Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,…
1. Here is the direct action of the Holy Ghost. The early Christians realised that they were living in the age of the Holy Spirit. Why should there be any difficulty in believing that spirit may affect spirit? We believe that matter affects matter. It is quite scientific to believe that; yet to believe that mind can affect mind, that spirit can touch spirit, is fanaticism! I have not so learned life. It is easy for me, having seen the action of metal upon metal, to believe that there may be a kindred action of soul upon soul, God upon man.
2. The action of the Spirit is as morally mysterious as it is personally direct. Why should the Holy Ghost forbid the apostles to preach the Word anywhere? That we cannot explain; but then you cannot explain yourself. We are forbidden to do certain things. The things themselves are good, but the time is wrong, or the place is ill-chosen, or another opportunity is greater and ought to be absorbent. It is not enough that you are in a good place, doing a good work; your object should be to live and move and have your being in the Spirit of God, so that wherever He may point, your heart may outrun your feet in attaining the destination. Where life is bounded by programmes and outlines, and purposes merely human, life will be a succession of mistakes and stinging disappointments.
3. It is, to our degenerate piety, quite difficult to believe that the early apostles — yea, the prophets ages before them — could live so familiarly in the presence of the supernatural. Everything depends upon the level of your life. It is possible to live so high up in intellectual and spiritual companionship as to receive with grateful ease and friendly recognition appearances and communications which at one time would have affected us with the surprise of a miracle.
4. What did Paul see, then, in his vision?
(1) A man. He who truly sees a man must ever be moved by the pathetic sight. We do not see one another whilst we are in the crowd performing the day's jugglery. We do not see the man, but having once seen him under favouring lights, we must feel that man is a name high up in the register of life.
(2) A man in earnest prayer, praying to a fellow man. It was all, perhaps, the Macedonian suppliant could then do. We are allowed to pray at such altars as we can find. If you fell down before the least flower, before your mother's old armchair, it would be shrine enough. And by and by you will want a whole heaven for a church and altar. Begin where you can.
(3) A man in earnest, and a man seeking help. There are cowards that run away when poor, ill-used people call for "help." Christianity is "help" or it is nothing. This is a typical instance. If the Church could have its eyes opened today, it would see every unevangelised country and every land in sore strait or difficulty typified in this Macedonian man.
5. "And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured —" Luke here joins the company. Up to this time the narrative has been written in the third person; it will now be written in the first. The missionaries came "to Philippi." There is a city plan of evangelisation; the apostles followed that plan. They did not hide themselves in obscure places; we find great names in their record. What is the justification of these metropolitan names? This — and higher there is none — "Beginning at Jerusalem." So we shall find in these missionary records Jerusalem, Antioch, Corinth, Philippi, Athens, Ephesus, name upon name of local eminence and dignity, yet all the names put together are not equal to London! Give us London, and we have the key of the world. Converted London would seem to mean converted England; and converted England would be almost equal to a converted world!
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,