GETTING THE MESSAGE/In Christ alone
In Acts 16 Paul is on his second mission trip. His desire is to revisit the churches he helped establish on his first trip. He came to Derbe and Lystra (Acts 16:1). Lystra was the place where Paul was stoned in his first mission trip (Acts 14). But the intrepid apostle had kept preaching and had made many disciples in the area.
We are introduced to Timothy in verse 1. Timothy was well spoken of by the believers in the area, so Paul decides he wants to carry Timothy with him on the mission trip (verses 2-3). Timothy will become a great help to Paul for the rest of his life.
Timothy was taught the Scriptures by his mother Eunice and Grandmother Lois (2nd Timothy 1). Their devotion planted a seed in Timothy so that he grew up to be of great use in the Lord’s church. There is nothing a Christian parent should desire more than for their child to be of service to the Lord and his people. Multi-generational faith is a blessed thing.
One of Paul’s purposes in his visiting the churches was to convey to them the decision reached by the Jerusalem Council (made up of apostles and elders). Paul and Silas delivered this decision for their observance (verse 4). It wasn’t just information, but instruction. The council had made clear the gospel message and given instructions to Gentiles related to their fellowship with Jewish Christians. The main point being salvation is through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
After strengthening the established churches, Paul goes through Galatia, heads north through Mysia, and finally ends up in Troas (verses 6-8). If you have a map in your Bible, you will notice this was a long trek through what we know today as Turkey. We aren’t given mission reports along this journey, but we can be sure that Paul and his team preached Christ and made disciples along the way. We can note by their dedication how much they must have loved Christ.
The route they took was determined by the Lord. He prevented them from going to Asia (verse 6) and stopped them from going to Bithynia (verse 7). How God conveyed this to the team we aren’t told, but it was plain God closed the door. Why would the Lord prevent them from entering these places?
We aren’t told why, but it was his prerogative. He is the Lord. The gospel is his gospel. The Lord Jesus is building his church through his Spirit according to his sovereign way. These places will later receive the gospel, but at this point the Lord directs Paul another way.
Some areas are not preferred over others due to their merit, seeing that none do good and none seek after God. The foundation of the gospel is mere grace, and that includes the hearing of the gospel. God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy. We shouldn’t take hearing it for granted, because it was granted by the Lord before we heard it.
While in Troas, a vision appeared to Paul of a man from Macedonia saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (verse 9). The mission team concluded that the Lord wanted them to go to Greece to preach the gospel (verse 10).
“Help” to Paul and the others meant Christ. The Bible shows men to be in a miserable condition. Men have lost favor with God. The very nature of sin is enmity to God and all men are sinners.
Men are poor captives of the devil as well. We are like one bitten by a deadly serpent with no antidote. Sin leads to death. In that state man could not help himself. He had no strength and no creature could help him.
The gospel announces that there is help in Christ Jesus. While we were helpless, the Son of God came to undertake our cause and help us. He pitied us while we were yet enemies. He lay down his life, shed his own precious blood, paid the debt we owed to God, and conquered death and the devil.
Hope arises from the feeling of God’s love to us in Christ. Our confidence of being redeemed from our sins and saved from misery is in Christ alone. “Help” in its highest form has come in Christ.