Journeyman Project Dispatches from the Life of Patrick Fowler: Christianity Explored


The Holy Spirit can be confusing…

And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem without knowing what will happen to me there. 23 except that the Holy Spirit warns me in town after town that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me. Acts 20:22-23

They repeatedly told Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem. Acts 21:4

10 While we remained there for a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 He came to us, took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it, and said, “The Holy Spirit says this: ‘This is the way the Jews in Jerusalem will tie up the man whose belt this is, and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’” 12 When we heard this, both we and the local people begged him not to go up to Jerusalem.  (Acts 21:10-12, NET)


In Paul’s dramatic approach to Jerusalem the people he meets warn him against going to Jerusalem. Some bible interpreters even argue that “spirit” in the first passage is Paul’s spirit, rather than the Holy Spirit because the tension is too great for them to believe the Holy Spirit would both compel someone to do something AND warn them not to do it.

However, Jesus faced a similar tension in His own life when He struggled in prayer before His crucifixion. He wished for a different trial than the one He was going to face, and prayed against it even to the point of sweating drops of blood.

I believe Paul needed both the motivation and the preparation for suffering that the Spirit provided in these instances. He needed to have a firm resolve that takes a lot of thought and even argument to set in a person’s mind.


We should also avoid being put off when we see conflict arise between godly people with godly intentions. While we should be VERY intentional to make sure everyone is speaking what they believe to be God’s perspective, yet we should also be aware that often times God leads us to a place of tension and disagreement that we are meant to stay in, rather than resolve.

There will be times when we disagree with a leader or parent, but should obey and respect His decision because God has put Him in charge and the decision is not morally or ethically wrong—its just different than we would make if we were in his place.

There will be times when we don’t see a matter eye to eye with other believers, but where the difference in belief should not hurt our friendship, because its not moral or does not change the way we worship God together in our larger gatherings.

There are times when someone holds a strong personal conviction that we disagree with. As long as its not directly in conflict with Scripture, we should avoid thinking that God has told us what that person must do. God rarely gives us insight into His instructions to someone else. We must trust and pray for them to hear God’s voice clearly, and allow them to act on what they believe, even if its wrong. If they make a mistake, they will learn from it. Our goal is to encourage and advise and pray, not to play the role of the Holy Spirit or hear the Holy Spirit for someone else.

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