Acts 16:6-10 God's Divine Strategy Introduction
Welcome to our Bible Study. We are studying spiritual applications from Acts. My topic today is God's Divine Strategy. Throughout the Book of Acts, the Spirit of God is portrayed as actively leading God's people. The apostles, for example, were led by the Spirit in dramatic and dynamic ways. There was a human side to the planning, planting, and development of the early church, but the leading of the Spirit was decisive for them. My text is Acts 16:6-10.
One, Paul and Silas were forbidden by the Spirit to speak the Word in Asia.
Paul and Silas were traveling westward through territory known in the Bible as Asia. The places they visited are now in the country of modern Turkey. In verse 6, Luke says, "They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia." Here, we see the Holy Spirit at work in changing the plans of Paul and Silas.
When Luke says that the Spirit had forbidden Paul to speak the Word in Asia, he implies that Paul wanted to do so. No doubt, at some point, Paul had made his desire known to his missionary team. Although Luke does not mention Ephesus, the chief city of Asia, it seems likely that Paul wanted to proclaim the gospel there. Ephesus was a great commercial, religious, and cultural center. However, the Holy Spirit postponed Paul's preaching there. In God's time he went to Ephesus for ministry. He went there near the end of his (Acts 18:19-21) second missionary journey and returned on his third journey.
Two, the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them to go to Bithynia.
After Paul and Silas arrived in Mysia, in the northwest of modern Turkey, they wanted to turn north into the northern province of Bithynia. Apparently, they had a strategy they wanted to implement. The northern part of Bithynia was on the southern coast of the Black Sea. A key city in this northern province was Nicea. This would be a great place to take the gospel.
Now, for a second time, the Holy Spirit intervened. The "Spirit of Jesus" did not permit the missionary team to go to Bithynia. This was an historic moment in the history of the church. The Spirit turned the attention of Paul and his team to Europe instead of to Bithynia. Throughout the Book of Acts, the pivotal moments are described as coming from the Spirit. God's strategy for world evangelism was Europe before Asia.
The title "Spirit of Jesus" is used for the Holy Spirit. This is the only time this title is used in the Bible. However, we have the "Spirit of Christ" in Romans 8:9, the "Spirit of Jesus Christ" in Philippians 1:19, and the "Spirit of His Son" in Galatians 4:6. All four titles express the close relationship there is between Christ and the Spirit. Christ and the Spirit are One and yet different; they are different, yet one.
Three, Bithynia would be reached in God's time.
Within fifteen years, Peter took the gospel to that area, according to the salutation of his first epistle (I Pet. 1:1). By the beginning of the next century, Christianity was flourishing there, as we discover in a fascinating letter from Pliny, the Roman governor of Bithynia, to the Emperor Trajan. Pliny, who was not a Christian, described the worship services of the Christians in his province and their oath to abstain from all criminal acts and breaches of trust, and how their "contagious superstition" only spread further as he sought to bring individuals to trial. Nicaea became the birthplace of the Nicene Creed. The original version was adopted at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D.
When the Holy Spirit leads, we know we are acting in God's time and with His purpose. Very often, we may wish to do very good things, but it is not God's time. He alone is the master of all things. He alone knows when to act. He alone knows the circumstances that prevail at any given time. Because of this, we can have full confidence in the guidance of the Spirit.
Four, through a vision, the man from Macedonia calls Paul to Macedonia.
God speaks to us and leads in a variety of ways. Sometimes God reveals His will through a vision. God spoke to Ananias (Acts 9:10-12) in a vision about Paul and his ministry. The Lord spoke to Cornelius (Acts 10:3) and Peter (Acts 10:17-19 and 11:5) in visions. These visions led to the breakthrough of the gospel among the Gentiles.
At Troas, on the northwestern coast of modern Turkey, the Lord spoke to Paul through a vision (verse9). In the vision a man from Macedonia was standing and appealing to Paul to come to Macedonia. This was a powerful and persuasive way for Paul to be called. God not only prevented Paul from preaching in Asia and going to Bithynia, but also gave them positive direction on what to do. He called them to Macedonia, which is a part of Europe.
The missionary team did not hesitate to respond to the call. Luke (verse 10) says, "immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them." Luke says "we" sought and thereby includes himself. This is the first of his "we" passages. Apparently, Luke joined Paul's team at Troas.
What a striking story! Twice in this short story, Paul and his team were supernaturally led by the Spirit. Then, Paul had his vision of the man from Macedonia. All this kept Paul in harmony with God's plan to keep going through Asia and on to Europe. We can sum all this up with one of my favorite Bible verses, Proverbs 16:9. It says, "The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps." As we commit ourselves to the Lord, we know that He will lead us day by day. God's strategy will prevail.
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