Spirit-Led Preaching

The God of heaven has a message of salvation for the world. He also has a plan for spreading that message, and His plan is gloriously foolish: He chooses ordinary men to speak words about Jesus, calling others to repentance and faith. But while God entrusts the work of preaching to men, He doesn’t leave them alone to finish the job. This is the first point from Acts 16:6-10: the presence of God. We see this in the active leading of God on three separate occasions in the space of five verses. Each of the three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are intimately involved in giving direction to God’s people. We might put it this way: who came on this mission trip? Paul, Silas, Timothy, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God has not left His people to figure things out for themselves. He is present in the mission of the Church.

The second thing I want us to see is the providence of God. Paul and Silas were heading to Asia with good motives, but God had something else in mind, and redirected their steps several times before leading them through a vision to preach in Europe. The missionaries weren’t waiting around doing nothing; they were trying every door they could find. But they were quick to drop their plans and follow new instructions when God revealed them. The lesson is this: don’t be idle, and don’t make your plans an idol. Keep moving, keep loving people, keep serving God, with a heart ready to submit to His purposes. This is what it means to live under the providence of God.

The third thing from this passage is the prerogative of God. In Acts 16, God takes action to divert the spread of the gospel from one area of the world to another. In this case, this means that there were some people in Asia who died without having heard the gospel because of God’s actions, and the same sort of thing still happens today. Not everyone hears the gospel. This is a sobering reality, and it’s very tempting to get God off the hook by blaming men: we were unfaithful in our commission to reach the world. There is some truth to that, but this text shows us that the mystery runs even deeper. That some people are not given the opportunity to hear the gospel is attributed directly to God Himself, and that makes us uncomfortable.

Why does God act in such a way that some men don’t have a chance to hear the gospel? Why Macedonia and not Asia? Here we are dealing with mysteries too deep for us. God’s choice in the election of individuals, or as we see here, regions, to hear and believe the gospel is based on reasons that are known to God alone. The best we can do is put up some guardrails around our thinking that keep us from driving our theology into a ditch.

Three guardrails I want to mention are justice, love, and wisdom. First, the justice of God. We do not know why God chooses some and not others, but we do know that His choice is just, because God’s actions define justice. It simply isn’t going to happen that someone will come along who is more concerned with justice than God. Second, the love of God. God has told us in 1 Timothy 2, in John 3:16, and in many other places, of His desire for the salvation of the world. Whatever His reasons are, a lack of love is not one of them. There is no one who loves the world more than Jesus. Third, the wisdom of God. Paul bursts into praise in the book of Romans: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” There is no one who could possibly come up with a wiser plan than God for the spreading of the gospel.

God’s prerogative as Creator, Sustainer, Savior, and Lord is to do whatever He wants with His world. No one has the right to ask Him: “What are you doing?” He doesn’t owe anyone an explanation, He doesn’t tell us everything, but this is what we do know from the word of the God: whatever God does, it is wise, loving, and just. His actions in Acts 16 are wise, loving, and just. We may not be able to see why or how, but we can be certain that the problem is not with God, but with our eyes. This calls for faith, and so let’s pray that God will give us eyes of faith that see farther than our little minds can go.

Posted on Wednesday, November 12, 2014 by CJ Bowen