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Forbidden by the Holy Spirit

During the Day of Pentecost detailed in Acts 2, a supernatural event enabled first century disciples to speak in tongues.  Initially, eyewitnesses thought the disciples were drunk until foreigners, visitors to Jerusalem, began to hear these men speak in their own native tongue.  According to Acts 2:9, this included Asia Minor, a place Paul and Silas chose to reach during Paul’s second missionary journey.  However, Luke records another strange occurrence in the passage below, the apostles were prohibited to introduce the gospel to Europe.

Now they passed through the territory of Phrygia and Galatia, after being forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in [the west coast province of] Asia Minor, Acts 16:6.

There are a couple of explanations for this region being forbidden by the Holy Spirit.  One Bible Commentary suggests this territory was not a designated Roman province.  As a Roman citizen, the apostle Paul accepted this spiritual push back as a clear sign to wait for another opportunity in the future.  Meanwhile, Acts 1:8 refers to a natural progression for the gospel to spread: Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.  The most logical explanation is that Paul and Silas went out of order, visiting the ends of the earth before reaching every nearby town and village.

And after they came to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; Acts 16:7.

As modern missionaries continue to fulfill the great commission, Matthew 28:16-20, the Bible warns of regions controlled by demonic powers such as Persia in the book of Daniel.  Those called to enter these dangerous countries and nations face the same risk the Elliott family took as described in the film End of the Spear.  When five missionaries were killed in Ecuador by the Wadani tribe, some would have seen this as a sign to quit.  Yet, this loss of life opened the door members of the Wadani to accept and receive the good news about Jesus Christ.  While there will always be forbidden areas on earth, may God fill you with resolve to fulfill God’s plan for your life.

by Jay Mankus

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