Our obedience to God doesn’t cost us much – yet. If we live in the United States, we have a free pass to preach the Gospel, teach the way of truth, and come and go as we please offering our opinion. What if that changed and a real threat to our life accompanied our obedience? What if a word from the Lord and our obedience to its instruction runs contrary to warnings issued from those within the Church with whom we have fellowship? The answer to those questions and how we respond will test the integrity of our faith.
Paul was on assignment from the Lord which empowered his missionary journey. “And now I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don’t know what awaits me” (Acts 20:22). With that reality in mind, he boarded a ship to begin his journey of obedience.
When the ship on which Paul was sailing landed at the port of Tyre in Syria, “We went ashore, found the local believers, and stayed with them a week. These believers prophesied through the Holy Spirit that Paul should not go on to Jerusalem” (Acts 21:4). At the end of the week the entire congregation, of men, women, and children, followed him to the dock to say farewell.
The ship continued its journey. The second port of call after Tyre was Caesarea where he stayed in the home of Phillip the Evangelist. Phillip had four daughters with the gift of prophecy. A few days later, a man named Agabus came to the meeting.
“Several days later a man named Agabus, who also had the gift of prophecy, arrived from Judea. He came over, took Paul’s belt, and bound his own feet and hands with it. Then he said, ‘The Holy Spirit declares, So shall the owner of this belt be bound by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem and turned over to the Gentiles.’ When we heard this, we and the local believers all begged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem” (vs. 10-12). In the next chapter, we read that Paul finally arrived in Jerusalem going against the advice of prophetic warnings, warnings that carried a sense of a “Thus, saith the Lord.”
When Paul arrived in Jerusalem and began to preach, a riot broke out and a mob tried to kill him. He had to be rescued by the Roman military. Amid the earnest prophetic warnings and the real possibility of his death, Paul was determined to be obedient. He was willing to embrace whatever came his way.
If we know the Lord has spoken a word to us, how committed will we be to continue moving forward in that word when warnings come from well-meaning saints within the Church? Obedience will at times cause us to move past those warnings, not as an act of rebellion, but as obedience to a word God spoke to us, but others have not heard.
Those on both sides of an act of obedience need to give each other permission to live and move as the Spirit leads them even if a choice runs contrary to the prophetic counsel offered. That kind of obedience and permission in Acts 21 did not destroy their relationship and it should not destroy ours. It is simply the way the Kingdom moves forward amidst disagreement. Along the way, the Lord will confirm His word. We have to be good with that or the spirit of division will enter our ranks.