by Dennis Michelson
Introduction: What a strange text? Why would God forbid his ministers to preach the Word of God? The Church was on a veritable "roll" and the gospel was going forth in power. The preachers were chomping at the bit to preach in Asia - but God slammed the door! They then attempted to go to Bithynia but God shut the door again! What is going on?
1. The Prohibition (16:6-8)
They were clearly forbidden by the Holy Spirit to stay clear of certain places - at least for the time being. There have been many explanations offered for this unorthodox directive but it always comes back to the plan and purpose of a sovereign and all-wise God.
2. The Prayer (16:9)
The Macedonian man prays "Come over into Macedonia, and help us." God heard the prayer and is about to dispatch his best men to be a part of the answer.
3. The Promptness (16:10-12)
Notice the words "immediately" and "straight course." How do you respond when you hear a similar cry for help?
4. The Preparation (16:13-15)
A ladies' prayer group had been meeting on Saturday down by the river. What a coincidence! God had booked a special speaker for their next meeting.
5. The Possession (16:16-18)
The presence of obstacles and opposition is usually a good indicator that you have come to the right place. God wanted Lydia to hear the gospel. God wanted this demon-possessed woman to hear the gospel . . .and now on to the jailer. By the way, the only way to preach to the jailer is by getting booked into the jail. No problem for Paul and Silas, because of -
6. The Profit (16:19-24)
When the result of the gospel hits politicians and priests in the pocketbook, then the next point is inevitable -
7. The Prison (16:25-33)
Now we have a hardened jailer begging for the gospel and his entire household waiting in line to be baptized at night. When you follow the Lord you may not wind up where you want to be but you sure will find yourself where you need to be.
8. The Proposal (16:34-39)
Notice that Paul does not preach the gospel to this crowd but he did give them a quick refresher course in Roman juris prudence.
9. The Planting (16:40)
"When they had seen the brethren." This was the beginning of the church at Philippi. That's what God had in mind the whole time.
Note to preachers: You need to move through this one quickly. The main point - or Big Idea as Haddon Robinson called it - has to do with why God will lead you to some places and not to others. Preachers are like sub-contractors. They don't know the big picture but they learn to go where they are told to go.
Why would God send the Word to cities that He knew would reject it and not to the cities who would have received it had someone been sent? Christ preaches to Chorazin and Bethsaida which would not repent; and at the same time denies the Word to Tyre and Sidon which would have gotten the sackcloth and ashes (Matthew 11:21)?
Ezekiel is sent to them that would not hear him, passing by them that would have hearkened (Ezekiel 3:5)? Think about it. If the gospel were to go where we thought it should go then which one of us would have been the first to volunteer for the mission church at Corinth?
John Owen said it well, "If God send or grant the gospel, which is the means of grace, upon any other ground but His mere good pleasure, then it must be an act of remunerative justice."
Our proper response should be -
"O Father" Matthew 11:25-26
"O man" Romans 9:18-21
"O the depth" Romans 11:32-33
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