The Apostle Paul came to a point in life where he was being told by others, even “through the Spirit,” to not go to Jerusalem. As you probably know, he went anyway. Was Paul right in going? Was he acting full of courage and wisdom, and as he said, “constrained by the Spirit?” Or was Paul just being strong-willed and bull-headed? Should he have listened to the prophetic counsel he received and avoided Jerusalem? I’ll admit, I have always thought the latter was true. But now I see it differently.
I happened to be reading that passage in Acts 20:17-21:16 again this week, and suddenly I began to see something differently than I haven’t seen in thirty years. Paul was modeling maturity in prophetic revelation by speaking the truth of what had been revealed without allowing his own human desires to affect the outcome. Others prophesied and confirmed the same truth to him yet allowed their personal feelings for Paul and the gift he was to the body of Christ to affect the counsel they gave him as a result of that revelation.
And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. Acts 20:22-25 (ESV)
I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert… Acts 20:29-31 (ESV)
And through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. Acts 21:4 (ESV)
While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.” Acts 21:10-14 (ESV)
Paul prophesied truth with integrity. Others prophesied truth plus their own desire.
In other words, they did prophesy true revelation. But they counseled Paul based on what they wanted or what they thought to be best for themselves, for the body of Christ, and even for Paul himself. And that… that is not actually maturity.
Later, we find that Paul was right. Facing a terrible storm at sea on the way to Rome, an angel tells him that he must stand before Caesar. And as a result of that revelation, he prophesies that they would survive the storm. And yet, Paul still says, “we must run aground on some island.” Not exactly the greatest news. But again, it’s truth with integrity. Truth without personal desire mingled in it.
For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. But we must run aground on some island.” Acts 27:23-26 (ESV)
Prophesy truth, based on the revelation you receive. But if you see difficulties ahead, it doesn’t necessarily mean you or anyone else are meant to avoid them. Prophesy truth—with integrity instead of personal desire.
Jeremy Caris is the founder and president of Caris Ministries. Since he is called as a prophet and gifted as a teacher, much of his focus involves equipping believers to hear, know, and follow God in their own daily experience. He teaches the foundational truth of the Word with simple clarity, while revealing deep things of the spirit in practical ways. He has the unique ability to demystify the supernatural side of real relationship with a living God and make it an embraceable and accessible reality for all believers. Jeremy has been married to his best friend, Mandy Caris, for twenty years, and is the proud father of two boys.