Date: February 6, 2005
Theme: Oh The Depth Of His Riches!
– Acts 16:6-10
– Ude, John
The Order of Worship:
Liturgy: TLH, p. 5 ff.
Theme: Oh The Depth Of His Riches!
The Macedonian Call
6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9 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.” 10 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. (ESV)
Sermon: Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. 7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. 8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.
In the name of Jesus February 6,2005
What gets your spiritual heart racing, your blood boiling, and your voice praising the LORD? When Paul in Romans 9-11 thought back over God’s missionary plans worked out in these chapters of Acts all his thoughts boiled to one conclusion: “Oh the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God, how unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out.” (Rom. 11:33) May the Spirit then open our ears to hear what our great God has done, our eyes to envision its glory and our lips to sing with Paul: OH THE DEPTHS OF HIS RICHES!
As God unrolls the tapestry of history and our part in it, those depths are at times more unsearchable to us than the deepest trenches of the oceans. Last week we saw how Paul glorified the Word, persecuted in one city he carried God’s Word onto the next. It may be unsearchable to us why God would allow such persecution but, along that trail of blood, the LORD was fulfilling His promise: (Is. 55:11) “My Word shall accomplish what I please and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” In every city where Paul proclaimed Christ the LORD brought forth the fruit of faith and the Church grew. Now on His second missionary journey, Paul again strengthened the existing congregations in the Word, but then our text tells how he was forbidden, prevented and struck out. Having come from the east to Pisidian Antioch, it was natural to head west on the main Roman highway into Asia and Ephesus. But V. 6 says: “They were forbidden by the Spirit.” Don’t we immediately wonder how the Spirit forbade them? But we’re not told, perhaps to open our eyes to every way in which the Spirit may forbid us: when our missionaries can’t get visas, revolution arises or when our attempt to share God’s Word with someone is shut off with a sad “I’m just going to wait and see if the LORD does come back.” You may recall that the intense persecution, which Paul experienced all along his first missionary journey, all originated in Antioch. Here they had run him out of town and followed to poison minds and stone him in other cities. Perhaps this active opposition had now set an ambush along the highway which was unveiled by the LORD. Whatever it was, Paul was led by the Spirit’s forbidding to leave the highway and head north cross country toward Bithynia. Yet V. 7 says: “The Spirit did not permit them.” What prevented them from going North? From Gal. 4:13 we know that a physical sickness had recently led Paul to preach in Galatia. Perhaps the Spirit brought a recurrence and Paul was not strong enough to climb the mountain passes into Bithynia or they ran out of funds to continue the trip north. So our physical weaknesses and funds often prevent us from doing what we might desire in the work of the Lord. Yet V. 8 tells us that now they deliberately bypassed Mysia choosing Troas as a more likely mission prospect but they struck out. It reminds me of a great opportunity I had to witness in Alaska. The man eagerly asked one question after another and grasped the meaning of God’s Word but drowned all interest with a trip to the bar. Thus often like Paul we think we have a great prospect and simply strike out. This certainly cleanses us of all hollow conceit in our accomplishments so we rely on His grace alone. But more, the Holy Spirit intentionally records the Apostle Paul forbidden, prevented, striking out so that rather than being overwhelmed with discouragement we would lift up our eyes to watch for the Spirit to unveil the Lord’s unsearchable plans.
For now the LORD opened the door through which He wanted Paul to proceed, which led Paul to sing: “Oh the depths of His wisdom.” For in His great desire to bring the gospel to the nations the Lord opened the door not just to another city but to another race and continent. The LORD caused Paul to see not a Jew or an Asian but a man of Macedonia, a Greek from the continent of Europe, in a vision calling, “Come over to us.” Perhaps his very sickness was the vehicle by which the LORD fulfilled that vision. For it is here at Troas that Paul first met Dr. Luke, the author of Acts, who led them now to Macedonia and Philippi. And now all the forces of nature assisted God’s plan. The trip across the Aegean Sea which often took five days was made in two. I read that Chess Masters envision their adversary’s next six moves. But the LORD anticipates all the moves of His adversaries, all the nations, even the generations yet unborn. Yet even as God first caused the sun of grace to rise over the continent of Europe there was no mass flight of the darkness, nor collective celebration of light. According to God’s wisdom even this rising of the Sun of grace on the continent of Europe came about in a humanly unspectacular way. Though three divine revelations brought them to Philippi they went for some days without any contact at all. You and I would think that God’s raising the Sun of Grace o’er a new continent should surely be more spectacular: news headlines, multitudes, and mass conversions. Yet the LORD in His wisdom caused it to start with just a few ladies gathered at the river, no church, no programs, and no bands. But these ladies did not despise the day of small things. Hearing that Jesus has washed us from our sins in His own blood and made us Kings and Priests unto His Father, they received the Kingdom of God. Filled with all the riches of God’s Kingdom, they were freed from this world’s competitive scramble to hold the treasures of this dying earth. For them salvation was not a nice contingency to have convenient when everything else fails but the undeserved grace that personally rescued them and constrained them to thank Jesus with their whole life. Lydia compelled them to live in her house. Her zealous generosity contagiously filled the life of that congregation for decades to come. Yet even before this humble beginning could get established, it was endangered by bad PR. Through a demon possessed young girl, Satan tried a frontal attack on the gospel messengers by identifying them with his own deceivers, coupled with an ambush of identifying Paul and Silas, when they cast the demon out, as a threat to everyone’s economic livelihood. They were framed, beaten, and imprisoned. But thus they prayed and all the prisoners listened as in affliction’s dark night, Paul and Silas sang about the Savior’s light. Those prayers were answered in an earthquake that burst open the prison doors, broke open the stocks, and shook open the jailor in his self righteous boots. But the greatest answer came in the Jailor seeing the Savior’s light in death’s night: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Offered all the riches of God’s Kingdom, he was freed from this world’s competitive scramble to hold a facade of self righteousness. For him salvation was not a nice entree to life it was life, a life daily inspired by God’s grace to give himself in the service of Jesus. Through these humble beginnings the LORD in His wisdom made it clear for all Europe: “My kingdom comes not through cathedrals, organizations and programs but through personally hearing and treasuring My word. I come to you not in the rending wind, nor the shaking quake, nor the consuming fire but in the still small voice of My word (I Kgs 19). Here you are given all the riches of My Kingdom: sins forgiven and souls redeemed, and freed from the competitive scramble of the night, to live in light.” G
od’s mission zeal not only brought the gospel to Europe, it thus brought it to you. His unrolling tapestry of history may be unsearchable but His wisdom is glorious and it’s yours. Oh the depths of His riches! Amen.