The Man From Macedonia
June 11th, 1978 @ 10:50 AM
THE MAN FROM MACEDONIA
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-11-78 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television, the thousands of you who worship at this hour with us in public media are one in heart and spirit with the First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the pastor of the church bringing the message entitled The Man of Macedonia; the cry of Macedonia. It is really a message on the Holy Spirit of God.
In our preaching through the Book of Acts, we have now come to chapter 16, and the passage will be an exposition of verses 6-9; Acts 16:6-9. The reading of the text is this:
Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia
That’s the Roman province of Asia. All of these districts are in the central part of what you know today as Asia Minor in Turkey:
And they were come to Mysia, and they wanted to go, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.
And they, passing through Mysia came down to Troas—ancient Troy.
They finally came to the sea. They couldn’t go east. They were forbidden to go north. They were forbidden to go south. And finally they came down to the ocean, to the Aegean Sea:
And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia and prayed him, saying: Come over into Macedonia, and help us.
I cannot refrain from parenthesizing here that that little passage I have just read turned the whole course of history and civilization. Had the apostle Paul been directed by the Holy Spirit to continue east, as he wanted to go, it would have been China and India who would have been sending missionaries to the white savages in England and Scotland and Ireland and Germany and France. This was the turn, the great hinge of all civilization, and was done, was wrought in that humble passage that I’ve just read; the quiet, soft direction of the speaking of the Holy Spirit of God [Acts 16:6-9].
Now when we think of these men of the long ago, whose lives are portrayed here on the face of this sacred page, you cannot but be impressed of the familiar reverential conversions of these men with the Holy Spirit of the Lord. They were directed by Him. They were in companionship and communion and fellowship with Him. The Holy Spirit of God was as one of them.
Do you remember the sermon last Sunday morning, The Holy Spirit as One of Us? It was a preaching on the text in the previous chapter in the twenty-eighth verse: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us” [Acts 15:28]; the two of them, the Holy Spirit, and the man who is made out of dust. Isn’t that a remarkable thing, the familiar reverence of these men of old with the Holy Spirit of God?
Today we stumble at that. It is hard for us to believe that, that we can be infallibly directed by, inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. Somehow He is too evanescent and ephemeral and imperceptible for us to believe that we could walk with reverence and familiarity with Him, that He could direct our lives and affect our ways. It’s hard for us. It is difficult for us. We stumble at it. We are so earthbound and secular and worldly in our choices and in the pattern of our lives, that it is difficult for us to believe that we could be thus in familiar holy communion with the Spirit of God, and that He could infallibly direct us.
May I try to show that to us? Apparently, though it is no easier to explain it, apparently we have very easily come to believe and to see that matter can affect matter. If I hold this Bible in my hand and drop it, it will always drop down. Why does not it drop to the side? Why does it not fly upward? Why does it not go at a tangent? You don’t know, and you never will know. You can’t explain it, and you never will explain it. There is a mysterious unseen force in this world that, for the lack of knowing anything about it or what it is, we call it gravity. It is nothing but the effect of matter upon matter. And the whole universe is directed and kept in order by that invisible hand. You don’t see it. You can’t explain it. We just accept it and believe it, how matter affects matter.
You can take a piece of white paper and put steel filings on it. And then underneath it or above it take a magnet and arrange them in all kinds of orders. And they will follow that magnet around. What is that? You don’t know. Nor could you ever explain it. It is just how matter affects matter.
I stood in the Bay of Panama, and I watched the shoreline and the ocean and the Pacific tide coming in. And it rises nineteen feet in the place where I was standing. I was in Nova Scotia in eastern Canada, and standing there at the Bay of Fundy, watching the tide; it comes in and rises seventy feet. What is that? What power could pull the whole Pacific Ocean nineteen feet higher? And what power could move the Atlantic Ocean seventy feet higher? Pull the whole ocean? That’s just the effect. That’s just the effect of the moon upon the sea. How matter affects matter. We see it every day of our lives. Can’t explain it. It is beyond our probing. It is an unseen and invisible power. But we come to accept it, and live with it, very gladly and beautifully.
