And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
Understanding And Applying the Text
Paul and his party went through Phrygia and Galatia. This is the southern part of Galatia. But the Holy Spirit prevented Paul from preaching in Asia. So Paul tried going to Bithynia. The Spirit prevented Paul from presenting the Gospel to the people at Bithynia. Next, he goes to Troas. At Troas Paul receives a vision to go Macedonia. So Troas was not the place he could preach either.
God gave Paul a job. His job was preaching the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul did not wait around for God to write a message in the sky to tell him where to go. Paul was an action taker. He said this is my job so I am going to do it. But God prevented him from fulfilling his duty in the locations Paul had chosen. Why?
Were those in Asia unworthy? Why were those in Bithynia not allowed to hear the gospel? Were those in Macedonia more worthy? Maybe it was they were more receptive. No! Paul tells us we are all unworthy. None of us even want to hear the gospel. (Romans 3: 10-18). Yet God shows mercy to whom he decides to show mercy. It was God’s decision.
But why the Macedonians and not the Bithynians? The scripture does not give us the reason. But we know God is sovereign. God shows mercy on some and judges others. (Exodus 33:19, Romans 9:15) It is by His will and for His glory.
In the night Paul saw a vision. In the vision, Paul saw a man saying “help us.” Ministers of the Gospel help against Satan, ignorance, and sin.
This is an indicative statement. That is, it is a statement of what happened. It is not teaching us to go looking for visions. We have God’s word. God was revealing the new covenant to Paul. We have it revealed. Relying on visions is dangerous. Satan has used visions to deceive. Relying on what is in our hearts is dangerous. Our hearts are wicked. (Matthew 15:19, Mark 7:21) We cannot trust our subjective feelings. We can only trust God’s word.
Paul’s vision was not a bare vision. The Spirit confirmed it. It was not confirmed by an inner feeling. Satan delights when we rely on our feelings. They are easy to manipulate.