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(Acts 6:1–7) Trouble . . . Again!

(Acts 6:1–7) Trouble . . . Again!

by Stephen Davey
Series: Sermons in Acts
Ref: Acts 6:1–7

What was the first disagreement recorded in Church history? More importantly, how should we respond to division in the body today?

In Acts 6:1–7, the early church faces a growing problem: the Hellenists, or Greek-speaking Jews, are being neglected in the daily distribution of food. The apostles respond by appointing seven men to oversee this ministry. These men, known as the deacons, are chosen for their good character, their wisdom, and their commitment to the church. The deacons are a model of church leadership, and their story teaches us valuable lessons about the importance of diversity, delegation, and accountability.


An old Model T Ford was pulled off to the side of the road with its hood up, and a young man was trying desperately to get the old car cranked and  running.  He had been working at it for a long time without any success when a beautiful, chauffeur-driven automobile pulled up behind him, and a well-dressed gray-haired man got out.  He watched the young man working for moment and then suggested that he make an adjustment in one part of the engine.  The young man was skeptical, but nothing else had worked, so he did what he was told.  "Now" said the man, "Your car will run.  Crank it up."  So the young man cranked it once and sure enough, the engine started running again.  The young man was amazed that this wealthy chauffeured gentleman knew so much about cars; so he asked him, "How did you know exactly what to do to an old Model T?"  "Well," the older gentlemen replied, "My name is Henry Ford.  I made that car. . .and I know how it works"

Who made you?

Isn't it apparent that the God who so creatively designed everything there is – including you. . . would know how your life is supposed to work!

He knows how the engine works, how fast it can go – where the road is level and where it gets bumpy – He knows how you handle sharp turns; and  he knows how to maneuver you through busy traffic.

In God’s design for your life, he also knows where the delays are, and he knows when and where you will have to stop.

In fact, it’s much more than that God just knows – the fact is, He designs these stops – and in His plan for how your life is to work, the stops are as important as the steps. 

They are equally designed with as much purpose and meaning in your life as your steps.

All you have to do to see this principle tested out on the open road is to turn with me to Acts chapter 16, where the Apostle Paul experiences it first hand.

Now, everything starts out as planned, as Paul and his new assistant, Silas embark on this second missionary journey.  Notice 6:1.   And he came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek,  2.   and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium.  3.   Paul wanted this man to go with him;

For the moment, there is a brief layover in Lystra – while Paul is there he is reunited with believers that had come to faith in Christ during his first missionary journey.  You may remember from our discussion of Acts chapter 14 that is was in Lystra where Paul and Barnabas were mistakenly identified as Zeus and Hermes – two chief gods of the pantheon.  Rather than put on tank tops and flex their muscles, they admitted to the crowd the disappointing news that they were just ordinary men.  It wasn’t long afterward that the city turned into a mob and stoned Paul, leaving him only after they thought he was dead.

It was during those events in Lystra that a woman named Eunice and her mother Lois came to Christ – these two women had already been deeply devoted to Judaism – we know that because of the way Eunice had faithfully taught her son the O.T. law.

In fact, in 2 Timothy 3 Paul refers to the fact that her son, Timothy had been taught the sacred scriptures since he was a little boy – “Timothy,” Paul writes, “from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation.”

I say all of this as we pull over to the side and wait for this layover to end – so that every single Mom can be encouraged – or for that matter, every woman who is married to either an unbeliever, or a believer who does not provide spiritual leadership – it doesn’t automatically mean your children are without hope or future value in the service of God.

Maybe you could pray a prayer that Eunice probably prayed – a prayer for a godly man to become for her son a mentor – a spiritual leader –  a prayer that God answered – now mind you, it didn’t happen until Timothy was in his late teens – but Paul returned to Lystra and adopted Timothy as his son in the faith.

While Timothy’s unbelieving father had tolerated his wife teaching their son the O.T. law, he had evidently put his foot down, and would not allow her to have Timothy circumcised.

So Timothy is invited by Paul to join the team – now there’s still this problem – the fact that Timothy has come from a mixed marriage and has not been circumcised becomes an issue that needs solving.

While the Jews would have recognized Timothy’s Jewish bloodline through his mother, they would never have allowed him to speak in the synagogue or teach their young without the mark of the old covenant.  Remember, the church is still reeling from this divisive issue!

So notice what Paul does - 3b.  and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.

Many authors criticize Paul here for allegedly compromising – after standing up to the Jews by allowing the Gentiles to join the church without being circumcised, he now seems to compromise by circumcising Timothy.

