Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia,but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas. That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.
We see how Paul was guided by the Holy Spirit not to preach the Good News to Asia but to move on to Macedonia instead. It would be logical for Paul to travel and preach around Asia, but logic is not the basis for calling. Though the Holy Spirit forbade Paul and Silas to preach in the province of Asia, Paul still attempted to go to the province of Bithynia in Asia. Yet again, the Holy Spirit stopped them. We are not told how the Holy Spirit prevented them. The Holy Spirit did not leave Paul clueless as to the next destination since He had forbidden him to preach in Asia. He was given a vision to go to Macedonia.
In the above passage and other passages of Acts, we saw the active guidance of the Holy Spirit in the ministry of Paul and other Christians in the following ways :
- Through the direct prompting of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 16:6. How the Spirit exactly prevented Paul from preaching the word, the Scripture did not reveal.)
- Through vision. (Acts 16:9).
- Through prophets. (Agabus predicted a famine. Acts 11:28)
- Through angels. (Philip was guided to the Ethopian eunuch. Acts 8:26-39)
Before I go on, I must stress that Scripture is the primary way of God’s guidance. All other ways have to be tested against it. But sadly, many dismiss all other ways of guidance and miss the joy of the close walk with the Spirit of God as we surrender to His guidance.
The Holy Spirit may prompt us through an inner voice (John 16:13) or our conscience (Rom 9:1). How do we discern that it is really His prompting and not our own thoughts or from other sources ? We have to test it against the Word of God because the Holy Spirit will not prod us to do something against the Word of God, and our conscience is suspect at times. On the other hand, do not over-ride the prompting of the Spirit by our own logic or our own preference at times. (Do not get me wrong that we do not exercise prudence for prudence is also a cardinal virtue of a Christian. We are exhorted to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. I am only exhorting not to trust ONLY logic ALL the time and dismiss His prompting unknowingly.) God must have the best interests of Paul in disallowing him to go to Asia but to send him to Macedonia. Many Christians suffer for making the wrong decisions in life by quenching the Spirit through insensitivity and disobedience to His prompting. I have seen missionaries, who claimed that God had sent them to a certain place but it was really their own preference, came back with fruit-less ministry for several years while being there.
Many believers do not believe in visions and so why will God give them one ? As long as the visions are not extra biblical revelation and do not contradict the whole counsel of the Word of God, why should we dismiss them as not one of the ways in which God may prod us to do something ?
Do not despise prophecy but to test each and every one. If the Antioch church did not believe Agabus on his prophecy of a coming global famine and take definitive preparatory action, the Judea church might suffer terribly without the relief aid from them through the hands of Paul and Barnabas.
Heb 13:2 exhorts us to show hospitality to all strangers in case angels are sent to minister or to guide us.