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Acts 16 v 6 -24

This passage identifies a time of frustration for Paul. Please look at the map I sent yesterday and remember that the Asia which the Holy Spirit prevented Paul from entering was not the vast continent of Asia we know today, but a region north of Crete. We don't know how Paul was prevented from entering Bithynia, possibly a vision or a prophecy, but to me it is likely that his recurring illness-the 'thorn in the flesh'-was the issue and once again he had to find areas where he was least affected. What makes this most probable is that suddenly the little word 'we' is brought into the narrative in verse 10: Doctor Luke has joined the little group! Not only was he there as an eyewitness and to record Paul's travels, but wasn't he also there as a professional, to aid Paul in his times of suffering?

We also cannot identify 'the man from Macedonia' whom Paul describes appearing to him in a vision, although the best and wisest guess is that it resembled Alexander the Great, as this whole area was filled with memories of his conquests. For instance, the full name of the city of Troas was Alexander Troas, Philippi was named after his father and Thessalonica after his half-sister. Alexander's great goal was to marry the east to the west and this thought may well have been in Paul's mind as he sought to make the whole world one under Jesus Christ. We may see that as overly-ambitious, but today over TWO BILLION people claim to be Christians. Did you know that the population of Timor Leste, just over one million people, are 99% Christian!

Paul sailed to Philippi, a Roman colony, where he founded a place of prayer by the riverside, as there was no synagogue in the city. One of the first converts was Lydia, who invited the nascent fellowship to meet at her home. Lydia came from the very top of the social scale as she was a purple cloth merchant, the colour for Emperors.

At the other end of the social scale was the slave girl and this girl was used for financial gain by her owners due to the psychic ability she possessed. They didn't care that she was healed miraculously by Paul, only that their chance of wealth had gone. Note that they accused them of being Jews before the magistrates and after being heavily beaten they were flung into prison and their feet put in stocks. It was clear that doing good in the name of Jesus Christ brought trouble, but Jesus had been this way before.

We read here then of the joy that Paul and his companions experienced in bringing people to Christ, but the pain and suffering too: not just natural suffering with Paul, but suffering wrought by others.


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