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 Being led by the Spirit.


One of the subjects we have been discussing of late, is regarding guidance and whether we should be guided by scripture alone or whether we should be listening to the Holy Spirit speaking directly to us, to prevent the deception of our own thoughts leading us astray, or worse, the deception of the enemy who prowls like a lion, seeking whom he can destroy..

My view is that we must put the immediate and present light from the Holy Spirit first and then search the scriptures to confirm it.

I would like to present to you, a man who got it wrong for your consideration. A man who you would expect not to get it so wrong, as he had access to the holy writings of the prophets. The apostle Paul.

In Acts 21:4, God speaks to Paul through disciples who told him not to go to Jerusalem. Paul is not listening to God. He has set his mind and is determined to hasten to Jerusalem but the Holy Spirit had spoken to the others, giving His express will that Paul does not go.

"And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days, who siad to Paul through the Spirit that he should not go to Jerusalem". Literally this means, not to set foot in, not as in Acts 20:23 as a warning of danger, but now, an imperative command.

Perhaps they tarried the seven days due to lengthy discussions in the hopes of persuading Paul not to go. It was not Paul's wish however, that he was delayed. In Ephesus (Acts 18:20) he would not delay and said that he must by ALL means (18:21) go.

He was determined which meant that he was not open to the leadings of the Spirit, so would he change his plans whenever the Holy Spirit would forbid him? It seems not for in Acts 20:16, it is recorded that Paul 'hastened'. "For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus because he would not spend time in Asia, for he hastened, if it were possible for him to be at Jerusalem for the day of Pentecost".

We cannot hasten if we are being led by the Spirit of God. In fact hastening is a sign that the enemy is at work, for to walk in the light means that every step that we take, must be taken deliberately and carefully according to the minute by minute guidance that living in close communion to Christ brings.

Paul has lost his way and is now driven by his own thoughts, which are not wrong in themselves, after all, his desire was to serve Christ and those who were preaching the gospel. He had not turned aside from his ministry but he had ceased to hear God speaking directly and immediately and when that failed God tried to speak through the disciples. Intention does not count in the kingdom. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. He was playing straight into the hand of the enemy, who more than anything else, wanted to end Paul's missionary journeys and have him imprisoned. In fact that was what happened as you recall.If Paul had thought "Oh I cannot be deceived, I am a child of God" he would be wrong, and so are we.

Paul called the elders at Ephesus to him at Miletus and said his goodbyes to them explaining that he was 'bound in the spirit" (Acts 20:22) which was actually his own spirit whereas in 21:4 it is the Holy Spirit telling Paul not to go.

The final warning came in Cesarea, this time, not in words which had failed so far, but by way iof a physical demonstration which convinced Paul's travelling companions (21:12) so that they and Philip the evangelist, all men of God and led by the Spirit, untied in their immediate and direct discernment that God was commanding Paul not to go. They "besought him not to go".

Christ has said "when two or more are gathered in my name" or are in agreement " there I am in the midst of them" which is sufficient warning to us whenever we decide to go it alone and step outside of the counsel of the brethren.

What was Paul thinking of? His fellow disciples gave up, realising that Paul's mind was set and closed. They ceased (21:14) and could only put the situation in God's hands: "The will of the Lord be done" and resigned themselves to accompanying Paul despite their understanding that it was not God's will and their stubborn brother in Christ was in mortal danger.

You may say "But God used him in prison!". Indeed - God uses every opportunity He can get to use us even if we have stepped outside of close communion with Him.

But note that God did not intervene to stop Paul. He allows us to be deceived and to go our own ways. He has provided all that is necessary for us through the baptism of the Spirit to discern His workings. However sometimes that is not enough. Let us take Paul's example and listen carefully to what God is saying to us.

 2016/7/1 1:17

 Re: Being led by the Spirit.

Hi Brenda, I believe that you are in error with your conclusions. Of course these are just my thoughts but let me explain. Here in the same chapter, Acts 21, we see from Agabus the specific words............

And when he was come unto us, he took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. (Act 21:11)

You see, this is the word of knowledge or prophecy from an acknowledged Prophet. Then, in the flesh they add their concerns..........

