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.Acts 16:6-10
Well that stirred some of you up to respond to what I had to say. Now I will give you the other part of the story, of which there are two parts.
A) On the Issue of Legitimacy:
The fact that the Holy Spirit prompted Paul and Silas to move toward the west rather than the east does not make the Lord responsible for what His followers did in the way they went about evangelism. It is remarkable that the Holy Spirit pushed them toward the west and prohibited them for going east when we know of the great fleets of exploration which would come from European nations later in the cause of exploring the New World and Evangelism. Numbers of you commented on that, some saying “I hadn’t thought about that before Ian, but surely God must have known about that.” Yes of course. And the fact that there were abuses involved in terms of European domination (Conquest rather than Co-operation) doesn’t mean that was God’s intention. Look how thoroughly the groundwork was laid through the Council of Jerusalem to provide for culturally appropriate ways to minister the Gospel. If only those who had “gone in the name of the Lord” later had taken into account what was accomplished in the Council of Jerusalem to free the Gospel from cultural bias.
The fact that European hegemony was tied into the deal of evangelizing the New World can’t be blamed on God. The blame lies solely at the feet of those who carried the message. From AD 400 to AD 1,000 is known as the Dark Ages, when the world captured the Church. David Pawson again says the lifeboat must be in the sea, but if the sea gets into the lifeboat it is over.
During this period four things happened quickly:
- Regional bishops came to being
- A magical view of the sacraments was instigated
- Established religion took over
- Nominal membership became the norm.
All of which eroded the church’s spiritual power. The practice of infant baptism was started 150 years after Christ, thus eroding true discipleship. The nature of Communion changed:- the Bread and wine was believed to actually become the body and blood. The Lord’s Supper was therefore actually a sacrificial re-enactment. The minister officiating now actually had to be a priest, thus negating the idea of the priesthood of all believers. Constantine made Christianity the official state religion. Established religion produces fashionable and respectable Christianity. Any time the State became a force for spreading religion the church died. The church was now filled with those who were not Christians at all.
There was still a true church who protested and fought against the hierarchy. But the World descended into the Dark Ages ruled by an Established Church (The Holy Roman Church) which knew nothing of the True Kingdom of God. Popes who were apostate, priests who couldn’t even read the Scriptures for themselves and taught the people fables and myths. People bought and paid for their salvation with indulgences. I could go on but I won’t. The greatest judgement to come on the Apostate Church was the rise of Islam. Mohammed born in Mecca in 571, rejected the idolatrous superstition of the Arabs. He turned first to the Jews and then to Christianity, the tragedy is that Mohammed never met a true Christian. He saw the priest with vestments, crucifixes, idols and started his own religion. Islam then swept through France and the rest of Europe and into the Mediterranean. He was stopped at Leon and Vienna and then withdrew to Turkey and the North African coast. At the time there were little groups of Christians meeting who saw the Established Church as corrupt and declared we will worship together and don’t need priests, or the Pope. They were persecuted and their history utterly destroyed. All over Europe through the centuries there has been a continuous stream of local Christians who met around God’s Word. The Bogomil in Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, the Cathari (pure ones) in the Balkans, the Paulicians in Armenia and Asia Minor and many more. God has always preserved the true body of believers.
From AD 1,000 to 1500 we have the rise of Hildebrand a monk who became Pope and wanted to control everything. Church and State were merged under the power of the Pope. Oh dear, what a disaster. The Crossed Keys of Peter became the symbol of the Papacy and the Roman Catholic Church, the merging of Church and State. Thus began the Crusades for taking back the Holy Land, a dark blot on the name of the Christ, who advocated loving your enemies and turning the cheek to violence, and said to His followers who wanted to take up the sword, “Enough of that talk!”
The World now had to wait until John Wycliffe, the Morning star of the Reformation burst on the scene and dared to translate the Bible into English, attracting the anger of the Established Church. Little wonder because then the masses could read the Scripture for themselves and know what God’s Word actually said. The seeds of the Reformation were now sown and the Bible was translated into many languages. The people began to read their Bible in their own tongue and discover God again. The Established Church reacted with hate, spouting death and destruction to all Apostates. But actually those who controlled Religion were the apostate and now God’s Word was freed and the world was entering the age of discovery. The printing press was invented and the Word of God was again available to the world.
B) On the Issue of a Westward or Eastward Movement:
Let’s now have a look at what happened to the other disciples, while Luke is focused primarily on Peter and Paul. Remember Luke gave us glimpses earlier in Acts as to what was happening with other disciples and the Ethiopian Eunuch taking the Gospel to other places.
Andrew:– was a missionary to modern day Georgia/Bulgaria (area adjacent to the Black Sea near Turkey); martyred/crucified in town of Achaia (Greece). According to Hippolytus: Andrew preached to the Scythians [modern day Georgia] and Thracians [modern day Bulgaria, both Georgia and Bulgaria are adjacent to the Black Sea near Turkey], and was crucified, suspended on an olive tree, at Patrae, a town of Achaia [Greece]; and there too he was buried.
Bartholomew:– was a missionary to India. According to Hippolytus, Bartholomew preached in India (geography – moving to the east and to the south, you have Turkey, than Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and then India: Bartholomew, again, preached to the Indians, to whom he also gave the Gospel according to Matthew, and was crucified upside down, and was buried in Allanum, a town of the great Armenia [modern day southern Georgia]. Eusebius, in his Church History, confirms the ministry of Bartholomew in India.
