Sermon: God Sends the Gospel to Philippi (Acts 16:6-40)

God Sends the Gospel to Philippi

Acts 16:6-40 (ESV)

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.  [7] And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.  [8] So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.  [9] And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”  [10] And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

[11] So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace,

and the following day to Neapolis,  [12] and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days.  [13] And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together.  14] One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.  [15] And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

[16] As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling.  [17] She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”  [18] And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.

[19] But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers.  [20] And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city.  [21] They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.”  [22] The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods.  [23] And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely.  [24] Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

[25] About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them,  [26] and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.  [27] When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped.  [28] But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”  [29] And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas.  [30] Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  [31] And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”  [32] And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.  [33] And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family.  [34] Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

[35] But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.”  [36] And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.”  [37] But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.”  [38] The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens.  [39] So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city.  [40] So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.

Truth Taught- The Gospel is the power of God for the conversion of all types of people.

From the Book of Ecclesiastes we learned about God’s sovereignty when Solomon told us to be content with our lot in life because it’s God who has determined it and as we live in thanksgiving we glorify God.  Here, in our text this morning we see God’s sovereignty in another realm.  We see it in salvation.

In this very rich section of historical narrative we see three accounts of salvation by grace.  This is to be seen as specific examples that the Holy Spirit had Luke single out to teach us something very amazing and vitally important.  We should also notice that Philippi receives special attention from Luke.  There were much bigger cities that Paul visited but no where do we have such details as to the early church and its converts as we do in this city.  My guess is that Luke remained in this city for some time and grew to have such great affection for its converts.

This church is a model or a prototype for the churches that would follow.  It is an illustration of how God saves sinners and brings them into His Kingdom.

The city of Philippi lay on the edge of Europe.  This is the gospel’s first entrance into the continent.  How these events unfolded is one of the most remarkable scenes in the Bible.  There are so many different events coming together at one point that it has got to be God working.  God is in control of all things and God also controls the Gospel.  How did the gospel get to Philippi?  God sent it there through a team of missionaries.

1. Divine Direction (Acts 16:6-12)

In this first section we see before us a strange event.  The missionary team whose goal was to share the gospel and plant churches was prevented from doing what they were called to do.  Clearly it wasn’t Satan that kept them from spreading the Gospel to the east.  They were ready to head east into Asia and share Jesus with the lost in this region and God said, NO!  Then, they planned to go into Bithynia and again God forbid them to go there to preach the good news.

having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.  [7] And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.  [8] So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.

Is it possible that God has chosen another people to hear the Gospel?  Would God choose to leave some in their sin while sending the Gospel to others?

We see very clearly that God determines who hears and who is saved.  He is sovereign in salvation.  This is a text that can be puzzling from a man centered perspective.  This text actually shows us that there were many thousands of souls that God left in their sin.  Those to the east would not hear the good news, but those to the west would.

The missionary team didn’t split up and some go east and some west, no they passed by Mysia.

I wonder if Paul thought of Jesus’ words to Nicodemas?

John 3:7-8 (ESV)

Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’  [8] The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

I want to get our thinking corrected here when it comes to sovereignty and God determining who is converted and who isn’t.

God is not an evil God who unjustly condemns good people.  God is good God who justly condemns evil people. So, every person that Paul’s team passed by was evil and deserving of God’s wrath.  All the people who heard the good news were evil people who God choose to save.  Is God in any way unjust for leave some to the just judgment they deserve while in His mercy and grace saving others?  Could it be that God’s glory will be praised for His justice and His grace?

Here’s what I mean when I say God is sovereign in salvation…

About 13-14 years ago I was working for an electrical contracting co. at Adena in Chillicothe.  I had been on the project for about 3 years when I began to sense God calling me into full time ministry.  I found myself acting a little odd.  Rather than sitting down at the break room with my coworkers, I would be making hospital visits.  Rather than getting to work at 7:00am, I was there at 6:00am leading a prayer group and Bible study.

