Acts 16:6

Roman provinces including Phrygia and Galatia.

Monday, 17 April 2023

Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. Acts 16:6

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The previous verse noted the strengthening of the churches that Paul and his team visited and how their numbers increased daily. With that, it now says, “Now when they had gone through Phrygia.”

Phrygia was mentioned along with many other areas in Acts 2:10 at the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Those from there who had come to faith in the Lord at that time would surely have gone back and met together, telling others about their faith in the Lord. Phrygia was the largest of the provinces of Asia Minor. Bithynia was to its north, Pisidia and Lycia were to its south, Galatia and Cappadocia were more easterly, and Lydia and Mysia were in a westerly direction.

Paul and his company traveled throughout this district, probably helped by a listing of the locations where believers were – as recorded and maintained by those in Jerusalem. This is speculation, but it is likely. With that, it next says, “and the region of Galatia.”

Rather, the word translated as Galatia is an adjective, “and the Galatian region.” This was, as noted, east of Phrygia. Of this area, Albert Barnes says –

“The region was formerly conquered by the Gauls. They settled in it, and called it, after their own name, Galatia. The Gauls invaded the country at different times, and no less than three tribes or bodies of Gauls had possession of it. Many Jews were also settled there. It was from this cause that so many parties could be formed there, and that so much controversy would arise between the Jewish and Gentile converts.”

The area will be noted again in Acts 18:23 and then the district will be noted in 1 Corinthians, Galatians, 2 Timothy, and 1 Peter. It is the location where the church of the Galatians that brought so much frustration and heartache to Paul is located. As Gentiles, they had turned from the faith of Christ and to the imposition of circumcision. As such, they were making themselves debtors to the whole law (Galatians 5:3).

For now, and with their travels through the region complete, it next says, “they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit.” Nothing is said of how this occurred. Some think it was by direct revelation, such as speaking to Paul. However, Luke will normally detail such intimate occurrences.

It could be that they could not find safe travel, guides to lead them, enough resources to effectively set out, or whatever. They knew they were being led by the Spirit and so obvious hindrances to their forward motion would indicate being frustrated to proceed by the Spirit. This is only conjecture, but Luke’s careful recording of such things seems to necessitate that this is what is meant. What they were unable to do was “to preach the word in Asia.”

This may make the thought above even more specific. It could be that they started into the area and simply had no effective evangelization at all. This would mean the area was not yet ready to accept what they would later openly acknowledge. Whatever the situation, this is not Asia as we think of in modern times. It is an area of the Roman empire already mentioned in Acts 2:9. Barnes notes that it is the area of proconsular Asia, also called Ionia. Again, he provides more detailed information on the area –

“Of this region Ephesus was the capital; and here were situated also the cities of Smyrna, Thyatira, Philadelphia, etc., within which the seven churches mentioned in Revelation 1-3 were established. Cicero speaks of proconsular Asia as containing the provinces of Phrygia, Mysia, Carla, and Lydia.”

Life application: The area of Asia will be evangelized later in Acts, being noted many times before the book closes out. It will also be mentioned in 1 & 2 Corinthians, 2 Timothy, 1 Peter, and Revelation. For whatever reason, the team was unable to evangelize the area at this time. More frustrations on where to go will arise in the next verses, but eventually, a different direction for them to travel will be made evident.

The Lord is all-knowing, and He knows what is best, when it is best, and every detail associated with how to proceed at such times for the best result. Therefore, if you are encountering a time of frustration in proceeding with something concerning evangelism, it may simply not be time for it to happen. Instead, look for another opportunity and wait on the Lord’s timing for what you had initially planned.

There are many places that were once unwilling to hear the gospel message that later accepted it wholeheartedly. There are missionaries who died while on the mission field with no converts. And yet, that occurs in areas where great success eventually was realized. Events like this show us that God is in control of what is going on and that His will is being worked out through us and our actions.

So don’t get frustrated if you seem to be hitting a wall in your efforts. The mission team that Paul was leading certainly faced impenetrable walls as they went. And yet, they picked up and moved on, knowing that the Lord was guiding their steps. Remember this, and don’t let setbacks stop you altogether. The Lord will lead as you continue. We can be sure of this, even if we cannot be sure of the “what and when” of the events ahead.

Glorious Lord, we know that You have planned out the paths to be taken so that the whole world will be evangelized. It has been a long and often difficult track for many, but Your plan is being realized. As this is so, help us in our own efforts to know which way to turn so that Your will for us will be realized in our actions. Amen.