The Holy Spirit has always been at work in missions. David Livingstone had wanted to go to China but a war broke out, diverting him to Africa instead. William Carey originally intended to minister in the South Pacific, but God steered him to India. The Spirit of God will spread the gospel wherever He wills.
The same was true for the early church. After a disagreement with Barnabas, Paul and Silas decided to revisit earlier church plants for pastoral oversight. At first, they went to southern Galatia. Then intending to travel into northern Asia Minor, Mysia, and Bythinia, “the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to” (v. 7). Think of the likely confusion and uncertainty they must have felt about where God wanted them!
Then the clear call came to go to Macedonia, they obeyed, and doors were opened. The main focus in today’s reading is on the evangelistic efforts in Philippi, and Scripture recounts the great success God brought about through Paul and Silas. First, a businesswoman named Lydia came to believe in Jesus, and she and her household were baptized. Her home would become Paul’s missionary headquarters in Philippi.
Next, having exorcized a slave girl possessed by a spirit, Paul and Silas were dragged before magistrates, beaten severely, and thrown into prison. Yet, God produced an earthquake that released them from their chains and cells. The jailer, despairing of his own life, listened to Paul’s words of salvation, and the jailer and his household came to faith and were baptized.
Even the challenge of opposition led Paul to preach the gospel in new contexts. Paul’s obedience to the Spirit’s change in travel plans allowed the gospel to take root in the lives of Lydia and the Philippian jailer.