Luke leaves us with many questions, making Paul’s adventures as a missionary particularly interesting. We don’t know why or by what means the Spirit of Jesus showed Paul and company that he should not at that time evangelize the province of Asia to the west of Galatia or Bithynia to the north. However, we are told Paul received a message in a dream that he should go into Macedonia to preach the Gospel. So, Paul passed through Mysia where he was told not to preach the Gospel in order to arrive at Troas, a port within its territory, whereby he could sail across the Aegean Sea to Europe.
Another surprise at this point is the implication of Luke’s arrival and joining Paul. Notice in Acts 16:7-8 that Luke wrote of Paul and company in the third person, using the pronouns they and them. However, when we come to Acts 16:10-11, Luke used the pronouns us and we in the text, implying that he joined Paul just after arriving in Troas. But, under what circumstances he joins the team, we are not told. Was Luke a believer already? Was he, perhaps the Macedonian man Paul had seen in his dream? We get the implication later that Luke lived in Macedonia when his record again reverts to personal pronouns in the third person, when referring to the missionary team at Acts 16:40. There Paul and company left Philippi, but Luke stayed behind! Why? Well, the text doesn’t elaborate, and we are left in the dark about such questions. These are some of the positions that I have read that some Christian’s hold.
Personally, I believe Luke was already a veteran disciple of Christ. I think he is mentioned by name in Acts 13:1 as Lucius of Cyrene and was one of the original founders of the gentile churches of Antioch. I think Luke was either with Paul from the beginning of his 2nd missionary journey or they met in Troas as Luke was on his own mission for Christ. I am of the opinion that the personal pronouns have a story to tell, but it is not necessarily completely understood by merely picking out whether or not they are in the first or third persons.
In any event, Paul’s mission was accomplished and the church at Philippi was founded, and the Gospel took root in Europe. Paul later told the Philippians in his letter that they were the only church that helped to support him in his later travels (Philippians 4:13), and Paul greeted and encouraged a particular person there whom he called his “true yokefellow” (Philippians 4:3). I believe he was referring to Luke. I think that such people as Lydia and the Philippian jailer formed the nucleus of the Philippian church, and Luke stayed there for a short period of time as their pastor or leader. Of course, this is merely supposition, but the context does allow for it. Luke would have been an excellent choice to stay behind. His experience in church building among the gentiles at Antioch would have been a great gift for the first church of God founded on the European continent.
One of the most interesting things I see here in Acts 16 is the group conversions concerning the households of Lydia (Acts 16:15) and the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:31-33). It seems that as the heads of the households they had the authority to say who the household would worship! This flies in the face of our American individualistic culture. It is difficult for us at times to understand authority in this manner. Kings had the right to choose for their people and so did the heads of each household. This was recognized by the 1st century church and presumably God. So, it seems the American church needs to rethink its own understanding of individual evangelism. Many cultures understand decisions made for the group are important decisions, but decisions that are left to the individual concern insignificant matters of life. In that light, if we preach Christ according to our cultural understanding to other folks of other nations, how would Christ be interpreted by them within the understanding of their culture? Wouldn’t he be viewed as someone really insignificant and not all that important to life as a whole? Perhaps, we need to take a really long look at our understanding about this matter and check if our cultural philosophy isn’t trumping the authority of the Gospel.
May God help us to bring all matters of life under his authority.