Acts: For the Cause of Christ #25

for-the-cause-of-christ-a-series-in-the-book-of-actsActs: For the Cause of Christ #25

Title: Paul in Athens

Acts 17:1-34

Last time we looked at Paul’s time in Philippi. How Paul was used to start another church. How he and Silas kept their faith in the midst of injustice and physical abuse. How the gospel is presented freely to all people. We continue to follow Paul’s journey after leaving Philippi. Paul makes it to two big cities as he continues to spread the gospel in Greece.

Thessalonica – vv 1-9

Mixed Results 1-4

Paul, Silas, and Timothy arrive in Thessalonica after apparently stopping for the evening at Amphipolis and Apollonia. These were on the Egnatian Way from Philippi. Once in Thessalonica, Paul and the team stated as always within the Jewish community at the local synagogue. Paul discussed the gospel with them from three consecutive Sabbaths, so they were in Thessalonica for at least three weeks. Paul was using the OT prophets alongside the events of Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection. Paul’s pattern continues to repeat. We are told that some Jews believed the gospel message as well as God-fearing Greeks. Among these believers were leading women, Macedonian women had a reputation for independence in society and business.

Jealous Jews 5-9

Keeping with the pattern from Paul’s time in southern Galatia, the unbelieving Jews became of jealous. Whether this was because they lost a number of proselytes or because they lost financial support with some leading women converting to Christianity, we don’t know for sure. These Jews, went to the marketplace and found wicked men for hire to create a mob to riot. The went to the house of Jason, who was housing Paul and the others, and may have been one the Jews that converted from Paul’s teaching in the synagogue.

The mob could not find the missionaries, so they dragged Jason and few other Christians before the town officials. Since Thessalonica isn’t a Roman Colony, we see a different group of leadership. These magistrates are generally called politarchs, this term is used for the local magistrates in Macedonia. The mob charged the missionaries with treason, basically, and since Jason was housing them, he was a complicit as well. Theses charges were similar to those that were brought up in Philippi. The magistrates didn’t seem overly concerned, probably because there was no real evidence to these claims, however Jason paid a bond. This would have guaranteed that his guests wouldn’t cause trouble and probably required them to leave town.

Paul’s Letters:

Because of the persecution he faced, Paul was unable to really establish the new Thessalonian church in doctrine. In a few months time from this point in our journey, Paul will be in Corinth where he spends about 18 months. During this time in Corinth (~51-52 AD) Paul writes both 1 and 2 Thessalonians to encourage the church, explain doctrines more thoroughly, and correct a few errors the church had. 

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Berea – vv 10-15

Searched the Scriptures

Paul, Silas and Timothy were taken out of the city under the cover of night and headed to Berea. Again, Paul stays true to form and heads to the local synagogue. However, here in Berea we get a breath of fresh air for minute, as these Jews break the pattern and hear Paul out while checking the Scriptures to see if they can verify what Paul has told them. This is something we all need to do, double check things against Scripture. I don’t wonder if these Bereans would be surprised if they knew how many Christian churches and groups have named themselves after them because of their careful study of Scripture? We can only assume Paul was reasoning with them the same way as he was in Thessalonica by showing that the Messiah had to suffer, die and be raised back to life through the OT Prophets. And again, many believed, both men and women, Jew and Greek. 

Thessalonian Jews

We don’t know how long it was before the Jews of Thessalonica heard that Paul and the others were in Berea, but in another reminder of southern Galatia, a group of Jews from Thessalonica came to Berea to stir up trouble. Paul seems to be the main target, but Paul quickly escorted out of town be some the new believers. There are some variations in the manuscripts as whether they took Paul by sea or by land, either way they escorted Paul to Athens. Paul had them take a message back to Silas and Timothy to join him in Greece as quickly as they could.

Athens – vv 16-34

Culture

Paul has entered Athens. The cradle of Greek mythology, philosophy, and culture. This city’s cultural influence would be equivalent to London, Pairs, or New York today. Athens was steeped in idolatry. Everywhere he would have turned there would be another temple or carving or statue dedicated to the false gods of Greek and Roman Mythology. In its past glory days, this city was called home by Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, and Zeno. This city was used to different ways of thinking and worshipping. Though Paul would have been somewhat accustomed to idolatry, there was something of how saturated Athens was that caused him to be distressed.

