And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there:…
Give illustrations showing how severe, trying, and anxious St. Paul's missionary life had been and was likely to be to the end, taking as a basis his own account given in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. Additional "hardness" came out of St. Paul's peculiarly nervous and sensitive temperament. He felt both joys and sorrows so keenly. With the apostle's life compare that of our Lord Jesus Christ. Both were divided into two parts:
(1) a working part, in which God was served by active labors;
(2) a suffering part, in which God was served by bearing and enduring afflictions, persecutions, and troubles. By both doing and bearing God may still be served; and in both ways God tests the faithfulness of his people in our times. St. Paul was taught "how great things he must suffer for Christ's Name's sake;" and in the passage before us we see him learning this lesson, and giving some expression to his feeling in regard to it. The Spirit said in St. Paul that the time was now near when a special testimony for Christ amid scenes of suffering would be required of him; and the apostle received the revelation, not only calmly, but cheerfully, like the older apostles, counting it all joy that he was thought worthy to suffer for his Master's sake.
I. EXACTLY WHAT HIS LOT WAS TO BE HE DID NOT KNOW. The Spirit was only pleased to give general indications. Complete knowledge of what is about to happen can never be good for man, because
(1) it takes away the simplicity and naturalness of his conduct;
(2) it prevents the proper exercise of his will upon due consideration of circumstances that arise;
(3) it stops the process of moral and spiritual culture; and
(4) it takes from him the call to a living, daily trust in God. The feeling that all is settled and known tends to prevent faith from keeping up a daily dependence. We cannot too thankfully rejoice that our future is wholly unknown to us, and that we are cast entirely upon the promise of" grace for the day," and upon the assurance that the "Lord will provide." "I'd rather walk in the dark with God than go alone in the light." We know nothing. Nay, we know everything if we know our ever-present Guide.
II. ST. PAUL WAS AS TRULY MOVED TO GO FORWARD TO SUFFERING AS HE HAD BEEN TO GO FORWARD TO WORK. Recall the previous scene at (Acts 16.), when the man of Macedonia called the apostle to begin missionary labors' in Europe. He had no doubt then that he was following the Divine lead; and he had no more doubt now that he was called to Jerusalem to suffer. We might think that God gave him notice of coming troubles only to warn him and guard him against them; but we must understand that God may in this way test faithfulness. A plain path of duty may be before us, but we may come to know that suffering lies that way; then we are tested whether we will do the duty or shrink back on account of the suffering. The apostle clearly knew his duty, so matters of personal suffering could be no serious concern to him.
III. HIS LOYALTY AND LOVE TO CHRIST MADE HIM WILLING TO SERVE HIM IN WHATSOEVER WAY HE WILLED. Service to Christ, under the inspiration of his love, was St. Paul's simple and sublime idea. "To him to live was Christ." The place, or time, or way of service it was for his Master to settle; and what had to be borne in rendering the service he was willing to let his Master wholly arrange. He set before himself this aim, that he "might finish his course with joy." "It is required of stewards that they be found faithful." Apply to some of the suffering lots now given to God's people. They are spheres of service for Christ, and they lose all their "hardness" when they can be thus regarded.
IV. HIS CHEERFUL OBEDIENCE MADE TRIUMPH OVER HIS AFFLICTIONS AN EASY THING. So much depends on the spirit in which our lot in life is taken up. The apostle is a beautiful example of cheerfulness and hopefulness. He will not let circumstances crush him, or opposition and adversity overwhelm him. He will not lose heart or hope. He sings in his own soul the song with which he has cheered thousands of the saints through the long Christian ages. "All things work together for good to them that love God. So the trials cannot hurt him. He is more than conqueror. He even finds how to look upon a "hard lot" as an opportunity for rendering fuller and heartier witness for the Lord whom he serves. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: