Study 10 THE MACEDONIAN CRY
by Francis Dixon
Key Verse: “a man…standing and begging him, ‘Come over and help us'” (Acts 16:9)
This concluding study is based upon a challenging experience that came to Paul (and to Silas), which we find in the opening verses of Acts chapter 16. Paul was on his second missionary journey and was revisiting the churches in Asia Minor, engaging in the task of consolidation – look at verses 4 and 5. In verses 6 and 7 we read of the direction of the Holy Spirit. Paul longed to take the Gospel to other cities in Asia, and on at least two occasions when he attempted to do so, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Stop!’ The Holy Spirit directs us in our service for the Lord both by constraining and by restraining us; sometimes by opening a door (Revelation 3:8), at other times by closing doors! How thankful we should be that the Holy Spirit directed Paul into the field of His choice and that Paul was willing to submit to His constraining! Why? Because as the result of Paul’s obedience, the Gospel entered Europe for the first time. In verse 8 we are told of Paul’s obedience to the Holy Spirit’s leading. Notice what happened:-
1. THE VISION HE SAW
Look at verse 9. Suddenly Paul’s sleep was interrupted and he saw a man, a representative of a new continent that so far was unevangelised. In Acts, nine visions are especially mentioned, all of which had a direct bearing upon the spread of the Gospel – look up Acts 7:55; 9:5 and 11; 10:3,11; 16:9; 18:9; 22:17; 23:11. Does the Lord still direct His servants by giving them a vision of the need and the opportunity? Indeed He does! Before Carey went to India he had a blinding vision of the need in that vast continent; before Livingstone went to Africa he had a vision of multitudes of Africans without Christ; and before Hudson Taylor went to China he had a vision of millions of Chinese who needed the Saviour of the world. Can you see the people in your own land and in other lands who are lost and in such desperate need of help? Now notice the second thing that happened to Paul:-
2. THE VOICE HE HEARD
Verse 9 tells us that Paul not only saw a man but that the man spoke to him. He pleaded with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Would you go to the help of someone caught in a burning house or in danger of drowning? Of course you would! Millions of souls for whom Christ died do actually cry out now, in words that are full of pathos and urgency. ‘Help!…Help!…’ – people of every nation and every language. What do they cry out for? The answer is – help; and notice that their appeal is not simply for help to be sent, but that those who hear their cry should themselves go. The appeal is, ‘Come over and help us!’ and the appeal is to doctors, nurses, teachers, secretaries, carpenters, builders, agriculturalists, engineers – people of all walks of life who will live and preach the gospel where the need is greatest. Could you go and help in any one of these ways? Paul knew he could, and having seen the vision and heard the voice he did something about it. Notice what it was:-
3. THE VOCATION HE ACCEPTED
Paul recognised that God was in this experience, and without questioning or delay, gave his complete obedience to the revealed will of God. Notice in verse 10 the characteristics of this obedience:-
- (1) It was prompt obedience. Notice the words “at once”.
- (2) It was united obedience. Notice the use of the pronouns ‘we’ and ‘us’. Paul shared the whole matter with his colleagues.
- (3) It was bold obedience. Notice the words “concluding that God had called us to preach”. This indicates that they were taking a step of faith.
- (4) It was practical obedience. Notice the words “we got ready at once”. Sometimes young people say that God has called them to the ministry of the Word or to missionary service, but there seems little evidence of it. They do not take the practical steps to get ready to go.
- (5) It was purposeful obedience. These men were going for one purpose only, and that was ‘to preach the gospel’ – look up 1 Corinthians 9:16, and compare Romans 1:16.
Paul not only saw a vision and heard a voice, but he accepted God’s holy will and stepped out in faith and complete obedience. What happened when Paul did this? Let us notice three things which are indicated in Acts 16:-
4. THE VICTORIES HE EXPERIENCED
- (1) A number of people were gloriously converted. Probably there were very many conversions, for the whole story is not recorded. Two people, however, are given special mention: they are Lydia (verses 14 and 15), and the Jailer (verses 26-34). How worthwhile it was for Paul to obey the Lord and to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit!
- (2) The power of Satan was marvellously thwarted. Verses 16-18 tell us of a demon-possessed fortune-teller who was delivered from the power of the Enemy and brought into a vital experience of God’s salvation. How well worthwhile it was for Paul to obey the Lord and to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit!
- (3) The grace of the Lord was strikingly manifested. It is always a costly business to answer the missionary call. It was very costly for Paul and Silas, as verses 19-24 show, but what a victory they gained! Though it was midnight, their backs were bleeding and their feet were in the stocks, yet – look at verse 25. Here is grace in action, grace that is sufficient in every time of need and in every situation – compare 2 Corinthians 9:8 and 12:9.
Our study and this series of studies are at an end. There is one closing word – it is found in John 2:5.