We’ve been reading through the Acts of the Apostles Tuesday nights. Quite appropriately as we began the Apostle’s Fast Monday. We read chapter 10-20 last night with little commentary from time to time. One particular place we stopped, however, I found a bit ironic.
Chapter 16:7: “After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them”. We continued a few verses more when someone interrupted and asked the obvious, “Why didn’t the Spirit let them go?”
I quoted the simple answer given by the Orthodox Study Bible which noted that the Apostles did not question the direction of the Holy Spirit since “God does not always give reasons for His instruction”. This led to some discussion and it was suggested that perhaps the people of Bythynia were not worthy of the Apostles’ preaching, which is obviously not right. So what is the reason?
It seems to be the first time that the Holy Spirit stopped the Apostles from preaching. Indeed, it was the descent of the Holy Spirit which was the very driving force for the Apostle’s preaching and now all of the sudden we read it did “not permit them” to go somewhere. Whatever the case it’s the first time the Holy Spirit is described as determining the course of the Apostles.
Perhaps another interesting thing to note here is that in most newer translations of the Bible “Jesus” is added so that it’s not the Spirit but the “Spirit of Jesus” that did not permit them. I will not comment further other than to say in the Serbian translation it simply says “Spirit”.
But why I said ironic at the start of this post is that it seems to be a part of our nature not just to ask why but to want to know the reason. While we got an answer which was that sometime God doesn’t give answers the follow up was, Why? To which the answer is simply: Because. Would there be any value to our faith if God gave us the answer to all of our “becauses”?
How many times do we want to do something in life and the Spirit doesn’t permit us but we do it anyway. Why? Why not, is the reply. The Holy Spirit guided the Apostles, it guides the Church and it guides us as well. Why? Because God desires that we all be saved.