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by Wayne Blank
"And when they had come opposite Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them"
During Paul's second missionary journey (see the Fact Finder question below and Paul's Ministry), the apostle had intended to travel north from central Turkey, up through Bithynia, but "the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them." Why? Because "the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily" in that area. The Gospel was firmly planted there, while an apostle's Christ-commanded responsibilities were not entirely the same as a local pastor. Although there were no boundaries between the two, a local pastor can be thought of as a shepherd (e.g. "Tend the flock of God that is your charge," 1 Peter 5:2 RSV), while an apostle can be thought of as an ambassador (e.g. "So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us," 2 Corinthians 5:20 RSV). In effect, the principle was that an apostle (the point of the sword) advanced into new territory while a pastor (the edge of the sword) thereafter secured it.
Paul had a vision of a man in Macedonia (in Europe) beseeching him and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." So Paul went directly through Mysia to the port of Troas to cross over to Macedonia. It was time for the Gospel to be taken more effectively to Europe.
"So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.
Paul sailed across from Asia to Europe.
"Setting sail therefore from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is the leading city of the district of Macedonia, and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days; and on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together." (Acts 16:11-13 RSV)
As noted in the verses quoted above and below, Paul found people of God there, but their knowledge had not yet been transformed into understanding, so "The Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul," just as Paul's own heart had been opened at the time of his own calling.
"One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul. And when she was baptized, with her household, she besought us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us." (Acts 16:14-15 RSV)
Fact Finder: Where can each of Paul's major apostolic journeys be found in the Scriptures?