Scripture Reading: Acts 16:6-10

In this message we shall begin to consider 16:6-10, which describes how Paul and his co-workers were led of God to go forth into Macedonia, a province of the Roman Empire in southeastern Europe. We shall pay particular attention to the Holy Spirit in verse 6 and the Spirit of Jesus in verse 7.


Acts 16:6 says, “And they passed through the country of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.” The move of the apostle Paul and his co-workers for the spread of the gospel was not according to their decision and preference, nor according to any schedule made by human council, but by the Holy Spirit according to God’s counsel, as in the mission of Philip (8:29, 39). They intended to speak the word in Asia, but the Holy Spirit forbade them. Forbidding is also a part of the Holy Spirit’s leading.


Acts 16:7 continues, “And when they had come down to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.” The Holy Spirit’s forbidding and the Spirit of Jesus’ not allowing indicated that Paul and his co-workers should go directly forward. If we look at a map, we shall see that such a forward direction would be toward eastern Europe, in particular, toward Macedonia and Achaia. Paul, however, did not have the thought of going there. This made it necessary for the Lord to give him a vision during the night, and in this vision a Macedonian call came to Paul (v. 9).

The Holy Spirit’s forbidding Paul to go to the left, to Asia, and the Spirit of Jesus’ not allowing him to go to the right, Bithynia, indicates a straightforward direction for the apostle and his co-workers. Thus they went in a direct course to Macedonia through Mysia and Troas (v. 8).


We need to pay careful attention to two divine titles in verses 6 and 7: the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of Jesus. The interchangeable use of the Spirit of Jesus with the Holy Spirit in the preceding verse reveals that the Spirit of Jesus is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a general title of the Spirit of God in the New Testament. The Spirit of Jesus is a particular expression concerning the Spirit of God, and refers to the Spirit of the incarnated Savior who, as Jesus in His humanity, passed through human living and death on the cross. This indicates that in the Spirit of Jesus there is not only the divine element of God, but also the human element of Jesus and the elements of His human living and His suffering of death as well. Such an all-inclusive Spirit was needed for the apostle’s preaching ministry, a ministry of suffering among human beings and for human beings in the human life.

We have seen that in Acts 16 Luke first speaks of the Holy Spirit and then of the Spirit of Jesus. In the Old Testament we read of the Spirit of God in Genesis 1:2b: “The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” There the Spirit of God brooded over the death waters. Elsewhere in the Old Testament the Spirit of God is called the Spirit of Jehovah (Judg. 3:10; Ezek. 11:5). The title “the Holy Spirit” is not used in the Old Testament. In Psalm 51:11 and in Isaiah 63:10-11 the “Holy Spirit” should be translated “the Spirit of holiness.” The main titles of God’s Spirit in the Old Testament, therefore, are the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Jehovah. God’s Spirit is never called the Spirit of Elijah or the Spirit of David. From this we see that in Acts 16 Luke uses two titles for the Spirit of God that are not found in the Old Testament.

The title “the Holy Spirit” was used for the first time at the time of the conception of the Lord Jesus. It was when the time came to prepare the way for Christ’s coming and to prepare a human body for Him to initiate the New Testament dispensation that the term the Holy Spirit came into use (Luke 1:15, 35; Matt. 1:18, 20). In order to understand the first usage of the title the Holy Spirit, we need to see that this title is involved with the Lord’s incarnation. Hence, according to the principle of first mention, the Holy Spirit is related to Christ’s incarnation and birth.

In Acts 16:7 Luke turns from the Holy Spirit to the Spirit of Jesus. As a man, Jesus was first living a human life and then was crucified and resurrected, and He ascended to the heavens and has been made Lord and Christ. The Spirit of Jesus involves more than the Holy Spirit does. The Holy Spirit involves only the incarnation and birth of the Lord Jesus, but the Spirit of Jesus involves His humanity, human living, death, resurrection, and ascension.