Read Acts 16:9-40
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This is one of the central chapters of the Bible. Here we have wonderful ‘gospel’ texts. For example, 30-31.
Moreover, here is given us the record of the entrance of the gospel witness into Europe. It is, as it were, the ‘official’ launch of the message of Christ into our part of the world, Europe.
Paul is here on his second missionary journey. His original intention (15:36) was to revisit the places he had evangelised on his first journey which would be all in Asia. But God had another plan. Europe was in God’s mind. Today, there is little evidence of the gospel in those places where Paul first preached but in this part of Europe anyway, much remains of the message Paul delivered all those years ago.
Here we have a detailed account of the founding of a Christian congregation. In a day in which men are determined to impose their notions and views upon what the Church of Christ should believe, do and witness, it is important we take note of the faith and functions of apostolic Christianity! Please bear in mind that the purpose of Christ for His people has not and cannot change from what it was back then.
Please listen to these words. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever,” Heb 13:8. Christ is unchanging in His person, power and purpose. “For I am the LORD, I change not,” Malachi 3:6 “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” Numbers 23:19.
“Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure,” Isaiah 46:10.
In the light of this truth we may learn just what the Church of Christ ought to be today!
I. THE FOUNDING OF THE CHURCH IN PHILIPPI
1. The place where it was founded. “And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made,” 13. No great edifice. It was marked by prayer. It was obviously a small gathering of women. Such humble beginnings are forgotten today!
2. The Word was preached. That is also a chief feature of God’s Work. No ornamentation, rituals – just prayer, praise and preaching!
3. Please note the role of women here. The first convert, Lydia, a business woman. She was not ashamed to be identified with such a reproached gathering. There were no men mentioned!
The second convert was a woman, 16-18. Paul would not tolerate this demon-possessed woman to speak as she did even though what she was true.
II. THE FASHION OF PAUL’S EVANGELISM
1. His tool was ‘words’! “She attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul,” verse 14. It is the “words” of the gospel that saves sinners. Acts 10:22, 32; 11:12-14. This blessed Book is the key to salvation.
2. Lydia was saved by “attending to” Paul’s words. The meaning of the word “attended” = Matt 6:1, “Take heed.” How many take heed to what God says?
3. Lydia took heed because the Lord ‘opened’ her heart. Meaning of the word ‘opened’. Mark 7:34-35, Luke 24:31, 45. This is that secret, heavenly action to which the Saviour refers in John 3:3. “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” He is “born from above.”
4. Lydia immediately manifested the change which had taken place within her heart. She openly professed her faith and she opened her home to Paul and his companions. All that she was and had was now the Lord’s and would be used in His service.
III. I MUST POINT OUT THE TROUBLE THAT TARGETED THE NEW-FOUND CHURCH.
Consider briefly what we read in verse 19-40.
1 The gospel is at war with the devil’s kingdom. V 19. It cannot exist ‘peacefully’ alongside the devil’s activities. Gen 3:15. “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men,” Romans 12:18.
It is not always possible. David said: “I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war,” Psalm 120:7. If Christians would keep quiet – ‘no trouble’! But that we cannot do. Acts 5:18-33.
2. The devil’s weapons has ever been persecution. Verses 19-24.
We have the record here.
3. Please note that God’s cause can still thrive amidst reproach and persecution. Verse 25. Paul and Silas sing, sustained by God’s grace. Isaiah 43:1-3. Souls are saved despite the persecution, 26-34. What devil-confounding scene we have here!
4. Please note that there is pictured here the final outcome of all things. What happened here foreshadows what will one day take place on a world-wide scale.
One day the enemies of the gospel will know just who it is they have been persecuting! “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:1-2. They were humbled before Paul – verse 39.
Please follow Lydia’s example and ‘attend’ unto the gospel tonight.