And when we heard these things, both we, and they of that place, besought him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. (Act 21:12-13)

You see, the first part was the prophecy and the second part was their fleshly and understandable response to it. Yet Paul, with all the vision and the revelation from God, knew what was in store and that indeed these things would happen but that they were the will of God. Higher and more glorious is the path that denies the flesh and willingly suffers for the cause of Christ. We overcome the enemy by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony and this most important part that so many men have resisted down through the ages but a smaller more glorious group have not " and they loved not their lives unto death." These are the heroes of the Church that we read about in the last 2000 years.

Here is Matthew Henry's take on the Scripture you gave sister and you will see that it falls in line for what I have just laid out for Acts 21:11 and gives context to the Scripture that you used as your example. Matthew Henry says of Acts 21:4..............

"3. The disciples at Tyre were endowed with such gifts that they could by the Spirit foretel the troubles Paul would meet with at Jerusalem; for the Holy Ghost witnessed it in every city, Act_20:23. Being a thing that would be so much talked of when it came to pass, God saw fit to have it much prophesied of before, that people's faith, instead of being offended, might be confirmed. And withal they were endowed with such graces that foreseeing his troubles, out of love to him and concern for the church, especially the churches of the Gentiles, that could ill spare him, they begged of him that he would not go up to Jerusalem, for they hoped the decree was conditional: If he go up, he will come into trouble there; as the prediction to David that the men of Keilah will deliver him up (that is, if he venture himself with them); and therefore they said to him, by the Spirit, that he should not go up, because they concluded it would be most for the glory of God that he should continue at liberty; and it was not at all their fault to think so, and consequently to dissuade him; but it was their mistake, for his trial would be for the glory of God and the furtherance of the gospel, and he knew it; and the importunity that was used with him, to dissuade him from it, renders his pious and truly heroic resolution the more illustrious."

We must at all times follow the Spirit and not the flesh dear sister. For as Matthew says, our trials are for the glory of God and we should not be dissauded by the nature of them and finally Matthew concludes that Paul's actions were all the more " pious and truly heroic," and his resolution all " the more illustrious." I am in complete agreement with this and respectively disagree with your premise and conclusions.............bro Frank

 2016/7/1 8:40

Joined: 2008/10/30
Posts: 2067

 Re: Being led by the Spirit.

Thanks be to God through Matthew first, and Frank second, for courageously correcting in a spirit of meekness,the error of Brenda's post!

Blessed be God! For His Spirit has promised to lead us and to guide us into all Truth by His all-sufficient and infallible Word.

 2016/7/1 8:57Profile


Brother Frank

Thank you for taking the time to give me your understanding of these scriptures. I appreciate it. I do know that the established position is as you have said. It was how l used to see it myself.

But l must still respectfully disagree with that interpretation. The vision given to Agabus, was l feel, to be a warning and especially when the others also felt it was out of the will of God for Paul to go.

It was not the usual way for God to graphically show the suffering that lay ahead of His apostles. To me, it could only be a warning but Paul had it in his mind be that he was willing to sacrifice himself. All very well if we are called to do that but l don't think Paul was called to do so on this occasion. Otherwise there would be no warnings nor would the disciples be in agreement with each other and upset that Paul was rejecting their counsel.

Further to this, when he was interrogated, he insulted a priest and then denied that he knew he was speaking to a priest - definitely out of order and a downright lie from the fallen Paul.

No, l am convinced that our dear brother had a fall from grace, like Peter, and which we are all in danger of if we are walking in the light. It matters not what our position is or how high up we are, it is the same, if flesh is allowed any space then down we will go.

After all of the training that Paul went through and his important role in the church , it could not have been God's will for him to die because he went up to Jerusalem. God likes us to stay alive as long as possible when we have become matured but Satan wants to take us out and sometimes succeeds.

 2016/7/1 11:38

Joined: 2012/2/8
Posts: 5585


I agree Frank.

Paul's end was foreshadowed when the Holy Spirit spoke to Ananias:

Acts 9:15-16 But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.”


 2016/7/1 12:10Profile


Paul suffered ship wrecks and beatings. You are using Eisegesis.