Let me simply say this – Paul was never opposed to circumcision; he was opposed to the belief that circumcision was necessary for salvation.

So while circumcision was not important for Timothy’s salvation; it was important for Timothy’s ministry.  He was now acceptable in Jewish synagogues throughout the world.

Now verse  4.   Now while they were passing through the cities, they were delivering the decrees, which had been decided upon by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem, for them to observe.  5.   So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily.

So far, so good – this is the kind of ministry we’d expect to hear about from Paul, right?   New recruits for ministry,  new people added to the churches in these cities, teaching, preaching – growth, development.

There is a saying goes, “You either evangelize or you fossilize” – well, Paul and his team aren’t standing still long enough to gather dust, much less fossilize.

And that’s about to change!

  1. And they passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia;                      

Wait a minute – what do you mean, the Holy Spirit forbade Paul from speaking the word in Asia Minor.

Didn’t they need to hear??!!  Do you mean to tell me that Paul has been told to avoid an entire continent.

This is what you can call the sovereignty of God in evangelism.  The sovereign strategy in the sharing of the gospel.

Now I fill you in on a secret that will emerge later in the text – God intends for Paul to go to Europe with the Gospel – Paul just doesn’t know that yet.

I would love to know how the Holy Spirit forbade Paul – better yet, I would love to know why?  And for that matter, the Apostle Paul must have been mystified beyond words. 

The word translated forbidden, is derived from the Greek word kolos which means, “to cut short – to trim.”  In other words, the missionaries are plowing ahead in one direction, and the Holy Spirit cuts them off.  They try another turn – another small village and they are cut off again.  We’re not told how, but we do know that the Holy Spirit didn’t allow them any open doors in Asia Minor.

And the reason we know the Holy Spirit didn’t tell Paul, at this point, why – that is, Paul I want you to go to the continent we know as Europe – was because of the next verse:  7.   and when they had come to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; 

Can you see Paul trying to turn the doorknob on these cities – they’re locked out – confused – frustrated – this is different than any experience Paul and the others have ever encountered.

Isn’t it great to know that even the Apostle Paul was  not always clear as to God’s will for his life and ministry.

Paul wanted to go east – into Asia; God wanted Paul to go west into Europe.

One author writes,

            QUOTE #1

The end of that corridor was the westernmost tip of Asia Minor – a place Paul eventually reached – a city called Troas.  It was a difficult journey covering several hundred miles – nothing made sense to this missionary party – they had been blocked from going north, south, and east.  Now they finally arrived at Troas – it was situated on the edge of the Aegean Sea – it’s a dead end – there’s no where else to go - there is nothing to do but find shelter and get some sleep.

Now notice -  8.   and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.  9.   And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a certain man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to

Macedonia and help us.”

This is not a dream – this is a supernatural vision – God designs the hologram – Paul witnesses a man standing – he’s from Macedonia – we don’t know how Paul knew that – perhaps the words Macedonia were blinking in the background.

And he’s appealing to Paul saying, “Come over and help us.”

10.   And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

I took another look at Paul’s experience and came up with a few of observations related to God’s timing.

  1. Paul wasn’t told when he started where he’d end up!
  2. Paul was repeatedly hindered from what he wanted to do without being told why – like Abraham who went out not knowing where he was going (Heb. 11:8)  Do you feel like that?
  3. Paul was subjected to physical and emotional challenges without knowing how long his ordeal would last.

What do you do when you come to your Troas – a dead end – no answers – frustration – closed doors – weariness?

Let me suggest several things to do while you wait.

1)  Begin by giving God the right to take His time.

I say that tongue in cheek because God has the right whether you give. . .

I like the legend of the man who was granted an opportunity to talk with God.  He said, “Lord, how long is a million years to you?”  God responded, “A million years is just a second to me.”  “Hm…well, how much is a million dollars to you?”  The Lord said, “Oh a million dollars is just a nickel to me.”  The man thought a while and then with a sly grin on his face, said, “Well, Lord, how about giving me a nickel then?”  The Lord, said, “Well, I sure will . . . it’ll be there in just a second.”

Our values . . . our timing . . . our thoughts are not God’s thoughts.

Had Paul stubbornly resisted the timing of the Holy Spirit – he would have stayed in Asia Minor – he would have missed another companion that would help him dearly.  It’s easy to miss – but if you notice verse 10 again

you see a shift that hasn’t yet occurred in the entire Book of Acts. 

