"Come over to Macedonia and help us."
Act 15:36 - 16:40
During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us."
In last week's passage, a serious issue arose that threatened church unity. Some Christians who were Pharisee strongly believed that the Gentiles had to be circumcised and keep all the law of Moses before they could become Christian. Paul and Barnabas sharply disputed with them. Both sides thought they were right, but only one side could be right. Either we are saved by the grace of Jesus, or we are saved by something that we do. It is not possible to mix these and be half saved by grace and half by our effort. What does it mean for a man to be half saved? So someone was wrong. Because so many Jewish believers insisted on the circumcision, church unity was threatened. The Jerusalem leadership did not impose its idea, but listened, and then explained clearly from the work of God and from the Bible, how it was that God had called from the Gentiles a people for himself, making no distinction between the circumcised and the uncircumcised. When God's word and work were explained clearly, the people accepted that God seeks those of a circumcised heart, and purifies their hearts by faith. And they made a confession of faith, "we believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."
Thus the truth of the gospel was preserved and church unity was maintained. Now today's passage begins with Paul and Barnabas themselves in sharp disagreement and parting company. What is going on? But we also find how God used this to raise up new leaders like Mark, Silas and Timothy. Especially we will find how God has a great world mission strategy through the vision of the man of Macedonia.
Part 1 The members of the second mission journeys (Ac 15:36 - 16:5)
Look at verse 36. Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing." We notice their concern for the young churches they had planted. Their own lives were comfortable in Antioch. But the young brothers in these cities were suffering. The last time Paul and Barnabas were in these cities, they were fortunate to escape with their lives! There were persecutions and plots and Paul was one time stoned and left for dead. But they wanted to go back, because of their world mission vision and their Christian compassion. They wanted to see how they were doing: verse 36, "Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing." These brothers were on their minds and in their hearts and in their prayers, now they wanted to visit them. In this way, they were like the small chapters that we have recently sent out to Tennessee and Purdue. How are they are doing? We can pray and we can visit. When some of us visited the Tennessee ministry over Spring Break, Missionary Christine was so encouraged she was in tears.
In their concern for the young churches, Paul and Barnabas were of one mind. But as they made preparations, it was soon clear that they had very different ideas about how to proceed and what the objective was. Verses 37 and 38 tell us "Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work." Barnabas said, "You know who we should bring? Mark!" But Paul winced at the name. "Mark? Are you out of your mind? He deserted us last time right when the going got tough. We cannot risk
him running to his mommy when we need him most. No way!" But Barnabas replied, "Where is your compassion? He deserves another chance! This mission trip will really help him to grow and overcome his sense of failure about last time." In the end, they could not reach any agreement and had to part company. Some people see in this event anger and the splitting of the church, but I think this is from our imagination and not the passage. I doubt very much that they said angry words like, "Fine! then go and good riddance!" No I think they sent each other off with prayer and commended each other to the grace of the Lord. They were full of tears because they were a fruitful team, and now they could not stay together, physically, though their hearts would always be together. They did not part because of anger but because of Mark. It was simply not physically possible to both take Mark and not to take him at the same time. God was calling Barnabas to shepherd and train Mark. And God was calling Paul to a difficult mission that would entail severe floggings which Mark was surely not ready for. In other words they were both right. Paul was looking at the wide-world and wanted to get the gospel out there as fast as possible. But Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement, was looking at how to raise up one leader. Both men were following God's calling for them. Through Paul, God would bring the gospel to Europe. And without Barnabas' influence, Mark would not have grown into the dependable man that even Paul later commended in 2Tim3:11. Moreover, without Barnabas' encouragement there might not be the gospel of Mark today. So who can say that either one was wrong? But they had different callings from God, and the church was big enough in its love to accept them both.
We see that God uses people individually and with a personal calling. We should not expect everyone to think like us. It would seem from this passage that occasionally, Christians may disagree -- even mature leaders. Sometimes, in a disagreement, one side is wrong, such as the circumcision group in the last passage. But sometimes it is unclear, or even both are right, such as Barnabas and Paul. As we would like others to recognize our calling, we must also have a broad mind to accept others who do things differently. For instance, other ministries. But also each other. When I have gone campus witnessing with
many of you over the years, I see that everyone has their own style of evangelism. Some of them, I would never do and can't see how they would work. But God uses each one according to their own talents. Wisdom is proved right by all her children. There may also be theological differences, and many things that can divide us, even in Bible Study. Our Monday Bible Study is sometimes heated and full of passionate debate. But at the end of debate, we need to preserve unity. Either by agreeing or agreeing to disagree.