Synagogue and Marketplace

In the middle of this idolatrous city, Paul was able to find a Jewish synagogue. Not only were there Jews worshipping but there were Greek proselytes worshipping the true God. Paul spent his days reasoning in the synagogue as well as trying to interact with other people in the marketplace. Luke doesn’t tells us how the Jews or proselytes responded to Paul’s teaching, or if there were any converts from his “street evangelism”.

What we do see, is that on one specific day Paul is addressing a group of Stoic and Epicurean philosophers.

Stoics – The Stoics claimed Zeno from Cyprus as their founder and took their name from specific colonnade in the marketplace where Zeno had taught. “Their system aimed at living consistently with nature, and in practice they laid great emphasis on the primacy of the rational faculty in humanity, and on individual self-sufficiency…they were essentially pantheistic, god being regarded as the world-soul….Stoicism at it sbest was marked by great moral earnestness and a high sense of duty. It commended suicide as a honorable means of escape from a life that could no longer be sustained with dignity” (Bruce, F. F. NICNT: The Book of the Acts, © 1988 p330).

Epicureans – This school founded by Epicurus and “based its ethical theory on the atomic physics of Democritus and presented pleasure as being the chief end in life, the pleasure most worth enjoying being a life of tranquillity, free from from pain, disturbing passions, and superstitious fears (including in particular the fear of death). It did not deny the existence of gods, but maintained they they took no interest in the life of men and women” (Bruce, p330-331).

On this particular day, some that were listening to Paul were unimpressed by him calling him, “an ignorant show-off”, a more literal translation would read “seed-picker”. The word does refer to birds eating seeds and scraps, but the idea here is someone who doesn’t align with a specific school of thought. Others though he was teaching about some strange or foreign gods. It is thought that they may have misunderstood and personified the resurrection along with Jesus.

Areopagus 19-21

They brought Paul to the Areopagus. Some translations have “Mars’ Hill”, that is a translation of the Latin name for the “Hill of Ares”. Either way it is a hill dedicated to the god of war in Greek/Roman Mythology. The Areopagus lent its name to a court, sometimes the court met on the hill itself and sometimes it met in the Royal Colonnade in the marketplace, where it met to hear Paul, we don’t know for sure. The court was mainly used at this time to preside over religious and moral matters. Paul was not taken as a criminal, or to see if they should give him license to be a public lecturer/teacher. He was merely asked there to further expound his teaching so they could better understand it. Verse 21 reads, “Now all the Athenians and the foreigners residing there spent their time on nothing else but telling or hearing something new.” So if Athens is culturally like New York is thought of today, then Paul being able to present on the Areopagus is like playing on Broadway.

So what does Paul do with this opportunity? What any good preacher does, he preaches the gospel (v22).

Paul begins by telling them that as he walked through town he noticed that they were very religious. He had even seen an altar inscribed “to an unknown god”. He uses this as a place to start. Now I doubt that when that altar was placed, there was any idea of a particular god they were trying to appease, but Paul used this to begin to discuss the one, true God.

He continues by telling them “that God is the creator, the sovereign of heaven and earth, the sustainer and director of all things ans is the Omnipresent One” (Kent, Homer A. Jr.; Jerusalem to Rome, © 1972 p140). He tells them that all of humanity came from one man, Adam, and then explained “that God has determined the seasons which make life possible, and has appointed the habitable zones of the earth in which [people] may live” (Kent, p140). Verse 28, actually contains two different quotes from Greek poets, the first part of the verse is attributed to Epimenides from Crete and the last section, generally put in quotes is from Aratus from Cilicia. Now both of these poems names Zeus as the supreme being in Greek philosophy and religion, Paul is not equating the trude God and Zeus, he is merely using these poems to make a point and to make a connection with his audience as these poems have contexts that can point to some recognition of the true nature of God. (doctrines of God and man)

Paul continues by telling them that God has set a time for divine judgement and that there is a need of repentance before that judgement comes. [read 30-31] God has determined Who will be the judge and has set the time.  This discussion of end-times judgement was new to the Greek thinker, at least the biblical revelation of the end-times. Paul assures his listeners that God’s man has been revealed as there is solid proof about this man. We know this is Jesus, and that proof is the that God has raised Jesus from the dead. (doctrines of end-times and christology).

