Punctuation in the Word

Living Abundantly 
According to God's Word Series

Read Time: 8 Minutes

There was no punctuation in the original texts. Punctuation was added when translations were done and versions developed. Punctuation can tend to promote the theological view of the translators and scribes, and are not always accurate. When studying the Word of God we must pay attention and recognize the context of  the verse, and other verses on the same subject. The Word of God will not contradict itself, so the difficulty we have with certain verses or passages may lie in our understanding or the translation.

There is a verse in Acts that, when read in context, doesn't appear to agree with the context.

Acts 21
:14 And when he [Paul] would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.

As this verse is punctuated Luke, Silas and the disciples ceased trying to persuade Paul to not go to Jerusalem and conceded that "The will of the Lord be done." In other words, Paul would be doing the will of the Lord if he went to Jerusalem. If you are paying attention while reading Chapter 21 you will realize that this verse doesn't quite agree with the context. To get the full context we have to go back a little farther and look into Acts 20:

Acts 20:
:22 And now, behold, 
    I [Paul] go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, 
        not knowing the things that shall befall me there:
:23   Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, 
            saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.
:24   But none of these things move me, 
        neither count I my life dear unto myself, 
            so that I might finish my course with joy, 
            and the ministry, 
                which I have received of the Lord Jesus, 
            to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

Paul has been traveling extensively preaching the Word and setting up fellowships where the Word is received. During his travels he had intended to go into certain areas before but God told him not to and he didn't (Acts 16:7). Once again he is told not to go, he is bound in the spirit, but his desire to see the Judeans in Jerusalem believe God's Word is great and he doesn't heed God's revelation. He has already said that God has told him repeatedly that bonds and afflictions are waiting for him in Jerusalem but he has in his mind that he must go. Paul has been persecuted, stoned and whipped already so what is different?  God is telling him not to go. God rescued him and healed him in other situations but here God is telling him not to go,  he is bound in the spirit. He sounds real sincere "But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself" but he is not doing God's will.

Acts 21
:3 Now when we had discovered Cyprus, we left it on the left hand, 
    and sailed into Syria, 
    and landed at Tyre: 
        for there the ship was to unlade her burden.

The "we" that Luke is talking about is Paul, Silas and Luke traveling together (Acts 15:40 and 16:10).

:4 And finding disciples, 
    we tarried there seven days: 
        who said to Paul through the Spirit, that he should not go up to Jerusalem.

This is an important principle in receiving revelation from God. God will first tell you and if you are not listening He may (not guaranteed) have others deliver the message. He isn't going to have others tell you first . God is telling Paul not to go to Jerusalem. 

:5 And when we had accomplished those days, 
    we departed and went our way; 
    and they all brought us on our way, 
        with wives and children, 
    till we were out of the city: 
    and we kneeled down on the shore, and prayed.
:6 And when we had taken our leave one of another, 
    we took ship; 
    and they returned home again.
:7 And when we had finished our course from Tyre, 
    we came to Ptolemais, 
        and saluted the brethren, 
        and abode with them one day.
:8  And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, 
    and came unto Caesarea: 
    and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, 
        which was one of the seven; 
    and abode with him.
:9 And the same man had four daughters, 
    which did prophesy.

God doesn't tell us what they prophesied about but the context of the prophecies in Paul's journey to Jerusalem told Paul not to go.

While they are in Caesarea Agabus, a prophet, travels from Judea, an area south of them, to meet Paul. This journey could be as long as 1 - 7 days, depending on where in Judea he came from. God must have told the prophet Agabus to go see Paul. Look at the trouble God is going to to deliver this message.

:10 And as we tarried there many days, 
    there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus.
:11 And when he was come unto us, he took Paul?s girdle, 
    and bound his own hands and feet, and said, 
        Thus saith the Holy Ghost, 
            So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, 
            and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.
:12 And when we heard these things, both we, 
        and they of that place, 
    besought him not to go up to Jerusalem.
:13 Then Paul answered, 
        What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? 
        for I am ready not to be bound only, 
        but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.
:14 And when he would not be persuaded, 
    we ceased saying the will of the Lord be done. [outlined according to context and punctuation removed]

What is God's will? For Paul to not go to Jerusalem. And when he would not be persuaded they stopped telling Paul to do the will of the Lord. 

Four times Paul was told to not go to Jerusalem: first he was bound in the spirit, then Paul is warned by a group in Tyre, then in Caesarea four Christian believers prophesied and finally God sent the prophet Agabus who foretold the peril Paul would be exposed to. The disciples finally quit telling him to do the will of the Lord because he wasn't listening.

Paul's response:

:13 Then Paul answered, 
        What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? 
        for I am ready not to be bound only, 
        but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.

Oh how sincere, but dead wrong. Paul always had an intense desire for Israel to believe God's word. God sent Paul to the Gentile nations to preach the Word and deliver people. However, Paul always wanted his countrymen to believe,  so much so that he disregarded God's revelation. 

Paul went ahead and went to Jerusalem and got into trouble. He was captured and almost lost his life there. Paul is no good to God if he is dead. If one is dead they cannot do anything for God, they are awaiting the return of Christ. After all of Asia Minor heard the Word of God in two years and three months Paul didn't win a single soul for the next 2 years. The closest he came to winning someone to the Lord was King Agrippa who was almost persuaded (Acts 26).

When Paul wouldn't do God's will they quit telling him to do the will of the Lord. Now we have the Word of God when we remove the punctuation that was incorrectly supplied.

Paul was a wonderful man, brilliant and learned, and a wonderful Believer. God gave him the most revelation to the church. However, he was still a man and subject to error.

We must pay attention to the Word of God when we are studying it. We must study to show ourselves approved unto God as workmen that need not to be disappointed in our expectations, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.