Acts Chapter Sixteen
Europe Hears the Good News
Suggested Teaching Objectives:
1. To teach that soul winners must pay a price of sacrifice and suffering. Paul won Timothy at great cost.
2. To show the importance of letting God lead our lives.
3. To show why we do not follow visions and dreams today.
4. To show that in the Book of Acts, Baptism always followed conversion.
5. To show that God is opposed to witchcraft, sorcery, palm reading, etc.
6. To show the danger of compromising with evil men even if they speak some truth.
7. To show the great change experienced by people who accept Christ as Saviour.
Introduction: In the sovereign wisdom of God, Europe was chosen instead of Asia to hear the gospel message. The course of history would have been much different had Paul gone to Asia on this second missionary journey instead of to Europe. But God chose Europe to hear and consequently, the United States of America would be founded on Christian principle and we would live in a land of freedom. In this chapter, we study the beginning of this journey, the decision to go to Europe and the success of Paul's journey in Philippi.
The Servant -- Vs. 1-5
Vs. 1-2 -- Paul with his new associate (Silas), goes immediately back to strengthen the works in the very places where he had been persecuted and stoned; and in the places of stones he finds "his son" Timothy. Just when Timothy was won we do not know; he was possibly included in the first-fruits of the former persecution. His mother was a Jewess; his father a Greek. (I Corinthians 7:14; Ephesians 6:4; II Timothy 1:5, 3:15).
Vs. 3 -- Paul was one who was willing for Timothy to become a Jew in order to win some of them. He did not believe that circumcision was necessary to salvation but since Timothy was a Jew and they would be ministering to Jews he knew it would be easier to win them if Timothy were circumcised. Principle is not involved here. Where principle was involved (as in the case of Titus -- Galatians 2:3-5). Paul was immovable and uncompromising. Paul was a sacrificing servant. I Corinthians 9:14-22.
Vs. 4-5 -- As Paul, Silas and Timothy went through the cities they ministered to the saved and unsaved. They told about the decision reached in Jerusalem and thereby strengthened the Christians and churches. They also won the lost. We should all minister to saved and unsaved.
The Spirit -- Vs. 6-11
Vs. 6-8 -- From Lystra, Paul went north and established churches in the region of Galatia. The Christians there loved him for it. Galatians 4:14-15. While in the Galation region, Paul wanted to go on north and east and carry the gospel to Asia but God the Holy Spirit forbade him. So they went west to Troas. Every step in the extension of this work was Spirit-led. There are times in our lives when we think it best to go one way, but God hinders us and sends us another way.
Vs. 9 -- As Paul and company waited on the Lord's leading, there appeared a hungry-hearted man in a vision to Paul standing on the European shore of Macedonia, with arms outstretched saying, "Come over into Macedonia and help us." We do not follow visions today because we have the completed revelation of God to us which Paul did not have. II Timothy 3:15,16; I Corinthians 13:8,10.
Vs. 10 -- Paul was assured by the Holy Spirit that this was where God wanted him. As we walk with the Lord, His Spirit witnesseth to our spirit. CF. Romans 8:14-16; John 16:13. Paul was always ready to follow God's leading regardless of the cost or the consequences. Macedonia was in Greece and Greece was in Europe. Greece had beauty, philosophy, art, culture and gaiety. What did Paul have to offer? One thing-Christ. Yet the people of Europe needed help. Today men have the things of the world but these do not satisfy. They need Christ. We must take Him to them.
Vs. 11 -- From Troas they crossed the Aegean Sea to Europe. By now Luke had joined the party. Note the pronoun "we".
The Seller -- Vs. 12-15
Vs. 12 -- Phillippi was a Roman colony which meant it was founded by colonists sent out from Rome and who marched into the area and took possession. They reproduced Rome in miniature, insofar as its government and habits of life were concerned. It was in close touch with Rome and its magistrates were appointed from Rome. This was an influential city and a good place to start presenting the gospel. Paul arrived here about 20 years after Pentecost.
Vs. 13 -- In towns where there were no synagogues, the Jewish people met at designated places for worship. These were meeting on the Sabbath and worshipping God and were therefore Jewish women. Paul went always to Jews first.
Vs. 14 -- Lydia, a seller of clothing goods and who was from Thyatira in Asia was there and she was hungry for truth. The Lord opened her heart (John 6:44) and drew her to the truth. She attended (accepted) what Paul taught about Christ and Jesus became her Saviour. No matter how eloquent a preacher is, God must open his hearers' hearts if truth is to be accepted.
Vs. 15 -- After being saved, she led her household to accept Christ and they were all baptized. Then she strongly urged Paul and his company to stay in her home.
