Until recently, the Apostle Paul has been on a roll with God. At least that is how Acts portray’s him, from his conversion until now in Acts 16, about twenty years have passed, and Paul has not made any mistakes.
None that the scripture imply.
My conclusion is that right after the Jerusalem Council Paul hit a wall of exhaustion and began to miss things in the spirit. The intensity of the Jerusalem Council cannot be overstated, everything was on the line, and the Apostles and men in the room got it right—you do not have to become a Jew to become a Christian.
The implications of that statement were huge.
Paul then leaves the Jerusalem Council and gets in an intense fight with Barnabas (I’m referencing Acts 15). Mind you, Barnabas is Paul’s mentor, but Paul will have none of it, and after an animated argument, they part ways. Barnabas goes one direction and Paul the other.
Now Paul ventures into the middle of Asia Minor (Modern Day Turkey), and arrives at a few places were he had done ministry in the past. About five years has gone by and he wants to encourage the Church.
God always a better plan than what we can dream up. And God prefers to unfold his place one small piece at a time, so that He can receive all the glory.
Here are a few examples
- God gave Moses the plan for the Tabernacle (Exodus 26:30), but did not tell him what the future held for Israel.
- David told Solomon God’s plan for the Temple (I Chronicles 28:9), but did not tell him about Solomon’s many wives.
- Esther received council and trusted God to giver her a plan to defeat God’s enemies.
- Micah 4:12 speaks to the time when Jerusalem was attacked, but all along it was God’s plan to ruin his enemies.
Paul came to Lystra and found a young man named Timothy, who was full of faith. He was a half breed, Jew and Greek, and uncircumcised. Paul had just finished winning the argument that men do not need to be circumcised in order to be saved, but wanted Timothy to not be a stumbling block to other Jews, so he circumcised him.
I’m most stunned by Timothy willingness to suffer indignity and pain than I am Paul’s actions. But his motive was clear, Paul did not want Timothy to be a stumbling block for other people, so the right thing to do before God was to remove it.
The word for “strengthened” in Greek relates making something solid and firm.” God wanted his church strengthened, so he sent Paul, and gave him a protege in young Timothy.
Paul attempts to journey into Asia, but twice is thwarted by the Holy Spirit.
The second time the scripture references “the Spirit of Jesus,” it’s the only time in the Bible that phrase is used, and the meaning is hotly debated. I simply take it as another reference for the person, work and ministry of the Holy Spirit.
After being thwarted a twice, and God seemingly unable to get Paul’s attention, the Lord gives Paul a vision of a man in Macedonia (Northern Greece) “urging” him come. Paul and the team then change their course, and make Macedonia.
The team lands at Philippi, a city set up as “Little Italy.” For more history on Philippi—please reference my book :).
The Romans barely tolerated the Jews. Sabbath keeping was bothersome to the Romans, they saw no reason to allow their slaves to have a rest. Jews in Rome over time were a bit successful in convincing their Roman masters, but in places like Philippi Sabbath keeping and worship were frowned upon.
A group of ladies worshipped down by the river, just outside the city walls, an experience that was not without some risk.
Paul found that prayer group and evangelized them. A wealthy lady named “Lydia” gave her heart to the Lord, a powerful move for someone wealthy and socially connected. Lydia begged Paul and the team to stay at her house, a place large enough to house them all.
The phrase “opened her heart” literally references a first born coming down the birth channel. In that way, the womb is opened for the first time, allowing a new life to be born. The word spiritually carries the same mean but with an odd, twist. “Opened” comes with a dividing from God, to bring Jesus in is to allow him to divide good from bad, holy from unclean, and to see him divide out whatever is necessary for salvation and maturity.