Today I was reading through Acts 18 and one line jumped off the page.
“I will return to you if God wills.” 18:21
As Paul leaves Corinth, heading for his sending church in Antioch, he stops in for a haircut 🙂 (because of a vow). While there in Ephesus he of course returns to the synagogue and reasons with the Jews. When it comes time for him to move on, the brothers are asking, and begging no doubt, for him to stay longer. He declines. But as he leaves he states that, “I will return to you if God wills.”
Paul knew better than to presume anything. The books of Acts is clear that these are the acts of the Holy Spirit, leading and guiding the apostles along the way as the gospel message spreads.
For Paul himself, we have many occasions to consider how God directed him in supernatural ways.
While traveling on the Damascus road, Saul hears the audible voice of Jesus directing him to go to Tarsus.
Acts 9:4-6 And he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who art Thou, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but rise, and enter the city, and it shall be told you what you must do.”
Paul and Barnabas are sent out by the Holy Spirit on their first missionary journey.
Acts 13:2 And while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
The Holy Spirit forbids Paul to speak the word in Asia.
Acts 16:6-7 And they passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and when they had come to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them.
Paul is directed through a vision to Macedonia.
Acts 16:9-10 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a certain man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
Jesus appears to Paul in a vision and tells him to preach the Gospel in Corinth.
Acts 18:9-10 And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.
Paul is told through prophecy not to enter Jerusalem.
Acts 21:4 And after looking up the disciples, we stayed there seven days; and they kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem.
Jesus tells Paul in vision to leave Jerusalem.
Acts 22:18, 21 And I saw Him saying to me, ‘Make haste, and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about Me.’…And He said to me, ‘Go! For I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'”
“If God wills” is not just a nice way to say things meaning, “I hope it works out.”
“If God wills” is a submission to his sovereign hand.
Lord, help me to yield to your guiding hand and recognize that my tomorrow only comes because of your mercy. You will your will by your perfect wisdom and through your power to bring your name glory and honor.