“The Church exists by mission as a fire exists by burning.” – Emil Brunner
The work we see occur in Paul’s second missionary journey helps us to understand the priority that God places on the church’s work in the world. In Acts 16:6-15, we call draw out four key ideas that help us to engage in God’s mission for the world today.
1. God’s Beautiful Call
6 They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia and were prevented by the Holy Spirit from speaking the message in Asia. 7 When they came to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, bypassing Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 During the night a vision appeared to Paul: A Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him, “Cross over to Macedonia and help us!”
The church was at a literal crossroads. In the preceding passages, the leadership of the early church came to understand how Gentiles would be included into the faith. Now, Paul and his band of missionaries were searching for the next place to take the gospel. The Holy Spirit prevented them from several cities because it was God’s desire for them to go to Macedonia. In the night, Paul had the vision of a Macedonian man saying, “Cross over to Macedonia and help us!” It reveals the personal nature of the call to mission work. It is personal to God because He personally completed the work of salvation through the incarnation.
It should be personal to us because we are not dealing in abstractions and theories. Our work is not to shift politics or codes of law. We are personally called to take the gospel to the people in our city and world. After all, someone heard the call of God and brought the gospel to you. Now, we need to identify to who God is calling us to be on mission for the gospel.
2. Our Immediate Response
10 After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to evangelize them. 11 Then, setting sail from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, the next day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, a Roman colony, which is a leading city of that district of Macedonia. We stayed in that city for a number of days. 13 On the Sabbath day we went outside the city gate by the river, where we thought there was a place of prayer. We sat down and spoke to the women gathered there.
The response of those early believers to God’s call was simply: Yes. It was not an easy journey but a necessary one. From Troas to Samothrace, it was a 70-mile boat ride. From Samothrace to Neapolis, it was another 70-mile boat ride. Then, after landing in Neapolis, it was a 10-mile walk to Philippi. Knowing the difficult journey ahead, they still said yes immediately. Why? Because delayed obedience is disobedience. Paul knew that the mission of God is something to embrace; never something to fear.
So why do we delay sometimes? It is because we waffle between the mission of God and the “mission of me.” It is time to assess your life and determine for what mission are you living. God’s mission requires the determination that telling people about Jesus outranks everything else in your life. It is the realization that the you life you have right now serves the mission that God has for you next.
3. Everyone’s Normal Need.
10 After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to evangelize them.
To meet Jesus and be transformed by Him is the most basic need for everyone in the world. People often think that religion in general is about good ethics. It is the wrong attitude. We do not have a morality problem. We have a death problem that is caused by sin. So, as Paul’s company concluded, going over to help meant to evangelize the Macedonians. The normal need of everyone is to hear the gospel and be persuaded to trust Christ for salvation. Along the way, the church will meet physical and emotional needs of people. But that is all in service of introducing them to their greatest need and God’s great salvation. So, for the people that are in close proximity of your life, prioritize the work of the gospel in them.
4. God’s Great Work
14 A woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God, was listening. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was spoken by Paul. 15 After she and her household were baptized, she urged us, “If you consider me a believer in the Lord, come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
The missionaries found a group who were praying by the river. Knowing Paul as we do from the rest of Acts and his letters to the church, we can assume that he went there with the purpose of sharing the gospel. God opened the hearts of specifically Lydia but others as well to receive the gospel’s message.
We need to have Paul-like faith that the Holy Spirit is plowing up the soil of hearts to receive the seed of the gospel message. As we seek the spiritually curious people in our world, speak the truth to them and trust the Lord to do His great work in their lives.