Dive Deeper

Unstoppable (Part 36)

Henson Lim


In Acts 22 to 23, we explore the tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility and how God works in us to accomplish His purposes. If we agree that our God is sovereign, do we still have the free will to make decisions? Does destiny determine decisions or do decisions determine destiny? The answer is yes to both. Proverbs 16:9 tells us that a man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. 

The relationship between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility is not instantly obvious, and at first glance it seems paradoxical. But Scripture offers us considerable insight into how these twin truths harmonise within the plan of redemption. We see it in Paul’s life and ministry. Earlier, in Acts 19, we know that Paul is determined to go to Rome. In the next few chapters, we read the series of events that begins Paul’s journey to Rome and discover how God is always directing and guiding Paul’s destiny to Rome.


  1. Read Acts 21:27-36. When Paul was attacked by his own people at the temple, the Roman troops intervened and brought him into the barracks. Paul could have been killed by the mob, if not for the Roman troops who stepped in to stop the violence.

    a. Think about a situation in your life where God’s hand was unmistakable. What kind of moves of God have you seen that one might write off as a “coincidence”?

    b. Did an unexpected turn of events result in the outcome that you wanted or something even better?

  2. Acts 22:1-21,30 tells us that although there was a real threat to Paul’s life, he made the decision to continue witnessing for Jesus in front of hostile crowds and authority figures in order to fulfil his assignment.

    Have we encountered a situation that made witnessing for Jesus uncomfortable or even a danger to ourselves? How do we reconcile our personal safety versus completing our assignment?

  3. Acts 23:11 tells us that the Lord appeared to Paul to comfort and strengthen him while he was imprisoned. The Lord also confirmed Paul’s assignment to testify about Him in Rome.

    a. Think back to a difficult moment in your life that you were going through. How has God encouraged you in the midst of your trials? How has He given you hope when hope seemed to be lost?

    b. Whenever God says: “Do not fear or be of good courage”, He usually has a reason why we do not need to fear.

    i) Even though we may doubt and have fear when we are going through trials, How can we learn to trust that God is always in control of the situation?

    ii) How can we look at Jesus’ life to draw strength and courage that the Lord will never forsake us?

  4. Acts 23:12-24 tells us of a plot by a group of Jews to ambush and kill Paul. Yet, despite all their plotting, we can see that God is in control when Paul’s nephew discovered the plot and alerted the Romans soldiers. Subsequently, Paul was sent to Caesarea for his own protection. Through an unexpected twist of events, Paul is en route to Rome.

    a. What encouragement do you receive in knowing that God is in control and can use anything and everything to accomplish His purposes?

    b. We can see from above that when we hold God’s desires in our hearts, God will hold our destinies in His hands. How can we hold His desires in our hearts?


“Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” (Isaiah 46:9-10) 

God has the rightful authority, the freedom, the wisdom, and the power to bring about everything that he intends to happen. The bible also says, man is given free will and is held responsible for his actions. Both perspectives are biblical, so how do we reconcile God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility? 

As we examine the events of Acts 21-23, we see the Lord’s sovereignty in action when He delivered Paul from danger every single time and eventually directed Paul’s way to Rome. We also see Paul’s determination to follow through his assignment despite the dangers he encountered. If God is your heart’s delight, then He will give you the delights of your heart (Ps 37:4). In other words, because Paul has yielded his life to God and desires to please Him, God places upon Paul’s heart His desires. Getting to Rome is Paul’s desire and God’s destiny for him. 

Lastly, as the Lord appeared to Paul to strengthen and encourage Paul in his most difficult times, we can also be assured that we have a God who knows us by name and will always stand by us in our lowest moments. Our Lord Jesus is able to identify with what we are going through as He also went through temptations, trials, betrayal and finally suffering death by crucifixion on the cross. We can take comfort that as Jesus followed the Father’s will, He was raised from the dead and glorified by the Father. Would we also seek to be like our Lord Jesus and desire to follow God’s will and place our faith in Him alone.


“The following night the Lord stood by him and said, Take courage for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.” – Acts 23:11