In this section of scripture we see Paul and his associates travelling through parts of the old world preaching to the people in different cities and regions.
There are a few insights we can gather from what they did and how they approached the people. It is worth looking at these to see how they were being led by The Lord to take the gospel of the kingdom of God to the world as they went about preaching the word.
First we see in verses 6-10 that the disciples and Paul looked to go into several places to spread the gospel. However they were strictly forbidden to go into some places by the Holy Spirit.
Verse 6 tells us that they were strictly forbidden to enter into Asia to speak the gospel and that it was the direction of the Holy Spirit that prevented them going there.
Now why this was forbidden at that time is a bit of a mystery. We can only presume that The Lord had more important or fruitful work for the disciples in other places, specifically in Macedonia. It is also possible that The Lord's timing was such that this was not the right time for the word to go into Asia.
What we gain from this understanding is that while we may want to speak the word today to someone or in some region, it may not be the wish of The Lord at that time. There are many people who would dearly love to go out and convert a town, region, country or just one person, but if The Lord is not in the work it will not happen. Had the disciples ignored the Holy Spirit's direction and gone into Asia you can be certain that the work they did would have been unfruitful.
What we must remember at all times is the words of The Lord when He said in John 12:26,
If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
Do you imagine that if Paul and the disciples had ignored the direction of the Holy Spirit and gone into Asia that they would have been honoured by the Father? Would the Father honour their efforts and their work after He had specifically instructed them through the direction of the Holy Spirit NOT to go to Asia if they then went anyway?
Well it is no different today either. We may desire to do a work for The Lord, but if His hand is not in it it will come to nothing. We must remember the words of the scripture above that says “…where I am, there will my servant be also.” We are called to follow Him which means He must go first. If we seek to go where He is not, then we go alone without the blessing of The Lord and thus the work we may seek to do will fall flat.
One of the best scriptures to show how important this issue is can be found in Isaiah 30:15-17.
15 For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling, 16 and you said, “No! We will flee upon horses”; therefore you shall flee away; and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”; therefore your pursuers shall be swift. 17 A thousand shall flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you shall flee, till you are left like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain, like a signal on a hill.
Those who try to take the lead and push ahead of The Lord will be like those described in verse 17. They will be left alone and standing out vulnerable like a flagstaff on a hill. All will see they are alone and they will be open to attack for they did not follow the path of The Lord which is to return, rest and trust in Him for this is where our strength comes from as shown in verse 15.
Approaching the People
So Paul took heed of the direction of the Holy Spirit and he went into Macedonia as instructed to preach the gospel. It is interesting to note how he approached the people when he came into Philippi.
Consider what he was trying to do. He wanted to go out and preach the gospel to the people of the region. And this is a new gospel which had never been preached before for he was about to show them the way to God through faith in Jesus Christ rather than the old covenant works of law. What then would be the best way to do this?
The best way would be to go and find people who were religious and who were seeking God. It would be futile to go and stand in the marketplace on a soapbox and try to spread the gospel by spruiking to the masses of people passing by for he would have got opposition from the servants of the devil and those who would never come to faith. This it is better to go to those in the region who have the beginnings of faith.
And that is what he did. He and the disciples went down to the river on the sabbath to a place they were led to believe was a place where the locals met together for prayer. These were people who came together already to exercise their faith and their religious beliefs and thus they would be more receptive to hearing the new way of life in Jesus Christ than complete non-believers.
The value of beginning with people who were already religious in thought and mind is that they knew the local people and their customs. They would then provide the invitations to friends and family to come along and learn these new teachings that would lead the rest of the people to life.
Had Paul just gone and preached cold in the streets it could potentially have taken much, much longer to find these people and to establishe the beginnings of the church in that region.
As Paul preached the word to these people we see the immediate impact for some believed what he taught and listened closely to the words he spoke. They accepted these words and then took the first steps to come into the kingdom of God.
What were those steps? I have often mentioned the need for a strong foundation in Jesus Christ if we are to walk with him, and that begins with the steps that these early converts took when Paul preached the gospel to them.
The first foundational steps they took were to believe and have faith in Jesus Christ, to repent of their sins and then to be baptised into the death of Jesus Christ for the remission of their sin and to be set free from the law. These are the first three foundations and they are key to any and every person who comes to Jesus.
I am aware today that there are some who do not believe water baptism is that important. And yet every one of the disciples was baptised, every time the word was preached to people and they believed they were baptised in water and even Jesus himself who did not sin was baptised in water by John the Baptist.
All I can presume is that those who think water baptism is unimportant simply have not yet been shown by The Lord the significance of this foundational teaching. In Hebrews 6:1-2 baptism is clearly shown to be one of the six foundations of the new covenant along with repentance, faith, laying on hands, resurrection and eternal judgement.
Peter showed how critical baptism is when the Gentile church at the house of Cornelius first received the Holy Spirit for Peter said in Acts 10:44-48,
44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.
Baptism for these people who received the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues was no longer optional for we see in verse 48 that Peter “…commanded them to be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ.”
This is how critical water baptism is for it is the key foundation by which we take on the death of Jesus Christ as we enter the water, and then take on His resurrection as we are lifted from the water as new creations in Christ Jesus, set free from sin, set free from the law and standing in righteousness before the Father through the faith we have in the working of this action in Jesus Christ.
And when the early disciples went about preaching the word to the world they followed this same pattern. They would find people who were on the path to faith and when the people had faith to come to Jesus Christ they were baptised to enter the new life in the kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ.
You might also like:
Preaching The Gospel
Peter Convicts The Jews
Enter By The Narrow Gate
Build Your House Upon The Rock
The Parable Of The Sower
On This Rock I Will Build My Church
Call Of The Twelve
A House Built Upon The Rock