Reading: Acts Chapter 21
By Pastor Alex
All through the twenty-first chapter of this beautiful book documenting the early church, we see rich fellowship. We see the love of the body of Christ. When Paul and his friends came to Tyre, they sought out the disciples in that city and enjoyed seven days of fellowship (v. 4). We also read here that through the Holy Spirit, the disciples sensed Paul would not be safe in Jerusalem, and so they told him not to go, out of concern for Paul. See the beauty of their farewell! The disciples, along with their wives and all of their kids, followed Paul and his companions out of the city. They closed this time of blessing by kneeling in prayer together (v. 5). In Ptolemais, Paul’s company spent a day with the believers there (v. 7). The group then spent a number of days with Philip the evangelist and his daughters (vv. 8-10). In all of this time, we do not read about Paul or these particular believers preaching the gospel or engaging in public ministry, though perhaps they shared their faith with some. But the main focus seemed to be enjoying fellowship one with another.
I’m sure you can recall times when you have enjoyed fellowship with other Christians that you did not want to break away from. If you’re like me, you can think of many specific moments when Christians have been gathered in various times and places, doing nothing more than “visiting” or enjoying each other’s company, and there seems to be a touch of heaven. You begin to speak about the Lord and edify one another. Perhaps there are tears as the Lord stirs your heart! You think, “This is what the body of Christ is all about,” or, “There is no other place I would rather be right now!” This must have been Paul’s continual experience at this point in time, as he sees the churches God has raised up in various places and enjoys the fellowship of these Spirit-filled brothers and sisters.
Suddenly, Agabus comes and prophesies Paul’s persecution and imprisonment. All the disciples love Paul so dearly that they beg him not to go to Jerusalem. After all, why would they want Paul to be in danger? Why should their rich fellowship by interrupted? No wonder they wept.
But then a higher love enters the scene. “Then Paul answered, ‘What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus’” (v. 13). Paul confesses that this weeping of the brothers and sisters he cherished so much was breaking his heart. But Paul was driven and constrained by a love greater love, the supreme love, a love for Jesus Himself. Paul loved Jesus so much that his own life and even the loving fellowship of believers was worth surrendering in order to follow Christ without compromise, to know the fellowship of His sufferings. This is the love that controlled Paul’s heart, the same love that had purchased Paul with a price.
Are you and I living for this supreme love? What takes priority in our lives? What is the highest factor determining the trajectory of our future and the decisions we must make? Though our love as believers is so precious, and safety is important, I pray it is the supreme love for Jesus that compels us.