The Spirit’s Leading in the Ministry of Paul

After at least twenty years of serving in ministry, the apostle Paul had learned well how to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. To some degree, the Spirit showed him “things to come” relative to is future ministry. For example, as Paul was concluding his ministry in Ephesus, He had some conception of the course that his life and ministry would follow for the next three years:

Now after these things were finished, Paul purposed in the spirit to go to Jerusalem after he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome” (Acts 19:21).

Notice that Paul didn’t purpose this intended direction in his mind but in his spirit . That indicates that the Holy Spirit was leading him in his spirit to go first to Macedonia and Achaia (both located in modern day Greece), then to Jerusalem, and finally to Rome. And that is precisely the course he followed. If you have a map in your Bible showing Paul’s third missionary journey and his journey to Rome, you can follow his path from Ephesus (where he purposed his route in his spirit) through Macedonia and Achaia, onto Jerusalem, and several years later, to Rome.

More precisely, Paul traveled through Macedonia and Achaia, then he backtracked through Macedonia once again, circling the coast of the Aegean Sea, and then he traveled down the Aegean coast of Asia Minor. During that journey he stopped at the city of Miletus, called for the elders of the church of nearby Ephesus, and delivered a farewell address to them in which he said:

And now, behold, bound in spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me (Acts 20:22-23, emphasis added).

Paul said he was “bound in spirit,” meaning he had a conviction in his spirit that was leading him to Jerusalem. He didn’t have the complete picture regarding what would happen when he arrived in Jerusalem, but he stated that in every city in which he stopped on his journey, the Holy Spirit testified that bonds and afflictions awaited him there. How did the Holy Spirit “testify” of those bonds and afflictions that awaited him in Jerusalem?