James, Son of Alphaeus:– local missionary in Jerusalem; Hippolytus identifies this James was stoned to death in Jerusalem, when preaching in Jerusalem, was stoned to death by the Jews, and was buried there beside the temple.
James, Son of Zebedee:– local missionary in Judea. Act 12:1 And at that time Herod the king threw on his hands to oppress some of those of the church. Act 12:2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. This is confirmed by Hippolytus: James, his brother, when preaching in Judea, was cut off with the sword by Herod the tetrarch, and was buried there.
John, brother of James and son of Zebedee:– John was one of the few disciples that did not die a cruel death, but of old age. According to Hippolytus, John was banished by Domitian to the Isle of Patmos, and later died in Ephesus: John, again, in Asia, was banished by Domitian the king to the isle of Patmos, in which also he wrote his Gospel and saw the apocalyptic vision (Revelation); and in Trajan’s time he fell asleep at Ephesus, where his remains were sought for, but could not be found.
Matthew / Levi:– missionary to Parthia (Iran); died of old age Matthew: A tax collector in Capernaum; son of Alphaeus, possibly James’ brother; also known as Levi or the publican; wrote the Gospel of Matthew; died at Hierees, a town of Parthia (Iran). Eusebius referenced to Bishop Papias of Hierapolis, as early as c. 110 A.D., bearing witness to Matthew’s authorship of his gospel: ….Matthew put together the oracles [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could. According to Hippolytus: Matthew wrote the Gospel in the Hebrew tongue, and published it at Jerusalem, and fell asleep at Hierees, a town of Parthia [Parthia is near modern day Tehran in Iran]
Peter:– missionary to Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Betania, Italy, Asia; crucified upside down in Rome. Hippolytus confirmed the fact that Peter was crucified by Nero in Rome: Peter preached the Gospel in Pontus (Turkey), and Galatia (Turkey), and Cappadocia (Turkey), and Betania, and Italy, and Asia, and was afterwards crucified by Nero in Rome with his head downward.
Philip:– missionary to Phrygia (Turkey); crucified upside down in Hierapolis (Turkey). According to Hippolytus, Philip preached and was executed in what today is eastern Turkey: Philip preached in Phrygia, and was crucified in Hierapolis with his head downward in the time of Domitian, and was buried there.
Simon the Zealot;– bishop of Jerusalem after James; died of old age. According to Hippolytus, Simon the Zealot was the second Bishop of Jerusalem: Simon the Zealot, the son of Clopas, who is also called Jude, became bishop of Jerusalem after James the Just, and fell asleep and was buried there at the age of 120 years.
Thaddaeus / Judas son of James:– missionary to Edessa and to the surrounding Mesopotamian region (Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Iran); died of old age. Hippolytus records: he preached to the people of Edessa (upper Mesopotamica), and to all Mesopotamia (corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran), and fell asleep at Berytus (Lebanon, near Syria and Turkey), and was buried there.
Thomas:– missionary to Parthians/Medes/Hyrcanians (Iran), Bactrians (Afghanistan); preached to the Parthians (Iran), Medes (Iran), Persians (Iran), Hyrcanians (Iran), Bactrians (Afghanistan), and Margians; was killed and buried in Calamene, a city of India. Hippolytus records that Thomas was an active missionary, and that he met his fate in India:
Matthias:– local missionary in Jerusalem; died of old age
Paul:– missionary to Illyricum (Croatia), Italy, Spain; martyred/beheaded in Rome. Paul became an apostle a year after the ascension of Christ and beginning at Jerusalem, he advanced as far as Illyricum (Croatia), Italy and Spain, preaching the Gospel for 35-years. In the time of Nero he was beheaded and buried at Rome.
A quick reading of the above file on the disciples will show you the gospel did not just move to the west. It also went east as far as India. From the twelve and those added to them the Gospel moved out from Jerusalem northward into Eastern Europe and Asia Minor, south into Africa, and east as far as India. And of course West into Europe via Paul and Silas and eventually around the world via the great sailing fleets of the colonizers.
However, the story encourages us to stand true to our calling and ensure that what we carry is the true Gospel of Christ and not something other gospel, which is not good news at all. That ought to be a challenge to all of us to take time to know what True Gospel is before we preach it. Let’s learn the lessons of history otherwise we will spend 40 years to cover a journey of 11 days (Deut 1:2). Or alternatively waste centuries of time spreading a gospel of man and not God.
What I have given you is a potted history of Christianity. Of course, there is way more but it’s hard to reduce 1500 years into however many words I have. I trust it gives you a handle on the significance of the moment when the Holy Spirit blocked Paul and Silas from going east and called them to the west and the significance of the priesthood of all believers.
God is never in a hurry. The only time He ran, was when the prodigal son came home.Ian Vail
You can make yourself accountable, or you will be made accountable by the circumstances you create.Lavonia Grabau
Change almost never fails because it’s too early? It almost always fails because it’s too late!Rick Godwin
Stay true to the God who called you out of darkness into His light.Ian Vail
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.John 1:5
Don’t allow the darkness to overcome the light in you. Let you little light shine and keep shining.Ian Vail
The lifeboat must be in the sea, but if the sea gets into the lifeboat it is over.David Pawson