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,…
Apart from any doctrine of the personality and work of the Holy Spirit, there is a practical realization of his presence, and gracious working in us and by us, which is a source of continuous strength and comfort to the believer. It is this which we find illustrated in the passage now before us. The apostolic conception of the Holy Ghost has not been adequately studied apart from doctrinal theories. It is forgotten that the apostles were Jews, and that help towards the apprehension of this Divine gift and indwelling they must have sought in their Old Testament associations. The Spirit of God in the prophets must have been to them the model and the foreshadowing of their larger gift. And this must have been their chief thought. All Christ's people are prophets; the Spirit of God dwells in them all, and is the Inspiration of all they say and the Guide of all they do. Their idea of the old prophets is well expressed by St. Peter (1 Peter 1:21), "Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost;" and his words precisely convey the idea which is to be entertained concerning the apostles and first missionaries. In the passage before us the Holy Ghost as the actual present Guide of the apostles, directing them where they may go and where they may not go, is presented to us. Lives that are truly and fully consecrated to the service of the Lord Jesus Christ are taken out of men's own control and committed to the charge of the Holy Spirit; and those who realize such a full consecration find no practical difficulty in following the Divine lead. Reviewing the incidents narrated in these verses, it will be seen that St.. Paul expected no external revelations and no miraculous guidances. In whatever way he realized the presence and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it was a way in which we may realize it too; and we may set forth two of the ways which are common features of Divine leading in all generations.
I. THE HOLY GHOST LEADS BY INWARD IMPULSES. Men's actions are decided upon more subtle motives and considerations than they usually imagine. Perhaps it would be found that very few of them depended upon decisions of the intellect. Some result from careful judgment; some from self-will or passion; some from emotion; and into many men are led by the passing influences of the hour. Men are acted upon by many influences, which reach the mind, the heart, or the will. But the supreme inward influence is that of the Divine Spirit. He has access to every part of our inward being. He can
(1) suggest thought for consideration;
(2) direct the judgment to wise decisions;
(3) move the will to fitting resolves;
(4) tone the feelings to right harmonies;
(5) and preside over the plans which are formed.
It is by missing this relation of the Holy Ghost to the very springs of action within us, that men - Christian men - so often doubtingly ask, "But how can we know that we are doing what God would have us do?" Openness to God's inward lead is surely followed by God's response in an inward leading; and when we are set right towards God we may feel sure that the decisions of our judgment and the resolves of our will are divinely controlled and ordered. St. Paul followed the inward feeling that he must not go into Mysia, etc.
II. THE HOLY GHOST LEADS THROUGH PROVIDENTIAL CIRCUMSTANCES. These will always be found to match the inward leadings, and they help to give us assurance that we are following in the way that we should go. Nothing is more surprising in our lives than the opening of providential doors. If we will but
(2) watch, and
the path will surely clear before us, and the Divine finger point us, and the Divine voice in circumstances say, "This is the way, walk ye in it." We may, on this matter, fall into errors which may seriously depress us.
1. We may mistake providences for accidents, and so fail to see God in them.
2. We may cherish the unbelieving notion that God does not work by things.
3. We may take up notions of natural law which deprive us of faith in God's living working.
4. And we may fail to wait for God's providential openings, and try to force our own way; so grieving that Holy Spirit which dwelleth in us. - R.T.
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,