Agabus and Paul

The Prophet Agabus

In the early days of the church, Agabus was one of several prophets in Jerusalem (Acts 11:27-28). Prophets played an important role in the beginning of the church. Paul listed prophets along with apostles as part of the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20). Apostles and prophets were given by God to equip the saints and build up the body (Ephesians 4:11-12). The role of the prophets was to reveal the secret things from God (cf. Amos 3:7; Revelation 10:7).

There are two prophecies of Agabus recorded in the book of Acts:

Now at this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius” (Acts 11:27-28).

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”‘” (Acts 21:10-11).

In the first prophecy, Agabus indicated that a famine would severely impact the brethren in Judea. Luke also noted when this would take place – during the reign of Claudius (Acts 11:28). The brethren in Antioch responded by sending aid to the elders of the churches where the brethren were affected (Acts 11:29-30).

In the second prophecy, Agabus warned that Paul was going to be arrested in Jerusalem. The brethren there in Caesarea urged Paul not to go there, yet he was determined to go no matter what awaited him (Acts 21:12-14). Like the first prophecy, this one also came to pass and Paul was arrested by the Romans in Jerusalem (Acts 21:33).

Something that both of Agabus’ prophecies had in common was that they were made in the presence of Paul (Acts 11:25; 21:11). Paul was an apostle (Romans 1:1). Apostles would be guided by the Spirit “into all the truth” (John 16:13) and would reveal the “mystery” that was previously hidden (Ephesians 3:3-4). However, on these occasions, God revealed these messages to Agabus, not Paul. Why?

We cannot speculate too much on God’s decision. However, this does fit with a couple of principles found in the Scriptures.

  1. God wants His people to work together – In describing the function of the local church, Paul wrote, “From whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:16). By God’s design, Christians are to work together with one another in accomplishing the Lord’s work. While Paul was working to proclaim the gospel and reveal the mind of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:17; 2:12-13), men like Agabus were also making contributions as well.
  2. One person should not do everything when the work can be shared – When Moses was trying to do all of the leading and judging of the Israelites himself, his father-in-law advised him that if he continued he would wear himself out and that he needed to appoint others who could help him in his work (Exodus 18:13-26). This principle – that one person cannot do the work of everyone – is a principle that applies in all areas of life, including the church. That is why “each individual part” is to be working for the benefit of the whole (Ephesians 4:16). While it may not have been especially burdensome in these two particular instances for Paul to receive and reveal these messages, the fact that God chose to reveal them through Agabus shows the importance of multiple people being involved in a given work.

Agabus played a relatively minor role in the Bible. In contrast, the apostle Paul is one of the most well-known figures in Scripture. Yet the times they were together provide us with a good reminder that all of us are useful in the Lord’s service and that none of us should have to do everything. No matter how well-known or obscure we are to others, we can and should work with our brethren to carry out the work that has been given for us to do.


Featured image: Original image by Sweet Publishing /

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