Acts 16: 6 – 10 Paul’s vision of the man of Macedonia
Paul and his companions travelled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing up and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them
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The first thing I noticed about this passage was the change in status of the author of “Acts” (presumed to be St Luke). This is shown by the change in pronoun, from “they” to “we”.
“So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.”
“we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia.”
Somewhere between Mysia and Troas, Luke has become an eye-witness of Paul’s ministry, and this increases the credibility of what he writes.
The second thing I noticed was that Paul and his companions had been “kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia,” and “they tried to enter Bithynia, but the spirit of Jesus would not allow them to”.
How did they know this?
There are several ways in which the Holy Spirit communicates. There is prophecy, when somebody speaks words directly given by the Holy Spirit. There is the ‘still, small voice’ that Elijah heard (1 Kings 19: 11 – 13). And sometimes a coincidence of events convinces.
Let me tell you a true story.
I used to be the organist at my parish church. One day, as I was walking down to practice music for Sunday, I was praying, “I really want to do something for you, Lord.” I’m not sure why I prayed that, but that’s what I said.
I went round to the vestry door, for which I had a key. I put the key into the lock, but it wouldn’t turn. I tried repeatedly, because I didn’t have a key to the main door. ‘Bother! Somebody must have dropped the latch. Why on earth would they do that?’ I’d never found that door locked before.
Although I didn’t have a key to the main door, I walked round there anyway – sometimes it wasn’t locked. I walked into the porch and almost tripped over a rough sleeper. Ah! The light dawned. This was the answer to my prayer. With the help of another member of the congregation we settled him in a folding bed in the church hall, fed him, listened to him, and the next day I took him back to where his parents lived.
I checked the lock on the vestry door as soon as I could. It wasn’t locked, and now my key worked perfectly…
So the Holy Spirit sometimes answers prayers with action.
And that’s what Luke may mean here, when he says that they were “kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia,” and “they tried to enter Bithynia, but the spirit of Jesus would not allow them to”.
And then, having been kept from following his own plans, Paul has a dream that he is to go to Macedonia to help them. He recognised the prompting of the Spirit, and it was supported by events. They had been prevented from preaching in Asia; they had been prevented from visiting Bithynia; the calling was to Macedonia.
They went to Macedonia!
Thank you for answering prayer. Thank you for guiding us by your Holy Spirit. Please help us to learn to listen more attentively, and with complete trust in your love.
In Jesus’ name, Amen