The same thing is true with us in our belief and acceptance of the effect of mind upon mind, personality upon personality. There was a man who was decrying the miracles of the Lord Jesus. The blind could see [Matthew 9:27-30], and the deaf could hear [Mark 7:31-35], and the lame could walk [Luke 5:18-25], and the leper was cleaned [Mark 1:40-43], and he was ridiculing such. And a man pointed his finger in reply and said, “Sir, there is no one that could know the possibility of change in the presence of the personality of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”; the power of personality.
Why, Napoleon Bonaparte, “the Little Corporal,” could hold an entire nation and army in his hand, just something about him; Napoleon. I can remember in the darkest days of the Second World War listening to Winston Churchill. And how ever the future seemed impossible in the triumphant conquest of Nazi Germany, as I would listen to Winston Churchill, not only my heart but the hearts of the peoples of the whole free world were lifted up, encouraged. It was phenomenal, the effect that Sir Winston Churchill had upon the nations of the free world. I can remember that. And I accept that, the effect that mind can have upon mind, personality upon personality.
Let me tell you the greatest explosive force in the universe is not an atomic bomb. It’s not a hell-bomb. It’s not a hydrogen bomb. It’s not a neutron bomb. The most explosive force in the universe is an idea. It’s the thinking of a man’s mind.
You just consider for a moment: in the British museum sits a renegade of a flotsam, of an outcast man. His name is Karl Marx. And he writes A Communist Manifesto, and the power of that idea we struggle with and confront in the whole world today; the power, the explosive power, of an idea. Now we can see that, how matter affects matter, and how mind can affect mind, and personality can affect personality. But then we stumble, and fall into incredulity and unbelief when we speak of our lives being affected by, directed by, changed by, the power of the Holy Spirit of God.
Now the answer to that in my humble opinion lies in the level of life, the plateau of life, the plane of life upon which you live. If you live like an animal, then all of your life is governed by animal passions. Animality is your life, and all of the motivations of passion, and physical living, and anatomical desires; that’s one way to live. You can be like an animal.
You can rise to another level in your life. You can rise to a level of intellectual appreciation, the world of academia, the world of speculative philosophy, and you can live it as an infidel. Nothing in your life but things that are material and secular and earthbound and earth-described. You can live that kind of a life.
But there is also another story that is possible in a three-tiered life. There is another story, an upper one that is possible. It is also possible for a man to live in the presence of God. It is possible for a man to live a rich and full and glorious spiritual life, walking in the way of the Lord, directed by the words and wisdom of heaven. And that is the kind of a personality and the kind of a holy man of which we’re speaking when we speak of the apostle Paul. Directed by the Holy Spirit of God; not allowed to turn east, forbidden of the Holy Spirit to turn north, forbidden likewise of the Holy Spirit to turn south to Asia. And so finally prohibited by the Spirit from the east, from the north, from the south, finally came down to the sea, and now what? [Acts 16:6-8]. The Holy Spirit, in His wisdom, had a choice, had a purpose. He always does. And it is an infallible choice and an infallible purpose.
If you would live wondrously, victoriously, triumphantly, heavenly, brightly, gloriously, then live in the will and wisdom of the Holy Spirit of God. That’s the highest life that God could bestow upon any one of His creatures. And it is ours.
So the Holy Spirit is directive. Paul and his company and finally they come down to the sea. Now what? In the night the Holy Spirit gave to the apostle a vision. He is a man of Macedonia, dressed like a Macedonian, and he speaks to the apostle from Macedonia. And he prays, he beseeches, he asks that the apostle come over into Macedonia, and help us” [Acts 16:9].
Now I submit to you that that is one of the most remarkable of all of the intercessions, pleadings, that you could imagine. This is a man of Macedonia asking this humble emissary of Christ to come over, and to help him [Acts 16:9]. This man stands; this Macedonian stands in the homeland of Philip of Macedon, the great king whose son was Alexander the Great, possibly the most, certainly the general who had the greatest effect upon mankind who has ever lived, outside of Jesus Christ.
