Reason for Not Agreeing with a Dissuasion
Breaking Away from Mysticism in Faith Life: Part 7
And as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’ ” Now when we heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, “The will of the Lord be done.”
Acts 21:10-14 NKJV
This is a scene where Paul, returning from his second missionary journey, bid farewell to the elders in Ephesus and headed towards Jerusalem. At that time, a prophet named Agabus arrived from Judea. He took off Paul’s belt and bound his own hands and feet with it, saying, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way, the Jewish in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’” Perhaps Agabus saw a vision during prayer or was inspired in some special way, leading him to convey this message to Paul. Upon hearing this, Paul’s followers tried to dissuade him from going to Jerusalem.
Some might interpret this verse to mean that “the Holy Spirit said not to go,” but it is an exaggeration. The Holy Spirit did not explicitly prohibit going; rather, He foretold what would occur. However, how did people react to this? They said, “You shouldn’t go.” What led them to this conclusion? Those who heard Agabus’ prophecy about Paul facing persecution in Jerusalem dissuaded him from going. Yet, there is a significant distinction between this prophesy and their advice. It may seem obvious, but it is actually quite different: the statement “If you go there, you will be bound and handed over to the Gentiles,” should not be equated with “Don’t go.” While some might assume they mean the same thing, actually, they are not. If Paul had genuinely refrained from going to Jerusalem due to this prediction, many would naturally assume that Agabus intended for Paul not to go. However, Paul did not understand it in that manner and disregarded their advice. What caused people to believe that Paul should not go? They received the same information, but their perspectives were different. Those vessels are completely distinct. Paul’s vessel differs significantly from others.
The situation that Paul might face was extremely difficult and painful for those around him, so they worried about Paul and felt sympathy for him. However, those who felt sorry for Paul lacked faith. That is not the perspective one should have regarding God’s worker. When Jesus carried the cross on His way to be crucified, people were mourning and weeping for Him. Jesus must have found this scene bewildering and speechless. “Who am I suffering for now? Are you crying for me? I am enduring this suffering on your behalf out of compassion, yet you are pitying me…” Their actions left Jesus feeling deeply frustrated. However, to human eyes, the scene of Jesus carrying the cross appeared pitiful and tragic. Therefore, we can discern whether someone is a fleshly person or a spiritual person in situations like this. Since we have received the Holy Spirit and come to know the truth, we should strive to be a spiritual person.
What was Paul’s response to their advice? He said, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Is there a necessity to pity and cry for someone who already possesses such determination? Just as those who were mourning for Jesus made Him feel absurd, Paul must have experienced a similar sentiment at that moment. From a human perspective, he should comfort those people and say, “Oh, okay, I’ll listen to you and not go.” However, that was not the point.
From a human-centered perspective, it might seem like Paul disregarded the Holy Spirit’s warning, even though the Holy Spirit clearly warned him. However, this explanation is solely based on a human standpoint. Despite receiving a revelation from the Holy Spirit, there exists a higher purpose—God’s will. Therefore, no matter what the Holy Spirit reveals, we must also act according to the higher value, which is God’s will. Jesus came to the earth, preached the Gospel, endured persecution and was eventually killed. After Jesus was resurrected from the dead, He commanded His disciples not only to suffer persecution with Him but also to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Thus, from Paul’s perspective, this represented a great opportunity. This was an excellent opportunity. If he was captured in Jerusalem and handed over to the Gentiles, it would provide the opportunity to go to Rome. Moreover, facing trial before the Roman emperor, Caesar, would present another significant opportunity. However, those influenced by human perspectives would try to persuade Paul, pity him, and do whatever it took to save him, even resorting to bribery. Nonetheless, Paul was arrested in accordance with God’s will.
So, a certain level of calm and rational thinking is necessary at this point. This dispassionateness should not only apply to yourself but also to others. That is why in verse 14, it is said, “When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, ‘The Lord’s will be done.’” Indeed, the highest priority is the will of the Lord. It is akin to a situation where the commander-in-chief has devised a strategic plan and revealed it all. Consequently, we must be equipped at His level. On the battlefield, each individual has a distinct division of labor and role. The commander-in-chief must give orders in accordance with the overall context of the war and not alter strategies based on the individual tragic crises that may arise.
As we engage in missionary work, we often face such contradictions and decisions, which can be described as ethical dilemmas. I have personally experienced numerous instances up to this point. Even now, I receive daily reports of Chinese believers facing persecution, almost every day. When leaders of the Berea churches get caught, within my human mindset, I honestly want to rush to them and help them, but I still adhere to the established principles. What did Paul just say? “I’m ready to die,” he said. Hence, I teach them in the same way based on these principles, “While incarcerated, you should pray diligently and preach the Gospel to those who are imprisoned. While you’re in prison, your church members will be awake and pray fervently, leading to your church’s revival. Moreover, how can you be certain that you won’t have the opportunity to preach the Gospel to the police? So, pray earnestly while you’re inside and wait patiently! Even if you were to endure beating or face death there, it would still hold value. The blood you shed will pave the way for the growth of the church in that area.” You know, the church has grown by drinking blood. Just as plants grow through the water, the church flourished through the shedding of blood. The rapid growth of the Korean church is attributed to the bloodshed of missionaries. Thus, I instruct them, “Your bloodshed will bring growth to the church, so be prepared to die generously.”
In the long run, we can observe that the authenticity of a person’s beliefs becomes evident. Those who have been nurtured gradually by the words remain unshaken and they accept them as guidance based on the Picture of God’s Will. Some have chosen to adhere to our guidance in this manner, while others choose not to. Then, what happens to them after time passes? Remarkably, those who choose to follow often experience positive outcomes. How wonderful it is to have such a dedicated group of people who persist in the Berea Movement! There is no need to fear at all, no matter how severe the persecution may be. We will remain faithful until the end. Even if everything else is taken away, including our lives, our faith cannot be taken away, and therefore, there is nothing to fear. Our hearts are filled with profound peace. However, the root of the lack of peace lies in an attachment to things that can be taken away, eventually leading to failure.
When we prioritize God’s will above all else, we will remain steadfast, regardless of what others say they have seen or heard. We have a clear understanding of our direction. We are not wandering aimlessly but fully aware of our path. Therefore, no matter what others say, we continue forward. We have encountered many individuals, each with their own personal problems. Their difficult situations are indeed pitiful, but these problems are not something we can directly assume responsibility for. Our role is to assist them in finding solutions to their problems independently. Our objective is not to be responsible for their problems but to empower them to address those issues themselves to truly experience long-lasting growth. That is what we need to do.
Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center