ES/PHIL/01 Philippians Introduction
6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. 11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days. 13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us. 16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her. 19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.” 22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” 29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household. 35 When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” 36 The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.” 38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. 39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. 40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.
Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Last year I concluded the letter to Galatians and now I want to spend some considerable time looking at another of Paul’s letters, the one to the Philippians for there are many things we can learn about Jesus and the Christian life. We will probably spend most of the year in the evenings looking at it. Though we are looking at Philippians we are already heard a reading from Acts 16 which introduces us to the place and church that got established there.
I want to give us a bit of the background to Philippi, the place where these believers are. It has an interesting history let alone it being a place that God especially led Paul to.
Philippi is in modern-day Greece though it was part of Macedonia originally which was a separate Country which included modern Macedonia as well as the province of Macedonia in North Greece. It is about 10 miles from the sea and was on the main highway between East and West known as the Egnatian Way[SLIDE]. You could not miss Philippi if passing to or from Turkey which was known as Asia Minor in Paul’s day. It existed before it became Philippi as a small town known as Krenides (which means ‘Spring’ probably from the fact the river is fed by it there) but Philip the 2nd of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great of Macedonia, enlarged the town into a city and fortified it with walls. It had all the usual mod-cons of the day such as an open-air theatre, two large temples[SLIDE], a library and baths. Gold was found in the mountains that surrounded the city and gave enough to supply his army. The city grew to about 50,000 people though some say that by the time Paul turned up there was 200,000 though this seems unsubstantiated.
In 42BC a major battle took place where Mark Anthony and Augustus Caesar defeated another army and Philippi became a Roman Colony and gave the people living there the right of being Roman despite not being in Italy. Later when Mark Anthony and Cleopatra were defeated in another battle the supporters of Mark in Italy were exiled to Philippi as a punishment and the victorious members of the army took over the cities that the banished had come from.
Then in around 49AD came Paul on his 2nd missionary journey which is what we read in Acts 16:5-15.
Paul was in Philippi because of the Macedonian call: a man in Macedonia saying come over and help us. God had forbidden him to go elsewhere and, instead, led him to Philippi. We can see his whole journey from this slide.
Paul went to speak to the women at the riverside. A man calls but what is interesting is that it is women who are preached to! What we can take from this is that there was no Synagogue there. Paul was not found in the Synagogue probably because they did not have the required number of ten men to meet. So the number of Jews there were few.
I love it when there is archaeology done because no archaeology has ever proven Scripture to be wrong but instead it has only confirmed it. For instance, until 1884 Scripture was derided over its belief in the Hittite Kingdom which had never been heard of until their Capital was discovered by an Irish missionary! Then and since they were all surprised by just how big the Hittite Empire actually was!
Guess what the French discovered when they started digging in Philippi? They discovered that one of the main trades of Philippi was purple cloth. Not proven conclusively until 1914. So, even in the smallest detail Scripture has been proven again for we find that Lydia was a seller of this cloth as we read in verse 14. And Lydia is probably the first convert in Europe. Certainly the first of Paul’s.
But for Paul the experience was not at all pleasant. As we carry on reading in Acts 16 we find that the Philippians were proud of Romans and there was inherent antisemitism present.
So, whilst this experience of Paul where he was beaten and imprisoned was extremely painful, and note that it was God-led, the outcome of his visit to Philippi was that Lydia became a convert and it seems a Church was then set up in her home and also the jailer and his family became Christians too after seeing the way the prison doors opened. The gospel is not chained. We do not know how many of the other prisoners were saved in the process but all-in-all it was a fruitful few days that they were.
There is another interesting aspect to this story which would be easy to miss. In verse 10 we find a mysterious word: ‘we.’ Who is the ‘we’ for up to then it was ‘them’ and ‘they’. This is none other than Luke who is writing the account. We find that Luke must have joined the entourage at Troas to go to Philippi. Then in verse 40 the ‘we’ is replaced with the ‘they’ and ‘them’. Luke must have stayed behind in Philippi. It is not until Paul returns to Philippi in Acts 20.6 which was about 5 years later that we find that Luke leaves Philippi to be with Paul again on his journeys.
I reckon that Luke in his trade as a Doctor also gave strength to the fledgling Church whilst he was there – notice in Acts 16.10 he says that it was concluded that the Lord had called ‘us’ to preach the gospel there so including himself in that number. The Church must have grown somewhat in the intervening period and when Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians which was written about 10 years after his first visit.
