The mission to plant the church in all nations now takes several new directions. Strategically, there is the Lord's direct guidance throughout the journey (16:1-10; 18:9-10). Geographically, the gospel invades Europe (16:10—18:22). Politically, Christianity faces its opponents' challenge concerning its status in the empire (16:20-21; 17:6-7; 18:13). At the same time earlier themes continue: contextualized witness, persecution, power encounter and divine protection.
This account increases the momentum and magnifies the greatness of the gospel's advance to the ends of the earth in a way calculated to have maximum impact on a Roman audience. For the advance moves the witnesses closer and closer to Rome. There is effective witness in Philippi, a Roman colony. Roman provincial justice is dispensed by Gallio, scion of a leading upper-class family. What is made of Christianity in these contexts will certainly affect how Theophilus and his fellow seekers will view it.
And for us this journey raises questions about divine guidance; what status the church has in the eyes of the state, and how we might frame our gospel message so that it speaks to those whose beliefs and values are not so very different from those of the inhabitants of first-century Philippi and Athens.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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