Thought for the Week - 9th August 2020 by Rev Peter Baxandall

(21)   9th August                  Acts 16:6-40              The man of Macedonia

While our Bible passage in focus this week is Acts 16:6-40, we have only printed Acts 16:6-15 in the Order of service for our time together in Church because space does not allow the full passage.

We can all read the full passage while at home as we see how God worked among the folk in Philippi after Paul and Silas arrived there.

In this passage we read that Paul and his companions were working their way through the region known then as Phrygia ad Galatia, looking for new openings to share the gospel of Jesus with folks in towns to which they had never been.

However. their way was ‘barred’ by God Himself because He had other plans for Paul and his team.

We will see more of how this series of events unfolded in a short while, but first a prayer together and then a song to listen to or to sing along with.

Prayer

Almighty God, who sent your Holy Spirit to be the life and light of your Church: we pray that we may allow your light to shine within us and among us in our day.

We acknowledge before you that we allow too many personal problems and ideas to cloud our relationships within your body.

Open our hearts to the riches of your grace, that we may bring forth the fruit of the Spirit in love and joy and peace.

We pray for our worship together and for our ‘Thought for the week’ – asking that through both you will teach and equip your church to reflect your love within our community.

Fill us with a sense of your living, loving presence with us each day, through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

Song :         Jesus, what a beautiful name

 

Jesus, what a beautiful name

Son of God, Son of Man

Lamb that was slain.

Joy and peace, strength and hope

Grace that blows all fear away

Jesus, what a beautiful name

 

Jesus, what a beautiful name

Truth revealed, my future sealed

Healed my pain

Love and freedom, life and warmth

Grace that blows all fear away

Jesus, what a beautiful name

 

Jesus, what a beautiful name

Rescued my soul, my stronghold

Lifts me from shame

Forgiveness, security, power and love

Grace that blows all fear away

Jesus, what a beautiful name

         

Jesus, what a beautiful name

Son of God, Son of Man

Lamb that was slain.

Joy and peace, strength and hope

Grace that blows all fear away

Jesus, what a beautiful name

 

Joy and peace, strength and hope

Grace that blows all fear away

Jesus, what a beautiful name

 

Joy and peace, strength and hope

Grace that blows all fear away

Jesus, what a beautiful name

 

As we turn to Acts 16:6–40 we see the unfolding of a New Vision in God’s plan for the growth of His church.

In this section, we see three wonderful “openings.”

(1)     God opened the way (vv. 6–12).

After visiting the churches he had founded, Paul tried to enter new territory for the Lord by traveling east into Asia Minor and Bythinia, but the Lord closed that particular door.

We don’t know how God revealed His will in this matter, but we can well imagine that Paul was a bit surprised that doors seemed to keep closing before him.

Everything had been going so smoothly up to this point on this second Missionary journey that these closed doors must left him wondering just what was happening.

However, it is comforting to know that even apostles were not always clear as to God’s will for their ministries!

God planned for the message to get there another time (Acts 18:19–19:41).

In His sovereign grace, God led Paul west into Europe, not east into Asia.

At Troas, Paul was called to what was then known as Macedonia by a man whom he saw in a night vision and Paul was quick to respond to the vision (compare Acts 26:19).

We take note that in this part of the ongoing story, we find the pronoun ‘we’ in Acts 16:10, for Dr. Luke, who wrote the Book of Acts, joined Paul and his party at Troas.

There are three “we sections” in Acts: chapter 16:10–17; chapter 20:5–15; and chapter 27:1–28:16.

Luke changed from “we” to “they” again in Acts 17:1, which suggests that he may have remained in Philippi to pastor the church after Paul left.

The next “we section” begins in Acts 20:5 in connection with Paul’s trip from Macedonia.

Luke devoted a good deal of space to Paul’s ministry in Philippi, so perhaps he was a resident of that city.

Some students think Luke may have been the man Paul saw in the vision.

Following this vision, Paul and his companions travelled by ship from Troas to Neapolis, which is the port of Philippi.

As Neapolis was distance of about 150 miles from Troas, and it took them two days to make the journey.

Later, as we find in Acts 20:6 the trip in the opposite direction would take five days, apparently because of contrary winds.

Philippi lay ten miles inland from Neapolis, and the way Luke described the city would suggest that he was indeed one of its proudest citizens.

Philippi was a Roman colony, which meant that it was a “Rome away from Rome.”

The emperor organized “colonies” by ordering Roman citizens, especially retired military people, to live in selected places so there would be strong pro-Roman cities in these strategic areas.

Though living on foreign soil, the citizens were expected to be loyal to Rome, to obey the laws of Rome, and to give honour to the Roman emperor.

In return, they were given certain political privileges, not the least of which was exemption from taxes. This was their reward for leaving their homes in Italy and relocating elsewhere.

(2)     God opened Lydia’s heart (vv. 13–15).

Paul and his friends did not plunge immediately into evangelizing the city, even though they knew God had called them there.

No doubt they needed to rest and pray and make their plans together.

It is not enough to know where God wants us to work; we must also know when and how He wants us to work.

