Intro: read Acts 16:6-40 – If there was one thing that Paul had become convinced of since he fell blind on the Damascus road was that Jesus was in control. Jesus sent him out to do a job and it does not surprise to see God’s direct hand in the how and where. After leaving Galatia, Paul had plans to continue east into the cites of Asia, but the text says the Holy Spirit “did not permit them”. So it seems they went to plan B and headed north to Mysia, with the intention of taking the gospel to Bithynia. But again the Spirit “did not permit them.” Do you think the apostle was wondering which direction he was going be permitted to go. God knows the need, and He is in control.
1. Paul & Silas saw a vision in Troas. A man from Macedonia appeared in the nigh, asking them to come & help. There were leaving territory that had been productive, and was well populated with Jewish synagogues – open and available pulpits for the apostle.
2. Upon arrival in Philippi, the chief city of Macedonia, they found only a group of women praying by the river – no synagogue of the Jews, and as far as we know not one God-fearing man! But this group of praying women is where the church in Philippi begins.
3. This series of events is crucial to the mission. Jesus has opened up the continent of Europe to the gospel. These Jewish ambassadors were entering unplowed ground. Would the seed take hold here? How would God bring the harvest Paul and Silas yearned for?
4. From the very start, this expansion of the spiritual conquest was a call for Paul and Silas to trust God. He was putting up stop signs, but He was also opening up doors. Do you think Paul wondered about the plan?
5. What we come to realize through the history of Acts 16 is that Paul’s visit to Philippi was a a story of evangelism, suffering, and rejoicing. After casting out an unclean spirit from a young woman, Paul and Silas encountered a new type of persecution. Former opposition originated from the jealousy and hatred of the Jewish leaders. They followed them around in their first journey, stirring up the crowds against them for religious reasons.
• At Antioch – Acts 13:41 – But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul.
• At Iconium – Acts 14:2 – the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds
• But the issue at Philippi was economic. The gospel preaching of the apostle conflicted with the ability of the girl’s handlers to make money. The gospel message can conflict with world on different levels and at different places. What we can notice is that the message did not change to accommodate, nor did the apostles attempt to remove the offense. They suffered righteously.
• In the end, God’s work is done, but in unusual and unexpected ways. Not unlike today. Let’s make some further observations here:
I. God’s Game Plan: Notice 2 interesting things about how God brought the gospel to Philippi:
A. He opened the door to unlikely prospects:
1. Lydia – a visiting business woman. A group of women by the river who had come to pray (and probably wash their clothes as well). Can you start a church with only a small group of women? What kind of a woman was Lydia?
a. God’s choice to allow Lydia to be the first convert on the continent of Europe is fascinating. A woman had much less influence than a man in the culture. Is this the place to start?
2. A heathen jailor – What could this man and his family offer the Lord in Philippi? He represents those who are opposed to the gospel, or at least unattached and apathetic to its message.
3. What did he and Lydia have in common? They both had an open heart to the truth-
a. Acts 16:14 “Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. These words are not describing some mystical illumination process, or a miracle. God opened Lydia heart in the same way he “pricked the hearts of those at Pentecost. He did it through the preaching of the word – a seed was sowed.
b. Acts 16:29-30 “Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” This was not a question Paul anticipated hearing from the lips of the one who shackled him to the wall of a cell. But there was an honest heart hiding out there, and God found him. It took an earthquake and a miraculous intervention to illicit the question, but in the end the word of God was preached, and souls were saved.
c. These were just the type of people that God needed in Philippi. Those who were ready to listen to God and obey His Word. We are often looking to save the righteous, or at least to find those who are most like us. A vital part of evangelism is sow the seed everywhere, knowing that God can see where we cannot.
B. He Drew Converts through the Suffering of Christians. Acts 16:25 – But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. After being beaten and thrown into jail, Paul & Silas could have been frustrated and grumbling over the unfair treatment. But instead their response was to sing & pray.
1. Notice the presence of prayer again – what do you think they were praying about? How much would prayer be mentioned in the account of our evangelistic efforts?
2. Do you think their actions and attitude of worship and joy had anything to do with the receptive response of the jailer? We can’t sell people something that isn’t working in our own lives. Suffering for Christ may be God’s way of showing others that His gospel is working in the lives of His people. This jailer wanted to learn to rejoice like Paul & Silas – even in the face of trouble.
3. Joy is the product of salvation, and the environment of evangelism. (Ethiopian “went on his way rejoicing” …and evangelizing?) How can we draw people to a message of salvation if we are unjoyful people?
II. Another important lesson that we can learn at Philippi is about conversion. What does it look like? Can what we see here help us in our attempts to teach others? Look at Three Statements in the Conversion of the Jailer:
A. 16:30 – “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” This is the cry of a soul that has seen the truth about himself and God.
1. He has seen himself as a sinner – one who has violated God’s law, and is without the ability to stand before Him. We cannot convert people without showing them their sin. Jesus came preaching repent for the kingdom of God is at hand (Matt. 4)
2. He has seen God as the One who Judges him – The jailer had seen God’s power in more than one place that night. He saw God’s power in the lives of Paul & Silas; and he saw it in the earthquake. But these alone did not show him the way to be saved. Experiences don’t show us salvation – The word of God does. He sought specific personal information from God’s word – What must I do?
3. We long for people to ask us this question. But unless we have the courage of Paul & Silas they may never ask. If they ask can we tell them? Does he know anything about salvation?
B. 16:31 – “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and You Will Be Saved…” Paul’ response to the jailer was a call to commitment. He had seen what Paul’s commitment, or faith, had brought to him – persecution. But if he is to be saved he must trust Jesus as the master of his life. Until we make this step of trust, nothing else matters.
1. Was Paul asking for just a verbal statement of belief? Anyone who looks carefully at the rest of the N.T. knows the answer. Not one single conversion in Acts involved only a confession of Jesus as Lord. (Even the demons confessed Jesus’ divinity while He was on the earth – James 1:19)
2. Notice also vs. 32 – 33 – Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. (NKJ)
a. The jailor was sorry over his treatment of Paul & Silas. This was more than hospitality – It was the fruit of repentance.
3. Paul continued by speaking the word of the Lord to him and immediately he baptized him and his family. There can be only one conclusion to be drawn from that – calling on someone to believe, and then teaching them the word of the Lord includes teaching them to be baptized. Their baptism was evidently an urgent matter – necessary to consummate his forgiveness – since he did it the same hour of the night.
C. 16:34 – “He Rejoiced Having Believed in God…”This man learned how to rejoice just as he saw Paul & Silas rejoice. That’s what forgiveness does for us – gives us the reason to be happy.
1. But notice also that the jailer rejoiced having believed. Yet this statement comes after he made the commitment to be baptized with his family. This is exactly what the Lord taught in Mark 16:16 – “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. There is no confidence; hence no occasion for rejoicing if we have left undone something that the Lord requires. Peter stated that baptism was the answer of a good conscience toward God. (1 Pet. 3:21). Is your heart open to the truth?