Alexander the Great was the son of the king of Macedonia, and in his genius the whole civilized world was made a part of the Greek empire. It is that man, in the homeland of the Greek sovereignty, who makes this appeal to the apostle to come over, and to help him [Acts 16:9]. That’s hard for me to believe. How could they lack anything in Greek culture and life and civilization? Seemingly they possessed it all. There has never been a civilization, there has never been a culture that was as brilliant and as glorious and reached such heights as Greek culture and Greek civilization. There never has been. I don’t think there ever will be.
“Come over, and help us” [Acts 16:9]. It seemed to me, seems to me they lacked nothing. For history, the Greek had Herodotus and Thucydides and Zenophon. For government, they had Solon. If you have a legislature, if you have a member of a Congress and he shows any adeptness at all, you call him a solon. The Greeks had Solon and Pericles and Aristides. For oratory, they had Demosthenes. For drama, they had Aeschylus and Euripides and Sophocles. For poetry, they had Homer and Sappho. For painting, they had the incomparable Appeles. For sculpture, they had Phidias and Praxiteles. For science and mathematics, they had Euclid and Pythagoras. For philosophy, they had Socrates and Plato and Aristotle and Xeno the Stoic, and Epicurus.
I read where a man had looked through the catalog of Oxford University in England, and there were listed four hundred different courses on Aristotle alone. There has never been any culture, any civilization like it, and yet that man representing the whole Greek world prays saying, “Come over to Macedonia, and help us” [Acts 16:9].
Will you look once again at the religious life of that Greek empire? Beautiful, and beautifully impressive as the world had never seen it. You forget sometimes that all of that beauty that comes out of the Greek world was religiously motivated; that’s where it came from. When you visit the ruins of Athens and look on the Acropolis at its crowning architectural glory, that’s the Parthenon. Parthenon, the virgin. That’s Pallas Athena’s home. It’s religious. It’s a temple. It’s a shrine to the goddess Athena, the virgin, the Parthenon. It’s religion.
When you read history, there’s not a child but that knows one of the Seven Wonders of the World was the Greek temple to Artemis, Diana, in Ephesus. What kind of a building was that? That is a religious shrine. It’s a place of worship. It’s Greek religion. And as though they might have forgotten one of the pluralistic gods in the city of Athens when Paul was there, I have been told that there were more than thirty thousand different gods. Religion, it was everywhere and in every part and piece of human life.
When you read the King James Version you’ll read it like this: “And Paul stood on Mars’ Hill, on the Areopagus, and he said: Men of Athens, I see that in all things you are very superstitious” [Acts 17:22]. That’s the way it’s translated in the King James Version: “You are very superstitious.” That would have been an insult to those intellectual university Athenians, very superstitious. What Paul said was: “Men of Athens, I can see that in all things you are deisidaimonesterous, very, very reverent. That right? That’s right. That’s right. You are very, very reverent. You are very, very religious” [Acts 17:22]. And there were none more so; these infidels and these atheists that we know today were unknown in the ancient world. No Roman general ever went to war without first propitiating the gods. And no ancient Greek ever made a decision without first consulting the Oracle at Delphi. Infidelity and atheism is modern.
“In all things,” said Paul to those university Athenians, “I see that you are very, very religious,” deisidaimonesterous [Acts 17:22]. And the religion was beautiful beyond compare; those temples, greatest the world’s has ever seen, and the priests, with their vestments and their garlands and their sacrifices and their festival days and their pageantries, and all of the rituals and ceremonies and hymns that went with ancient Greek worship.
It’s one of the tragedies of life that they were not able to record their music in a way that we can follow it today. We don’t know how it sounded. But we have their hymns, their poetry. It is beautiful. It is glorious. That’s why I am saying that when this man of Macedonia stands and says “Come over, and help us” [Acts 16:9], seemingly, they lack nothing. They had everything. And yet, having everything, it was as husks in their hands. It was like eating dry peanut shells. It was powerless. And the gods were more impotent than the people. And this man stands in Macedonia, the home of the great conqueror that created the Greek empire, and he cries, saying, “Come over. Do you know the true God? Is there a faith and a religion that is God breathed and God inspired? Come. Come. Come” [Acts 16:9].