Mixed Results 32-34

There is a difference of opinions over whether Paul concluded his message or if he was cut off as they ridiculed him for the idea of the resurrection. Some think he concluded the message, because this was an introduction to Christianity, and the first thing to learn was to turn from idols. Others think he was unable to finished the message where he would have expanded the information to contain the elements of the gospel. We don’t know for sure.

Some did ridicule him for the notion of the resurrection, while others wanted to hear more. We are told that some followed Paul and believed. Luke tells us the name of two people, Dionysius a member of the Areopagus court and a woman named Damaris.

No mention of a church being planted, no mention of baptisms. Some think that the poor reception to the gospel is why Paul left for Corinth and that he changed is approach in Corinth “to ‘know nothing’ there ‘except Jesus Christ and him crucified’” (Bruce, p344).

Conclusion:

In Thessalonica we saw how Paul started in the synagogues and reasoned, discussed, or lecturered from the Scripture and showed the Jews that Jesus Christ was meant to come and suffer and die. Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection fulfilled OT prophecy. 

In Berea we have an excellent model to follow. Examine Scripture for yourself when you are listening to teachers. Don’t just accept anybody’s explanation. That includes me or any man that is standing behind this pulpit proclaiming the Word. That includes your favorite radio/TV preacher, that includes your favorite writing preacher, or printed bible studies.

In Athens, we saw that Paul spoke in ways his audience could understand and relate to him, but he didn’t use “church language” or “christianese”. He used language and words his audience could understand. He related commonly known poems in way to point to the true God. We should be careful doing this so we don’t marginalize the true christianity or place the gospel on the same ground as a false religion. We also see that we need to be aware of the openings to share the gospel that the Lord provides. 

Most importantly, we saw that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is central to the gospel. Whether for those who have a knowledge of Scripture and need instruction or those who have never read the Bible or heard of the God of heaven, Christ’s resurrection is the centerpiece for the gospel.

Acts: For the Cause of Christ #24

for-the-cause-of-christ-a-series-in-the-book-of-actsActs: For the Cause of Christ #24

Title: Paul’s Second Journey – Pt 2 – Paul’s Philippian Adventure

Acts 16:11-40

Review of 15:36-16:12

Last time we saw as Paul started his second journey. He and Barnabas decided to not serve together on this trip as Barnabas was determined to take John Mark along. Paul chose Silas and headed back to Southern Galatia. He and Silas added Timothy to the team at Lystra before continuing on. As they sought to continue on the Lord kept them from going in to the Provinces of Asia and Bithynia. Then when they reached the city of Troas, the Lord sent Paul a vision directing them to go into Macedonia, the northern region of Greece. This would also bring the gospel into Europe.

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https://missionbibleclass.org/new-testament/part2/acts-epistle-selections/lydia-becomes-a-christian/

Philippi – vv 11-15

 

The City

As we see here in the opening portion of our passage. Philippi was a Roman colony. This plays a big role in the coming events of this passage, so we should have an understanding on what a Roman colony was.

Philippi was named a Roman Colony by Caesar Augustus around 42 BC. Colonies were usually created as a place for Roman veterans to have homes as well as creating a military presence. The residents to these cities were given Roman citizenship and the rights that entitled them too. The city had an autonomous government, freedom for taxation and tribute and legal-ownership rights like those who lived in Italy. Being a colony was the highest status a city in a province could receive. Philippi was helping in the Romanization of Macedonia, so the city would have seemed like a “little Rome”. Other colonies mentioned in Acts are Pisidian Antioch, Lystra, Troas, Corinth, and Ptolemais.

Philippi was a wealthy city as it was on the famous Egnatian Way, and the nearby hills held deposits of copper, silver and gold, as well as having a fertile plain for crops. Though this city was not the capital of Macedonia, which was Thessalonica, nor was Philippi the capital of the district, that was Amphipolis, Philippi was a leading, major city in Macedonia. It also held various pagan religions including the emperor worship. Though it seems there was no Jewish Synagogue at this time. If there was a Jewish population, it must have been very small. At the time a minimum of 10 Jewish men was required to have a synagogue.

Lydia

Since there was no synagogue there Paul adjust his tactic. On the Sabbath day they went outside the city gates to find a place where the small Jewish community or at least God-fearing gentiles would meet to pray. Paul and the others find a group of women meeting for prayer. Paul takes the opportunity to talk them and share the gospel. Lydia was one of the ladies there listening. She was God-fearing gentile from the city of Thyatira. “The Lord opened her heart” to the gospel during Paul’s gospel presentation. We have another example here of baptism coming after salvation as Lydia and her household were all baptized there in the river where they were meeting.

