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Why Did Paul Pass by Some Cities?

18 Jun

As we move along in Acts and with the raising of the church of the Philippians behind them, Paul and company passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia and came to the capital of Macedonia, Thessalonica, and preached the Gospel there (Acts 17:1)!

I understand that Luke, the good historian that he is, is merely reporting the facts or highlights of Paul’s missionary journey, magnifying only those parts that are most important. However, this doesn’t prevent me from wondering why Paul did or didn’t do certain things. For example, while in Asia, Paul was shown through a dream that he was to evangelize Macedonia. Knowing this and the fact that he was the Apostle to the gentiles, why did Paul pass by significant cities like Amphipolis and Apollonia? On the surface this doesn’t make sense. However, it is perfectly logical, if we take into consideration what the Lord taught his disciples about evangelization and draw reasonable conclusions from what he says to them in order to apply it to what should be done in the mission field.

Jesus once made the disciples aware of the scarcity of laborers in proportion to the men ready to be harvested for the sake of the work of God (Matthew 9:37-38). With this in mind, it makes perfect sense when Jesus told the disciples not to preach the Gospel to the gentiles or the Samaritans (Matthew 10:5-6). He wasn’t saying some people are not worthy, but simply stating that they were not quite as ready or as ripe as the Jews at that particular time. It makes more sense to use what little resources one has available for the greater good.

We must never believe we can rush things and cause people to believe. It is God who causes the increase or fruitfulness of the life of one or the lives of many (1Corinthians 3:6). I may plant seed or I may water the seed that is planted, but God alone makes people ready for the harvest.

Jesus told the disciples to inquire about worthy folk (Matthew 10:11) in whatever city they entered. They were to stay with them (cp. Acts 16:15 & Acts 17:4-7). It seems that Paul and company found people in both Philippi and Thessalonica who were ready to invest their lives and possessions for the sake of the work of God. Perhaps Paul and those with him didn’t find any such people in Amphipolis and Apollonia, indicating people in those cities were not ripe for harvesting at that particular time. Later they would hear of the churches at Philippi and Thessalonica and have a chance to consider the word of God for themselves, and in this way they could prepare themselves for the men of God who would come to them later.

Jesus’ command was, if the city was not ripe for harvest (Matthew 10:5), don’t preach there. I cannot manufacture a tomato and neither can I produce a believer. That is God’s job. Jesus also said, if those who would not (willfully) receive them, the evangelists were also to leave that city to its perilous course (Matthew 10:14-15). We are not to condemn or judge anyone for such things as these also belong to the Lord, not us.

So, it would seem that Amphipolis and Apollonia were simply not ready to receive the Lord at this time. Remember When Jesus cast out the territorial spirit at the Decapolis (Mark 5) the people asked him to leave their coasts, because they were afraid of him (Mark 5:17), but after they heard about his goodness and kindness to others (Mark 5:19-20) they became receptive and received him at their next opportunity (Mark 7:31-37; Mark 8:1-10). Some people are simply not ready to be taught about Jesus until they have heard about what he has done for others. Yet, even for these, God is patient, for he understands our fears. Praise his name forever!

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Posted by on June 18, 2011 in Paul's 2nd Missionary Journey

 

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