28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. 34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
Paul then prophecies that there would be "fierce wolves" that would come and try to destroy their church. That these men would speak half truths and present a twisted religion for the purpose of getting people to follow them. There is no doubt in my mind that Paul isn't only speaking of those for outside the church, but that this could come from their own ranks too.
He points out that for three years he did the same thing, everyday all day long. I'm sure these leaders were honored to be trusted as leaders of this church - but at the same time humbled that they would have to face such trials. But such is the Kingdom of God.
Paul now entrusts them to God and to the Word which will teach them and encourage them. He promises that they will be rewarded for their faithfulness, even under these circumstances.
He points out that he was a bi-vocational pastor. That he neither wanted their money nor asked for it. Now later he tells Timothy that the church should pay his salary. But here, he is speaking to a well established, mature church.
He then utters these famous words of Jesus, "It is more blessed to give than to receive". Here's the deal. This phrase is recorded no where in the four Gospels. So where did Paul hear this? Maybe it was something that one of 12 Apostles said to him. Or he got it directly from Jesus. He states in his letter to the Galatians that much of his revelation he received directly from Jesus.
36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.
These elders were very, very sad. They knew they would never see Paul again. They knew that what awaited him in Jerusalem was going to be terrible. They loved their friend and teacher.
21 And when we had parted from them and set sail, we came by a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. 2 And having found a ship crossing to Phoenicia, we went aboard and set sail. 3 When we had come in sight of Cyprus, leaving it on the left we sailed to Syria and landed at Tyre, for there the ship was to unload its cargo. 4 And having sought out the disciples, we stayed there for seven days. And through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. 5 When our days there were ended, we departed and went on our journey, and they all, with wives and children, accompanied us until we were outside the city. And kneeling down on the beach, we prayed 6 and said farewell to one another. Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home.
7 When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais, and we greeted the brothers and stayed with them for one day. 8 On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. 9 He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied. 10 While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 And coming to us, he took Paul's belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” 12 When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14 And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.”
Then a prophet named Agabus comes to Paul with a word from God for him. Here we see a word from God and an object lesson. He takes Pauls belt and ties up his hands and feet. He then declares that he will be arrested in Jerusalem and turned over to the Roman authorities. No one there thought that was a good idea, and they would be right in thinking so. While Paul was a Roman citizen, he was also a Jew. Romans despised Jews and quite frequently wouldn't treat them fairly or legally.
The cry of the people was so passionate that Paul had to ask them to stop. They were breaking his heart. He declares that he is ready to be imprisoned and martyred for the cause of Christ. When everyone realized that he could not be persuaded, they let it go.
Why did the Holy Spirit warn Paul of these things? For his comfort or faith? Maybe. But it was more for yours. What if Paul were to go to Jerusalem and SURPRISE he is arrested. What would those who oppose the Gospel say about that. They would say, "See! Told you so! Follow Paul and God will strike you down!" But no. You know what is going to happen - it does happen - and it was in the will of God for His purpose - not Paul's punishment.
English Standard Version (ESV)