One day a friend’s wife was admitted to the hospital; she was dying of cancer.  Her weight had dropped to the place where she was simply skin and bones.  I approached her husband to ask if I could go and pray with her.  He clearly did not want me to so I said alright.  That night the Lord was working.  All the way home and all evening and all night all I could think of was this lady and her eternal destiny.  The Lord was weighing so heavy on me that I knew what I had to do.  My prayer was, Lord don’t let her die tonight.  Keep her alive one more day and I will make sure she hears the Gospel. I was basically scared and extremely nervous.  What would I say?  How would she take it?  What would her husband do?

As I entered the room, the lights were dim and I thought she was asleep.  I gently spoke her name and her eyes opened.  I just came right out with it.  I sensed there wasn’t time to waste.

Unless something changes, you’re not going to be here on earth much longer.  Would you like me to tell you about Jesus Christ? When I said the name Jesus something changed.  What I had prepared for was an argument or a debate, her reaction was much different.  Please tell me… I was fairly new at all that and so I simply went through the basics of the gospel.  I spoke to her about sin and about repentance and faith.  I read her some verses out of Romans and that was it.  It was as if God pushed me back once the message was delivered and He saved her.  Within a few days God took her home.

The question I want to ask you is this: Was it wrong for me to share the gospel with her?  What I mean is there were hundreds of other people in the hospital that I passed by to get to this lady.  Was it wrong for me to pass them by in order to speak with her?  There may have been someone I passed by who could have died without hearing the good news.  Was God wrong by sending me to her instead?  God wanted me there at that moment because He had been there already working.  All He needed to do was to get someone there to share Jesus with her.  What’s amazing is that God would save her soul when she was just as evil as everyone else.  Did He save her because she had such great potential for His kingdom?  He saved her for His glory.  She wouldn’t lead a women’s ministry or promote missions or train younger women all she would do is die and enter the Kingdom of God.  All she would do would be to be around the throne of God praising Him in worship.

[8] The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Here’s some application points to consider as we think about evangelism…

We see in this section that God directs us.  He carries us along and guides our evangelism.

We also see the importance of sharing the good news of Christ.  God had His people in Macedonia and they had to hear the gospel before they could respond in faith and repentance.

Finally, we see that with God’s call comes a confidence of its effectiveness.  Paul knew that when he made it to Macedonia something was going to happen.  When the Holy Spirit prompts us we should be confident that something will happen.  In Paul’s case it was very quick.  Many times the Lord desires us to plant a seed.  Whenever God’s Word is spoken there will be a something that happens.

Isaiah 55:11 (ESV)

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;

it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

2. God Converts Lydia (Acts 16:13-15)

[13] And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together.  [14] One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.  [15] And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

Truth Taught- The Gospel is the power of God for the conversion of all types of people.

In this section of Acts we have three examples of conversion.  The first is Lydia, a businesswoman.  The text tells us she was a worshipper of God.  That’s not to say she had a relationship with God or that she was in anyway already saved.  A God-fearer or a worshipper of God was one who had some connection with Judaism but had not converted to Judaism.

She had some level of knowledge about God and it was probable that she had been involved to some degree in the Jewish community of her homeland.  So when she heard of a prayer group meeting she attended.

Lydia had some things going for her.  She was a successful businesswoman.  She was a worshipper of God.  However these things were not the reason she was saved.  Luke highlights for us three case studies in salvation.  Of all the different people who were converted he tells us about these three.

The example of Lydia shows us that folks can be involved in things concerning God but without Jesus Christ they are still left unconverted and in their sin.  Lydia needed to hear the Gospel in order to be converted.

Romans 1:16 (ESV)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Do we really believe that all people without the gospel will spend eternity in hell?  No matter if you are a part of a religious group.  No matter if you are a part of a prayer group meeting at the river.

Do we really believe that unless the people we know hear the Gospel that they will spend an eternity in hell?  I think in our minds we affirm this but what about in our practices?  Are we practicing universalists?