It’s the little word “we”.  The author of Acts, suddenly slips himself into the story – casually, humbly, Luke informs his readers that he is now part of the drama.  He will use the word “we” three times in the Book of Acts.

Now we know from other scripture that Luke indeed, was a traveling companion of Paul’s – in fact, as Paul lies in that Roman dungeon, awaiting execution – he writes to Timothy and says, “Only Luke is with me.”

How did Luke come to travel with Paul?  We don’t even know how they met in Troas – we don’t know if Luke was already a believer – probably not – how did they meet?

We can only guess, but I like the guess of one expositor of several generations ago who penned it this way

F.B.Meyer wrote:

What happened in Troas.  Paul, by patiently waiting for God’s timing, found a lifetime companion – a medical doctor named Luke.

2)  Believe by faith that God desires for you to discover His will.

When you were saved – God didn’t brush off his hands and say, “There, that does it for him.”   That’d be like taking a young man, whose just decided to become a pilot, placing him in the cockpit of a 757 and saying, “Congratulations on your decision to become a pilot – have a nice flight!”

Paul himself will later encourage the Colossians by writing that it is God’s desire for them to be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.

3)   Be sure to look at your stops from three different angles.

a)  Look up from your knees – the lens of prayer

More than anything, the best thing about praying with your head leaning against a closed door and waiting for other doors to open – is that God finally gets your attention! 

During those moments of desperation – and dependency, know that if any man or woman lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives liberally, and doesn’t rebuke you for asking.  So ask.

And while you’re asking. . .b)  Look carefully at the word – the lens of scripture

Make sure your dilemma isn’t violating God’s word – make sure you’re not doing something that the word would not endorse – make sure that you’re not praying about something that God wouldn’t want to answer – make sure you are praying about open doors that will maintain your commitment to Christ, your family, your church.

Don’t act before God in heaven, as if you’re some kind of exception on earth.

Here’s the manual – while you’re waiting – try studying, meditating.

c)  Look around for the wise – the lens of godly counsel

Solomon wrote that in a multitude of counselors there is safety.  Just make sure you’re asking advise from godly people.

Before the Lord can turn you around and head you in another direction, He often has to completely stop you  – and those potholes in the race track – those obstacles along the way that cause you to swerve and sweat – they’re all part of His plan – they’re part of the process – and the process is as important as reaching Europe was for Paul.

So now that God has your attention – fully give it to Him – better yet, in times like Troas, give yourself afresh to Him.

So that you can be prepared for His answer, whenever it comes.


“In our lives, God will sometimes shut down an exciting ministry or allow obstacles in our paths . . . we can’t imagine why God would shut some of the doors that He does.  So we try harder.  But when Jesus Christ closes a door, he merely has His sights on something better – something around the bend we can’t see yet.  For Paul, that something was Europe.  Paul had planned to evangelize Asia, but for now, Asia was merely God’s hallway for His men to pass through.  Along the way they jiggled doorknobs and tested locks, but no doors opened . . . until they reached the very end of the corridor.


Had Paul stayed months in the marketplaces of Asia, Europe might never have heard the Gospel from his lips.  However, and this is most important, an exacting march of 5-6 hundred miles over and through inhospitable territory would have exhausted already frail, Paul.  The rugged terrain and high plateaus through which the missionary party traveled on their way to Troas required some sort of medical attention once they arrived.  When Timothy went in search of a doctor he found Luke, and made history.  If the young doctor came to visit the needy traveler, he would talk with the patient . . . possibly returning several times.  It is not too much to believe that the impact of Paul’s personality, and the thrilling quality of  his gospel message, brought the physician to Christ.   It wasn’t long before he heard of Pauls instructions to continue his journey.  His new friend would most certainly be taxed to the limit – the inviting frontiers of Europe were both thrilling and menacing.  There was a prison in Philippi and mobs in that city.  What would this wonderful man do if his body and spirit were broken?  The more Dr. Luke considered these frightening possibilities, the more insistent became a whisper within his soul.  Could there be a place for a doctor in that brave little group of Christian warriors?  Could he preach with his hands while Paul preached with his voice?  Could be visit the sick and the aged in the churches while his companion stood in the  synagogues to proclaim the Master’s message?  We have no way of knowing how long these questions troubled the physician; we only know that, when Paul and his companions walked to the dock to board their ship, they were thrilled to see that doctor, bag in hand, hurrying to join their party.”

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