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
This is a remarkable paragraph which requires a lot of investigation as to what is going on here. This passage is called the Macedonian Call by Bible scholars and missiologists alike. From a plain reading of the text before us we have to conclude that Paul and Silas planned to head to Asia. But they were stopped by Holy Spirit who sent them toward Europe. And all the Asians among my readers must be asking, “Why?” Why were they not allowed to come to Asia first?
- “That would have meant we would have been the missionary force for world evangelism and not the Europeans.”
- “Was it really the Holy Spirit who called Paul to Europe? Perhaps it was just indigestion in the night or a mild case of food poisoning and he imagined all this.”
- “Did the direction of world evangelism really hang on a vision Paul had one night?”
- “I think those visions that people get in the night are suspect.”
- “So much of Christianity, in thought, evangelism, teaching and its western foundations seems to be a result of the influence of Paul the Apostle. Wasn’t he suspect Ian?”
- The latter series of questions related to questioning the dependability of Paul have been put to me a number of times over the years.
- Can we trust it? It is all seems so flaky if it is dependent on visions and subjective feelings.
This passage truly was pivotal to the macro directions of history. It was indeed a major turning point. It set the course for Christian History. It’s expansion. It’s form and it European foundations. How did it all come about? Perhaps a more telling question is, Was God really behind it?
So the first thing to do is to take a careful look at the geography of what is described to us in this short paragraph. Take the time to understand it well. For that you will need a good atlas. Two of you have written to me asking which atlas to use, saying you don’t have a good atlas, only what is in the back of your Bible. Yes, that is a good point. Don’t just rely on the maps in the back of your Bible. Those maps don’t constitute an atlas as such. You need more than just the few maps in the back of some Bibles. Nothing can substitute for a good Bible atlas except a number of good Bible atlases. I have been asked twice in the last couple of weeks which Bible atlas I use? The truth is I have nine Bible Atlases. Being a geographer at heart I admit I want more. There are a number of good Bible atlases on the market now. A number of them contain maps the others don’t, so I have bought them all. Those added to the three I had to begin with.
In answer to the plea of Peter, not the apostle, but a modern day potential apostle, I have included a good map of the current area of Paul’s world, focused around the Macedonian call. Take some time to look at it and see what you can gain from a good knowledge of the area we are talking about. Above all the relation of one place to another. Take time to follow the journey on the map and take in the big picture.
Take time to ask your questions too. Often asking and seeking the answer to a niggling question that is bugging you will be the key to unlocking your understanding over what is troubling you. Feel free to share your questions over this short passage and let’s see what unfolds as a result. I like readers’ questions because some of you come up with questions that have never occurred to me. The classic one was a question by Pak Surjadi in Jakarta which opened up an immense revelation to me concerning a discrepancy in Scripture I had never noticed. But it had been a twenty-year-annoying-problem he had sought an answer for but had never been satisfied with the answers given to him. So bring on your questions. I welcome them; you might be the catalyst to a new rich discovery for me.
Take time now to do just that.
Don’t look up, look down; you’re seated with him in heavenly places.Ian Vail
Anything I’ve ever done that was ultimately worthwhile initially scared me to death.Anon
If you want to be pushed to your limits, you have to train to your limits.A Navy SEAL
When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.Viktor Frankl (Holocaust survivor)
There are no egos in a cockpit. If you see something that doesn’t make sense, speak up. It’s not your right to challenge me, it’s your obligation!Anon
A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.John Steinbeck
It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.Anon