Do our friends need the gospel?  Does our family need the gospel?

Lydia proves that one can be religious and productive but left without the Gospel they will go to the same place murderers and thieves go.

3. God Converts a Slave Girl (Acts 16:16-18)

[16] As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling.  [17] She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”  [18] And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.

Truth Taught- The Gospel is the power of God for the conversion of all types of people.

The second account of conversion is of a helpless slave girl who was demon possessed.  Her sad situation was exploited by her owners.  She could tell the future.  Her owners made a lot of money because of her sad situation.

When God chooses to save someone nothing can stand in the way.  The Devil and his demons are no match for the Holy Spirit.  Always remember that the Devil is God’s Devil and is in submission to Him in every way.  In an  unprecedented way the demonic forces were very hard at work at the time of Jesus.

Throughout the Scriptures a demonic exorcism is a picture of salvation.  God casts out demons as He fills a person with the Holy Spirit.  What contrast we have between these first two conversion accounts, one wealthy in business and another hopelessly poor and possessed.

So we see the same result as Paul’s first missionary journey.  Luke sums it up in Acts 13…

Acts 13:48 (ESV)

And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

This was true in Philippi.  Many heard, some believed and some didn’t.  Belief is not based on education or status.  It seems this is what Luke wants us to see.  Lydia’s heart was opened to the message and the power of God cast out the demon in the slave girl.  One was educated and one was not.  One had a lot to offer the other had nothing and for reasons only God knows of He saved them both and passed by others.

Now to prove that the Gospel is the power of God for the conversion of all types of people, Luke shows us a middle class conversion.

4. God Converts a Jailer (Acts 16:25-32)

[25] About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them,  [26] and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened.  [27] When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped.  [28] But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.”  [29] And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas.  [30] Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  [31] And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”  [32] And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.

Truth Taught- The Gospel is the power of God for the conversion of all types of people.

This man was probably a retired Roman soldier who had seen battles and was given an opportunity for an easier life as his years advanced.  He probably came to work that day the way he always had, not at all concerned with eternal things.  He was just going about his business when some strange prisoners showed up.

Between the hymn singing and the earthquake God had shaken this man to his very soul.  Before another day would pass this man’s whole life would be transformed.  He would believe things that a day before he never even heard of.

He interpreted these events in a personal way.  Through these events this man understood he needed to be saved.  The Holy Spirit had worked to expose this man to the truth of his soul.  What’s interesting to see is that when this man rushed into the cell area to see if the prisoners were still there he found no relief.  They were still there which meant his life would not be taken.  However, he trembled because his eternal soul was still in danger.  God had revealed to this man the condition of his souls.  He understood that but needed to be told what to do about it…  He cries out… Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

Can you see how the Lord orchestrated these amazing events?

God had to get Paul into that jail in order to save the jailer.  He did this by the event of the demonic exorcism.  He called to Paul to come over to Macedonia.  All Paul had to do was open his mouth and the Lord did the rest.

In these three examples of salvation we see three very different people but the same Spirit at work and the same result.

Are you spiritually sensitive to other’s need to hear the Gospel?  Do you know the Gospel well enough to share it with others?  Are you a practicing universalist or do you believe that the Gospel is the only way a person can be brought into a right relationship with God?

It’s my prayer that right now you will renew your commitment to God and say that from now on you will be very passionate and bold when it comes to sharing Jesus Christ with others.  That you will be looking for opportunities.  That you will begin right now praying for loved ones and friends who need to hear that…

All people are born sinners and throughout our lives we commit sin.  This sin has divided us from God.  This sin must be judged.

God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ to this sin-filled planet with a mission.  The mission was to seek and save the lost people.  Jesus lived a sinless life and died a death He did not deserve.  He died the death we deserved.  In God’s Word He tells us that if we place our trust in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross for us and repent we will have eternal life.

God saved Lydia and her family, a slave girl, and a Jailer and his family as they heard the same Gospel that we must believe.

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