27 May 2017Acts 16:1-15
“During the night Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’” (v. 9)
Psalm: Psalm 13
This passage in Acts is very interesting, both in its own right and for the light it sheds on the early mission strategy of Paul and his colleagues. First of all, there is Timothy, a young man who joins Paul and Silas. Timothy was the child of a mixed marriage - a Jewish mother and a Greek father. Clearly, this was no problem for Paul, but interestingly he urged circumcision on Timothy (verse 3) so that he would be readily acceptable to Jews as well as Gentiles. This was succession planning - Paul was probably looking to Timothy to take over his work.
Then the doors seemed shut to Paul to go further in Asia - he explains it by saying that he was "forbidden by the Holy Spirit" (v. 6). It is difficult to know what was actually happening. Some commentators believe that Paul's ill-health was the constraining factor and that Paul saw his own weakness as a message from God. Then after seeing a vision of a person calling him over to Macedonia, Paul moved immediately from east to west and responded to the call.
In Macedonia Paul and his companions travelled to Philippi, a Roman colony settled by military veterans. There was no synagogue there, just a meeting place for Jews down by the river. From that small group, Paul reached out to a wide cross-section of the population including Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth - a very expensive commodity, indicating that she was probably a very wealthy woman. She offered Paul and his companions, hospitality.
- Paul clearly has a plan to train up the next generation of missionaries to carry his work on after him. How pro-active are we in trying to ensure succession planning? If it is not easy to find 'the next generation' - what strategies might we use?
- "Come over to Macedonia!" was the call that Paul heeded. Many subsequent missionaries have had that same experience of being called to come to a group of people or a particular place. Are there Macedonian calls within our own country that we are not heeding? And what might they be?