 2016/7/1 12:23

Joined: 2011/8/23
Posts: 1632


Brenda, I never heard that view on Paul's actions in Acts 20, etc. I thought your explanation was clear and well stated and given in a good spirit. Like Frank and Todd, though, I am unconvinced by it. It is not implausible, I might add. But, it seems to me to take the text farther than the text allows.

Maybe it was, indeed, a conditional word from Agabus. Maybe Paul could not have been wrong either way. Perhaps he could have taken the counsel of his brothers and not have gone on to Jerusalem right then, and would have by some other unfolding of events arrived precisely where God may have intended--Jerusalem, then onward to Rome. We can only trust that all of these men were listening, discerning. I do not conclude that Luke, were acting in the flesh in their remonstrance of Paul but I do see the similarity of their urging to that of Peter when he protested Jesus' own prediction of His death at the hands of Gentiles. Similar words and circumstances there do not equate to necessarily similar hearts; we do not have the benefit of lots of exposition of the minds and hearts of these disciples with Paul as we had with Peter, so I can't quite equate them in spite of the parallels.

What you have proposed is possible, but can I submit that Luke's factual and comprehensive style falls strangely silent if such as you suggest is happening there.


 2016/7/1 12:45Profile


Dear Brenda,

Respectfully, I agree with Frank and others on this one. By the Holy Spirit we can receive warnings for God always warns his people. But a man or a woman who belongs to Christ may choose the more difficult way. The history of the church is replete with such stories.

Think of Bonhoeffer who was warned of danger in staying in Germany during the reign of Hitler.

Or John Harper, a Scottish preacher who was warned by members of his congregation not to take a trip to preach in Chicago in 1912. He spoke something similar to Paul, that he was compelled to go and considered his life worth nothing if only he completed the task the Lotd Jesus had given him.
The ship he boarded was the Titanic and he was valiantly preaching the gospel to the very end when he threw his life vest to a young man who did not know Christ. He laid his life down for many.
A warning from the Holy Spirit or a word of knowledge is not always a mandate that requires obedience. It is a loving and compassionate Word from our Lord to his own precious children that they may choose the difficult way but does not demand it.

Just my thoughts as I pondered the question.

Sis L

 2016/7/1 13:10


Hi Brenda,

Todd gave us Acts 9 which clearly shows that Paul was shown the sufferings that were to come, he had already "seen," it. The man who has been given revelation by God will not be swayed with those who have been given limited revelation. The Holy Spirit gives the measure and we know what kind of measure was given to Paul.

You write.........

"Further to this, when he was interrogated, he insulted a priest and then denied that he knew he was speaking to a priest - definitely out of order and a downright lie from the fallen Paul. No, l am convinced that our dear brother had a fall from grace."

Brenda, that is indeed possible but I think unlikely given all that we know about Paul in it's entirety. Can I give you what I consider to be a more plausible explanation?

And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. (Act 9:8-9)

Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. (Gal 4:13-15)

Paul it seems had some terrible problems with his eyes and the Galatians it seems loved him so much that they would have plucked out their own eyes and gave them to him. If one who had such eye problems mistoook who spoke in a crowded noisy room, we could easily understand this. To categorize it as a downright lie from the fallen Paul seems ungenerous Brenda especially when built upon conjecture, we must think the best of our brothers and sisters unless we know things for a fact it seems to me. God bless you............bro Frank

 2016/7/1 14:01

Joined: 2012/2/8
Posts: 5585


Brenda it may seem like eisegesis but in the word given to Ananias, he was told that Paul would preach to Jews, Gentiles and kings.

The road to the main king (Caesar) was through Jerusalem.

It is important to note that Agabus and the other brothers did not "miss it"- Paul was in fact in danger if he went to Jerusalem and in the long run it cost him his head. They were right. And I agree it was just not fleshly concern or love for Paul that they urged against him going- I think they saw it as needless waste of this apostle and were right to state their hearts on the matter.

But Paul was not "disobedient to the heavenly vision." His mission trumped concern for his own safety.

It does no good to argue what might have happened had Paul not went to Jerusalem. God is satisfied for what DID happen and besides a big chunk of our NT was one of the results.


 2016/7/1 14:13Profile

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