The last time we made mention of Philip the Evangelist was when he was engaged in making the Gospel known, to the Ethiopian Eunuch, on the road which leads southwards by Gaza towards Egypt, about the time when Apostle Paul himself was converted on the northern road, when traveling to Damascus. Now, after many years, the Apostle and the Evangelist are brought together under one roof.
On the former occasion, we saw that Caesarea was the place where the labors of Philip on that journey ended. Thenceforward it became his residence if his life was stationary, or it was the center from which he made other missionary circuits through Judea. He is found, at least, residing in this city by the sea, when Apostle Paul arrives in the year 58 from Achaia and Macedonia.
Philip's family consisted of four daughters, who were an example of the fulfillment of that prediction of Joel, quoted by Peter, which said, that, at the opening of the new dispensation, God's Spirit should come on His "handmaidens" as well as His bondsmen, and that the "daughters," as well as the sons, should prophesy.
The power of a prophet was granted to these four women at Caesarea, who seem to have been living that life of single devotedness which is commended by Apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians (1Corinthians 7), and to have exercised their gift in concert for the benefit of the Church.
It is not improbable that these inspired women gave Apostle Paul some intimation of the sorrows which were hanging over him. But soon a more explicit voice declared the very nature of the trial he was to expect. The stay of the Apostle at Caesarea lasted some days (Acts 21:10).
Paul had arrived in Judea in good time before the festival, and haste was now unnecessary. Thus news reached Jerusalem of his arrival and a prophet named Agabus, whom we have seen before coming from the same place on a similar errand, went down to Caesarea. He communicated to Apostle Paul and the company of Christians by whom he was surrounded a clear knowledge of the impending danger.
Agabus' revelation was made in that dramatic form which impresses the mind with a stronger sense of reality than mere words can do, and which was made familiar to the Jews of old by the practice of the Hebrew prophets.
Agabus, using the imagery of action, took the girdle of Apostle Paul, and fastened it round his own hands and feet, and said, "Thus saith the Holy Spirit: So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man to whom this girdle belongs, and they shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles." (Acts 21:11).
The effect of the prophet's declaration, both on Luke, Aristarchus, and Trophimus, the companions of Apostle Paul's journey, and those Christians of Caesarea, who, though they had not traveled with him, had learnt to love him, was very great. They wept, and implored him not to go to Jerusalem. But the Apostle himself could not so interpret the supernatural intimation. He was placed in a position of peculiar trial.
The voice of an authentic prophet of God had been so uttered, that, had he been timid and wavering, it might easily have been construed into a warning to deter Paul. Nor was that temptation unfelt which arises from the sympathetic grief of loving friends. His affectionate heart was almost broken when he heard their earnest supplications and saw the sorrow that was caused by the prospect of his danger; but the mind of the Spirit had been so revealed to him in his own inward convictions, that he could see the Divine counsel through apparent hinderances.
Paul's resolution was "no wavering between yea and nay, but was yea in Jesus Christ." His deliberate purpose did not falter for a moment. He declared that he was "ready not only to be bound, but to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." And then they desisted from their entreaties. Their respect for the Apostle made them silent. They recognized the will of God through Agabus the prophet and gave their acquiescence in those words in which Christian resignation is best expressed, "The will of the Lord be done."
The time was now come for the completion of Paul's journey. The festival was close at hand. Having made the arrangements that were necessary with regard to their luggage, Paul and the companions who had attended him from Macedonia proceeded to the Holy City. Some of the Christians of Caesarea went along with them, not merely, as it would seem, to show their respect and sympathy for the Apostolic company, but to secure their comfort on arriving, by taking him to the house of Mnason, a native of Cyprus, who had been long ago converted to Christianity.
Thus we have accompanied Apostle Paul on his last recorded journey to Jerusalem. It was a journey full of incident; and it is related more minutely than any other portion of his travels. We know all the places by which he passed, or at which he stayed; and we are able to connect them all with familiar recollections of history. We know, too, all the aspect of the scenery.
We find in Paul's Epistle written to the Romans, shortly before leaving Corinth, a remarkable indication of discouragement, and almost despondency, when he asked the Christians at Rome to pray that, on his arrival in Jerusalem, he might be delivered from the Jews who hated him, and be well received by those Christians who disregarded his authority. The depressing anxiety with which Paul thus looked forward to the journey would not be diminished, when the very moment of his departure from Corinth was beset by a Jewish plot against his life. And we find the cloud of gloom, which thus gathered at the first, increasing and becoming darker as we advance.
For indeed at Miletus Paul said that already "in every city" the Spirit had admonished him that bonds and imprisonment were before him. At Miletus it is clear that the heaviness of spirit under which he started had become a confirmed anticipation of evil. When he wrote to Rome, he hoped to be delivered from the danger he had too much reason to fear. Now his fear predominates over hope; and he looks forward, sadly but calmly, to some imprisonment not far distant.
At Caesarea Paul's vague forebodings of captivity are finally made decisive and distinct, and he has a last struggle with the remonstrances of those whom he loved. Never had he gone to Jerusalem without a heart full of emotion, neither in those early years, when he came an enthusiastic boy from Tarsus to the school of Gamaliel, nor on his return from Damascus, after the greatest change that could have passed over an inquisitor's mind, nor when he went with Barnabas from Antioch to the Jerusalem Conference, which was to decide an anxious controversy.
Now Paul had much new experience of the insidious progress of error, and of the sinfulness even of the converted. Yet his trust in God did not depend on the faithfulness of man; and he went to Jerusalem calmly and resolutely, though doubtful of his reception among the Christian brethren, and not knowing what would happen on the morrow.