The Jewish population in Philippi must have been very small since there was no synagogue there, only a place of prayer by the river outside the city.

(It required ten Jewish men for the founding of a synagogue.)

Paul had seen a man in the vision at Troas, but here he was ministering to a group of women!

“It is better that the words of the Law be burned than be delivered to a woman!” said the rabbis; but that was no longer Paul’s philosophy.

He had been obedient, and the Lord had gone before to prepare the way.

Lydia was a successful businesswoman from Thyatira, a city renowned for its purple dye.

She probably was in charge of a branch office of her guild in Philippi.

God brought her all the way to Philippi so that she might hear the Gospel and be converted.

She was “a worshiper of God,” - that is, a Gentile who was not a full Jewish proselyte but who openly worshiped with the Jews.

She was seeking truth.

Paul shared the Word and God opened her heart to the truth, and she believed and was saved.

We read in Acts 16:13 that Paul and his companions ‘spoke the word to them’ which means that this was personal conversation, not preaching.

Lydia boldly identified herself with Christ by being baptized, and she insisted that the missionaries stay at her house.

All the adults of Lydia’s household came to faith in Christ, so this was a good opportunity for Paul and his associates to teach them the Word and establish a local church.

We must not conclude that because God opened Lydia’s heart, Lydia’s part in her conversion was entirely passive.

She listened attentively to the Word, and it is the Word that brings the sinner to the Saviour (John 5:24).

The same God who ordained the end, Lydia’s salvation, also ordained the means to the end, Paul’s witness of Jesus Christ.

(3)     God opened the prison doors (vv. 16–40).

This is the part of the unfolding story of the church at Philippi that we did not include in the Order of service for this Sunday as space would not allow.

No sooner are lost people saved than Satan begins to hinder the work.

In this case, he used a demonized girl who had made her masters wealthy by telling fortunes.

Paul and his “team” went regularly to the place of prayer and were still witnessing to the lost.

This girl repeatedly shouted after them, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who show us the way of salvation!”

Paul did not want either the Gospel or the name of God to be “promoted” by one of Satan’s slaves, so he cast out the demon.

After all, Satan may speak the truth one minute and the next minute tell a lie; and the unsaved would not know the difference.

The owners had no concern for the girl; they were interested only in the income she provided, and now that income was gone.

As far as they could see, their only recourse was the Roman law, and they thought they had a pretty good case because the missionaries were Jewish and were propagating a religion not approved by Rome.

Moved by both religious and racial prejudices, the magistrates acted rashly and did not investigate the matter fully.

This neglect on their part later brought them embarrassment.

Why didn’t Paul and Silas plead their Roman citizenship at this point? (see Acts 22:25–29; 25:11–12)

Perhaps there was not time, or perhaps Paul was saving that weapon for better use later on.

He and Silas were stripped and beaten (see 2 Cor. 11:23, 25) and put in the city prison.

It looked like the end of their witness in Philippi, but God had other plans.

Instead of complaining or calling on God to judge their enemies, the two men prayed and praised God.

When you are in pain, the midnight hour is not the easiest time to sing God’s praise, but on this occasion God gives to Paul and Silas “songs in the night”

Prayer and praise are powerful weapons (2 Chron. 20:1–22; Acts 4:23–37).

God responded by shaking the foundations of the prison, opening all the doors, and loosening the prisoners’ chains.

They could have fled to freedom, but instead they remained right where they were.

For one thing, Paul immediately took command; and, no doubt, the fear of God had come upon these fellow prisoners.

They must have realized that there was something very special about those two ‘Jewish’ preachers!

Paul’s attention was fixed on the jailer, the man he really wanted to win to Christ.

It was a Roman law that if a guard lost a prisoner, he was given the same punishment the prisoner would have received; so there must have been some men in the prison who had committed capital crimes.

The jailer would rather commit suicide than face shame and execution.

A hard-hearted person seeking vengeance might well have let the cruel jailer kill himself, but Paul was not that kind of a man

It was the jailer who was the prisoner, not Paul; and Paul not only saved the man’s life, but pointed him to eternal life in Christ.

“What must I do to be saved?” is the cry of many lost people worldwide, and we had better be able to give them the right answer.

The ‘Jewish’ legalists within the church would have replied, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1, nkjv).

But Paul knew the right answer – have faith in Jesus Christ.

In the Book of Acts, the emphasis is on faith in Jesus Christ alone (Acts 2:38–39; 4:12; 8:12, 37; 10:10–43; 13:38–39).

It is touching to see the change in the attitude of the jailer as he washed the wounds of these two prisoners with whom he was now a brothers in Christ.

One of the evidences of true repentance is a loving desire to make restitution wherever we have hurt others.

What about the other prisoners?

Luke doesn’t give us the details, but it is entirely possible that some of them were also born again through the witness of Paul and Silas and the jailer.

Some of these prisoners may have been waiting for execution, so imagine their joy at hearing a message of salvation!

Paul and Silas thought nothing of their own pains as they rejoiced in what God did in that Philippian jail!

No doubt the jailer later joined with Lydia in the assembly.

The city officials knew that they had no convincing case against Paul and Silas, so they sent word to the jailer to release them.