When Barnabas left to Cyprus, Paul did not then go on his own to Turkey, but assembled a new journey team. He did not do the work of God on his own, but needed both a home-team, the Antioch church, and a journey team. Paul was not a one man show, and neither should we be. Paul chose Silas and was sent off with the prayers of the Antioch church. They traveled through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches, and finally came to Lystra and Derba, cities he had visited on his first journey. There, a young man named Timothy caught his eye. His mother was a Jewess and a believer, but his father was a Greek, and the brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Paul saw this young man as good leadership material and took him under his wing as though he were the son he never had.
Sometime later, after picking up Timothy, the journey team appears to have next picked up Luke, because the pronoun "we" appears in verse 11. Thus Paul and Barnabas divided the cities from their first journey. Barnabas's 2nd Journey team consisted of him and Mark, and they revisited the cities of Cyprus from their first journey, where there had been less persecution. And Paul's 2nd Journey team consisted of himself, Silas, Timothy and later Luke. He revisited all the other cities that they had been to; these were in Modern-day Turkey.
Part 2. The vision of the man of Macedonia (16:6-10)
After having visited the cities from the first journey, where should they go? Maybe they should go back to Antioch. But Paul refused to retreat, he wanted to pioneer new ground for Christ and preach him where he had not yet been heard. All the world was before him. It was just a question which way to turn. So he tried turning to the left into Province of Asia. This is not to say China, but the rather the region of Asia minor where you can find such cities as Ephesus. But v6 tells us that the Holy Spirit kept them from preaching the word in the province of Asia. We do not know how this happened, perhaps he could not preach with the Spirit. In any case, when the way to the left was blocked, he next tried turning to the right into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So what to do? Maybe they had better go back after all. But Paul continued to push forward, throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, until they ran out of land. If you do go straight without turning, eventually you will run into the sea. So they arrived in the Port of Troas, with seemingly no where further to go.
Here we see that even Paul did not always know where God wanted him to go. They was no question if he was to go, but only where. So also, there is no question of whether God wants each Christian to be active in preaching. The only question is how and where. Paul thought he knew, he tried Asia, maybe planning to go to Ephesus. But it was not God's time. Later he would go to Ephesus, but not yet. We also may have a plan. In 2000, we thought of our 10 year vision. This is good. However, our plan may be changed, according to God's greater plan. We can remember how discouraged Missionary Jenifer was when she did not get into medical school. How could God allow this, when she was sure that she was called to be a doctor missionary? But God was closing doors to lead her in his way, instead opening the door to Grenada. It was her vision of a student of Grenada, "Come over to Grenada and help us!" Now she has 3 Bible Students there.
Now let's look at Paul's vision of the man of Macedonia. Lets read verse 9 and 10 together. "During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us.' After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them."
Note the content of the vision. Paul saw a Macedonian man begging for help. This was a vision of faith, because, few people in Macedonia welcomed Paul or though they needed Jesus. But by faith, there were some. In this way, Macedonia is the American campus. When you go to campus, no one approaches you begging, please teach me the Bible. No, they seem cold and confident. But we can have vision to see them as the Man of Macedonia. To be sure there are many Macedonian men on campus. Men crying out, somebody help me! But they are so helpless that they do not even know how to get help. We know there are such men because we were such men. I was full of fatalism and looking for meaning. But I took no initiative to help myself, rather I had to be stopped and asked to study the Bible, and patiently endured for 2 years even to accept one thing.
America needs a Godly vision to go over to Macedonia help them. There are people today who want to provide human help to comfort the suffering. Others want to provide military help, which is usually not really helpful. But who will help those poor in spirit with the words of life. There are very few with such a vision. May God renew Americas vision to be a city on a hill and a kingdom of Priests for the world. May this start with us and our own vision for your work!
When William Kerry read the Bible, he became convinced that God was calling all men to world mission in some fashion. But in his day, no one gave a thought about helping the lost. Shouldn't we help them? Unable to change their minds, he could at least respond to the Macedonian call. He went to India as the first Missionary and inspired others by his example. He became known as the father of modern missions. There are so many examples of men and women who have heard the Macedonian call. The call is urgent. When Missionaries went to the Pacific islands, they were asked how long they had known this good news before anyone came to tell them, and the Missionaries were ashamed to say 2,000 years! Why had it taken so long? Who will hear the Macedonian call? One was Mother Barry, who heard the call to help war-torn Korea. Not with food, but with the gospel of salvation. Others are the many missionaries among us. When Abraham Lee was graduating with his law degree, his father, Missionary Jacob, expected him to get a law job and pay off his bills. Instead, he shocked us all by sharing that he had heard the call of a man of China, "Come over to China and help us!" We could not understand, but God was calling him.