You know, that’s always true. How ever beautiful the ritual may be, and how ever splendid the architecture around us, and how ever all of the accouterments and attendants and concomitants of religion may be; however, there is always in the human heart a hunger and a thirsting for truth and for reality and for the moving Spirit of God. Somehow ritual and ceremony and pageantry and vestments and beautiful worship somehow leaves us poor and sterile and barren. What we want is the power of a changed life, a demonstration of the presence and the Spirit of God.
That’s why I had you read the passage he’s writing to those Greeks in Corinth:
And my brethren, when I came, I came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the oracles of God.
For I determine not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
And my presence and my preaching and my being with you was in weakness, and in fear.
And my speech and my preaching was not with the wisdom of men, but in demonstration of the Spirit and the power of God:
That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
[1 Corinthians 2:1-5]
That’s what our hearts cry for. “Is there truth and reality so changing, God-inspiring, Spirit-directed in our lives? Is there? If there is, we pray you come over, and help us” [Acts 16:9].
Now may I apply that for just a moment to us? That’s our hearts cry. I don’t deny that the accouterments of religion help us in our Sunday Lord’s Day worship. I love the beautiful stained-glass windows. I love the beautiful architecture, Gothic, worshipful, of this church. I love to see the choir beautifully robed. I love to see the floor carpeted, and cushions on the pews, all the things that help us to love God. But the same time, reading the Bible, and in my own experience, I know that I know that we can have the same dynamic services if we were meeting in a warehouse and the floor was covered with sawdust. It isn’t these things that give us power of the reality of God. It is the presence of the Spirit among us.
You see, that is the Pentecostal difference. What did Pentecost, what difference did Pentecost make in the lives of the people of God? Well, before the Pentecost [Acts 2], before Pentecost, the Holy Spirit of God was seen here and moved there; sometimes on a Moses [Numbers 11:25], sometimes on a Samson [Judges 15:14]; sometimes seen in a pillar of smoke by day and fire by night [Exodus 13:21]; sometimes in the shekinah glory of God that filled the tabernacle and then the temple [2 Chronicles 5:13].
But Pentecost, the Pentecostal difference is this: that the Holy Spirit took up His abode in a new home. He came down, poured out without measure from heaven [Acts 2:1-4; John 3:34]. And He now abides in a new temple; namely, He abides in the temple of the heart, your heart [1 Corinthians 6:19]. And He abides in the ekklēsia, the convocation of the church [1 Corinthians 3:16-17]. And when I come to the services, I bring the Holy Spirit in my heart. He lives in this temple. This is His home. And when you bring the Holy Spirit in your heart, the temple, the shrine of His abiding place, and when we come together in the church, oh, the power of the moving Spirit of the Lord among us! That’s what God intended for His congregation, His people.
We are here not just by habit, or not just by long accustomed repetition, but we’re drawn here by the Holy Spirit of God. And we feel His presence, and He speaks to us in all of the areas of church life and preaching and singing and reading and praying. And God blesses us with His holy presence. That is the purpose of the Holy Spirit bringing us together in the ekklēsia.
And our response is always one and the same, namely: “Dear God, as I feel Your presence in my life, dear God, I also am moved to offer to Thee my highest gifts, my devoted best, my consecrated love and interest.” That’s what it is to respond to the Holy Spirit of God in our hearts; a feeling of a care for souls, and an acceptance of an assignment from heaven. That’s what it is to respond to the leadership of the Holy Spirit of God in your hearts. Somehow we get out of ourselves.
You know what? I can’t succeed in it, but I do believe I that can heal, cure ninety-nine percent of all of the neurotics and psychotics, and all of the rest of these people who come to see the psychologist and the psychiatrist. I can heal them all if they would just listen; if they’d just listen. What you need to do is to get out of yourself and into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Quit thinking about yourself. Quit moaning over yourself. Quit pitying yourself. Quit living for yourself, and open your heart to the great goodness and abounding love and leadership of the Holy Spirit, and work for Him and serve Him as He directs you in being a blessing to other people. Am I correct in that? I know I am.
For the Lord said to Simon Peter in the twenty-first chapter of John:
Lovest thou Me? And he said, Lord, You know I love You. The Lord said, Then take care of My lambs, take care of My children, My little ones.
And the Lord spoke again: Simon Peter, lovest thou Me? And he said: Lord, You know I love You. And He said: Then shepherd My sheep, take care of My flock.
