Acts 21:4

ESV And having sought out the disciples, we stayed there for seven days. And through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.
NIV We sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.
NASB After looking up the disciples, we stayed there for seven days; and they kept telling Paul, through the Spirit, not to set foot in Jerusalem.
CSB We sought out the disciples and stayed there seven days. Through the Spirit they told Paul not to go to Jerusalem.
NLT We went ashore, found the local believers, and stayed with them a week. These believers prophesied through the Holy Spirit that Paul should not go on to Jerusalem.
KJV And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days: who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.

What does Acts 21:4 mean?

After several years building up churches in Galatia, Macedonia, and Greece and planting a church in Ephesus, Paul has finally returned to Syria. He, Luke, and representatives from several churches (Acts 20:4) land at Tyre in Phoenicia. The ship they have taken from the island of Rhodes will unload for seven days before continuing south.

This gives the men time to visit with the local Christ-followers. Paul has already told the elders of the Ephesian church that wherever he goes the Holy Spirit warns him he will be imprisoned and afflicted in Jerusalem (Acts 20:22–23). Apparently, the Holy Spirit warns some in the church in Tyre, as well. But while the Holy Spirit gives them the information, they misinterpret what they are meant to do with it. God warns them to encourage Paul, not attempt to protect him.

Paul will face the same issues in Caesarea Maritima. The famous prophet Agabus will prophesy that Paul will be arrested in Jerusalem; the church—as well as Paul's companions—will beg him not to go (Acts 21:8–12). Paul will tell them, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 21:13). Similarly, he told the elders of Ephesus, "But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24).

Although Paul did occasionally leave a city when threatened (Acts 9:23–25; 17:10, 13–14; 20:1), he does not see imprisonment as a detriment to his ministry. If God gives him the ministry and God ordains his arrest and affliction, the two must be related. In fact, during the five years he is incarcerated, he explains the story of Jesus to the mob on the temple mount (Acts 22:1–21), the Sanhedrin (Acts 23:1–10), Felix the governor (Acts 24:10–21), Festus the governor and Herod Agrippa II (Acts 26:1–29), the island of Malta (Acts 28:7–10), and the city of Rome (Acts 28:30–31). In addition, he writes the letters we have as the books of Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon.

God said to Ananias that Paul "is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel" (Acts 9:15). God also told Ananias, "For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name" (Acts 9:16). God connects the suffering with the mission, and Paul does, too.
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