Sermon for Sunday Evening, April 16th, 2023 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
[Act 16:6-10 ESV] 6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
I. The Filioque
The original version of the Nicene Creed did not contain the words “and the son.” Instead of saying the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, the original Nicene Creed said merely that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the father.
Only later in church history was that additional “and the son” added to the creed.
Now, you may be thinking “why does this matter.”
We tend to have that attitude when we don’t understand.
But clearly the issue mattered to the church. So much in fact that these words – “and the son” called “the filioque” from the Latin – was a significant issue that brought about the Great Schism of 1054, the split between Eastern and Western Christianity.
Still to this day you’ll find Eastern Orthodox theologians arguing against the Filioque. And less commonly you will also find Western theologians, both Catholic and Protestant, arguing for the additional words, for the filioque.
Our text this is one place that makes it fairly clear to me that the filioque is correct.
The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father AND from the Son. Otherwise, how can the Spirit be called “the Spirit of Jesus?”
This clearly is not referring to the human spirit of Jesus, nor even His divine person. Rather, the “Spirit of Jesus” in verse 7 is the same as “the Holy Spirit” in verse 6.
Paul and Silas are forbidden “by the Holy Spirit” to speak the word in Asia.
Then, Paul and Silas are not allowed by “the Spirit of Jesus” to go into Bithynia.
These are the same. The Holy Spirit and the Spirit of Jesus.
In verse 10, they go into Macedonia concluding that God had called them.
So who allows and disallows, welcome and forbids, calls and does not call? It is one and the same, the very Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirt is the Spirit of Jesus and IS God.
East and West have no disagreement on that latter point. All truly Christian churches believe that Jesus is God.
The question of the Filioque is regarding the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the other persons of the Trinity.
The Christian church has always taught correctly that the Son (Jesus Christ) is begotten of the father. This is why they are called Father and Son, because the one begot the other. It is an analogy to human parentage, but like any analogy has its limitations. Whereas a human son is younger than his father, Jesus is eternal and therefore like his Father has always existed.
But this is Scriptural language: God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.
Well then, what of the Holy Spirit? He is apparently not a begotten Son, because Christ is the ONLY begotten son.
Instead the term used in theology is “proceeding.” The Holy Spirit proceeds.
So does he proceed from the Father, or from the Father and the Son?
Our passage makes it clear that he proceeds from the Son as well as the Father, for the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Jesus.
Other verse like John 16:7 strengthen the Biblical case:
[Jhn 16:7 ESV] 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
Both God the Father and Jesus Christ send the Holy Spirit.
II. The Holy Spirit in Acts
Now you may have noticed that the Book of Acts is the book in which the Holy Spirit is most prominently featured. Of 92 times the Bible says “Holy Spirit”, 41 are in Acts. So almost half of all mention of the Spirit is in Acts.
So prominent and powerful is the Holy Spirit that this book could easily be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit rather than the Acts of the Apostles.
What does the Spirit do in Acts?
1 Is whom people are Baptized into.
2 Gives power the disciples to be witnesses of Christ throughout the world.
3 Inspires Holy Scripture.
4 Works miracles.
5. Gives Peter the right words to say.
6. Fills up believers.
7. Directs the church’s actions in choosing two missionaries.
8. Inspires the decision of the Jerusalem council.
And that’s just so far in the Book of Acts.
Overall, He leads, guides, empowers, equips, and reveals his will to his people so that they may participate in his effort to bring salvation to the ends of the earth.
Of these actions of the Spirit, the most frequent is the “filling up.”
Disciples are filled with the Spirit.
Barnabas is said to be full of the Holy Spirit.
He is even poured out on the Gentiles.
It is not that the Holy Spirit is a liquid, but it is clear that He can be in many places at once. A divine attribute.
Finally, we have in our text Paul and Silas sent by the Holy Spirit.
III. Paul and Silas Go Where they are Sent
There is the popular Christmas song, TennesseeErnie Ford sings it particularly well
“Children Go Where I send thee.”
Children Go Where I send thee
How You gonna send me?
I’m gonna send you four by four because four was the four that stood at the door
Three was the Hebrew children
Two was Paul and Silas
One was a little baby boy born in Bethlehem.
Children go where I send thee.
It is clear that Paul and Silas go where God send them, and this is particularly the work of the Holy Spirit.
We are all called to go where the Lord has sent us.
I think of an old Greek philosopher who said “act the part chosen for you.” If you’re a father, be a good father. If you’re an employee, be a good employee. Etc.
Go where you are sent. This isn’t just a physical going. This is “work for the Lord” wherever you find yourself sent.
The Lord opens gates for you and closes pathways. He directs your every step.
Paul and Silas know this. The Holy Spirit forbid them from preaching in Asia and the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go to Bithynia. Why? Not because the Gospel is not also need in those places, heaven forbid, but because God had work for them to do in Macedonia.
This helps me to realize an issue that plagues me, and perhaps plagues you.
I have 5 things or 7 things I want to be doing. And I can’t be doing them all at once. Well, the Lord himself has arranged the world and all that occurs. And so if I am set to do one thing and not some others, I should trust in the Lord. Perhaps Paul and Silas really wanted to go to those other places, but they can only be in one place a time. So they go where they are sent.
Let us look for where the Lord is sending us.
And let us pray, that we go where he sends us.