Then they went from town to town, instructing the believers to follow the decisions made by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in their faith and grew larger every day.Acts 16:4-5
In the last Gem I left you something to ponder related to what Luke wrote in verses 4 and 5.
- What are we to assume from the above comment?
- Is it that Paul and Silas spent more time in and around Derbe and Lystra ministering in other towns not mentioned or is something else going on here?
- Does Luke mean by this statement that there were other towns they went to apart from Derbe and Lystra?
Well in fact in the area was also the town of Iconium which lay to the north between Derbe and Lystra. But Luke is not meaning that. This is the typical way that Luke closes a section, especially with the statement, “So the churches were strengthened in their faith and grew larger every day.” This is a formula Luke uses to summarise a period of activity where God has been at work through the apostles, strengthening the believers and growing the church. I drew attention to this feature in Gem 1531 – The End of the Segment and the Switch Back to Peter.
Luke is not simply telling us they went to other towns, he is closing this phase of activity. This is a significant section break. From this point on the direction of the spread of the Gospel is going to undergo a major shift. Note the difference about this closing segment which makes it unlike any other Luke given us. Luke has combined his normal section break with another element. Note carefully the verse before the typical closing statement. “Then they went from town to town, instructing the believers to follow the decisions made by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem.”
They handed over or passed on the oral tradition that had just been passed down by the apostles and leaders at the Jerusalem Council. The decision in this case is a binding judgement made to be observed. The force or the weight of the decision made by the Council in Jerusalem is going to be the benchmark now for ministry to all peoples in all places they go. [Ta kekrimena] is a forceful statement. The verb matches the verb in Acts 15:19 where James says “And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.“ This perfect passive participle is emphasising the permanence of the decisions made by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. This now is the new way of operating. Not only do Paul and Silas take the Gospel to these towns they also make the modus operandi clear. This is the last time the decision made by the Council of Jerusalem is mentioned. Luke doesn’t return to it anymore. It is done and dusted but its effect will be ongoing until this “this gospel of the kingdom goes out to all the world and then the end will come”. This change has now been instigated.
Now we come to a new section:
A Change of Direction Through a Vision in the Night
Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas. That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.Acts 16:6-10
Take time to ponder this passage before we dissect it in the next Gem. Take note of all the places mentioned in order to gain a good handle on what happened here. Now is the time to take out your atlas and examine the text above in the light of the geography of the area. We are coming to a significant turning point in the story Luke is unfolding for us. Make sure you are awake and you don’t get off the bus too long at the next bathroom break.
After hearing a significant statement, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.Ian Vail
Disciple means “learner,” not just follower. You can follow and never apply your heart to learning.A R Bernard
Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. Tip toe if you must but take the step.Anon
The only thing that stands between you and what you want, is YOU and what you don’t want to do!Rick Godwin
Some people drink from the fountain of knowledge, others just gargle.Robert Anthony