Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to …
After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the good news to them. (verses 6-7, 10)
I’ve always been intrigued by this paragraph. In these few short verses, we have the clear, multi-faceted direction of the Lord, cutting off one avenue after another, shepherding Paul and company to the desired goal.
This is guidance by the Holy Spirit. It’s remarkable. It’s compelling. But what strikes me specially today is the integrated activity of the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit working in absolute unity, coordinated seamlessly, interwoven like a dance.
The first instance of divine direction is simply attributed to the Holy Spirit. This is what we expect. After all, it is the Spirit’s direction that has launched Paul into mission-activity in the first place back in Acts 13. Here he directs once again. How he chose to communicate is not described, but his sovereign oversight is made clear.
The second instance is again attributed to the Spirit, but this time he is uniquely described as the Spirit of Jesus. Which reminds us that this whole book is a description of the ongoing ministry of Jesus himself. Now ascended to heaven, no longer physically present with his disciples as he had been during the time of the Gospels, yet he is still carrying out what he had begun “to do and to teach” (Acts 1:1), but now through the empowering presence of the Spirit in his followers’ lives. The risen, exalted Lord Jesus makes himself present by the presence of the Spirit.
The third instance is attributed to a vision, which is again the activity of the Spirit – poured out in the lives of believers, he works through dreams and visions (Acts 2:17). And yet, having received this Spirit-inspired vision, Paul and companions conclude that it is God the Father himself who has called them to go to Macedonia to preach the good news. There is no discrepancy. The Holy Spirit is equally the Spirit of Jesus as he is the Spirit of God the Father.
Back in John 14 Jesus, saying he would not leave us as orphans but would come to us, had in the same breath said he would send us another Counselor (just like himself) to be with us forever – the Holy Spirit. The Spirit, Jesus promised, would not only be with us, but within us. Immediately he went on to affirm that both he and the Father would come and make their dwelling with us. All of this is overlapping perspective of the interwoven activity of the Triune God, fully making himself present with us, within us.
This is what we see in this short slice-of-life from Acts 16: Father, Son and Holy Spirit intimately involved in directing the mission of the church.
Praise his Triune name.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I honour you in my life today. Let me be mindful of your presence and attentive to your direction. Use me in your mission.
Reflect: Consciously pray to the Triune God all day today. Address Father, Son and Holy Spirit, nurturing the full breadth of your relationship.