Lydia may have been a wealthy business woman. She is noted as a dealer of purple cloth. Purple dyed cloth was fairly expensive as the dye either came from a shellfish or the roots of a madder plant. For Lydia to have house large enough to house Paul and his team, she must have been fairly successful. Her household could refer to any children still living with her assuming she was married and possibly widowed, but that is unknown, or her household could include any servants in her business and home. Lydia’s household becomes the first recorded converts of Paul’s second journey and in Macedonia.

The Trouble with Demons – vv 16-24

Regular Prayer Meetings

Either Paul and the others established regular prayer meetings with this small band of disciples or they were still using the Jewish tradition of prayers at certain times. We know that Paul the others were in Philippi for several days, verse 12, and on their way to the place of prayer they were being followed by slave girl possessed by a demon that was shouting out unwelcomed testimony about Paul.

This slave girl was possessed by demon giving her the ability to serve as a fortune-teller. Her masters used her to make large profit for themselves. Remember, Philippi held several pagan idols, including the Greek god Apollo. Luke actually uses the term that refers to soothsayers and fortune-tellers that goes back to the myth of Apollo and the Oracle of Delphi. So for a slave girl telling the future would not be anything strange in this city.

Paul’s Annoyance

After many days of this poor girl following Paul the others around acting like an unwanted herald, Paul had had enough. He turned and addressing the demon, he commanded it leave the girl using the authority of Jesus’ name. The exorcism happened immediately.

What was the girl saying? What was the annoyance? The phrase can be taken in an ironic sense as a demon is proclaiming truth about God, though because she represents many false gods, the testimony proves confusing. It is also possible that since what the demon is saying doesn’t directly refer to Yahweh, it could be understood that the God Paul is serving and preaching about was the highest of many gods. This would be confusing as many of the polytheistic religions represented in Philippi all had such phrases for certain gods. Also the phrase of offering salvation may have been heard as “a” way of salvation versus “the” way of salvation. Paul’s use of Jesus’ name in the exorcism primary shows that it is not Paul’s own authority by which he can expel demons, but only through the authority of Jesus. It also ties the God Paul proclaims is tied to the name of Jesus.

PaulandDemon_Girl_1179-61
http://bibleencyclopedia.com/pictures/Acts_16_Paul_and_demon_possessed_girl.htm

When the slave girl’s masters realized they lost significant income, they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them to the chief magistrates, these are possibly the two men who ruled the colony called praetors.

Illegal Activities

Paul and Silas were accused of trying to proselytize as Jews and disturbing the city, or disturbing the peace. Most religions were allowed and tolerated by Roman law, while proselytizing wasn’t illegal it was discouraged; and religions that became destructive to the city was not allowed. Judaism was generally looked down upon because it was monotheistic and did not worship the emperor. These accussors are stretching the truth a bit as they slander Paul and Silas about disturbing the peace and proselytizing an illegal or unpopular religion. The idea of Roman is important here as Artemis is in Ephesus in chapter 19.

By claiming they are disturbing the city, the accussors are forcing the issue into the realm of the magistrates. It seems as if the crowd had been whipped into a mob as they begin to attack, probably verbally, Paul and Silas as well. The magistrates then take them have them beaten. This punishment was called adminitio, where we get admonition. It emphasized the warning element of the punishment. This particular beating was called fustigatio where the clothes were stripped off and then beaten in public. This was more liking a caning designed to discourage Paul from preaching any further. After the beating, they taken to prison and the jailer was ordered to watch them carefully. Paul and Silas were put into the inner prison, a  more secure area, then their legs were placed in stocks.

Midnight Miracle vv 25-40

Praising God

As Paul and Silas sit in jail, they probably can’t sleep from the pain of the beating and the discomfort of the stocks, they pray and sing to God. They know the other prisoners are listening, this makes them stand out. Praising God even though they were just beaten and imprisoned, Paul and Silas displayed their faith.

While they were praising the Lord, an earthquake came and shook the prison so violently that the chains came away from the walls and the doors swung open. This caused concern for the jailer when he awoke. He was about kill himself, why? There is thought that he assumed the prisoners would have escaped, which could have led to his execution as punishment, while this was certainly done at times, there is also the fact of the ancient values of shame and honor. It is also possible that he was acting out of superstitious fear. Concerned over who was in the prison and why the gods acted this way. Maybe he knew the punishment was unjust and was fearing the gods reaction.

