And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there:…
(New Year's sermon): — The text presents the future as something —
I. WE ARE BOUND TO FACE. Paul was under the pressure of no bodily compulsion, yet he had to go.
1. All men are under this necessity.
(1) Many would like to stand still — like children who would have their holidays last forever.
(2) Others would like to go back — to repair mistakes. Embrace lost opportunities, etc.
(3) But this is now impossible. The law of progress is written on our lives.
2. But impotent as is the will to decide the direction of life it can in a measure shape that direction. The future is fixed by God: its character and issues are to be determined by ourselves.
(1) We may let ourselves drift.
(2) We may resolve to live for self.
(3) We may subordinate our will to God's as Paul did. He was going to Jerusalem to serve God's Church and to bear testimony to God's gospel.
II. TO BE ENCOUNTERED WITH FORTITUDE.
1. Paul was not perplexed by the uncertainties of the future. He practised what he taught, "Be careful for nothing," etc.
2. He was not appalled by the certainties of the future. Prophetic intimations from city to city told him that bonds and imprisonments awaited him (chap. Acts 21). Analogous presentiments are not unknown now. But apart from these "old experiences doth attain to somewhat of prophetic strain." Past difficulties and sorrows, growing infirmities, and gray hairs here and there, are but shadows of coming events.
3. But Paul was neither perplexed by the one nor appalled by the other, because he knew he was being led by the will of God.
(1) Guided by God's counsel, he knew that the way he was going was the right and best way.
(2) Sustained by God's arm, he knew that God's grace would be sufficient.
(3) And thus, to his great joy, he knew that the will of the Lord would be done. When he reviewed the circumstances it was without regret (Philippians 1:20).
III. TO BE WELCOMED WITH JOY (ver. 24).
1. Life is a course which is desirable to finish — not simply to close. Life may be prolonged and yet not be complete. There is nothing sadder than physical development unaccompanied by intellectual and moral growth. The racer may run long and yet break down, or his laggard steps may leave him in the rear: so we may run in vain. Long life is not so much to be wished for as a complete one.
2. In order to finish the course it is necessary to compass the ministry of life — to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
3. This double consummation will be crowned with joy.
(1) The sense of completeness will bring joy. So will —
(2) The benediction of a blest humanity.
(3) The approval of a satisfied conscience.
(4) The Master's "Well done."
4. To achieve this joy we must be willing to surrender what men usually most value. "I hold my life of no account."
(J. W. Burn.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: