Led By the Spirit & Finding Yourself Imprisoned

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament book of Acts—the account of the spiritual body of Jesus Christ—as it was written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically today’s passage is found in verses eleven through forty of the sixteenth chapter. “Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; and from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days” (Acts 16:11-12).

 

            “And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of THyatria, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us. And it came to pass, as we went from prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour. And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains were gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, and brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, and teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jail or to keep them safely: who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks” (Acts 16:13-24).

 

            “And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house” (Acts 16:25-34).

 

            “And when it was day, the magistrates sent the serjeants, saying, Let those men go.  And the keeper of the prison told this saying to Paul, The magistrates have sent to let you go: now therefore depart, and go in peace. But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privilege? Nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out. And the serjeants told these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans. And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city. And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed” (Acts 16:35-40).

 

            When you come to the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find the beginning of the second missionary journey of the apostle Paul. In all reality, however, the context for this second missionary journey can be found in the final verses of the fifteenth chapter. After Paul and Barnabas journeyed unto the city of Jerusalem to meet with the elders, apostles and brethren concerning the issue of Gentiles needing to be circumcised and observe the Law to be saved James would not only send a letter unto the church which was in Antioch but the apostles and brethren would also send certain of the brethren with the apostle Paul and Barnabas. Among those who were sent with them would Judas who was surnamed Barsabas and Silas. These two men would accompany Paul and Barnabas unto Antioch and would be present there to effectively minister the gospel, the word and the name of the Lord Jesus among the brethren. When Paul and Barnabas would return unto Antioch they would return with the decision and deliberation of the apostles, the elders and the brethren which were present in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for after the Jerusalem council there would be additional help and support which would be sent unto the church which was present in Antioch to come alongside the work which had already begun. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for I am convinced that we cannot truly understand the words, the language and even the narrative that is found in the sixteenth chapter of this New Testament book without first understanding how the fifteenth chapter would conclude. What’s more is I would dare say that this second missionary journey of the apostle Paul would essentially be triggered by the council which took place in the midst of the city of Jerusalem—and not only by the council which took place in the city of Jerusalem but also the return of Paul and Barnabas together with Judas and Silas as those who would come alongside the work and ministry there in the midst of it.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I can’t help but be absolutely captivated with and by the tremendous truth surrounding the outcome and decision of the council and how it would indeed set in motion the events in the lives of both the apostle Paul and Barnabas. If you take the time to read the words which are found in the final verses of the fifteenth chapter of this New Testament book you can and will encounter and come face to face with the awesome and incredible truth surrounding the work which would take place there in Antioch and how the apostle Paul would have within himself the desire to return unto those churches and cities whereunto they ministered that they might strengthen and establish the brethren in the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it truly is for there is something truly astonishing about how the fifteenth chapter concludes and how it does indeed set in motion the events which we read about in the sixteenth chapter. The words which are present in the final verses of the fifteenth chapter are incredibly unique and powerful as they serve as the foundation and the catalyst for the journey which the apostle Paul would take in the coming days after returning to Antioch as well as the journey which Barnabas himself would take. It would be after Paul and Barnabas returned unto Antioch that it would rise up within the heart and soul of the apostle Paul to return unto those cities and churches whereunto they ministered that they might strengthen and establish them. What we must needs recognize, however, is that this desire to return to those cities and churches whereunto they had preached the gospel and ministered would not only lead to a contention between the apostle Paul and Barnabas but it would also lead to the separation of Paul and Barnabas.

 

            If you begin reading with and from the twenty-second verse of the fifteenth chapter you will read how the apostles and elders together with the whole church chose men out of their own company to send unto Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. What’s more is they would indeed write letters unto them addressing the confusion that surrounded the need to be circumcised to truly experience salvation from the Lord. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the return of Paul and Barnabas to the brethren in Antioch—not only with letters from the apostles and elders but also with additional men who would give themselves to the work of the ministry there in Antioch. This is something which warrants strong consideration for this return to the body and brethren which were present in Antioch must needs be carefully examined as it would set in motion the events in the lives of both the apostle Paul as well as Barnabas in the coming days. The church in Antioch would indeed be strengthened and encouraged by the return of Paul and Barnabas as well as the addition of Silas and Judas, however, what we find is the departure of the apostle Paul and Barnabas once more from their midst as Paul and Barnabas would each set out to engage themselves in the work of the ministry in two different locations. The apostle Paul would return unto those places whereunto he and Barnabas had journeyed while Barnabas and John Mark would journey unto Cyprus where they too would engage in the work of the ministry. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the fifteenth chapter of this New Testament book beginning with the twenty-second verse:

 

            “Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: and they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law:P to whom we gave no such commandment: It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by the mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well” (Acts 15:22-29).

 

            “So when they were dismissed, they came to Antioch: and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the epistle: which when they had read, they rejoiced for the consolation. And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them. And after they had tarried there s space, they were let go in peace from the brethren unto the apostles. Notwithstanding it pleased Silas to abide there still. Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also” (Acts 15:30-35).

 

            “And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus; and Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches” (Acts 15:36-41).

 

            There is a great need for us to recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found here in this passage of Scripture for they call and draw our attention to the absolutely wonderful and incredibly truth surrounding the foundation and that which would set in motion the second apostolic and missionary journey of the apostle Paul. The apostle Paul and Barnabas would indeed return unto Antioch with letters from the apostles and brethren which were in Jerusalem and would indeed be accompanied by certain chief men which were present in the city of Jerusalem together with the apostles and brethren. Luke writes how they came to Antioch and when they had gathered the multitude together they delivered the epistle—which when it was read those in Antioch rejoiced for the consolation. Judas and Silas—both who were themselves prophets—exhorted the brethren with many words and confirmed them thus adding to the work which would indeed take place and be present in the midst of the brethren there in Antioch. What we find next, however, is something truly unique for we read how after they had tarried there a space those who came from the apostles and brethren in Jerusalem would depart and return unto the brethren and the apostles which were present in the midst of that city. With this being said, however, we find that it pleased Silas to abide there still together with Paul and Barnabas. There in the midst of Antioch Paul, Barnabas and Silas would teach and preach the word of the Lord together with many others as the brethren would be strengthened and edified. Oh what a truly wonderful and powerful picture it is to read of how the apostle Paul together with Barnabas and Silas and others would devote themselves to strengthening, stablishing and encouraging the saints and the brethren which were present there in the midst of Antioch. In all reality it reminds me of the words which we find in the fourth and fifth chapters of the first epistle written by the apostle Peter as well as the words which are found in the first chapter of the second epistle written by the apostle Peter unto the same saints which were scattered abroad and suffering in the flesh:

 

            “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:12-19).

 

            “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:1-11).

            “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lackeys these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the father, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:1-11).

 

            “Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up but putting you in remembrance; knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. Moreover I will endeavor that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance. For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:  knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:12-21).

 

            I am absolutely convinced we must needs recognize and understand the words which are found in the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts for they call and draw our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the foundation that would set in motion the events which would take place in the coming days. The apostle Paul and Silas would depart from Antioch and would journey throughout those cities whereunto Paul and Barnabas had travelled while Barnabas would take John Mark and would journey unto Cyprus. What makes the words and language found in this passage of Scripture all the more intriguing when you think about it is while it does indeed describe the council which would take place in the midst of Jerusalem as well as the letters which were sent from the apostles and brethren there in the midst of the city it would have at the very heart and center of it instruction—not for the Jews who believed but rather the Gentiles who believed. At the very heart and center of the fifteenth chapter of this book we find the Gentiles who believed as there were those who went out from among the brethren in Jerusalem who would subvert their souls and trouble them declaring how they needed to be circumcised and give themselves unto the Law in order that they might be saved. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it truly is for within it we are called to come face to face with the work of the ministry unto and among the Gentiles. We know that during the first missionary journey of the apostle Paul he would go first unto the Jews which were present in the synagogues and cities whereunto they travelled, however, it would be the Gentiles who would be the greatest recipient of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It would be the Gentiles themselves who would hear the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and would receive it would all joy and gladness.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the absolutely incredible truth surrounding the focus which would indeed be upon the Gentiles. It is impossible to read the words present in this passage of Scripture and not encounter and come face to face with the incredible reality of the Gentiles being recipients of the same grace whereunto the Jews had themselves been called. It was Jesus Himself who would declare that the apostles and brethren would be witnesses unto Him—first in Jerusalem but then in all Judaea, in Samaria and ultimately unto the uttermost parts of the earth. If you read and study the New Testament book of Acts you will find in chapters two through seven the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ would indeed be preached in the city of Jerusalem as the church would grow there in the midst of the city precisely as the Lord Jesus had described and explained. It is when you come to the eighth chapter of this same book you will find the church being scattered throughout all Judaea, all Samaria and I would even dare say being scattered throughout all Galilee. It would be about the death of Stephen that a great persecution would break out against the early church and would force them to be scattered throughout Judaea, Galilee and Samaria. What’s more is during those days Saul of Tarsus would lift up his hand against the church would wreak havoc against it by entering into houses and homes and haling men and women who believed out and committing them unto prison. This is something we must not ignore and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the word and gospel which would indeed spread beyond the city of Jerusalem and would eventually come unto those who were in Samaria.

 

            The eighth and tenth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts must be briefly considered when seeking to understand that which we find in the fifteenth chapter for it is in the eighth chapter we read of Philip going unto the city of Samaria and preaching the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ unto those who were present. What we find here in Samaria is the hand of the Lord being upon him and the Holy Spirit confirming the word with signs, wonders and miracles. Much people would believe and would be baptized there in the midst of Samaria—and so much so that word would reach the apostles and brethren which were present in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. The apostles and brethren which were in Jerusalem would send the apostles Peter and John unto Samaria to confirm the work which was taking place there. Upon coming unto them and witnessing the great grace that was upon them they would lay their hands upon them and pray for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost. Not only would those in Samaria be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus but they would also receive and be baptized by the Holy Spirit. This is something which warrants strong consideration for when you come to the tenth chapter of this same book you will find the beginning of the word and gospel being preached unto the Gentiles. What’s more is that not only will you find the word and gospel being preached unto the Gentiles but you will also find the Gentiles being baptized with the Holy Spirit. Cornelius a Roman centurion and his entire household would indeed receive the Holy Spirit just as the Jews and the Samaritans had, thus indicating that the word and name of the Lord Jesus as well as the person and presence of the Holy Spirit would begin to be manifested unto the Gentiles.

 

            It is this concept of the word and name of Jesus of Nazareth coming unto the Gentiles  as well as the Holy Ghost being manifested unto them that would be at the very heart of the fifteenth chapter for the council which took place in the midst of the city of Jerusalem would indeed center around whether or not the Gentiles needed to be circumcised and observe the Law to be saved. Both the apostle Peter as well as the apostle Paul would stand up in the midst of the brethren and speak of the great grace that was bestowed upon the Gentiles and would indeed be in agreement together with the apostles and the brethren and elders which were present there in the midst of Jerusalem. As a direct result of this council Paul, Barnabas, Silas, Judas and perhaps even others would journey unto Antioch where they would deliver the letter form the apostles—a letter which would deliver and free from religion, from legalism and from bondage to the Law and circumcision. These epistles which were written by the apostles and brethren would come before the epistle which the apostle Paul would write unto the churches which were in Galatia when he would seek to help them to be delivered and set free from the bondage of the Law of Moses as well as from circumcision. Having returned with these epistles the apostles and those who accompanied them would exhort and strengthen the brethren there in the midst of Antioch as they would seek to help them to grow in their faith.

 

            The more I think about the words which are found here in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and wonderful truth surrounding the conclusion of the fifteenth chapter of this New Testament book and how when the fifteenth chapter concludes it does so with Barnabas and John Mark departing from Antioch and journeying unto Cyprus where Barnabas had his lineage and heritage. Paul and Silas, however, would depart from Antioch and would journey throughout Syria and Cilicia confirming the churches. It is when we come to the sixteenth chapter of this New Testament book we find that as the apostle Paul and Silas would journey throughout these places they would come to Lystra and Derbe. It would be there in the midst of these two cities they would find a certain disciples whose name was Timothy who was the son of a certain woman which was a Jew and believed but whose father was a Greek. Luke goes on to write how Timothy was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium and how the apostle Paul would have him go forth with him as he journeyed unto and among the churches and cities. What makes this all the more intriguing when you take the time to think about and consider it is that Timothy had absolutely no clue that when he would depart from Lystra, Derbe and Iconium that he would be accompanying the apostle Paul on his second missionary journey—a missionary journey which we will find would take them unto some of the very churches which the apostle Paul would write epistles unto. Timothy would be separated from the brethren and disciples which were present there in Lystra and Derbe and would accompany the apostle Paul and Silas unto cities such as Philippi, Corinth, and Thessalonica—cities which are in what we would call the modern nation of Greece today.

 

            The sixteenth chapter of this New Testament book does indeed and does in fact open with the apostle Paul coming unto Lystra and Derbe and there finding a disciple who was not only well reported of by the brethren but who came from a lineage and heritage of faith—a reality which would be expressed in the second epistle which the apostle Paul would write unto Timothy. It would be in the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto Timothy that he would speak of the faith which was first found in his grandmother, and then found in his mother and which Paul was persuaded was found in him. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding this disciple whom the apostle Paul would have accompany him on his missionary journeys. What’s more is Timothy would also be present with the apostle Paul when he would come to the city of Ephesus which would indeed host the likes of the apostle John, the apostle Paul, Timothy and perhaps even the apostle Peter. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of when beginning to read the words contained in the sixteenth chapter. It is in the opening verses of the sixteenth chapter of this New Testament book we find Paul taking this disciple Timothy under his wing and alongside him as he would indeed accompany them on their apostolic and missionary journey. The apostle Paul would see and recognize something present within Timothy and as a direct result of this would deliberately and intentionally choose him to accompany them on their journey not fully knowing where they would journey. Oh this is something which is truly interesting when you take the time to think about it for the words which we read in this chapter seem to indicate two things—the first being that the apostle Paul, Silas, Timothy and the others were going forth as they were led by the Spirit, the second being the direct involvement of the Holy Spirit forbidding them from entering into certain parts of Asia during those days, and third not truly knowing where they would indeed journey. Much like Abraham was indeed called by the eternal and living God to depart from Ur of the Chaldeans and journey unto that land whereunto the LORD would lead and show unto him so also would the apostle Paul, Silas, Timothy, Luke and others set forth not fully understanding where they were journeying.

 

            Before I continue describing that which is found in the sixteenth chapter of this New Testament book I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the final verses of the eleventh chapter of the Old Testament book of Genesis as well as the words which are found in the twelfth chapter of the same Old Testament book. It is here where we find Abraham—the patriarch and father of the faith of those who believed—departing from Ur of the Chaldeans and being called unto a specific place he knew not but which the living and eternal God would show him. Consider if you will the following words which are found in both the eleventh and twelfth chapters of the Old Testament book of Genesis concerning the journey of Abraham from Ur of the Chaldeans and how the LORD God would bring him unto the land of Canaan:

 

            “Now these are the generations of Torah: Torah began Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot. And Haran died before his father Torah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees. And Abram and Nahor took them wives: the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah. But Sarai was barren; she had no child. And Torah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there. And the days of Torah were two hundred and five years: and Torah died in Haran” (Genesis 11:27-32).

 

            “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and form thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. So Abraham departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abraham was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came. And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builder he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him. And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Beth-el, and pitched his tent, having Beth-el on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builder an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the Lord. And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south” (Genesis 12:1-9).

 

            It’s actually quite captivating to read the words which are found in the sixteenth chapter of this New Testament book for after the apostle Paul would take Timothy unto himself and his companions he would have him circumcised because of the Jews which were in those quarters for they knew that his father was a Greek. Luke writes how the apostle Paul, Silas, Timothy and others went through the cities and delivered them the decrees to keep which were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. Moreover Luke goes on to write how the churches were established in the faith and increased in number daily. What makes this all the more intriguing when you take the time to think about and consider it is when you see and witness the activity of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the apostle Paul and his companions. If you begin reading with and from the sixth verse you will find that when Paul and his companions had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia they were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia. What’s more is that after they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. The apostle Paul would and his companions would pass by Mysia and come down to Troas where the apostle Paul would see a vision during the night—a vision of a man of Macedonia who would entreat them to come unto them and help them.

 

            I write these words which are present in this passage of Scripture and can’t help but see the activity and involvement of the Holy Spirit within the lives of the apostle Paul and his companions. The apostle Paul would have journeyed unto Asia to preach the word and name of the Lord Jesus, however, Luke writes how the Holy Spirit would not permit nor allow them to do so. What’s more is Luke would use some incredibly strong and powerful language found in this particular text for Luke would write how they were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia. In addition to this you will find Luke goin on to write how they desired to go into Bithynia, however, the Spirit would suffer them not. Oh within this particular passage there would indeed be two different places the apostle Paul and his companions would seek to travel and journey unto and yet the Holy Spirit would forbid and suffer them from doing so. The Holy Spirit was directly involved in the journeys of the apostle Paul and his companions as He would lead and guide them unto those places whereunto they were called. What makes this all the more intriguing when you take the time to consider it is that although the Holy Spirit would forbid them from journeying into Asia and unto Bythinia there would be a vision that would come to the apostle Paul during the night. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the activity and involvement of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the apostle Paul and his companions. Moreover we see within this passage how the Holy Spirit governed and controlled the journey of the apostle Paul and his companions. The Holy Spirit would directly prohibit, restrict and forbid them from journeying unto d certain places as the Holy Spirit would indeed have something entirely different planned for them and where they would journey and come unto. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely incredible truth surrounding the involvement of the Holy Spirit and how the Holy Spirit would indeed keep them during those days.

 

            I sit here today thinking about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I can’t help but be brought face to face with the fact that there are times when we think and believe that the Holy Spirit simply leads us unto those places whereunto we have been called. There are many of us who think about the Holy Spirit and His involvement within our lives and how it is the role and function of the Holy Spirit to lead us unto those places whereunto we have been called. The truth of the matter, however, is when we read the words found in this passage of Scripture we are indeed brought face to face with the absolutely incredible and powerful truth surrounding the activity and involvement of the Holy Spirit within our lives and how just as much as the Holy Spirit can lead us the Holy Spirit can also keep us. I would dare say there are many who have an incomplete understanding of the Holy Spirit and His involvement within our lives as they think and believe that the activity and involvement of the Holy Spirit is simply and solely to lead us unto those places whereunto we have been called. The truth of the matter, however, is that just as much as the Holy Spirit can “lead us to” the Holy Spirit can also “keep us from.” I am absolutely convinced that when we think about the activity of the Holy Spirit within our lives we must needs recognize that just as much as He can lead us into and lead us unto something which is before us so also can he keep us from something and from journeying somewhere we have not been called to. The more you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more you can and will be found coming face to face with the truth surrounding the Holy Spirit’s involvement in the life of the apostle Paul and his companions. What’s more is that within this passage of Scripture we don’t find the Holy Spirit leading the apostle Paul and his companions unto a specific place but rather we find the Holy Spirit keeping them from going to those places they were never intended on journeying.

 

            As I write the words which are present in this writing I am brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful and astonishing truth concerning the activity and involvement of the Holy Spirit within our lives. I am absolutely convinced that the Holy Spirit does in fact lead us into and lead us unto those places whereunto we have been called, however, just as much as this is indeed true I am also convinced the Holy Spirit can in fact keep us from going unto those places whereunto we have not been called nor sent. IN this passage of Scripture we encounter and come face to face with the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the Holy Spirit’s involvement in the life of the apostle Paul and his companions and how the Holy Spirit would indeed keep and prevent them from going unto those places they had not been called. Oh we would like to think that the Holy Spirit leads and brings us into those places whereunto we have been called, however, I would dare suggest this is only a partial understanding of the Holy Spirit. I firmly believe the Holy Spirit can in fact keep us from journeying unto those places whereunto we have not been called to. There is something truly wonderful about this work of the Holy Spirit—despite the fact that there are men and women among us who would choose not to acknowledge this work of the Holy Spirit. There are those among us who would like to think that the Holy Spirit’s work is simply and solely to lead us unto those places whereunto we have been called and how the Holy Spirit cannot restrict, prohibit and forbid us from going unto those places where we have neither been called nor sent. Oh what makes this truly astonishing is when you think about and consider how many men and women among us are going places they were never sent, doing things they were never meant to do and preaching things they were never intended on preaching.

 

            The more I write these words the more I am brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding many men and women among us during these days and within this generation. I can’t help but think about how many men and women among us might very well have ignored the voice and the direction of the Holy Spirit and journeyed unto those places whereunto they were never called nor sent. How many men and women among us have perhaps heard the voice of the Spirit or felt the Spirit’s gentle presence forbidding, restricting and prohibiting them from one place and venturing to another and yet they completely and utterly ignored his voice and presence within their lives? How many men and women have been restricted by the Holy Spirit from doing certain things—whether in the secular world or perhaps even as it pertains to ministry—and yet they have ignored the words, the warning and caution of the Holy Spirit? How many men and women have been strictly and straitly forbidden by the Holy Spirit from preaching and saying certain things and yet they have completely ignored his voice and presence? If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture it’s that the Holy Spirit does indeed and does in fact speak to us in more ways than simply leading us into and unto those places whereunto we have been called. The Holy Spirit does indeed and does in fact call us into those places whereunto we have been called, however, the Holy Spirit can also speak unto us by restricting and prohibiting us from going to those places we have never been called nor intended on going. Oh I can’t think of anything that explains this better than the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the eighth chapter of the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the eighth chapter of this epistle beginning to read with and from the first and opening verse:

           

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath. Made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh,a nd for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit to mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:1-17).

 

            Consider also the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the churches which were in Galatia in the fifth chapter of that epistle beginning to read with and from the thirteenth verse:

 

            “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fgornication, uncleanness, lascivious ness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envying, murders, drunkenness, revel kings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.  Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:13-26).

 

            WALK IN THE SPIRIT! LED OF THE SPIRIT! LIVE IN THE SPIRIT! WALK IN THE SPIRIT! Oh there is a great need for us to recognize and understand the words which are found within this particular passage of Scripture for within it we find three distinct realities of our involvement and interaction with the person and presence of the Holy Spirit. It is in this passage of Scripture where we not only read of our need to walk in the Spirit but we are also called and invited to be led of the Spirit and to live in the Spirit. Please pay close attention to the words which are found here for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth of the life we have been called to in the person and presence of the Holy Spirit. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for there is something to be said about those who are actually walking in the Spirit—those who are walking in the divine counsel of the Holy Spirit. What’s more is that within these three distinct realities we find the reality of government—and by government I mean the government of the kingdom of heaven. That which I am referencing here is not government as we think about it in terms of the federal government but rather the government of the kingdom of heaven which we have been called to be servants unto. When I read of walking in the Spirit, when I read of being led of the Spirit, and when I read of living in the Spirit I can’t help but encounter and come face to face with a truly wonderful picture of our being called into a place where we surrender and submit ourselves to the activity and involvement of the Holy Spirit within our lives—regardless of what that truly does in fact look like.

 

            Even as I write these words I am confronted with and by the absolutely wonderful and incredible truth surrounding our need to be surrendered and submitted to the government of the kingdom of heaven within our lives. The Holy Spirit is indeed the person and presence of the government of heaven within our lives and not only leads us into and unto those places whereunto we have been called but the Holy Spirit also keeps us from those things and from those places we have not been called to. What’s more is there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if the person and presence of the Holy Spirit not only keeps us from places and things whereunto we have not been called but also keeps us from certain people as well. Please note and understand that by this I don’t mean the Holy Spirit has called and is keeping us from being vessels of loving our neighbors, vessels of loving our enemies and vessels of the love and grace of the living and eternal God. What I am referencing is how the Holy Spirit does indeed keep and restrict us from certain things, certain places and even certain people we have not been called. Consider how even while Jesus walked among us here upon the earth He would initially instruct and command the disciples not to go unto and among the Gentiles but to go only unto the lost sheep of Israel. For us to truly understand the activity and involvement of the Holy Spirit within our lives we must needs recognize the tremendous truth surrounding the involvement of the Holy Spirit within our hearts and lives and how the Holy Spirit does indeed keep and restrict our movement and our activity—although I must needs say “If we let Him.” It is true the Holy Spirit can indeed speak to us, however, we are given and have always been given the choice whether or not we are going to truly listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit within our lives and whether or not we are going to be those who are going to fully and completely surrender and submit our lives to the government of the kingdom of heaven and to the voice and presence of the Holy Spirit who speaks to us, who leads us and who even keeps us.

 

            The more I read the words which are found in this particular chapter the more I am brought face to face with the incredible truth surrounding the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit and its direct connection to the vision which the apostle Paul would see in the night. Although the Holy Spirit would forbid them from going into a certain place and would forbid them from going unto another place there would indeed be clear direction on where they were being called to go. If there is one thing that must be noted when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture it’s how the Holy Spirit would keep, restrict and prevent the apostle from journeying unto certain places and would do so because that wasn’t where they were called to go. While on the surface it might have seemed like the Holy Spirit was limiting and restricting the movement of the apostle Paul and his companions He was actually working direct alignment with the will of the eternal Father and where the word and name of Jesus of Nazareth needed to be preached and proclaimed. This is something which must needs be carefully considered as it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the involvement of the Holy Spirit within the life of the apostle Paul and how although the Holy Spirit would restrict their movement from going into a certain place the apostle Paul would indeed receive clear direction on where they were to go. It’s interesting to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and consider how after the apostle Paul had seen the vision of the man from Macedonia he and his companions immediately endeavored to into Macedonia assuredly gathering that the Lord had called them to preach the gospel in that place. Oh please don’t miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely astounding it truly is for it brings us face to face with the truth surrounding the recognition that the Lord was indeed calling them to preach the word and name of Jesus unto those who were present in Macedonia.

 

            While I write these words I find it absolutely necessary to draw and call your attention to the undeniable reality that although it might very well be revealed by the Holy Spirit and by the Lord—whether through a dream, or through a vision or even through a prophetic word—that does not mean that where we have been called we will live absent and free from suffering, affliction, trials, persecution and the like. In fact if you turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the fourteenth chapter you will find Luke writing how the apostle Paul could confirm the souls of the disciples and would exhort them to continue in the faith and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. The apostle Paul would know—perhaps better than anyone—the struggles, the conflicts, the dangers, the afflictions, the suffering, the persecutions that would arise for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus. In fact it would be when the Lord Jesus appeared unto and spoke to Ananias He would reveal to him how Saul must suffer many things for the sake of His name and for the word and gospel. Although we find the apostle Paul seeing a vision in the night of a man from Macedonia entreating them to come and help those who were there that would not mean the apostle Paul would not face trials and troubles and tribulations. In fact it would be later on when speaking unto the elders of the Ephesian congregation he would declare that the Holy Spirit had borne witness unto him that in every city whereunto he would journey trials, troubles, afflictions and suffering awaited and abided him in those places. This is something we must needs understand when reading the words which are found in the sixteenth chapter for here in this passage of Scripture we find the apostle Paul, Timothy, Silas and others coming unto Philippi which was a colony of Macedonia. It would be there in Philip they would abide certain days and would on one sabbath go out of the city by the river side where prayer was made. There in that place they would speak unto the women which resorted unto that place teaching and preaching the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

            If you continue reading the words which are found in this particular chapter you will find Luke writing how there would be a certain damsel who was possessed with a spirit of divination who met them—one who brought her masters much gain by soothsaying. This damsel would indeed follow the apostle Paul and those who were with him crying out with a loud voice declaring that these men were the servants of the most High God which showed the way of salvation. Luke writes how this damsel would do this many days eventually grieving the heart and soul of the apostle Paul who would turn to her and command in the name of Jesus Christ the spirit to come out of her. Immediately the spirit which was present within her came out and she was completely and utterly delivered and set free from that which had possessed and oppressed her. What we find here in this passage of Scripture is something which is truly astonishing when you take the time to think about it for the deliverance of this damsel of the spirit which possessed and tormented her would anger and infuriate her masters who realized that their hope and gain for money was now gone. The deliverance of this damsel would strike at the very heart of the wallets and pockets of those masters and would indeed cause them to be greatly incensed and outraged at the apostle Paul. Oh this is something we must needs recognize and understand for it provides a powerful picture of just how much the love of money can truly be. What’s more is this passage demonstrates how there are times when the manifestation of the kingdom of God can deliver those who are possessed and at the same time end the ability of others to make money.  Oh I have to admit that I can’t help but wonder what would happen if such a manifestation of the kingdom of heaven happened in our generation today—within our nation, within our government, within business, within corporations, within churches and the like. What would happen if the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven among us in our midst categorically restricted the ability to make money and further gain? What would happen if the disciples and people of God rose up within this generation in the power and authority of the Holy Spirit and brought deliverance unto those men and women who desperately needed it—even if it would destroy the ability others have to make and create wealth?