Luke has condensed a lot of what was happening in these verses, somehow Paul knew what the jailer was about to do, and called out to him to keep him from harming himself.

The jailer seems to be aware of some sort of divine activity to what has been happening. He falls to his knees trembling before Paul and Silas, not worship them, but probably in fear and shock that none of the prisoners had escaped. He leads Paul and Silas out and asks how he must be saved. It appears that he knew why Paul and Silas were imprisoned and has linked the earthquake to the God they proclaimed.

Paul immediately shared that the jailer needed to trust Jesus. People try to take verse 31 out of context and think this verse doesn’t show the need for individual faith. However, if we correctly read verse 32 with verse 31 we see that Paul and Silas were explaining the gospel. The jailer took Paul and Silas home, where everyone in his house heard the gospel and believed. Next the jailer tends to their wounds, then the whole household receives believers baptism. The jailer provides a meal Paul and Silas. Again we see the element of joy of new believers over their salvation.

In the morning the magistrates decide to have Paul and Silas released. The term “police” is the same root as the word used earlier for the beating Paul and Silas received, so the men sent were possibly the ones who carried out the beating. These men carried bundles of rods and functioned as constables or police.

When the jailer informs Paul and Silas the magistrates are letting them go and telling them to leave town, Paul decides now to make it known that he and Silas are Roman citizens. It is greatly debated over why Paul did not make this claim before they beaten, possibly they made a strategic decision so there would be no confusion of their religious and cultural loyalties lay.

The secretive nature in the way the magistrates had tried to get Paul and Silas to leave would have left the idea that Paul was a troublemaker and would have left the new Christians open to persecution. The magistrates had acted illegally. Roman citizens were always supposed to receive a fair trial and were not to be whipped as Paul and Silas had been. Paul and Silas were publicly shamed by the beating, and since they were Roman citizens they deserved an apology in the very least. For the Magistrates to come publicly to appease Paul and Silas and to escort them from the jail would publicly resolve the issue that Paul and the Christians were not troublemakers seeking to disturb the peace. The magistrates could have faced serious punishments and at the very least may never have been removed from their position. The magistrates come, apologize and ask that Paul and his team leave Philippi. And after going to Lydia’s house, speaking encouragement to them Paul and team leave Philippi.

Conclusion:

Today we saw how God had led Paul and the others to Philippi. We saw that God used Paul to found another church. We see how God’s gospel is not limited by race or gender. Paul proclaims the gospel to everyone. Luke has tendency to show accounts in pairs of men and women: Simeon and Anna (Luke 2), a raised boy and girl (Luke 7 & 8), the Holy Spirit descending on all (Acts 2), miracles for Aeneas and Dorcas (Acts 9), then here with Lydia and the Jailer. Though Paul and Silas face injustice and beating to please the crowd, they do not lose faith. They praise God in the midst of their trial. They know this is part of doing anything for the Cause of Christ.

But we also see the seeds being planted for Paul’s letter to the Philippian Church:

  • In Philippians Paul reminds the disciples their citizenship is in heaven and that being citizens of Roman, which was a big deal, is secondary.
  • Paul will remind them to humbly serve God. Paul was called a slave of God by the demon possessed girl, and then calls himself that in the opening verse to the Philippians, he also reminds them that Christ’s humility is to be regarded as the standard.
  • Paul tells them to keep their priority on the future reward they will receive from God, and not trust in their flesh or own strength. Paul could have used his Roman citizenship earlier than he did, but would he have been trusting God to care for him or trusting in things of this world?
  • In Philippians Paul discusses contentment and joy in all circumstances, good and bad. We saw how Paul and Silas sang hymns to and prayed to God while they spent a sleepless, painful night in prison. They were content with whatever God had planned for them.

Are these things true of us?

Acts: For the Cause of Christ #23

for-the-cause-of-christ-a-series-in-the-book-of-actsActs: For the Cause of Christ #23

Title: Paul’s Second Journey – Pt 1 – Let’s Go!

