[Oct 26]--Farewell Address, Part Two

Acts 20:22-24

OK, now we come to a little bit of controversy, probably one in theological circles you weren’t aware of. The question: Did God really want Paul to go to Jerusalem or not? You know me, that I always try to be fair with Evangelical scholars who disagree with me. And there are a few big names who claim that God emphatically did not want Paul to go there. They cite the fact that we are no longer under the Law of Moses, and Paul was giving into legalism (just like Peter did) by going up to the City of David to attend the Pentecost Festival. They also note that Paul had several warnings (from God) that if he went, he'd be arrested, and there’s no indication that the Lord promised him deliverance from imprisonment or death.

Having said that, I need to respectfully disagree with them. Just because the Lord warns us of bad things ahead of us doesn’t mean he doesn’t want us to go forward. For example, he “promised” Isaiah that most people wouldn’t listen to his message (and in that sense he would fail), but he sent him anyway. Apparently the Lord wanted Paul to understand very clearly what he was in for if he went to Jerusalem. Our Lord seems to put a premium on telling us the “bad” part without sugarcoating what’s ahead.

And no matter how I look at it, I just can’t get over the fact that in today's passage he specifically says the Spirit was the One who “compelled” him to go. I can’t square that with the supposition that he was acting on his own or was slipping into legalism.

Then comes one of my favorite verses in the Bible. Along with 1 Cor. 9:22, it’s one I’d tattoo on my forehead, if I was into that sort of thing (and if my wife wouldn't kill me). I’d like you to read vs. 24 slowly. Does the threat of imprisonment daunt him? Does the threat of torture fill him with dread? Does the prospect of dying a horrible, premature and painful death give him pause? No.

This is a man with focus. John Wesley once said that if he had a hundred men who loved nothing but God and hated nothing but sin he could change the face of the world. That’s the attitude expressed here.

Was Paul a sinner? Of course he was. The truth of 1 John 1:8, 10 applies to him as much as any other man. But just because a man stumbles badly doesn’t mean he isn’t trying to win the race, and this man wanted it badly. He considered his life nothing if only he could finish the race and complete the task his Lord had given him—to testify to a lost world about the Good News of God’s grace.

Is that me? Nope. But I want to want that. How badly? That’s a good question.

Lord Jesus, please change me to fit that. Give me focus. Make that verse mine.

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