The providence of God can be seen in the way he prevented Paul, Silas and Timothy from going to Bithynia and in the way he revealed his will that they should go to Philippi. The latter was by a vision, but we are not told how the vision was conveyed. We do not need to know, and it is pointless to guess. What is comforting to note is God’s continual involvement in each step as he worked in providence to bring the gospel to Philippi.
Of course, when we think of divine providence, we must remember that in each current stage God has his eye on every future stage. As the men travelled, they were being guided to work in the cities they passed through, and they were being prepared to work in cities that they did not know they would yet be in. As God works providentially in our lives at this moment, his concern is not just with how we are at this moment.
Another providential consequence of this period concerns the production of the New Testament. Obviously, the church in Philippi had to be in existence before the letter to the Philippians could be written. So God was at work preparing for a part of his Word to be produced. Also it was during this period that Luke joined up with Paul (note the ‘we’ that appears in verse 10, indicating that Luke had joined the others). Where he had come from, no-one knows. But God had brought into contact with Paul a man who was to write a gospel and the Book of Acts. So three books of the New Testament were involved in this providential encounter.
The coming of Luke also points to God’s providential provision for Paul’s health. Other verses in the Bible indicate that Paul was not a well man. The Lord, in his compassion, introduced him in providence to a doctor who would later accompany him in his travels. Several years later, as he drew near the end of his life in a Roman jail, Paul would write, ‘Only Luke is with me.’ And it is marvellous that in the same verse, he says to Timothy, ‘Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.’ The one whom Paul rejected and the one whom Paul selected at the beginning of his second missionary journey were together with him at the end.
Another aspect of divine providence is the way the Lord was preparing individuals in Philippi for the coming of the gospel. It is very likely that Lydia, the Philippian jailor and the demon-possessed woman had never met, yet the Lord intended through the gospel to bring them together. The church of Jesus Christ is composed of most unlikely companions led to be together by God.
So it is good to think about the providence of God.