Thus the gospel has its beginning in Europe via a woman's heart. This news, the coming and being accepted in a few women's hearts will grow to great proportions. Let's never discount the seemingly little things in God's work.
The Stripes -- Vs. 16-24
Vs. 16 -- We have noticed at the opening of every new work that the devil seeks to hinder by these soothsayers and magicians. Acts 8:5, 13:4. God is opposed to soothsayers. cf. Deuteronomy 18:9-14; I Chronicles 10:13,14. The damsel's masters (slave owners) made profit by her devil inspired ability to prophesy the future. She knew that Paul and company preached the truth and so declared it.
Vs. 17-18 -- She followed them several days. Paul recognized that this was the devil's method of alliance. If the devil can once be permitted to cooperate, he will tell the truth. But the apostle and the Lord of the apostle, will not accept the testimony of evil, even though its words be the words of truth. A grave error in the history of the Christian church has been that she has been content again and again to admit the testimony of evil men, because the testimony in itself was true. God will have no testimony of truth, which is not spoken by those who are true for behind the method there is a motive, and the motive is not that of helpfulness but of destruction. Admit the devil into the fellowship of this propagation of the gospel and soon he will twist his fingers around the gospel and distort it, until it becomes a deadly damnable heresy. Has he not done so? The hour of gravest peril for the gospel in Phillippi was not the hour when they put Paul in prison; it was the hour when the damsel with the spirit of divination told the truth. Paul would not compromise. He knew the danger. He commanded the spirit to come out and God honored it and she was delivered.
Vs. 19-21 -- Her masters were covetous men. They, angry over the loss of their money maker, caught Paul and Silas (Timothy and Luke escaped) and brought them before the rulers. If Satan cannot get a compromise and ally himself with the people of God, open opposition may be expected and the persecution of God's people. Here the devil had no valid charge against these preachers so he trumped up false charges. He does this today.
Vs. 22-23 -- A large crowd gathered and these wicked men spreading lies incited the mob against them. The magistrates tore the clothes off Paul and Silas, had them scourged and put in prison. II Timothy 3:12. The most exciting life is a Christian life.
Vs. 24 -- The jailer, charged with their care, thrust them into the innermost prison and placed their feet in stocks. The Christian life if lived for God is no bed of roses. The jailer showed no mercy to them. Christians cannot expect mercy at the hands of the devil's crowd.
The Singing -- Vs. 25
Many would complain of their plight. But these prayed and sang praises unto God. Romans 8:28 & 8:18; II Corinthians 4:19. Anyone can sing when the skies are clear but it takes a strong Christian to sing and rejoice and praise God in the midst of troubles. But, that is when the world judges a Christian and decides whether or not his religion is a helpful thing. The prisoners heard. The world hears us whether we complain or rejoice.
The Salvation -- Vs. 26-34
Vs. 26-29 -- A great earthquake. When people sing and pray in their difficulties like Paul and Silas, something is bound to happen. God may not always send an earthquake but if we remain faithful He will take a hand and help. The jail and the jailer were shaken. This man started to take his life. If a jailer allowed prisoners to escape during this time they were themselves killed. CF. 12:19. But doing thyself harm is wrong and especially taking your own life. Exodus 20:13.
Vs. 30-32 -- It was not necessary to waste time preaching repentance to him, he was already at that point; so he is given the one way to be saved. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." CF. John 6:37; Matthew 11:28; John 3:36. He and his whole household are further instructed.
Vs. 33-34 -- Believers were straightway (at once) baptized. All through the Book of Acts, baptism immediately followed with those who were saved, who believed. The jailer showed the change of heart brought about by his conversion by caring for the disciples' needs. Before he was unconcerned but now he tenderly washes their stripes and feeds them. II Corinthians 5:17.
The Satisfaction -- Vs. 35-40
Vs. 35-39 -- Paul and Silas refused private release. They were Roman citizens and they had been treated unlawfully. They were not going to admit they were wrong in any whit by just quietly leaving the scene. Things turned out very differently from the way they had looked the evening before. The prisoners were publicly and officially escorted from the prison. The other believers in Phillippi would not now have to cower in fear over their beliefs and faith in Christ. Paul always showed concern and did what he could to help other saints.
Vs. 40 -- The converts are comforted as Paul and Silas return to the home of Lydia for a season of fellowship. Christian fellowship is greatly to be desired and one of the reasons why we should attend church regularly and pal around with other Christians.
Conclusion: The Gospel has been taken now to Europe and a course of history has been charted that will change the world. Three outstanding personalities have been converted in Phillippi, a notable city and a great church started. It became a great missionary church. cf. Philippians 4:17-18. God is seen working out His great plan for world evangelization.
The greatest and most influential work is Christian work. We would do well to ask ourselves if we are properly participation in the greatest work in the world.