Now that the Bible is complete, the Spirit speaks only through the Book He wrote. But here (v.6), He spoke either audibly or by a vision (cf.v.9).
Two years later, the Spirit did let Paul preach in Asia (19: 10), but not here. This was perhaps due to the way Paul was preaching. He was just going from one small town to the next, and “all Asia” would never hear the Word that way! In Acts 19, Paul taught his disciples in a school and converted some disputers, and they all went out together to preach. So the Spirit forbad him to preach in Asia until he examined his methods and learned how to improve them as an adult son.
That’s how God sees us! Jewish fathers recognized that their boys were sons on the day of their adoption, a day that today they call their bar mitzvah. God adopted you when you got saved (Gal.4:4-6), so He now sees you as an adult son. That means we must make our own decisions, and not wait to hear the voice of our Father guiding us every step of the way.
But you needn’t worry about the lost souls in Asia who died in the two years it took Paul to get there, for they heard the kingdom gospel when Jews who believed it at Pentecost brought it back to them 12 years earlier (Acts 2:9). We know the kingdom gospel was also preached in Bithynia (Acts 16:7) because Peter wrote a letter to saints there (IPe.1:1).
The Spirit told Paul where not to go, but didn’t tell him where to go right away, for He wanted to get Paul used to the idea that things were changing from Him telling Paul where to go to letting him decide as an adult son.
But eventually He told Paul to go to Macedonia (Acts 16:9), the area above Greece where the Mideast meets Europe. He didn’t tell Paul to go there because He loves white Europeans more than black Africans or other peoples. He just knew they’d receive the gospel faster, and word of it would get out faster. That’s not a racist thing to say, it’s a generational thing. At that time they were more open to the gospel, and the church in Greece did get it out fast (IThes.1:9). The Romans in Italy helped (Rom.1:8) by using the famous Roman roads. It helped when Paul was thrown in the palace slammer, and the royals heard about it (Phil.1:13). They wanted to meet this famous prisoner, and some of them got saved (4:22). When word of that got out down those Roman roads, it made it acceptable to be a Christian—even posh!
When Paul first passed through Galatia here (Acts 18:6) he had eye trouble (Gal.4:13-15) that Jewish kingdom prophets like Elijah used to be able to heal. But the prophet Silas (Acts 15:32) was with Paul (15:40,41), and couldn’t heal him because the dispensation was changing. God didn’t heal him, so he could learn how to be spiritually strong (IICor.12:7-9). Comparing the “they” of Acts 16:6,7 to the “we” of verse 10 shows Luke had joined Paul, Silas and Timothy (16:1-5). This proves things were changing, for Luke was a doctor (Col.4:14), and Paul now needed a doctor. God shut down Luke’s kingdom program, so he served God as Paul’s doctor.
We see a type of another dispensational change in the way God showed Paul this vision. In time past, God Himself appeared in men’s visions, or He sent an angel to appear in their visions to deliver His message. Paul saw a man delivering God’s message, typifying how today God’s messengers are men, not angels. We see this change first typified when Saul saw Ananias in a dream right after the dispensation began with his conversion (Acts 9:11,12). We see another dispensational change typified when the man begged Paul to come. In time past, God ordered men to do things. That typifies the difference between law and grace. For example, under the law, God commanded men to walk in His ways through Moses (Deut.5:33). Under grace, God beseeches us to walk in His ways through Paul (Eph.4:1; IThes.4:1). The dispensations they were achangin’!
A video of this sermon is available on YouTube: “The Dispensations Are A-changin” Acts 16:6-11