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Paul’s Vision of a Macedonian

February 6th, 2022

During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." (Acts 16:9) Passage: Acts 16:36-16:10

After the first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas returned to their home church in Antioch, Syria. They found that some people from Judea were spreading something other than the gospel among the believers at Antioch. They misled the believers by telling them circumcision was required to be saved. Paul and Barnabas brought this matter to the central church in Jerusalem. The first Christian Council was held to resolve this matter. Peter, Barnabas and Paul, and James testified to the salvation by the grace of Jesus alone. Today’s passage is about the beginning of the second missionary journey.

Verse 36 reads, “Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.’” During the first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas had seen the great work of God in every city they had visited. People listened to their messages and believed in Jesus. But the Jewish leaders had stirred up persecutions and threatened their lives. The mission team had to return to Antioch in Syria. Those new believers were like sheep without a shepherd. Paul wanted to see how they were doing, and encourage them.

But a problem arose. During their first journey, John Mark joined them. But he deserted them in Pamphylia and went back to Jerusalem. Probably John had been overwhelmed by the challenges and hardships during the journey. This time for the second missionary journey, John Mark was willing to join again. Barnabas wanted to take him, but Paul did not think it was wise to take him. Verses 39-40 read, “They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left...”

It is heart aching to learn about the sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas. They had years of friendship and partnership in Christ. When the apostles in Jerusalem were not willing to accept Paul because his persecution against the church, Barnabas defended Paul and introduced him to the apostles. When Paul was staying in Tarsus, his home town, Barnabas invited him to work together in Antioch church. Antioch church became an exemplary church under their shepherding. Their teamwork was great with Paul’s excellent teaching and Barnabas’ encouragement for people. Their first missionary journey was fruitful.

In dealing with John Mark, however, their disagreement was irreconcilable. Both sides had reasons. Barnabas wanted to give another chance to John Mark. On the other hand, Paul knew that John Mark’s abandoning the mission team had caused huge discouragement. He believed that each member in the mission team had to join with full commitment. There are still debates among Christians until today about their disagreement. Sometimes disagreements among leaders cause divisions and the devil’s attack on God’s people. Throughout history, most of divisions in Christianity were caused by disagreements among leaders.

It is worthwhile to think deeper about what happened after their disagreement. When they were separated from each other, both must have felt pains in their hearts. Nevertheless, God worked through both of them. Barnabas took John Mark sailed for Cyprus. Although Bible does not tell us much about them, we can put together from different sources. John Mark was restored. Later, John Mark went to Egypt and founded the Coptic Orthodox church. While most of the regions in Northern Africa were converted to Islam, the Coptic Christians still keep their faith with martyrdom spirit. John Mark also assisted apostle Peter in Rome and learned from him. He became the author of Mark’s gospel. Eventually, apostle Paul recognized John Mark as 2 Timothy 4:11 says, “...Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” Paul acknowledged John Mark as a helpful man of God.

Let us now follow the missionary work of Apostle Paul. Verse 40 reads, “...but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord.” Silas came to Antioch from Jerusalem along with Paul and Barnabas. Since then Silas became a faithful coworker. Paul’s mission team was commended by the believers in Antioch. This tells us that Paul’s team was endorsed by the church. Moreover, the author Luke joined Paul’s mission team. Soon, another disciple Timothy would join the mission team. In this way, Paul’s mission team was formed with new leaders.

[Map] 16:1 reads, “Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was Jewish and a believer but whose father was a Greek.” In Lystra, Paul met a disciple named Timothy. Timothy had a good reputation that the believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. Lystra was the city where Paul had healed a lame man from birth. Soon after, some Jews from Pisidian Antioch and Iconium came and stoned Paul almost to death. Timothy must have seen the lame man being healed through Paul as well as the violent persecution. It is amazing to see that a faithful disciple growing there. Timothy was willing to join Paul’s mission team. In serving a ministry, we may have sense of failure facing challenges, obstacles, and persecution. But it is God who works in the hearts of disciples.

What did Paul do with Timothy? Verse 3 reads, “Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area...” We learned last week about the salvation by grace of Jesus alone, not through circumcision. That had been confirmed through the first Council in Jerusalem. Next verse, verse 4, tells us that mission team delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. They preached salvation by the grace of Jesus alone, not through circumcision. But Paul had Timothy circumcised to take him along. Why did he do so? It does not make sense!

We can find an answer in Paul’s testimony in 1 Corinthians 9:19-22, [Power Point] “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”

Paul had received strict trainings as a Pharisee. Since he accepted the gospel, he tasted true freedom in Christ. For the sake of the gospel, he was willing to do anything. He became all things to all people so that he could approach them, make friends, and lead them to Christ. In order to win the Jews, Paul let his disciple Timothy be circumcised. How could Paul do so? He learned from Jesus. John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus as the Son of God and God himself had all the glory, honor, and privilege in heaven. To be with us and save us, he came to the world in flesh and made his dwelling among us. We call this “the incarnation of Christ”. Jesus was a friend with sinners. We call this “The incarnational ministry of Christ.” Those who imitate Jesus, imitate his incarnational ministry. Like Paul, they are willing to be like anyone to serve them, to win them, and lead them to Christ. When we had BBQ fellowship last year, a Muslim friend was invited. As Christians, we were free to eat pork. But we wanted to embrace him with God’s love and did not eat pork. Toronto is a multicultural city with the people of different cultures and ethnics. How are we accommodating people of other cultures and ethnic backgrounds? Are we willing to put aside our own convenience to embrace them with the love of Christ? 

Let us follow Paul’s mission team. Verse 6 reads, [Map] “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.” Paul originally planned to visit the cities in which he had preached during the first journey. After visiting those cities, the mission team traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, parts of Asia Minor. But the Holy Spirit kept them from preaching there. Then they tried to enter Bithynia, the northern part of Asia Minor. But the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. The only way they could go was further west until they passed by Mysia and reached Troas.

There Paul saw a vision. Verse 9 reads, “During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’” [Map end]. In this vision, Paul saw a Macedonian man desperately begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” Humanly speaking, Paul had no reason to go to there and help them. What Paul saw was a vision from God.

When we observe the Book of Acts carefully, we see several milestones that led apostles and disciples toward world mission. The mission statement of the book is 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” The Holy Spirit is the power source of the world mission. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles powerfully, and enabled them to speak in different languages to all the people gathered in Jerusalem. When Philip was in Samaria, the Holy Spirit led him to the Ethiopian eunuch on the desert road. Philip taught him that the suffering servant in Isaiah 53 was Jesus the Messiah. In this way, the gospel reached to the continent of Africa. When apostle Peter had a fixed idea of God’s blessing on the Jews only, the Holy Spirit led him to the home of Cornelius, the Roman centurion, to see the work of God among the Gentiles. Now the Holy Spirit leads Paul and his mission team with a new vision and new direction. It was a turning point for world mission. By this call, God led them to another content Europe. After evangelizing Europe, gospel came to North America, and then to Asia. It will continue to move to regions of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Muslim, and back to Jerusalem.

Paul’s mission team concluded that it was God’s call to preach the gospel to them. They were relentless in preaching despite many challenges and hardships. Late Dr. Samuel Lee had God’s call from Matthew 28:19, “Make disciples of all nations”. This call led him to make disciples among campus students throughout the world. I was a country boy from a small village. I had no vision for the world. But Jesus’ commission “Make disciples of all nations” became God’s call for me. This call made me thrilled with vision. Even in the midst of the COVID pandemic, this call made me be filled with God’s vision and reach out people without limit. The father of modern missionary, William Carey’s motto, “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” God’s call and his vision makes our life fruitful and great!

Young Disciple Christian Fellowship – RU