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  • Writer's pictureW. Austin Gardner

Paul had to take orders

Still following the westward road the missionary party walked all across the province of Mysia, still halting nowhere to do missionary work, still moving on in this strange limbo land of uncertainty. Silas and Timothy must have wondered what was going on. They had been prepared for tremendous bursts of activity, for mass meetings, wholesale conversions, bitter opposition, for stripes and imprisonment, for apostolic miracles, for hairbreadth escapes. They had expected to see a trail of churches strung out behind them in Phrygia, Asia, Bithynia, and Mysia. But there was nothing. Was this Paul’s usual way of carrying on? Surely there was more to it than this aimless drifting from place to place. Had Paul lost his nerve? They had expected almost anything but this uncertainty, this constant tramping the highways for hundreds of miles with nothing to show for it but Paul’s vetoing of every suggestion that they stop here and get to work. No doubt Paul, too, was greatly perplexed. No doubt, encountering the doubtful looks of his friends, his pride was hurt. “Have patience, friends,” he would say, “the Lord is leading us.” But he, too, must have had his doubts.

Then they saw the sea. The road from Bithynia ran along the banks of a river and passed near great lakes. Rivers run to the sea, and perhaps now Paul had some inkling that the Holy Spirit was leading them out of Asia Minor altogether.

Troas was an impressive and important city with a crowded harbor and important sea links to Macedonia, Greece, and Europe. It was here that Paul finally halted. The others looked to him expectantly. Of course! This was just the kind of strategic city they could expect Paul to evangelize. But still he did nothing. He needed a direct word now from the Holy Spirit. It would come soon. He could afford to wait. The Holy Spirit, after all, was Lord of the harvest. Paul was only a worker, willing, but obliged, like everyone else, to take orders.

John Phillips, Exploring Acts: An Expository Commentary, The John Phillips Commentary Series (Kregel Publications; WORDsearch Corp., 2009), Ac 16:8.

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