From Galatia To Mysia To Troas: Part 2 of 3
by John Lowe
8 And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas.
The missionary group must have been thoroughly perplexed as they were led away from the cities of Bithynia through the wild backwoods country of Mysia over to the coast and down to Troas.4 To reach Troas, Paul would need to pass through Mysia; but he would be “passing by” it in the sense that he did not attempt to “speak the word” in it. Troas lay in the region associated with Troy, some 30 miles to the south of the ancient city. It had been founded in the fourth-century b.c. by Antigonus and from the start was primarily a port city. An artificial harbor constructed there provided the main sea access to Macedonia and was a significant harbor for sea traffic to and from the Dardanelles. Having been given the status of a colony city by Augustus, Troas was an impressive city with a sizable population and would itself have been a suitable candidate for a major mission.5
Silas and Timothy must have wondered what was going on. They had been prepared for tremendous bursts of activity, for mass meetings, wholesale conversions, bitter opposition, for stripes and imprisonment, for apostolic miracles, for breath-taking escapes. They had expected to see a trail of churches strung out behind them in Phrygia, Asia, Bithynia, and Mysia. But there was nothing. Was this Paul’s usual way of evangelizing? Surely there was more to it than this aimless drifting from place to place. Had Paul lost his nerve? They had expected almost anything but this uncertainty, this constant tramping the highways for hundreds of miles with nothing to show for it but Paul’s vetoing of every suggestion that they stop here and get to work. No doubt Paul, too, was greatly perplexed. And when he encountered the doubtful looks of his friends, it hurt his pride. “Have patience, friends,” he would say, “The Lord is leading us.” But he, too, must have had his doubts. However, it is comforting to know that even apostles were not always clear as to God’s will for their ministries!
Then they saw the sea. The road from Bithynia ran along the banks of a river and passed near great lakes. Rivers run to the sea, and perhaps now Paul had some inkling that the Holy Spirit was leading them out of Asia Minor altogether.
Troas was an important city with a crowded harbor and important sea links to Macedonia, Greece, and Europe. It was here that Paul finally halted. The others look to him expectantly. Of course! This was just the kind of strategic city they could expect Paul to evangelize. But still, he did nothing. He needed a direct word now from the Holy Spirit. It would come soon. He could afford to wait. The Holy Spirit, after all, was Lord of the harvest. Paul was only a worker, willing, but obliged, like everyone else, to take orders.
9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.
Paul wanted to expand his mission field by taking the gospel to Asia, but God had other plans and sent a vision to Paul, perhaps in a dream in the middle of the night. A man of Macedonia appeared to him begging him to come and witness to the Macedonians. This vision marks one of the most important turning points in history. It turned Paul westward into Europe and resulted in the evangelization of the West. Europe became, as a result, the great center of Christianity. If Paul had been directed eastward, back the way he had come and on to India and China, how different would have been the history of the world.
This vision of Paul’s is one of those interesting parallels the Holy Spirit introduces into the narrative to show the equality of Paul with Peter. Peter had a similar, critical vision, and his vision sent him to the Gentiles, to a European, to Cornelius the Roman, and it opened the door of the church to the world. Paul’s vision sent him into Europe, to the Greeks, and it opened the door of the world to the church. Peter’s vision was confirmed immediately afterward by the appearance of three men. Paul’s vision seems to have been confirmed by the presence of a man—Luke.
So that night, still very much in the dark about the mind of the Lord, Paul went to bed. And the darkness ended. Light dawned. A man from Macedonia appeared in a vision: “come over into Macedonia, and help us,” he said. It was such a call as would appeal to the very depths of Saul’s soul—to evangelize the Greek world. To preach in the cities of Alexander the Great and Philip of Macedon, to preach in the land of Plato and Aristotle and Pythagoras and Archimedes and Homer and Socrates. Why that was a mission field indeed! To preach to the Greeks, who had given the world culture, art, sport, democracy, oratory, ideas. To preach beneath the shadow of Mount Olympus, where the Greeks had created fallen gods in the magnified image of fallen man. What a mission field! Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Corinth, even Athens itself. This is Paul’s call to Macedonia. Paul could have received no greater call. Now Macedonia is across the Aegean Sea, over in Europe. Paul is in Asia. The gospel is going to cross from Asia into Europe. The Spirit of God is moving him in that direction.
Scholars have often speculated about whether the person in the vision might be defined more closely. One suggestion is that he may have been Luke himself, that possibly Paul had needed a physician’s aid and consulted him in Troas. This is based on the fact that the “we” narrative first occurs in verse 10, indicating Luke’s presence. It is a fascinating view, but ancient tradition connects Luke with Antioch, not Macedonia, and the Philippian narrative contains not the slightest inkling that he was on home territory. Somewhat more fanciful is the view that the man in the vision was that most famous of Macedonians, Alexander the Great. Alexander had a vision of “one world”; Paul would make it a reality through the gospel. Luke gave us no basis for such speculations. The identity of the man as a Macedonian was all that counted.
I do not know why Paul was not moved east to China. All I know is that the Spirit of God moved him west to Europe. I thank God that this is the direction he went. At that particular time my ancestors, from one side of the family, were roaming in the forests of Ireland. They were pagan and they were evil, worshiping all kinds of idols. They were a low, heathen people. I am told they were the dirtiest, filthiest savages that have ever been on the top side of this earth. I thank God the gospel went to Europe to reach my people over there.
Now maybe you are smiling, thinking that your ancestors were very superior to mine. Well, you can wipe that smile off your face because your ancestors probably were living in the cave right next door to mine! They were just as dirty and just as filthy as mine were. Thank God the gospel crossed over into Europe. This was a great and significant crossing.