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Fellowship With Frail Saints And With Christ

Acts 21:12-16
When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, '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.' When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, 'The Lord's will be done.' After this, we started on our way up to Jerusalem. Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and brought us to the home of Mnason, where we were to stay. He was a man from Cyprus and one of the early disciples. (NIVUK)

On Paul's way to Jerusalem, he stopped in Caesarea to stay at the home of Philip the evangelist (Acts 21:8), who had been appointed to help the apostles' ministry by relieving them of relief and welfare work (Acts 6:5-6). While Paul was staying there, Agabus had graphically demonstrated that Paul would be taken captive through the religious leaders' anger and handed over to the Gentile judicial system (Acts 21:10-11).

The believers in that region, who had come to meet Paul, and others in the apostolic team (Luke had joined the group by then, hence "we and the people …" and details of others who were there) all pleaded with Paul not to go to Jerusalem. They were naturally protective of Paul: they did not want to lose their leader and friend, nor did they want the churches to be deprived of such an anointed minister. Paul had experienced the same reaction by the Ephesian elders in Miletus (Acts 20:36-38), and in Tyre (Acts 21:4-5). But this third time, the discouraging pleading earned a rebuke.

It seemed as though the believers did not understand that suffering for the Name of Jesus was a natural part of discipleship (Philippians 1:29). Neither did they understand that the Lord was in command of Paul's journey. The information about the apostle's destiny had been shared with the believers so that they could understand, encourage and pray for Paul; not to presume that they knew better than the Lord and deflect His servant from his calling. Paul's rebuke brought them to their senses and they eventually accepted that the Lord's will must be done.

Fellowship is a blessing as long as it is fellowship in Christ, serving Him together. But when the voices and emotions of the people we fellowship with drown out the will of God, something is wrong. All sorts of reasons may lie behind their apparent warm-hearted kindness and advice: past painful experiences, injustice and a fear of losing another friend. But there comes a time when they will only see things from God's point of view through rebuke. It is hard enough to do God's will in difficult circumstances at home, with friends, in the community or at church - without self-appointed patrons telling you that you should not do it. They may say that it is too big a burden to bear, or that you should stay when you know that the Lord has called you to move forward. It is the Lord's will which must prevail. Be wise in which fellowship voice you accept. Those who seem to ooze love may discourage you from doing God's will. The key is to be clear about your fellowship with Christ and obedience to His commands.

Father God. Thank You that You are always right. Forgive me for the times when I accept the opinion of frail-hearted believers rather than courageously stepping forward to obey Your commands. And forgive me for the times I have advised my friends according to my emotions rather than the Holy Spirit. Please help me to develop an honest relationship with You and discern how to evaluate the thoughts of other believers. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams