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New Defender's Study Bible Notes

21:4 through the Spirit. Paul had already been warned that “bonds and afflictions abide me” (Acts 20:23) if he persisted in returning to Jerusalem. At this point, however, it seems that the Holy Spirit, speaking through the Tyrian disciples, actually commanded him not to go. His “heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel [was] that they might be saved” (Romans 10:1), and he earnestly desired to witness again to his former colleagues there in the very heart of Israel, perhaps hoping that by his bringing the Gentiles’ gifts to the poor saints at Jerusalem (Romans 15:25-28), their hearts would be softened and they would turn to the Lord. He did intend then to go on to Rome and eventually to Spain, but insisted on going first back to Jerusalem. God had called him, however, to go to the Gentiles and it is hard to escape the conclusion that he was resisting the Holy Spirit at this point. Note also Acts 21:10-13. Because his motives were good, God still allowed him to go to Rome, though as a prisoner, but he never reached Spain or the regions beyond, at least as far as we know. Whether he was truly following the leading of the Spirit in this decision (Acts 20:22), or resisting it, has long been debated. In either case, God still blessed and greatly used his ministry. Whether it would have been still greater if he had continued his primary mission to the Gentiles, there is no way to know.

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