At the end of the third missionary journey, just before departing for Jerusalem, Paul gathered the leaders of the church in Ephesus. “And now I am on my way to Jerusalem, compelled by the Spirit, not knowing what I will encounter there, except that in every town the Holy Spirit warns me that chains and afflictions are waiting for me. But I consider my life of no value to myself; my purpose is to finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:22–24).
Paul was absolutely certain of two things! First, he knew that God was leading him to make the journey to Jerusalem. Second, having been warned by God’s Spirit, Paul was certain that the trip was dangerous. With that knowledge, Paul confidently set his course for Jerusalem.
In the days prior to Paul’s visit with the Ephesian elders, he had written to the church at Rome, asking them to pray for his visit to Jerusalem. “Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, through our Lord Jesus Christ and through the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in prayers to God on my behalf. Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea, that my ministry to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, and that, by God’s will, I may come to you with joy and be refreshed together with you” (Romans 15:30–32).
When Paul arrived in Caesarea, he stayed in the home “of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the Seven” deacons (Acts 21:8, Acts 6:5). “After we had been there for several days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. He came to us, took Paul’s belt, tied his own feet and hands, and said, ‘This is what the Holy Spirit says: “In this way the Jews in Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him over to the Gentiles.” ’ When we heard this, both we and the local people pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem” (Acts 21:10–12).
Why did Paul go? Was he just bull-headed? Well, he was stubborn, persistent, single-minded, and maybe a little bull-headed. But that’s not why he refused to listen to warning after warning. He was going to Jerusalem because God told him to go. He was obeying.
So, what do you suppose happened when Paul arrived in Jerusalem? You guessed it. He was arrested, and nearly killed!
While Paul and his companions were in the temple complex, a riot broke out. Some of the rabblerousers were shouting, “ ‘Fellow Israelites, help! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this place. What’s more, he also brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.’ ... The whole city was stirred up, and the people rushed together. They seized Paul, dragged him out of the temple, and at once the gates were shut. As they were trying to kill him, word went up to the commander of the regiment that all Jerusalem was in chaos. Taking along soldiers and centurions, he immediately ran down to them. Seeing the commander and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. Then the commander approached, took him into custody, and ordered him to be bound with two chains. He asked who he was and what he had done. Some in the crowd were shouting one thing and some another. Since he was not able to get reliable information because of the uproar, he ordered him to be taken into the barracks. When Paul got to the steps, he had to be carried by the soldiers because of the violence of the crowd, for the mass of people followed, yelling, ‘Get rid of him!’ ” (Acts 21:28–36).
Who saved Paul? The Roman soldiers! Okay, but Who really saved Paul? God did! So, here’s the punch line. Paul trusted God and God proved trustworthy!