Journal Acts 21 (all references are from the ESV; changes in punctuation are mine)
Scripture: “And having sought out the disciples, we stayed there for seven days. And through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem…
(Arriving at Tyre and continuing to Ptolemais) …we greeted the brothers and stayed with them one day. On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea and we entered the house of Phillip the evangelist (who was one of the seven) and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.
While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hand and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, this is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.”
Observation: The stories of Acts are instructive in many ways. Not only do they tell what happened (and are very interesting, even exciting with a little imagination), they even describe how the early church (and believers) functioned. Behold the Toolbox of the Gifts…
Analysis: Paul is a heroic figure. Not as a fictional example, but someone real, someone who was committed to “walking the walk.”
Not that I could ever imagine myself like a Paul, but I can imitate his attitude.
However, can I do that with the surrounding characters? What were they like? Am I even noticing? Do I just read past them, focusing on the heroics of Paul? Listing what I see:
- Everyone listed was hospitable. Paul and his bandmembers were welcomed into homes, not just overnight, but for days and weeks.
- They were “in the Spirit.” How did they get ‘in the Spirit?” From my own experience it is too easy to step out of the “Spirit”;I no less for those guys. But the scripture evidence speaks…
- They were unafraid to speak their mind. They all had their say and did not defer to “leadership” positions or responsibilities.
- Gifts of the Spirit were used, not abused. Five specific NT prophets were identified here. In light of 1 Cor 14:1 (…earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesize…) did these folks seek this functionality? Cultivate it? Mature in it?
- They were communal. Hanging out with one another wasn’t strange, it was obviously pursued so that comfort in their own skin around folks was evident.
These five observations are longed for, but not evident in my own life. Is it because of pandemic stuff, or is it something deeper? Am I cultivating a fear, a self-protective spirit, so that I cannot be found out of a deficient character?
I write provocatively on purpose. I have to question myself, keep me thinking and “examining myself to see if I am in the faith…” (2 Cor 13:5) It is not a matter of doubt, but of how diligently I am walking worthy of the Gospel.
These folks (including, but not limited to Paul) deserve a lot of thought and being inquisitive in the Spirit. How can I be like them?
Prayer: Father, imitation is a gift of Grace that is not often mentioned or encouraged. I think of imitating You, Lord Jesus, but I don’t often think of other characters or worthy men and women in the Faith that have gone before. (Heb 13:7)
I so appreciate your Word, lively and piercing. I don’t want to skip over what I could consider the mundane parts, letting my eyes glide until I have a juicy quick quote. Help me change my ways, O Lord.
Lead me in next steps, bring revival, heal this land.