughters, and whoever else was there,
verse 10
Agabus arrives, and as we'll see, he gives a very dramatic revelation message to Paul. He delivers some very distressing news. And I bring that up tonight, just to underscore this one thing:
In the case of most people, this one prophecy alone would have been enough for us to pull out and go home. But remember, we are talking about the courage of conviction. Paul had this singular focus in his life and that was to do what God expected him to do.
And generally speaking, doing what God tells us to do boils down to one primary thing and that is trust. The real issue in convictions is trust. The real issue in courage is trust.
If you really believe God has called you to do something, and that’s your goal, then you've got to trust Him to get it done through you. And if we backslide in our commitment or come up short in our courage, it's most likely because we are
questioning God’s faithfulness.
Paul was devoted to the cause, he would not be diverted and he lived with a single hearted focus that absolutely trusted God.
Let’s pray.
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