Acts 20:22-24 - Bound in Spirit

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Welcome to Our Bible Study! We are Studying Spiritual Applications from the Book of Acts. Today our lesson is drawn from the life of the apostle Paul and his journey from Europe to Jerusalem. Our text is Acts 20:22-23, and my title is "Bound in Spirit." The apostle was on his way to Jerusalem out of his deep conviction that this is what the Lord wanted him to do.

Paul was inbound to Jerusalem on his third missionary journey. We will pick up the story in Philippi in Europe. Several of those (Acts 20:4) who accompanied Paul went ahead from Philippi to Troas. Then, concerning Paul and the rest of his party, Luke says (Acts 20:6), "And we sailed from Philippi after the day of Unleavened Bread, and came to them at Troas within five days; and there we stayed seven days." Troas was on the western coast of what is now modern Turkey.

While those who had stayed with Paul in Philippi went by sea from Troas to Assos, Paul journeyed by land. At Assos, which was south of Troas, Paul joined the party on board ship. Together they sailed down the coast, making several stops, until they came to Miletus, which was about 30 miles from Ephesus. They did not go to Ephesus.

Then, Luke writes (Acts 20:16) "For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost." From Miletus Paul called for the elders of the church in Ephesus. When they came, he made his farewell speech to them. Our text is a part of that speech.

One, Paul said he was "bound in spirit" to go to Jerusalem.

Clearly, Paul was very intent on getting to Jerusalem. Luke describes him as being "bound in spirit." Does Luke mean bound in his own spirit or bound in the Holy Spirit? Here, as in Paul's writings, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the human spirit and the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. In this case my view is that Luke means the human spirit inspired by the Holy Spirit. Living under the leadership of the Holy Spirit was a way of life for Paul.
When you stop to think about it, it is wonderful to so live your life that your "spirit" and the "Spirit of God" are in total unity. As we walk with the Lord, let us seek to live in this way. When we do, then we can say "spirit" (small "s") or "Spirit" (capital "S") without a great deal of difference. This will be fine, providing we always recognize that the Spirit of God is in control. He will lead us in every step that we take. We can live with great confidence that we are in God's will. Like Paul, we will have goals that benefit the Kingdom of God.

Two, Paul says he did not know what would happen in Jerusalem.

As verse 23 makes plain, Paul did not mean that he did not know anything at all about the danger of going to Jerusalem. He knew that he would face difficulties, but he did not know specifically all that would happen. Many times the Lord leads us without telling us all the consequences of our actions. When the Lord is leading us, we must act with full confidence in Him. He knows what he is doing, and why He is doing it. So our part is to obey.

Sometimes, the Lord does reveal the consequences to us. When He does, we must act in accordance with His will, no matter what the consequences are. Being obedient to the leadership of the Spirit takes precedence over consequences. This was one of the hallmarks of the disciples in the early church. When the Spirit was leading, they acted in God's will even when the consequences were difficult for them.

Three, the Holy Spirit tells Paul what he needs to know.

According to Luke (verses 22-23), Paul said, "I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me." Luke does not say exactly how the Spirit testifies to Paul, but two possibilities stand out. The Spirit may have spoken through others or He may have spoken by direct revelation to the mind of Paul. Either way Paul knew the Spirit had spoken. The Holy Spirit told him exactly what he needed to know at the time. He would reveal more to Paul later. As we follow God, we can be confident that He will provide that information that we need to know in His time.

Four, the Spirit told Paul that "bonds and afflictions" awaited him.

Paul knew that hardships awaited him in Jerusalem. His response was (Acts 20:24) "But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God." In Paul's value system, being obedient to God took priority over his own safety. No matter what the cost, Paul would follow the leadership of the Lord. He would even lay down his life for the sake of the Gospel. Eventually, Paul did face execution, but we can be sure that God accomplished His purpose through Paul.


In summary, the apostle Paul was not swayed by circumstances. He knew he faced difficult circumstances in Jerusalem, but this would not stop him. The leadership of the Spirit was more important. He would put himself in God's hands rather than make his decision based on the danger to his own life. He was "bound in Spirit" to do the will of God. It is our high privilege live as Paul lived, knowing that we are in the hands of God. His hands are strong and good. It is a wonderful way to live!

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