Don’t Go To Jerusalem!

The book of Acts records three significant, groundbreaking outreach journeys of the apostle Paul. The first is in: Acts 13 and 14, the second: Acts 15:36 to 18:22, the third: Acts 18:23 to 21:17. 

These God-inspired travels began and ended in Antioch of Syria (Paul’s base of operations) except the third. Although Paul intended to get back to Antioch, his plan was radically altered in Jerusalem. God warned Paul of the consequences of going to Jerusalem and emphatically told him not to go. 

And finding disciples [at Tyre], we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through [by way of] the spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.    ACTS 21:4

Paul chose not to heed God’s repeated admonition not to go. Paul certainly must have believed that he had a good reason not to obey, but the result was catastrophic and almost cost Paul his life. There are many tremendous truths within and related to this Jerusalem ending of Paul’s third outreach itinerary. This study will explore these truths in five parts: 

1.Paul’s Message     2.The Enemy     3.God’s Warning     4. The Consequences     5.The After-Events. 

Part One: Paul’s Message

The travels of Paul on these outreach journeys were ordained of God and God also continued to work within Paul every step of the way. While he was serving in Antioch of Syria, God set apart Paul and Barnabas for “the work” of traveling and teaching. The most important element in all of this work was the message that Paul would be bringing to people of the (old) covenant nation and people of all nations.

As they ministered to the Lord [in Antioch of Syria] and fasted, the Holy Spirit [God] said, “Separate me Barnabas and Paul for the work whereunto I have called them.” 

So they, being sent forth by the Holy Spirit, departed unto Seleucia; and from there they sailed to [the island of] Cyprus. And when they were at [the port city of] Salamis, they preached the Word of God in the synagogues of the Judeans.    
ACTS 13:2, 4-5A

Paul had been in the upper leadership of the Judean religious system and was familiar with the teaching opportunity in the synagogues. God’s people came there to learn the things of God, and Paul was ready to instruct. He took them through the written records of the Old Testament regarding the promised ‘Messiah’ (the ‘Anointed One’ of God) and showed them how Jesus fulfilled every prophecy. 

From the island of Cyprus Paul sailed north to Antioch of Pisidia. There, just as he had done in Salamis, Paul went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. His entire teaching that day is recorded in Acts chapter 13, verses 14 to 41. With thorough exactness he fit together the pertinent truths of the old covenant, and then masterfully instructed them in Jesus Christ’s completed work of the new covenant.

“And when they [Judean rulers in Jerusalem] had fulfilled all that was written of him [the Christ], they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. But God raised him from the dead. 

Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins. And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.”    ACTS 13:29-30, 38-39

Forgiven and justified! These accomplished realities of God’s grace were the culmination of Paul’s instruction that day. God wanted and needed this message to be made known, and Paul was His man. The Scriptural term for the complete message of man’s redemption is ‘the gospel’ or ‘the gospel of God’. Paul, being the pioneer spokesman of this message, also calls it ‘my gospel’.

But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention. 

But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, Who trieth [proves] our hearts.    I THESSALONIANS 2:2,4

This epistle (letter) to the Thessalonians was written from Corinth (2nd journey) not long after Paul had been in Thessalonica. Look how he continued to build and establish ‘the truth of the gospel’ in the hearts of God’s people. He worked hard to maintain the full measure of their believing and love and hope. 

Paul was in Athens, by himself, just before arriving in Corinth. The overwhelming devotion to idols in Athens so moved him that he couldn’t help but speak and teach the truth of the one, true God.

“Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead [the Divine One] is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, sculpted by art [skill] and man's device [imagination]. And the times of this ignorance God winked at [overlooked], but now commands all men everywhere to repent.
Because He [God] hath appointed [set] a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness [in His just justice] by the man whom He hath ordained [determined], having given assurance to all men, in that He has raised him from the dead.”    ACTS 17:29-31

Paul is not holding back in any way. He taught them the only true victory over death: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He also taught the coming ‘day’ of God’s just justice in which the dead will be raised. Thoroughly teaching about the coming ‘day’, the Day of the Lord, was an integral part of Paul’s gospel message.

In both epistles to the Thessalonians he refers to the precise and accurate instruction he gave them, while he was with them, about both the ‘gathering together’ and ‘the Day of the Lord’. His second epistle to them even clarifies in detail the proper order of events so that there is no misunderstanding.

But of the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly [accurately or precisely] that the Day of the Lord so cometh [arrives] as a thief in the night.    I THESSALONIANS 5:1-2

Be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as [if it were] from us, as [saying] that the Day of the Lord is at hand [imminent]. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that Day shall not come, except there comes a falling away [the departure (the gathering together)] first, and [then] the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition [destruction].

Remember ye not that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?    II THESSALONIANS 2:2-3,5

Finally, one more vital part of Paul’s message is here in Acts chapter 19 during his third outreach journey. He had visited Ephesus briefly during the second journey and, after he left, the great speaker Apollos came to Ephesus. Although Apollos mightily taught that Jesus was the promised Christ (the Anointed One), he knew and taught only water baptism (immersion). Apollos then went to Corinth. Afterward Paul arrived in Ephesus and, meeting with those whom Apollos had taught, Paul asked:

“Have you received holy spirit since [when] you believed?” And they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there be any holy spirit.”    ACTS 19:2

An essential element of the new covenant and the gospel message is the gift of God, holy spirit. Paul taught in depth and also demonstrated holy spirit in every place he traveled. Then he would reteach and reestablish these truths in his epistles to them. If Paul had not done this, who else would have? He was the standard-bearer of the spiritual matters of God’s gospel, the gospel of glory and of power and of life. 

Paul helped people both to be filled with God’s gift, holy spirit, and to walk in and manifest that power from on high. When he learned from these wonderful saints in Ephesus that they had not even heard that there was ‘holy spirit’, he instructed them and ministered so that they could fully operate all of their God-given spiritual entablements.

And when Paul had laid hands on them, the holy spirit came on them [into evidence], and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.    ACTS 19:6