Following the Holy Spirit


Acts 16:6 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. 7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. 8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." 10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them. (NKJV)


Paul is on his second missionary journey to the churches in Galatia, present day Turkey. Silas accompanied Paul from their home church in Antioch, Syria and Timothy joined them in Lystra, his hometown. 

Now the three have traveled westward through the region of “Galatia” and later “Phrygia” (v. 6a). Paul and Silas ministered in the church at Derbe. Then the three ministered in the churches at Lystra, Iconium and Antioch in the region of Psidia. These churches were all considered to be Galatian churches, even though Antioch was located in the province of Psidia. 

Phrygia was a loosely defined area, west of Galatia, that included portions of several Roman provinces, including Psidia. The Phrygians were a very ancient people, and were supposed to be among the aborigines of Asia Minor according to Smith’s Bible Dictionary. 

The Roman province of Galatia was a large area that made up the central region of Asia Minor. The southern part of Galatia encompassed the Roman province of Lycaonia and part of Psidia. 

Paul and his party then travelled northward from Antioch Psidia and then westward along the northern border of Asia through the province of Mysia. Then the Holy Spirit closed the door to Asia and Bithynia to the north. 

Scripture does not tell us the details of this, only that they were not permitted to minister in those provinces at that point in history (vv. 6b-7). Asia included the future churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicia, the seven churches of Revelation 2-3, along with others such as Hierapolis and Colossae. 

The three continued travelling westward to the port city of Troas on the northwestern coast of Asia (v. 8). With Paul seeking direction from the Holy Spirit a “vision” came to him in the night (v.9a). “A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us’” (v. 9b). 

After the vision Paul knew that he had been called to minister in Macedonia, north of Greece (v. 10). At this point, in Troas, Luke joins the ministry team, as indicated by Luke’s writing of “we” in verse ten. So the team of four now sets out to leave Asia and carry the Gospel across the Aegean Sea to Europe. 

God speaks to us in many ways. The Holy Spirit speaks to us through Scripture, visions and prophecies, circumstances, other Christians, or that still small voice inside of us that Elijah heard (1 Kings 19:12). 

As was Paul, we need to be in tune with the Lord when making significant decisions. We need to stay close to God through prayer, Bible reading, and Christian fellowship. He will help us along the path of life when we follow the Holy Spirit.

Art Toombs Ministries 

Online Bible Commentary