Acts 21:1-7

1 Now it came to pass, that when we had departed from them and set sail, running a straight course we came to Cos, the following day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara.

2 And finding a ship sailing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail.

3 When we had sighted Cyprus, we passed it on the left, sailed to Syria, and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload her cargo.

4 And finding disciples, we stayed there seven days. They told Paul through the Spirit not to go up to Jerusalem.

5 When we had come to the end of those days, we departed and went on our way; and they all accompanied us, with wives and children, till we were out of the city. And we knelt down on the shore and prayed.

6 When we had taken our leave of one another, we boarded the ship, and they returned home.

7 And when we had finished our voyage from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais, greeted the brethren, and stayed with them one day.

departed (v.1) = were torn away

Cos (v.1) — A fertile island off the coast of Caria, 40 nautical miles distant to the south of Miletus, at the southwest corner of Asia Minor. It was important as a commercial center, lying, as it did, on a trade route; as also for its famous temple of Aesculapius (the Greek god of medicine) and for its medical school. It was incorporated in the Roman province of Asia.

Rhodes (v.1) — The isle of roses, as its name implies. It lies off the coast of Caria, southeast of Cos. It is 43 miles long, with a maximum breadth of 20 miles — and is 12 miles from the mainland at its nearest point. In the pre-Roman period, it was politically paramount in that part of Asia Minor, the greater portions of Caria and Lycia being subject to it. Under the Romans, however, it lost most of its greatness, though its geographical position still rendered it commercially important.

Patara (v.1) — A city on the coast of Lycia, almost due east of Rhodes. It was near the mouth of the river Xanthos, and was the harbor for the towns lying inland in the valley of Xanthos, besides forming an important station for coasting ships. It was a highly prosperous city. Paul’s ship would have a straight run, at that time of the year, across from Rhodes to Patara. — Walker, pages 454-455.

sailing (v.2) — It was about 400 miles from Patara to Tyre.

The prevailing wind in the Levant throughout the summer months is from the west, so that sailing vessels could run direct from Lycia to the Syrian coast. Those traveling in the opposite direction, however, i.e. from Syria to Lycia, had to hug the coast of Asia Minor past the east end of Cyprus, as the wind was contrary, and they could not make the cross-sea passage. — Walker, pages 455-456.

finding (v.4) — The Greek word involves some degree of searching. They knew the disciples were there.

said (v.4) = said repeatedly

Ptolemais (v.7) — Called “Acco” in Old Testament times (Judges 1:31), having been formerly a Philistine town. It is now well known as Acre. It is at the northern extremity of the Bay of Acre, which bends round to Mt. Carmel in the south. Its name was derived from Ptolemy I Philadelphus, when it passed into his possession. Under the Romans, it received special colonial privileges. It shared with Tyre, Sidon, Antioch, and Caesarea the trade of that coast. It is about 30 miles south of Tyre. — Walker, page 458.


It was not mere concern for Paul’s welfare that constrained these disciples to urge him not to continue on his way to Jerusalem; they spoke “by the Spirit.” We have also shown that the phraseology, in the Greek, does not indicate a direct prohibition, but rather a warning and a plea. It is probable, further, that Paul understood that this warning was from the Spirit, for he had already said: “the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me” (Acts 20:23).

His responses to such pleas and warnings indicate strongly that he did not regard them as a divine prohibition against his going to Jerusalem, but considered them rather as a challenge and a test of his faithfulness (See Acts 20:24; 21:13).

Thus, while the apostle’s motives and purposes were noble indeed, it cannot be said that he was in the directive will of God in going to Jerusalem. Surely the Spirit’s persistent warnings against going to Jerusalem were not to be construed as His leading to go there. — Stam, page 261.

While it is possible, as Stam believes, that the Holy Spirit did not expressly forbid Paul to go to Jerusalem, I think that it’s very clear that He did not want Paul to go and, therefore, that Paul was wrong to go, however noble his motives might have been. There is no record of any fruit resulting from Paul’s ministry on this visit, and it resulted in his imprisonment. Later, Paul testified that on an earlier visit: I … was praying in the temple …  and saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me.’ So I said, ‘Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believe on You. And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by consenting to his death,  and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’ Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles’ (Acts 22:17-21).

It’s obvious that Paul felt himself responsible for the rejection of the Messiah by the Jews in Jerusalem because of his earlier opposition to Jesus Christ. It was evidently eating at him so that he couldn’t get it out of his head. He thought that maybe one more visit, one more appeal, would convince them to change their minds. The Holy Spirit’s repeated warnings, and indeed, the entire history of Israel, indicated otherwise, but Paul’s love for his people overruled his judgment.

This entry was posted in Acts. Bookmark the permalink.