As you know the passage we read in Acts 16 is very special to me for it was this passage of Scripture and the events in my life that led me to go to Macedonia. I was called to go and help them in the ministry God gave.
Let us be as clear as Paul was about his mission. His mission was simply to come and preach the gospel of Jesus. As a Church we are not to forget that the main purpose for our existence is to share Jesus with others and to be Jesus’ disciples. We are to be outward looking rather than inward looking. What if Paul had simply gone to Philippi to look around the City and do a bit of sight-seeing? What a lovely holiday! However, Paul was single-minded in making Jesus known and in knowing Jesus. This is how we are to be. In meeting the people in this community or anywhere we go we should be those who make Jesus known as the Lord gives us opportunity.
Was there a revival in Philippi?
Well, we do know that two families especially were affected: Lydia and her family and the jailer and her family. Beyond that is pure guesswork. Note also that Paul had to go to prison for the jailer to be saved. Paul suffered and could have complained about the situation he was in but he was praising God instead. If Paul had simply complained then what would have been the likelihood that the jailer and his family getting saved? God has a plan for our lives but sometimes the things that happen to us both good and bad may open the door to someone else getting saved: God doesn’t have to tell us either. All things work to the good of those who love Him. Though it certainly may not feel like it at the time. It might be pushing it to say there was revival though.
The theme of Philippians is joy. It would not be surprising if this was established most certainly in Paul’s heart on his first visit to Philippi. Here he was writing his letter from another prison no doubt reminding him of his stay there too and perhaps Paul himself took comfort from it. This visit left its mark on Paul for he writes to the Thessalonians in
2 But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict.
Despite all that had happened in Philippi when they arrived at the next city, being Thessalonica, they were not shy about sharing the gospel there too and suffered even more consequences in that place.
The Church in Philippi kept going until the 4th Century when Philippi had all but ceased being a city which then became completely uninhabited in the 14th Century and as you can see from the picture [SLIDE] not so many people live in the area today – in fact the population is only 896.
Because of the jailer and his family, Lydia and her family, and Luke who stayed behind the Church gradually grew. No one really knows how big they grew but I suspect that it was not very large. It was enough for Paul to write his letter to ‘all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the overseers and deacons’. So, the Church was big enough to have elders and deacons but just how large is that after all we have seven elders and deacons here plus me.
It didn’t take much for the Church to start. Simply sharing the good news of Jesus turned a whole family to God. The next family was harder as they came to faith through trial and tribulation and suffering. Sometimes it is easy work. Sometimes it is hard. And persecution often comes with the territory.
The work of God starts small and gradually most of the time. We should never be disheartened about the way things are going.
We are light in this world bringing the good news. Paul went to where the people were to share the good news of Jesus with them. What God has started and will finish in us is what God can start and finish in others. Maybe there will be no revival, though we should still pray to that end, but individuals that come to faith are precious in God’s sight and worth it all. We sometimes think that every work of Paul’s brought thousands to faith – but here in Philippi we know of just two families.
Let us seek God for opportunities and his leading and go where He leads us to and let us deliberately set our hearts and minds to share Jesus with at least one person this week, before next Sunday, so that they have had an opportunity to come to faith in our Saviour. Let that be our aim and ambition this week.
When Jesus came to earth He deliberately set out, first from Heaven to come here, but to finish a mission, He deliberately set about getting to the cross. His heart and mind were set, as the King James versions says, as flint. Just as we read about Paul and his mindset in making sure he was not just sightseeing at Philippi we see Jesus and His mindset was making sure that His stay on earth was as effective as it could be knowing the purpose that He had come was to go to the cross to save us from our sins and free us from the bounds of the enemy. We shall come, in due course to that famous passage about Jesus in Philippians about the mindset of Jesus who came with humility and subjected Himself to the death of the cross when He is, in fact, the King of kings and God over all. He did it to seek and save us. This is love. Pure, simple, clear. One day we will see His nail pierced hands that showed the length He was willing to go to reconcile us back to God. As we now reflect upon these things let us examine ourselves and ask forgiveness that we spurn His love whenever we go our own way and pray again for a greater revelation of His love for each one of us. Let’s pray.
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.