Coney Hill Baptist Church

Demonstrating God’s Love Together

Across Boundaries

Acts 16:6-15

Intro:

This passage represents a key geographical switch, sometimes complicated by the different terms, geographical and political, Roman and Greek,, where Paul crosses into not only, in modern terms, a different continent, but into a systematic engagement with 3 great new Roman provinces, Asia, Achaia and Macedonia. 

These provinces, East, West and North of the Aegean Sea, and their respective capitals, Ephesus, Corinth and Thessalonica, would form the heart of the Christian missionary expansion of the early centuries, as centres of culture, commerce and thinking.  These verses tell of how these places were first visited and record the initial contact in the 2nd city of Macedonia, a key Roman garrison city, Philippi. 

Beyond that they are perhaps some of the best known verses in the whole of the Bible, dealing with a question that has challenged and perplexed every generation of Christians; How does God guide?  A few years ago I read of a poll of Christians, asking them which question about their faith they most wanted an answer too, two responses dominated all others; how to cope with suffering and how to hear God’s voice.    .

I want to look at this passage then to see if we can discern some lessons on this issue of guidance, keys for seeking God’s way...

 

Don’t Stand Still...

Paul didn’t wait for instructions but tried every opportunity and found some doors open and others close.  Similarly, he didn’t wait to have his entire itinerary sorted, with every hotel booked and sailing confirmed, before he left Antioch. Guidance for him was never an excuse for inaction, it was an active, never a passive process.

 

 

Where is the most need...

Most often for Paul, as we’ve said, he seemed to be called into pioneering situations, to go where no-one had gone before.  More generally perhaps it might be said he went where he was most needed.  That’s a good principle, where can you do most good?

 

 

Be Alert, in prayer and the Spirit...

We don’t know exactly how Paul was prevented from going to Asia or Bithynia, or exactly in what form this vision for Macedonia came, but we do know that Paul was attentive to what God was saying to him, however it came.  He was prayerful, no doubt, deliberately setting aside time to be with God, but also conscious of his life being a spiritual adventure and to be attune to that prompting of God’s Spirit, however it came.

 

Don’t be held back by yr prejudices...

The other great boundary crossed in this passage was a boundary of gender.  That the first convert in Europe was a woman, and one from a group of women who were met and spoken to, is significant. It’s ironic too that she came from a place from which Paul had just come – he was prevented from going into Asia, only to meet an Asian women in Macedonia! Often we can be blind to how God is calling because of our preconceived ideas and opinions.

 

Conc.

This passage then, like many others in these sections of Acts combine strategic direction and personal anecdote, Paul was called to a new significant place.  But it was his encounter with a surprising, specific individual that was also key.  Lydia’s household, that baptismal service, became a bridgehead for a faith that crossed borders, of all sorts, and challenged people, in every sense ... and still does.