Once Paul got away from the hugs of the elders (20:37cf.21: 1), he found a ship (v.2) and launched with it (v.3). The Spirit spoke through some prophets to tell him not to go to Jerusalem (v.4 cf. 20:22,23). But he was in a hurry (20:16), and only stayed in Tyre seven days because he was traveling on a freighter that needed to unload and reload (21:3). But a mere week with those saints prompted as tearful a goodbye as he had with those elders who he’d known 3 years (20:36-38). Grace believers work their way into each other’s hearts fast.
Next, they left (21:7) and found a man who served God so humbly earlier (v.8 cf.Acts 6:1-5) that God rewarded his him by making him an evangelist (8:5-40cf.Mt.25:21). Paul says we should honor humble servants equally with great ones (ICor.12:23). But if Paul stayed with an evangelist instead of a prophet because he was tired of prophets telling him not to go to Jerusalem, he was out of luck (Acts21:9). But despite his hurry, he listened to those women for days (21:10). Sometimes women can influence men more than other men.
But when he eventually ignored them too, God sent him another prophet, who predicted bonds and afflictions would befall Paul in Jerusalem, and illustrated his prediction (v.11) with his belt (v.11cf.IKi.1:8). Prophets often illustrated their predictions (cf. IIKi.11:29-31). It was God who prompted such “similitudes” (Hos.12:10), so it’s okay for preachers to use them. If God had a prophet use one on a saint as great as Paul, He must expect they’ll be effective on the best of us.
But Agabus clarified what the prophets in verse 4 meant when they told Paul he “should not” go to Jerusalem. He meant only to warn him of what would happen if he went, as when God told the wise men they “should not” return to Herod (Mt.2:12). That was more of a warning than a commandment. But Paul disobeyed because he wanted to be there for Pentecost (Acts 20:16) to preach to that huge crowd of Jews who must attend that feast every year by law. He didn’t care if he had to be beaten and arrested to do it.
But his friends cared—even Luke (21:12). He replied he was ready to die in Jerusalem—and probably expected to (cf.20: 25). The friends trying to talk him out of dying were like the Lord’s friend Peter (Mt.16:21-23). We shouldn’t act irresponsibly in serving God, but at some point, we must agree with what Paul said in Acts 20:24. Satan thinks we’ll give whatever we have to save our lives (Job 2:4), but Job taught him better—and so did Paul. Why not be like them, and the man who served God in humble ways with no regard for his life (Phil.2:25-30). Women can too (Esth.4:16; Rom.16:3,4).
In Acts 21:14, Paul’s friends weren’t saying, “Whatever is going to happen, will happen.” The prophets told them what would happen—he’d be beaten and arrested. They were saying, “If that’s God’s will, let it happen.” What they didn’t say was, “Paul, you go get beaten, we’ll stay here.” They joined him (Acts 21:15), just as Thomas said he and the rest of the 12 should die with the Lord (Jo.11:7,8,16). God needs more of that kind of spirit in His people (cf. IISam.15:21)!
Those “carriages” were like what we would call carry on baggage. Luke notes them because they were filled with the money Paul collected from the Gentile churches for “the poor saints” in Jerusalem (Rom. 15:26). They brought along a saint who had been a disciple so long that all the other saints in Jerusalem were sure to know where he lived (Acts 21:16). So when word got out Paul was distributing money from his house, they’d all know where to go to get some. This is why Paul was hasting to get there by the feast! He knew that when those Jews heard him preach Christ, knowing he was also there to help the people of Israel, that they would be much more apt to listen to him. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and he wasn’t about to miss it!
A video of this message is available on YouTube: “Paul Sets Sail For Jerusalem” Acts 21:1-17