We need to recognize when and to where God is calling us too. Paul never had any intention to go to Europe. He tried every other direction. But God had a special plan to use Europe as the center for early Christianity. Paul recognized that God had closed the doors to Asia and Bythnia and opened the door to Europe. So verse 10 says, we got ready at once, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. We need insight to recognize when God is closing doors and when he is opening them. Some men have their heart set on something behind a locked door. If God locks the door, you will never get it,
and if he locks the door, you can be sure that he has something better for you. So look for the open door. In Washington UBF, the ministry began in George Washington University, but it was like a closed door. Eventually, the coworkers realized that they were being called to College Park, and now also to GMU. In regards to World mission, we know that the door to China is wide open. Literally, Missionary Abraham Lee is calling out, "come to China and help us! We need more workers!" After graduating Augustine Park heard this call to China and will go there for the summer. Mary Jagun also heard the call, but we must pray for the door to be open by God's will, by her receiving a greencard to go.
We also hear that the door to North Korea is cracking open. And where as the door to the Muslim world seems tightly shut, we have that the backdoor of Kazakhstan is wide open! Can you hear the man of Kazakhstan calling come over to Kazakhstan and help us! How about the Man of China, come over to China and help us? There is also the man of Peru, come over to Peru and help us! I should graduate soon, if you pray for me. When I graduate, where should I go? I have signed the YDJ pledge to do overseas mission for one year. But I have not heard a Macedonian call. Missionary Allison, however, insists I am called to go to North Korea. Like Paul, I would have expected to go anywhere else but there. But if it turns out to be God's call, I must be ready to go at once, as Paul changed his plan and left at once.
Part 3 In Philippi
Paul and his companions went to the leading city of Macedonia, Philippi. The situation in Philippi did not seam to match the vision. No one approached him begging for help. There was not even a place of prayer in the city, so they went to the river to pray. There they met a few women, who may also have come there to pray. Paul had had a vision of a man of Macedonia, but here were only a few women. But he preached to them. Let's read verses 14-15. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. "If you consider me a believer in the Lord," she said, "come and stay at my house." And she persuaded us.
Lydia was a hardworking business woman, like Missionary Maria Park. She dealt in expensive fabric. Such a woman was exceptional in those days. But she was not proud. She opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. Then she opened her home, "Come stay at my house." This single woman did not look very significant in this large city. She was herself an immigrant from Turkey. But she was Paul's first convert in Europe. In her was the hope of all Europe to raise up holy women. Her house also became the first house church in Europe and a base of operations for the ministry. One woman's conversion was a great hope for the city and the continent. In the early days of College Park ministry, many leaders were raised, who were the foundation of the ministry. Among them one woman of faith, Winelle Gibson, grew and heard the call to mission in Germany. Another is Shepherdess Lynn Hollinger, whose house church in George Mason is raising up new Bible teachers like Alex and Roger.
The second house church in Philippi was a man of a very different background, a Roman jailor. His conversion was the result of a series of events, which began when Paul healed a slave girl with an evil spirit. This evil spirit appears to have been able to predict the future, whether it really could or not is another thing. Her healing was the compassionate work of God, but when her owners heard of it they were only angry, crying, "My money! Its gone!" So they had Paul and Silas arrested. Let's read verses 22-25. The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.
Can you picture these verse. They were beaten with no trial. V23 says they were severely flogged, and v33 mentions their wounds. They were covered with bleeding wounds, locked in a pitch dark dungeon, with their feet in the stocks. It was miserable. But they were not grumbling. Verse 25 says, “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” They were accepted 1Th 5:16-18, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances.” Even suffering in prison, they praised God and sang of his glory. It amazed the other prisoners who were listening and also the jailors. How could beaten men sing of God’s grace? Paul and Silas show that there is never a time when we cannot do God’s work. In prison, it looked like they could not do anything. But their prison ministry brought about the jailor’s conversion.
Next, what happened? God answered their prayer. “Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose.” It was their chance for a jailbreak! High-tail it out of there as quick as they could. But this was not God’s plan. If they had done so the jailor would have died. Instead, God used the earthquake to show the jailor his awesome power. When Paul shouted, "Don't harm yourself! We are all here!" The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--you and your household."
The jailor was moved by the power of God and their mercy to him. He fell before them trembling and asked, “what must I do to be saved!” Here was the Macedonian man of the vision, needing someone to help him. What must he do to be saved? The answer was simple, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.”
It was the establishment of the 2nd house church in Philippi. After Paul and Silas were triumphantly released, they went to Lydia's house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them. Then they left.
In this passage, we find Paul’s second mission journey as a model for world missions. First he did not stay comfortably in Antioch but went out. Second, he raised up new leaders like Timothy. Third he established a few people of faith in Philippi. The Sunday worship service attendance may have been a successful business woman, a slave girl and a jailor’s family. Through them there was hope for all of Europe. May we find a personal vision of the man of Macedonia.