 

            As you continue reading the words which are found in this passage you will find that when the masters of this damsel saw that the hope of their gains was gone they caught Paul and Silas and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers. It would be there in the marketplace they would accuse them of exceedingly troubling their city and teaching customs which were not lawful for them to receive nor to observe being Romans. Luke goes on to write how the multitude rose up together against them and the magistrates rent off their clothes and commanded to beat them. When they had laid many stripes upon them they cast them into prison charging the jail or to keep them safely. The jailor—having received such a commandment—would thrust them into the inner prison and made their feet fast in stocks. Oh I can’t help but find this absolutely astounding when you take the time to think about it for it calls and draws our attention to the reality of how the disciples and people of God can even be a threat to commerce and to the ability to create and make gains in the monetary environment. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for the sole reason Paul and Silas were falsely accused, beaten and imprisoned was because of the offense, the anger and the rage of those men who realized their hope of gain from this damsel was gone. These rulers would wrongly and falsely accuse Paul and Silas of troubling the city and teaching customs which weren’t lawful for them to observe being Romans and it would incite the multitude who would rise up together against them. This is something that warrants our consideration for it is something we will see over and over again in the coming chapters as multitudes of people and crowds would be incited against Paul and his companions because of their preaching the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus. What’s more is the book of Acts reveals and demonstrates just how much the word, the gospel and the name of Jesus can truly transform a culture, society and even business and commerce.

 

            If you continue reading the words which are found in these chapters you will find how the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus did in fact completely and utterly transform culture and society—specifically in Philippi and Ephesus. You will recall in Ephesus how the preaching of the word and name of the Lord Jesus and the demonstration of the Holy Spirit would indeed lead to the burning and destruction of all the books of sorcery and other materials in the midst of the city. What’s more is that it would be there in Ephesus where Demetrius would stand up and declare unto all those who were present how these men threatened the worship of Diana—and not only the worship of Diana but also the business surrounding worship of her. What we must needs recognize and understand when reading these chapters is that when the kingdom of heaven is manifested and the power and presence of the Holy Spirit is demonstrated it can and will threaten the established order. We would be incredibly wise to recognize and understand this and how absolutely necessary it is for this generation and the days in which we are living. I am absolutely convinced that if the kingdom of heaven and the power and presence of the Holy Spirit is truly manifested within our nation and within our generation it will do more than impact those within the pews of the church. If the Holy Spirit is truly being manifested and if the kingdom of heaven is truly being demonstrated among us within this generation then it has to do more than bring about change and transformation within the church buildings. The true measure of the demonstration and manifestation of the Holy Spirit among us is not necessarily what it does in the four walls of the church but what it does in our culture, in our society, in the streets of our cities, and even in our government—both at the state, the local and even at the national level. The words which we find in this passage of Scripture demonstrates how the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven can in fact even touch the ability for gains and the ability for making money.

As I bring this writing to a close I am challenged by whether or not the demonstration and manifestation of the kingdom of heaven in my life is doing more than simply touching and transforming me individually. Is the work, is the demonstration, is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit truly doing more than simply bringing about change and transformation within my own life as an individual or is it truly changing those around me? Is the manifestation and demonstration of the Holy Spirit within my life touching and transforming the culture and society in which I am living? This is a question which we must needs ask for if the demonstration and manifestation of the Holy Spirit is and can only be felt and experienced within the four walls of our churches then we are severely limiting that which the Holy Spirit desires to do. The Holy Spirit desires to bring deliverance of men and women in the streets of our cities and in those places where many might not want to go and where many would not even think about going. The deliverance of this damsel would not take place in the synagogue but would take place outside of it and as a direct result of it would limit and restrict the gains of her masters. It would be the realization that their hope of gain was gone they would become outraged, offended and incensed against Paul and Silas and would not only wrongly accuse them but also incite the multitude against them. This would lead to Paul and Silas being beaten before ultimately being cast into prison and thrust into the innermost prison with their feet fast in the stocks. What we must needs realize, however, is that although Paul and Silas were imprisoned their faith, their hope, their confidence and their ability to pray and worship before the Lord their God. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for although Paul and Silas were imprisoned and shackled it could not silence their prayers nor could it silence their praises before the living God. We must needs pay close attention to this and how absolutely incredible it truly is for if there are two things which we cannot afford to lose in the coming days—regardless of what happens—it’s our ability to pray and our ability to sing praises unto the living God. We as the disciples of the Lord Jesus must needs be those who continually pray without ceasing and sing praises to the Lord regardless of what takes place before and around us within this culture, society and generation.

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