Daily D – Acts 21:10-11
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.’” ACTS 21:10-11 (NLT)
There are some people who seem to know what to do next no matter the context. Drop them in any new place or situation and they will figure out pretty quickly what they should do and how they should do it. They seem to have an inside track to where God is at work and how we should join him in it. They feel God’s heart deeply. They hear God clearly. They see as God sees. They speak God’s truth passionately and often with a bent toward correction.
Philip, who we first met in Acts 6:1-17 and then see again in 8:4-40, had four unmarried daughters who were prophets (21:9). There in Caesarea, a prophet from Judea showed up and told Paul and everyone else how he was going to be bound and turned over to the Gentiles. Notice how Agabus did what prophets do as described in the paragraph above and in the writings of Alan Hirsch (5Q, The Forgotten Ways).
Paul would later write about apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers in Eph. 4:11-16. Church members know well shepherds and teachers. We encounter them all the time and often call them pastors. The APEs — apostles, prophets, and evangelists — are more rare. Paul was an apostle. He was an apostle of Jesus. He was not one of the Twelve, but he was directly called and appointed by Jesus. There were also those with the apostolic gift in the early churches. Today we tend to call these people missionaries or church starters. They live with an outward-facing orientation. They love to extend Christianity.
Apostles like to initiate and maintain movement. They focus on the mission of taking the good news of Jesus to the whole world. They design scalable organizations. They cultivate entrepreneurship. They mobilize effort.
What happens when prophets and apostles have a meeting of hearts and minds? Agabus told Paul and all that would happen. Paul said, in effect, “Let’s get started then, shall we?” God used Agabus to tell Paul what was coming. God used Paul to maximize the opportunity to extend God’s kingdom from prison. He might be chained, but the gospel was not. As long as he could talk to jailers and ministry companions, he could evangelize and teach and strategize. As long as he could find a stylus and parchment, he could write to the churches he and his companions had started. As long as he had breath, he could tell government officials the good news of what Jesus had done for him and desired to do for them.
What was not to get excited about? Bound up, arrested, placed on trial, sent to Rome? Awesome! Think of the adventure! Consider the opportunities! God had already placed Rome on Paul’s heart. If jail was part of the journey, then let’s take the first step toward arrest.
“When it was clear that we couldn’t persuade him, we gave up and said, ‘The Lord’s will be done,’” (v. 14). Luke, Paul’s other traveling companions, and the church in Caesarea heard the word of the Lord, aligned their thinking, attuned their hearts, and followed God’s leadership of Paul’s life into the next great adventure.
If Paul had been a teacher or a shepherd instead of an apostle, would he have shrunk back? Would he have stayed where he was or retrace his steps to where he had been? Who knows? However, if he had not gone to Jerusalem and from one jail to another finally ending up in his own rented home under house arrest in Rome, there is a good chance I would not be writing these words and you would not be reading them.
Because Paul pushed forward when others shrank back, the gospel touched the whole Roman world in short order. Thank God for prophets and apostles. Listen to the clarion communication of prophets. Follow the direction of the apostles. Learn from the teachers. Depend on the shepherds. Unleash the evangelists. This is how God grows and cares for his kingdom. Which of these giftings most describes you? How will God use you to extend his kingdom?
I will push the boundaries ever outward.
Our Father, thank you for giving us apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. Take us and use us together to shape your churches to extend your kingdom. Use the apostles to drive us forward. Use the prophets to provide clarity about what is most important now. Use the evangelists to declare the good news. Use the shepherds to guide and to provide compassionate care. Use the teachers to train us how to live as lifelong learners. Amen.
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Ruth 1:20, 21 “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara,” she answered, “for the Almighty has made me very bitter. I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has opposed me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?” (CSB)