The Acts of christ through the apostles by the power of the holy spirit (24) – 12/2/11
Vv. 1-5 – In these verses we see Paul and his three companions' (Silas, Timothy, and Luke, who joins them later) concern for the churches that had been planted by Paul and Barnabas earlier. (Paul even returned to Lystra where they had stoned him. What love; what courage.) They read the good news that the church council wrote (Acts 15) about salvation is by faith in Christ alone and circumcision or law-keeping should not be added to faith as a condition for being saved. Timothy's circumcision was not for salvation but to remove any stumbling blocks that may have caused unbelieving Jews to reject the gospel and to also facilitate fellowship among Jewish and Gentile believers. (1 Cor. 9:19-23)
Look at the wonderful result of their labor of love: 5 "So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily." We too need to reach out to both the lost and to other believers both individually (fellowship over lunch or breakfast, etc.) and corporately (invite men to our fellowship groups; invite people to our church; form a small group in your office or home; go on a missions trip to encourage the saints who have fewer resources; etc.)
Vv. 6-12 – God's guidance – In the book of Acts along with the Gospels and Epistles we see God guiding His people: ["1. Through the Scriptures. 2. Through visions and prophecies. 3. Through circumstances. 4. Through the advice and initiative of other Christians. 5. Through direct communication, possibly in an inward, subjective manner." MacDonald, William ; Farstad, Arthur: Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1995, S. Ac 16:1] (See attached Decision Making Guide). This is the first mission trip to Europe; to "the ends of the earth" as Jesus commissioned them to do. (Acts 1:8) Jesus still calls us to reach the whole world with His gospel. We can do this by praying, giving and/or going.
God is no respecter of persons- red, yellow, black and white, poor, rich, male and female are all precious to God and one in Christ. Here we see three very different kinds of people that God loves, saves and delivers. Comfortable but seeking; confused and enslaved; calloused and needing a crisis.
Vv. 13-15 – Comfortable but seeking – Lydia, it seems, was a wealthy career woman. ["Purple dye had to be gathered drop by drop from a certain shellfish. Because it was so expensive, purple dye was used on garments worn by royalty. As an artisan in purple dyes, Lydia was a wealthy woman who had come to Philippi to practice her trade." Radmacher, Earl D. ; Allen, Ronald Barclay ; House, H. Wayne: Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Commentary. Nashville : T. Nelson Publishers, 1999, S. Ac 16:1] We may say she was comfortable but a seeker of truth. And God promises that those who seek Him will find Him. (Jer. 29:13) So Paul and his 3 companions traverse the world to reach this seeking heart with the good news. The text implies that her new faith influenced her entire household (family and servants?) to personally receive Jesus as their Savior too. God uses missionaries like Paul but He calls us all to witness to our family and friends as it seems Lydia did here. She also demonstrates her new faith by insisting that her home become the first church home in Europe (see v.v. 15, 40).
Vv. 16-18 – Confused and enslaved – the nameless slave-girl was possessed by a demon who spoke through her. We see from this account and others that demons know the truth about Who Jesus is but they refuse to submit to Him (Mark 5:1-20; James 2:19). Also, we see in the account in Mark 5 that the man Jesus set free became a believer as seen by his desire to follow Jesus and his witness to Jesus among his friends. Though not seen in this account in Acts it may be that this enslaved girl also was saved and became a part of the house church at Lydia's home. The slave-girl and the wealthy career woman are now one in Christ. Wow! Finally, although the demons were speaking the truth through the slave-girl, if Paul allowed her to remain in her bondage to them it would have been continued misery for her and Satan could have used her to infiltrate this new fledgling church with false teachings.
Apart from Christ all people are enslaved by sin: "We are Abraham's descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free'?" 34 Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed (or free for real)." (John 8:33-36) All unbelievers are under the power of Satan (1 John 5:19) and are enslaved to sin though it may not manifest publically in extraordinary ways as with the slave-girl. Only Jesus can set us free as we receive Him as our Savior and obey His Word: "But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he will be blessed in what he does." (James 1:25) " Almighty God, in whose service lies perfect freedom: teach us to obey you with loving hearts and steadfast wills; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." (Book of Common Prayer) (See doc. on idols).
Vv. 19-34 – Calloused and needing a crisis – Preaching the gospel as Paul and his companions were doing in Philippi often brings a reaction and sometimes brings great persecution as it does here. Paul and Silas were accused and punished without a trial, beaten with rods (see 2 Cor. 11:25), thrown into a filthy dungeon and put in stocks that would stretch your legs out so far that it would cause cramps. And here we see the amazing power of God and love of God to reach a lost calloused jailer through this crisis. As Paul and Silas sang hymns of praise at midnight, God sent an earthquake that opened the prison doors and unchained the prisoners. Not only did Paul and Silas remain but all of the prisoners remained (constrained by God) and the jailer's life was saved from suicide. He saw the kindness of God that leads to repentance (Rom. 2:4) through Paul's love and fell on his knees and cried out to be saved. Then this calloused old man immediately changed into a tender and compassionate believer in Christ and washed their wounds and fed them. Wow! His changed life touched his entire family and they too received Jesus as Savior. Now they all join First Church at Lydia's house.
"They (the magistrates) were afraid when they heard that they (Paul and Silas) were Romans, 39 and they came and appealed to them, and when they had brought them out, they kept begging them to leave the city. 40 They went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia, and when they saw the brethren, they encouraged them and departed." The magistrates could have lost their jobs for not giving Paul and Silas a trial, so Paul took advantage of this opportunity to spend some time with the new flock of believers.
In this passage we see God's passionate love (seen in the sacrificial love of Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke) for every lost person (Lydia, the slave-girl, and the jailer along with their families) and His love and care for His body (the church) both for our good and for our witness. "It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." (Eph. 4:11-13)
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION
1) "So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily." We too need to reach out to both the lost and to other believers both individually (fellowship over lunch or breakfast, etc.) and corporately (invite men to our fellowship groups; invite people to our church; form a small group in your office or home; go on a missions trip to encourage the saints who have fewer resources; etc.) In what way does Paul's and his companions' sacrificial love and outreach inspire you to do the same?
2) Jesus still calls us to reach the whole world with His gospel. We can do this by praying, giving and/or going. How are you participating in the Great Commission to reach the world with the gospel?
3) What state were you in when you came to Christ? Comfortable but seeking; confused and enslaved; or calloused and needing a crisis? Share your story.
4) In this passage we see God's passionate love (seen in the sacrificial love of Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke) for every lost person (Lydia, the slave-girl, and the jailer along with their families) and His love and care for His body (the church) both for our good and for our witness. How and where has God called you to reach out to the lost and to care for his church?