Acts 15:36-16:12

Review of 15:1-35

Last time we saw how some were trying to distort the Gospel of God’s grace by adding requirements of the law to salvation. We saw how the church in Antioch sought help for clarification from the Jerusalem church, how the issue was debated, and how it was decided that the law is not required for salvation. We saw the the news of God’s work of saving more gentiles in different areas was received with joy and praise. Now after sometime Paul seeks to go on another journey.

 

 

Planning – 15:36-41

 

Sometime after the Jerusalem council and the return to Antioch Paul and Barnabas begin planning a return trip to churches they had established in southern Galatia, and possibly visiting the churches in Cyprus as well. Barnabas seems to be on board, except he wants to bring John Mark along, again. Paul strongly disagrees on this point as he is unwilling to bring someone who has proved unreliable.

There is speculation from everywhere about the disagreement and ultimate division of these co-workers. Scripture doesn’t lay blame on either of these men, so I don’t seek to do so. I do think that a part of what was going on was that Barnabas was John Mark’s cousin (Col 4:10) and Barnabas’ name means “son of encouragement”. Barnabas may have been trying to help John Mark and was trying to encourage him to better serve in ministry.

 

 

There seems to be only one solution. Paul and Barnabas would not work together on this trip. Barnabas and John Mark leave for Cyprus, Barnabas’ home island. This may be to work with John Mark in a less intense mission field.

Paul feels he must get a new co-worker for this journey. He selects Silas, who either returned to Antioch or was sent for by Paul. Paul and Silas are sent out after being commended by the church. Why there was no note about this commending for Barnabas and Mark we don’t know. It may be that since Silas was from the Jerusalem church Antioch wanted to show their support so Paul and Silas represent two churches working together.

 

 

Though this disagreement was so sharp that they men could not work side by side, God used them in two different ministries, each advancing the gospel. Sometimes, that is what has to happen. Scripture shows that there appears to have been reconciliation between Paul and Mark (Col 4:10; Phile 24; 2 Tim 4:11) and with Barnabas (Col 4:10; 1 Cor 9:6).

 

 

Opening Journey – 16:1-5

 

Paul and Silas set out by travelling over land through the region of Cilicia heading west towards southern Galatia, strengthening any church they come to on the way. They come to the cities of Derbe and then Lystra. In Lystra they meet up with Timothy. Timothy is disciple with a good reputation in the churches in Lystra and Iconium. Paul wishes to take Timothy along with him. But there’s a problem.

 

 

Timothy is the son of a believing Jewish woman, Eunice (2 Tim 1:5) and Greek father. The wording and nuance of the language leads some to think that Timothy’s father had died before this point, how long ago is anyone’s guess. What’s the problem with Timothy? He wasn’t circumcised. Before Paul took Timothy along on the journey, he had Timothy circumcised. People criticize Paul for this decision after chapter fifteen’s discussion. However, the issue isn’t Timothy’s salvation, but Timothy’s not becoming an issue as the team ministers to unbelieving Jews. Paul is seeking to avoid another issue of disregarding Jewish customs and heritage. Judaism would view Timothy as an apostate Jew, being from a mixed heritage and not being circumcised. Paul, having Timothy circumcised, is showing that he seeks to reach out to Jews and show the link of the new faith to Jewish heritage, as well as giving Timothy credibility among the Jews the team will be evangelizing. So Paul is not acting contrary to the decision of the Jerusalem Council.

On a separate note. We should note, though not mentioned here, that Timothy’s mother Eunice seems to show a willingness to let her son go into the ministry. Our churches need be teaching parents that the ministry isn’t a bad vocation or calling. Our churches need pastors with no one to take the position. Our mission fields need missionaries with no one to go. Too many Christian parents downplay ministry. Too many Christian parents aren’t willing for their children to go into ministry. Whether it is a concern or fear for material wealth, “full-time ministry doesn’t pay” or concern for safety in foreign fields. Christian parents should be getting their children into the work of the ministry early and need to learn to trust God. Christian parents need to worship God and not the idol of their children.

 

 

Paul and team continue on. As they go through these cities they are reporting on the decision concerning Gentile salvation from Jerusalem. Possibly carrying a copy of the letter with them to read to each church. As they visited these churches they strengthened the churches and saw that these churches were active, vibrant and continuing to grow. Things seem to be going well, seem to be going to plan.