When we open our hearts to God, the Lord places upon us a love for His work, and for the lost souls, and the sheep of His pasture, and they belong to our care. And when our response to the Lord is spiritual, that’s the way we feel. We get out of ourselves and into the Lord and into the service of our blessed Jesus.
In 1912, in 1912 occurred one of the great tragedies of human history. The Titanic, the largest ship afloat, the Titanic was making its maiden voyage from Belfast, Ireland, where it was built, to New York City. And on it was the elite of all Europe and America, royalty and the great magnates and tycoons of industry. It was an unsinkable ship and a glorious human achievement.
Well, about two o’clock in the morning the wireless telegrapher on the Titanic took off his earphones and went to sleep. He knew that he was in a great ice field, and those towering icebergs were on every horizon. But he took off his earphones, and the telegrapher went to sleep. Five minutes after he took off those earphones, five minutes after he went sound asleep, the great ship ran into a giant iceberg, and one thousand five hundred twenty-three of the elite of Europe and America went down into a watery grave.
Now the tragedy of it was this: when that telegrapher took off his earphones, twelve miles away was the American ship California, twelve miles away on the vast and broad Atlantic. That’s just like being together. Twelve miles away sailed the California. And when that awesome tragedy happened to the Titanic, just twelve miles away unknowing, unrealizing, uncognizant, the great American ship California went on its way and left behind to drown, those one thousand five hundred twenty-three souls. That’s what I am saying about the sensitivity to the Spirit of God. When the Lord has us, when the Holy Spirit directs us, when our direction is infallibly that of the presence of the Spirit of God, that’s what you’re going to find in His people. You’re going to find concern and commitment and responsibility. “Lord, I can’t do everything but I can do some things. Lord, I may not be able to do much, but I can do this; and by God’s help, you are going to find me at it, blessed Jesus. Just open the door and lead the way, and here I am.”
Just before I came over here just minutes ago, one of the devout friends, and friends of Christ, and fellow members in our church said, “Pastor, could I just say a word to you?” He said, “In these last days, in these last days I have had a new experience with God, and the Lord is doubly real to me, and I have a fellowship and a relationship with Him that I have never known before.” And he said, “As token of that new love and new place I just want to place this in your hand.” And he placed in my hand a ten thousand dollar check.
And I said, “What is it for?” He said, “Just for the church, for the general fund of the church, in token of the newfound life and the new relationship I have discovered in the Lord Jesus.” The he added, “Two or three years ago, such a thing as this would have been unthinkable for me.” Ah, if any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new somebody else [2 Corinthians 5:17]. You don’t recognize him. You don’t even recognize yourself. When a man is Spirit-filled, and Spirit-led, he is a new man. He is somebody else. He is God’s man [2 Corinthians 5:17].
O Lord, that we had spiritually committed deacons; spiritually committed Sunday school teachers; spiritually committed families; a spiritually committed staff; a spiritually committed congregation, led by the infallible Spirit of the Lord. God grant it, amen.
In a moment we are going to give you an opportunity to walk with us in that pilgrim way. “Pastor, the Holy Spirit shows me the futility, and the sterility, and the barrenness, and the emptiness of life, this life; its rewards, its emoluments are temporary, and fleeting, and passing and transitory, there for a minute. But God made me for eternity, for forever and I want to be with Him. I want to be numbered among the people of the Lord. I want to be counted among God’s redeemed [1 Peter 1:18-19]. I want to be a member of the household of faith. I want to be a fellow pilgrim in this dear church.”
To accept the Lord Jesus as your Savior—He died for our sins according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3]; He was raised for our justification according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:4; Romans 4:25]. “I accept Him for all He promised to be, to forgive me my sins [Colossians 1:14], to write my name in the Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27], to present me someday before the throne of the Glory spotless, without blemish [Ephesians 5:27]. I accept the Lord Jesus as my Savior” [Romans 10:8-13]. Or, “Pastor, I want to be in the church, bringing my whole family; we are all coming today.” Or, “I want to answer an appeal of the Spirit in my heart,” maybe the Lord calling for a special assignment. Whatever He says, answer with your life. Do it now, on the first note of the first stanza, come now, while we stand and while we sing.