Acts 20:23

ESV except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.
NIV I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.
NASB except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that chains and afflictions await me.
CSB except that in every town the Holy Spirit warns me that chains and afflictions are waiting for me.
NLT except that the Holy Spirit tells me in city after city that jail and suffering lie ahead.
KJV Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.

What does Acts 20:23 mean?

The Holy Spirit does not often give us specific, minutely detailed instructions. He gave us the Bible to train us in godly living (2 Timothy 3:16), but He doesn't usually mandate what car we drive, what job we take, or where we travel.

On a couple of different occasions, however, He does tell Paul where to go. During Paul's second missionary journey, as he traveled west through modern-day Turkey, he planned to go to the province of Asia in the southwest, but the Holy Spirit forbade him. Next, he thought he would go north to Mysia and Bythinia. Instead, the Holy Spirit sent Paul a vision of a man inviting him across the Aegean Sea to Macedonia (Acts 16:6–10). It would be years before Paul would minister in Asia for any significant time.

When he did get to Asia, he settled in the city of Ephesus for three years (Acts 20:31). Afterward, he tours the churches he had planted along the Aegean Sea before sailing to Miletus and asking the elders of the Ephesian church to meet him. He tells them the Holy Spirit has again given him orders: to Jerusalem (Acts 20:22) where he will experience more of the sufferings God promised him when he came to faith in Jesus (Acts 9:16).

Paul does not always walk into danger. When he heard of a plot to kill him in Damascus, he escaped out of a window (Acts 9:23–25). He fled angry Jews from Thessalonica in both Thessalonica and Berea (Acts 17:10, 13–14). After he is arrested by the Romans in Jerusalem and the Jewish leaders commission an assassination, he will arrange his own prison transfer (Acts 23:12–22).

This time, however, the Holy Spirit isn't giving him a choice. He will be arrested and imprisoned for two years (Acts 24:27). He will be shipwrecked on his way to Rome where he will be imprisoned for another two years (Acts 27:39–44; 28:30–31). He goes willingly because his weakness gives opportunity for Jesus to display His strength so that others may have life (2 Corinthians 4:7–12).
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