 

 

Where to Go Now – 16:6-12

 

Though we are not told, I think it is safe to assume that Paul and the others made to Pisidian Antioch and ministered there as well. Here they have finished the preliminary portion of their journey to visit the churches in southern Galatia. Now they must decide where they are heading to next. It appears they wanted to head southwest. Why? Verse 6 tells us that the Holy Spirit had forbid them from ministering in the Province of Asia. From Pisidian Antioch they could have taken the road that leads to Colossae, Laodicea, then to the capital of Asia, Ephesus. These are large cities. Paul is probably thinking that these fields are ready for harvest. But somehow, we are not told the specifics, the Holy Spirit prevented them from going in that direction. Paul will get to Ephesus another day, Colossae and Laodicea will be evangelized later. Plan A is tabled.

 

 

Plan B, seems to have started out okay. Verse 7 starts with them having headed north towards Bithynia. Why go this way? In the dual-province of Bithynia and Pontus they could go to other major cities such as Nicomedia (the Roman capital in Bithynia), Nicaea, and the city Byzantium (later called Constantinople). At this point they are probably in one of two cities that border Mysia and Bithynia. However we are told the the Spirit stops them again and does not allow them to head north. Scripture does not tell us if Paul ever makes it north, but we know that Peter writes his first letter to disciples that are spread out in the northern portion of Asia Minor including Bithynia and Pontus. Plan B is tabled.

 

 

Was there a Plan C? I don’t know. The group may have discussed their travel plans to determine where they should head. I wonder if they were getting discouraged or confused about this journey. Where to go to next. They make it the city of Troas. Troas is a major seaport for the northwest of Asia Minor on the west coast as it had a man made harbor. It is located about 10 miles south of the ancient city of Troy. Troas was made a Roman Colony by Augustus. They can go no further west unless they enter Greece. Greece is what the Lord wants for them. Paul is given a vision or a dream one night. In that dream, a man from Macedonia is pleading with Paul saying, “Cross over to Macedonia and help us!” Macedonia is the northern portion of Greece.

 

 

The next morning Paul discussed this vision with Silas, Timothy, and Luke. Verse 10 is the first of the “we” passages. The writing changes from third person to first person from here until verse 17. There is debate over when Luke joined the team. Some think he was in Antioch since the beginning, others think he was an itinerant doctor that went back and forth between Troas and Philippi and joined Paul here in Troas. We don’t know for sure. What’s important at this point is that the team discussed Paul’s vision and decided that the Lord was intending them to go to Macedonia and evangelize there. The set sail from Troas and stop at the island on Samothrace for the night and then set sail for the port of Neapolis. It is assumed they had favorable winds for this two day journey, as in 20:5-6 we see it took five days for a return trip. Neapolis was the major port for Macedonia and served Philippi which was about 9 miles further inland. Philippi and Neapolis were connected on the famous Roman highway, the Egnatian Way which connected the Adriatic in the west to the city Byzantium in the east. Paul and the others were heading to Philippi. Philippi, we are told was a Roman Colony and an important city in the Macedonian province. They stayed in Philippi for several days.

Conclusion:

“[There is a story] of an old Scottish woman who went from home to home across the countryside selling thread, buttons, and shoestrings. When she came to an unmarked crossroad, she would toss a stick into the air and go in the direction the stick pointed when it landed. One day, however, she was seen tossing the stick up several times. ‘Why do you toss the stick more than once?’ someone asked. ‘Because,’ replied the woman, ‘it keeps pointing to the left, and I want to take the road on the right.’ She then dutifully kept throwing the stick into the air until it pointed the way she wanted to go!” Today in the Word, May, 1989. (http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/w/will_of_God.htm 3/29/19)

What if Paul did as that Scottish woman in the story did? What if Paul went the way he wanted to go or planned to go instead of heeding to the will of the Lord? This section shows that we as Christians must be sensitive to the Lord’s leading. We must be in prayer constantly as well as in the Scriptures on a regular basis. We must also have a willing and humble spirit before the Lord. If we know that the Lord wants us to do something, we need to do that.  Sometimes it may even seem strange or disappointing. Paul and Barnabas took different paths in the beginning of our passage. I’m not going to say who was right or wrong, but we should note that God used that division to further the gospel in with two ministries instead of one. It seemed like Paul had plans to get to large and important cities where the gospel could spread, but God took to another direction. Paul gets to major cities in Greece instead of Asia Minor, and will later in this journey be able to proclaim the gospel in Athens.

What plans do you have that God seems to be blocking? What plans does God have for you? What plans does God have for us here in this church?