The Beginning of a Church
God intervened in Paul's life at an important point. When Paul anticipated traveling elsewhere, God directed him across the Aegean Sea to Philippi, a Roman colony in Macedonia. There he saw several people saved. Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned because of their witness. Yet they praised and worshipped God.
God intervenes in the lives of believers. He uses interruptions to direct us into His will. Acts 16 helps us understand God's interruptions and respond appropriately to them.
The Call to Macedonia (Acts 16:6-10)
During Paul's second missionary journey, the Holy Spirit forbade Paul and his companions, Silas and Timothy, to preach the Word in Asia (6). He also did not allow them to go to Bithynia (7).
Not knowing what God had for them, Paul and his companions traveled to Troas (8). They could have taken some vacation time or done some sightseeing while they waited for God to direct; instead the men put themselves in a position for God to use them. We also must be preparing ourselves to be used by God.
- What steps can believers take to prepare themselves to serve God as He directs us?
- How can we strategically position ourselves to be more useful? How can we turn our "potential energy" into "kinetic energy" for the Lord?
- What should be our thought process for making decisions in our lives?
Twice God had prevented them from going where they had planned. Instead he directed them across the sea to Macedonia. He interrupted their travel plans and interjected His own plan.
The Missionaries' Obedience
The words "immediately" (10) and "the next day" (11) indicate that Paul and his companions wasted no time in obeying the Macedonian call. How do we respond to the "interruptions" God brings into our lives?
- We must immediately obey God's will (10).
- We must look for opportunities that each interruption brings (13).
- We need to serve God where He places us (14).
- We must keep praying and praising (25).
The Conversion of Lydia (Acts 16:11-15)
Paul's Common Sense
Philippi was the first European city in which Paul preached. Luke, the writer of Acts, described it as "the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony" (12). Luke meant that Philippi was the leading city in that area, as well as being a Roman colony.
Paul noticed that a group of women left the city to gather by the river for prayer on the Sabbaths (13). Using his common sense, he saw this gathering as a great opportunity to share the gospel message.
Lydia's Open Heart
One of the women who went to the river to pray was Lydia, "a seller of purple" (14). Her profession ranked her at the top of the socioeconomic scale - but she worshipped God rather than prestige and riches. When Lydia heard Paul's words, she responded eagerly. Notice that neither sexual nor cultural boundaries stopped Paul from witnessing.
Lydia's household also responded to the gospel. She and her family then obeyed the Lord in baptism. Lydia insisted that the missionaries stay in her home as they continued their work in Philippi. This kind gesture led to the start of the church of Philippi (15).
The Confrontation with the Slave Girl (Acts 16:16-21)
The Casting Out of a Demon
The Greek word for "grieved" means "greatly annoyed" (18). Paul didn't see the slave girl as the enemy, but as a tool of the real enemy, Satan. He didn't attack her but allowed God to use him to deliver her.
Read Luke 6:27-28 and Romans 12:20-21. How should we respond to opposition as we seek to carry out God's will?
The Complaint of Her Masters
When they saw that the source of their income was gone, the masters seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to the magistrates.
- First, they said that the missionaries "trouble our city" (20), meaning that Paul and Silas had been stirring up the people. This was a serious charge because the Romans insisted on peace and order in their colonies.
- Second, they accused Paul and Silas of advocating non-Roman customs, which most likely refers to the Jewish proselytizing of Romans (21). This, too, was a serious charge.
The Conversion of the Jailer (Acts 16:22-40)
At midnight, Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God. The prisoners "heard" - or "listened with interest" - to the praying and singing, even though it was the middle of the night (25).
At some point, Paul and Silas preached to the jailer and his family and his servants. They all believed and were baptized. After the "baptismal service," the jailer fed Paul and Silas and rejoiced in his salvation (29-34). The word "believe" implies urgency; it denotes an active orientation of the mind and heart toward Jesus.
God intervened in Paul's life by allowing him to be imprisoned. Paul's acceptance of God's interruptions provided a wonderful testimony to the jailer.
Let's have the right attitude toward interruptions, seeing them as God's direction for us. Let's submit to Him and let Him work through us to accomplish His purposes for the interruptions. Let's also be willing to endure any pain or hardships that we might experience as a result of how God leads in our lives.