Acts 21:4 (KJV)
And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.
It happens frequently that I have some sort of impression about a particular decision either I or someone else is making and I have learned, by more than 30 years in the ministry, that more often than not, that impression is accurate. I believe it to be the spiritual gift of discernment. It carries no Biblical authority and I cannot make people follow my impressions. Most often I find it is more sensible not to even tell people what my impression of their decision is. Still, I have had maybe hundreds of opportunities to observe that these impressions prove true.
I see this passage in a similar light to that of my impressions. It was the Holy Spirit who gave these disciples that sense that danger awaiting Paul in Jerusalem. Out of love for Paul they expressed what the Holy Spirit told them would be the outcome of his trip. But they were not authorities over Paul’s own leading of the Spirit. Paul was responsible to follow the Spirit’s leadership in his life and not theirs.
Albert Barnes expresses the same understanding when he writes:
“…In solving this difficulty, we may remark:
(1) That it is evident that the Holy Spirit is meant, and that Luke means to say that this was spoken by His inspiration. The Holy Spirit was bestowed on Christians at that time in large measures, and many appear to have been under his inspiring guidance.
(2) It was not understood by Paul as a positive command that he should not go up to Jerusalem; for had it been, it would not have been disobeyed. He evidently understood it as expressive of their earnest wish that he should not go, as apprising him of danger, and as a kind expression in regard to his own welfare and safety.”
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Acts 21:4 Spiritual Gift of Discernment
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