Acts Devotionals

The Chosen Instrument

Is it possible for you to imagine what travel was like in the First Century? Although there were camels, donkeys and horses, largely travel was by foot or ship. Depending on the availability of finance, one could fly literally anywhere today, which is by far the faster method. Much time was consumed in sailing or walking in Paul’s day. We have friends who left England yesterday, flew out to America, boarded a boat for a cruise along the eastern coast and will dock in Charleston, South Carolina for a few hours on Monday coming where we shall meet them. Travel is easier in our day with less time required. For those of us who are work-o-holics, could you imagine what Paul and his fellow missionaries did on board or whilst walking? I feel they would have prayed, discussed the Word of God, strategized for the future and planned getting the Gospel out to the lost. Please take up and read:

Ac 21:1 After we had torn ourselves away from them, we put out to sea and sailed straight to Cos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. 2 We found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. 3 After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, we sailed on to Syria. We landed at Tyre, where our ship was to unload its cargo. 4 Finding the disciples there, we stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.

1) A forced departure.

Ac 21:1 After we had torn ourselves away from them.

This sentence is interesting. Luke says … “After WE had torn ourselves away from them.” This verse follows:

Ac 20:37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.

One first gets the impression that the Ephesian Elders and Paul were the ones who were in pain due to separation and not ever seeing each other again. Yet Luke says we. The “we” here would be Paul and all his missionary team. The Greek word for “torn” means “to draw off” or “to tear away.” The same word is used in both:

1 Ch 11:11 Jashobeam, a Hacmonite, was chief of the officers; he raised his spear against three hundred men, whom he killed in one encounter.

Mk 14:47 Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

The force of this word is more intense than the English word “torn” or “tear” and can be better understood by Jashobeam, who “raised” his spear or Peter who “drew” his sword. The first was in fierce battle where he killed three hundred men whilst Peter cut off an ear of the high priest when Jesus was arrested just before his sentencing, flogging and execution. In both cases it was sudden! A fast response resulting in either death or amputation. The knowledge of not seeing each other again … and in this case, the missionary team not seeing the Ephesian elders whom they won for Christ and discipled over more than two years and with whom they defended the Christian faith against opposition … the end had arrived. The emotional experience was as if death was taking place. Alive yes … but the next time they meet will be in Glory Land. Apart from what we spoke of yesterday, this very truth is applicable to all Christians. We have such good times together and then for some reason we part and shall only meet again across the veil of death in Heaven. Enjoy every moment together you can. Replacing good Christian friends on earth is not easy, especially when you lead them to salvation and then disciple them.

2) The onward journey to Jerusalem. They sailed from Miletus to Cos, the third largest in a group of islands called the Dodecanese in the Aegean Sea and part of Greece. The island is famous for its medical school founded by Hippocrates in the fifth Century BC. After spending the night there they sailed to Rhodes. This was the principal city on the island of Rhodes which is also part of the Dodecanese. The city was famous in the ancient world for the “Colossus of Rhodes”, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. From there they sailed to Patara, the capital of the kingdom of Lycia. Here they boarded a ship for Phoenicia which was a region along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea that corresponds to modern Lebanon and parts of Syria and Israel. Passing on the southern side of the island of Cyrus means this journey was on a larger ship going straight across the Mediterranean Sea and not along the coast. This saved them time as the journey would have taken only five days. They docked at Tyre where the cargo was offloaded. This could have taken about one week.

3) Redeeming the time. Paul was never one to waste valuable time when he could be about the Master’s business.

(1) Finding fellow believers in Tyre. This word “finding” means to “find out by search”. In other words they looked for Christians and found them. In most places today there are Christians. We never need to be lonely. We can look for them at a Church; by the way we engage people … the questions we ask or the topics we talk about to those we meet.

(2) These believers tried to dissuade Paul from continuing onto Jerusalem. They knew, as most Christians of the day did, that Paul’s life would be in danger. As they prayed they were provided with knowledge and discernment from the Holy Spirit as to Paul’s danger. As Paul refused to adhere to their pleas does not mean his was disobedient to the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit gave these disciples insight into the future but did not instruct them to stop Paul from his forward journey. He would have appreciated their love and concern but he saw the bigger picture. He would have been told by Ananias what the Lord Jesus told him:

Ac 9:15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Paul knew that his life belonged to Jesus and that he needed to serve Him faithfully. We ought never to under estimate the way God had and was to use Paul in the development of the Christian Church. By God’s grace may you and I always be ready to serve our Lord, even should it mean we face persecution or death.

Heavenly Father, our God, Lord and King of the Church, help us to appreciate that the hardships we face as we serve You here on earth are all part of our preparation for Your eternity. Be glorified as we serve. Amen.

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