By Tyson Thorne

September 3, 2014

Philippi large

We find Paul, Silas and now Timothy setting out to continue this second missionary journey (Acts 16.6-.10). They set out from Lystra and traveled through Iconium and Pisidian-Antioch and continued west wanting to take the message of the Messiah to the Province of Asia. The Province of Asia is now mostly modern day Turkey and nowhere near the current continent of Asia (which is east of their present position). In doing so they ran into the first of two road blocks.

Luke is clear that while they traveled across the Province of Asia they were kept from speaking the gospel to the people, not by angry mobs or troublesome Jews dogging their footsteps but by the Holy Spirit. We do not know how the Spirit prevented them, or why. Perhaps there was a timing issue for the travelers, a divine appointment set for the missionaries in Macedonia that they would have missed if they had taken the time to establish churches across the Province of Asia.

Upon reaching the northern region of the province they entered the county of Mysia and wanted to travel north-east toward the region of Bithynia. Here the Spirit stopped them again and the team set up camp for the night. Once more, there is no information about how the team was stopped, only that it was God that prevented them from journeying away from Macedonia, which lay to the north-west.

There is a lesson in this for the modern Jesus-follower. Often Christians plan events in their life, they may even pray for God’s blessing, but should God close the door on those plans there is a tendency to camp out and continue to pray and ask for God’s blessing. Paul and Silas did no such thing, instead they kept moving! When the door to Asia closed they traveled toward Bithynia, and when the door to Bithynia closed they altered their plans yet again. The key to the Christian life is to never hold our own plans and desires as sacred. We must be willing to follow God’s lead, even if it doesn’t align with our own plans – no matter how noble and godly those plans might be.

During the night God provided clear direction for the team through a vision. There could be no mistaking where God wanted them to journey; he wanted them in Macedonia. When Paul came out of the vision they packed up camp immediately and hit the road toward Troas. From Troas they set sail across the Aegean Sea landing at the port of Neapolis and on to the city it served, Philippi. The city was a major hub much like Syrian-Antioch and lay on the eastern shore of modern day Greece.

Philippi was a wealthy town and well-fortified, laying between the sea to the east and Mount Orbelos to the west. There were several gold mines in the area and a mint for making currency. The city was run by Roman military and became a “miniature Rome”, complete with a theater where Roman games were held. There is no denying the significance of this city from approximately 150 years before Jesus up until sometime in the 1400’s when the city was abandoned for reasons lost to history.

Paul and Silas’ success in this city is well documented (in both Latin inscriptions found throughout the ruins of the city and by the early church father Polycarp) and the church grew in numbers through the fifth century AD. While we may not understand God’s timing of Paul’s arrival, it is clear that the people of that great city were ready to receive the message these men were so anxious to communicate.

Paul would visit this great city twice more and write a letter to them that is contained in the Scriptures as the book of Philippians. It is worth mentioning here that while God may shut the door on our plans if we are faithful to continue on we will eventually meet with the success God has purposed for our mission in this life.

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