I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die for the name of the Lord Jesus
Acts 21:1-17 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
When we had parted from them and had set sail, we ran a straight course to Cos and the next day to Rhodes and from there to Patara; 2 and having found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail. 3 When we came in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left, we kept sailing to Syria and landed at Tyre; for there the ship was to unload its cargo. 4 After looking up the disciples, we stayed there seven days; and they kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem. 5 When our days there were ended, we left and started on our journey, while they all, with wives and children, escorted us until we were out of the city. After kneeling down on the beach and praying, we said farewell to one another. 6 Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home again.
7 When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais, and after greeting the brethren, we stayed with them for a day. 8 On the next day we left and came to Caesarea, and entering the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, we stayed with him. 9 Now this man had four virgin daughters who were prophetesses. 10 As we were staying there for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: ‘In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” 12 When we had heard this, we as well as the local residents began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14 And since he would not be persuaded, we fell silent, remarking, “The will of the Lord be done!”
15 After these days we got ready and started on our way up to Jerusalem. 16 Some of the disciples from Caesarea also came with us, taking us to Mnason of Cyprus, a disciple of long standing with whom we were to lodge. 17 After we arrived in Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly.
In Luke 7:41-47 Jesus tells a parable of forgiveness: “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundreddenarii, and the other fifty.And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?” Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me nowater for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head.You gave Me nokiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in.You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil.Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” Like the woman who inspired the parable of Jesus, Paul, as one who had previously persecuted followers of Christ, was one who knew he had been forgiven much. In today’s text it says: As we were staying there for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: ‘In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” When we had heard this, we as well as the local residents began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Nearly all believers testify that they would be ready to die for their faith, indeed throughout history many have and even now throughout the world many are. Far too often though Christians are more grateful for and focused on what they have been given, than that they have been forgiven. It is the principle and the truth that we have been forgiven much that guides the thought that we would die for the one who died for us.
Here is the thing though about whether we truly would die for Christ or for our faith: It is a question that can only truly be answered yes one time. In truth martyrdom, dying for our faith is not something many could or would do well or their own. It is something that those who are required to do are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do. Just as Jesus says we should not worry about what we would say when we are arrested or persecuted for our faith: “When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 13:11) So also if we are required to die for our faith, the Holy Spirit will empower and enable us. The question of whether we would die for Christ can indeed only be answered once, but the more important question; will we live for Him, is something we can answer every day. Even more than that we can answer daily whether we would live for Christ, we need to understand that we do answer daily whether we would live for Him. How we live, is how we answer that question. It just may not be the answer we would want it to be.
Just as there are few, if any who would have the ability, on their own, to die for Christ; so too, are we also unable, on our own to live for Him. Whether we live or die, it must be through the power of the Holy Spirit, if we do it for Christ. In Acts 1:8 Jesus says: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” So whether we may die as in Mark 13 or we live as in Acts, the Holy Spirit will gives us the power and the ability to do it for Christ. In Galatians 5:16-25, Paul who himself said he was ready to die for Christ, tells us how to live for Him. He says: I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
We need to recognize that this Holy Spirit who will guide us and empower us to live and die for Christ, is not a what but a who. The Holy Spirit is not a mystical power. It is not a thing which we can put on or put off, like a piece of clothing. The Holy Spirit is the very person of God Himself. It is God who dwells within us, through Christ and enables and empowers us to live or die. We then need to recognize that God says: "You shall have no other gods before Me.” Paul describes the things we should not do, the things we do if we follow and put other gods before God, before the Holy Spirit, who is in us. He also describes what a life which says yes, I will live for Jesus every day, looks like. It is a life of: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Like Paul and like the woman who inspired the parable of forgiveness, we have been forgiven much. May we live each day with the love and the gratitude that comes from knowing how much we have been forgiven, rather than seeking only what we have been given. If we would die for Christ one day, may we also live for Him every day. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, the very person of God, may we say what He says and do what He does.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit: Like Paul, I say that I am ready to die for You. But, I recognize that whether to live or die, I cannot do it on my own. Just as You Jesus, died for me, I choose to live for You by having no other gods before You. I choose to yield to and walk by the Spirit, God in me, that whether I live or die, I do it for You, through You and to Your glory. Amen.