Over to Europe

The Church’s first historian, when he came to tell of the gospel’s passage from Asia to Europe, included details unique to this story, and even a personal note. Referring to Paul and his companions, the text of Acts says,

They traveled through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the Word in Asia. Approaching the border of Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not let them. Having passed through Mysia, they came down to Troas. During the night, a vision came to Paul: There was some man of Macedonia, who stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Cross over to Macedonia and help us.” Once he had seen this vision, we immediately arranged for passage to Macedonia, concluding that God had summoned us to evangelize them. Setting sail from Troas, we made a straight run to Samothrace and, on the morrow, Neapolis. (Acts 16:6–11)

Prominent among the details in this account are the two interventions of the Holy Spirit to guide the missionaries along a particular geographical path. After young Timothy had joined the group at Lystra, Paul had in mind to move directly west, toward the province of Asia, but the Holy Spirit said “no.” He then attempted to travel north to Bithynia, but the Holy Spirit closed that door, too. It was then that Paul decided to go northwest. This time the Holy Spirit did not hinder them.

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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).

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