Paul, however, was unwilling to “sneak out of town,” for that kind of exit would have left the new church under a cloud of suspicion.

People would have asked,

  • Who were those men?
  • Were they guilty of some crime?
  • Why did they leave so quickly?
  • What do their followers believe?

Paul and his associates wanted to leave behind a strong witness of their own integrity as well as a good testimony for the infant church in Philippi.

It was then that Paul made use of his Roman citizenship and boldly challenged the officials on the legality of their treatment.

This was not personal revenge but a desire to give protection and respect for the church.

While the record does not say that the magistrates officially and publicly apologized, it does state that they respectfully came to Paul and Silas, escorted them out of the prison, and politely asked them to leave town.

Paul and Silas remained in Philippi long enough to visit the new believers and encourage them in the Lord.

As you review this chapter, you can see that the work of the Lord progresses through difficulties and challenges.

Through this Corona virus on the one hand, and our time of Interregnum on the other, we face a number of difficulties.

Sometimes within our churches we have problems with each other, and sometimes the problems come from the outside.

It is also worth noting that not every sinner comes to Christ in exactly the same manner.

Timothy was saved partly through the influence of a godly mother and grandmother.

Lydia was converted through a quiet conversation with Paul at a Jewish prayer meeting, while the jailer’s conversion was dramatic.

One minute he was a potential suicide, and the next minute he was a child of God!

Different people with different experiences, and yet all of them changed by the grace of God.

Others just like them are waiting to be told God’s simple plan of salvation.

Will you help them hear?

In your own witness for Christ, will you be daring?

Prayer time

Heavenly Father, we are reminded in Scripture that Jesus walked on the water of the lake to join His disciples in the boat.

As the disciples struggles to understand what was really taking place, we hear Jesus call to Peter to get out of the boat and walk to Him on the water.

Help us in our day, when He calls us to step out and to leave the safety of our ‘boats’, and to walk toward Him in faith.

May we be aware that He calls us to join with Him in the work He is already doing in our world.

Lord, in your mercy; hear our prayer

We thank You, Father, that Paul was willing to hear Your call and direct his path in accordance with what You called him to do.

We thank You that many came to faith as a result of Paul’s obedience, and that a new church was formed.

Help us to learn from this account that we have read today and ask You to speak to us through it today.

Lord, in your mercy; hear our prayer

Gracious Lord, we thank You for the world You have created – and we pray for greater wisdom and responsibility in our stewardship of this earth.

As we are reminded that among the first disciples of Jesus a number were fishermen, we pray today for fishermen and seafarers and all who brave the seas to bring us food and trade goods from the farthest reaches of our planet.

Lord, in your mercy; hear our prayer

Father, we thank you that your Son, our Saviour, walks with us on our life’s journey.

We pray for all the members of our parishes who travel with us in our church family, among our friends and within this community.

We pray for deepening awareness of our need for one another and ask You to make us aware of any relationships that need to be repaired

Lord, in your mercy; hear our prayer

Be with us today, whether in corporate worship together, or at home reading the ‘Thought for the week’ – may we be open to allow You to speak to us from Your word.

We pray for our separate Parishes at this time of Interregnum and pray for the choice of a new pastor and leader to join us in Your work within our neighbourhood and parish.

We pray that You will put Your hand on the person of Your choice, and we pray that we put no obstacle in the way of that person coming to join us.

Lord, in your mercy; hear our prayer

Loving God, we thank You for the gift of life and pray for those whose lives are troubled by illness, grief, poverty or injustice.

We pray that in the darkness of their suffering and pain Your light will shine to bring them the assurance and hope they need.

We remember at this time those known personally to us who are unwell or in any kind of need.

Lord, in your mercy; hear our prayer

We continue to pray for all Members of Parliament and, in particular, our Prime Minister and his Cabinet – that they will make wise decisions for the good of all within our nation at this time.

Lord, in your mercy; hear our prayer

Heavenly Father, we pray for all who are bereaved and who’s lives are filled with the sadness of loss – asking You to surround them and fill them with a fresh awareness of Your love

Lord, in your mercy; hear our prayer

Merciful God, we thank you for your promise to hear our prayers.  

Strengthen our faith in that promise so that our lives might proclaim Your love, mercy and goodness in our daily walk.

When Jesus calls us to follow Him, help us remember His words: “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

Merciful Father:  Accept these prayers for the sake of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

Song:        Jesus is the name we honour

Jesus is the name we honour,

Jesus is the name we praise,

Majestic name above all other names;

The highest heaven and earth proclaim,

That Jesus is our God.

 

     We will glorify,

     We will lift Him high,

     We will give Him honour and praise,

     We will glorify,

     We will lift Him high,

     We will give Him honour and praise.

 

Jesus is the name we worship,

Jesus is the name we trust,

He is king above all other kings;

Let all creation stand and sing,

That Jesus is our God.

 

     Chorus

 

Jesus is the Father’s splendour,

Jesus is the Father’s joy,

He will return to reign in majesty,

And every eye at last shall see,

That Jesus is our God.

 

     Chorus


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