ONE GOSPEL FITS ALL ACTS 16:11-40
GOD’S GRACE REACHES A SEEKING HEART – 13-15
Paul and his crew make the journey into Philippi where they meet a group of women in a prayer meeting on the Sabbath. There was no synagogue in Philippi at the time because the rule of the rabbis required ten men to constitute a synagogue. So these women gathered for the hour of prayer by the riverside.
Paul may not have had the inspiring beginning that he was hoping for when he entered Europe, but he took hold of what the Lord had given him. For some men, this might have been an excuse not to preach, but not Paul and his party. As one commentator stated this “man of Macedonia” turned out to be a group of women gathered for prayer.
Folks, no matter how humble our beginnings for ministry, let us be found faithful in the doors that the Lord has opened up for us. May we not put stipulations on how or when we are going to serve the Lord? But make we make the best of every opportunity that the Lord provides knowing that we are faithful to what God has called us to do.
So Paul sat down and explained the Scriptures to these women who had gathered that day. Luke tells us the story of one of the women that was gathered by the riverside that day. Her name was Lydia. Her birthplace was Thyatira in Lydia. She may have been named after the land, though Lydia is a common female name (see Horace). Lydia was itself a Macedonian colony (Strabo, XIII. 4). Thyatira (note plural form like Philippi and one of the seven churches of Asia here Rev. 2:18) was famous for its purple dyes as old as Homer (Iliad, IV. 141) and had a guild of dyers (οἱ βαφεις [hoi bapheis]) as inscriptions show.
We know that she was a successful business woman. It was in this area and some of the other areas that Paul visited in Europe that women had more freedom than in Asia. Luke said she was one who worshiped God. In other words, she was a God-fearer, which is often said of Gentiles who sought after God. There was a Jewish settlement in Thyatira which was especially interested in the dyeing industry. She probably became a proselyte there. Whether this was true of the other women we do not know. They may have been Jewesses or proselytes like Lydia, probably all of them employees of hers in her business.
In here conversion, you can see the hand of God working. Luke said the Lord opened her heart (to open wide or completely like a folding door). Salvation is something that only God can do. This same word was used to described the Lord’s work among the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Luke says that the Lord opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
So as Paul was preaching the Word of God her mind was held by the things that Paul was speaking to the group. She was really listening to what Paul had to say. The phrase “to pay attention to what was said by Paul” is quite interesting. One commentator wrote “showing that the inclination of the heart towards the truth originates not in the will of man. The first disposition to turn to the Gospel is a work of grace” [Olshausen]. Observe here the place assigned to “giving attention” or “heed” to the truth—that species of attention which consists in having the whole mind engrossed with it, and in apprehending and drinking it in, in its vital and saving character.
And after hearing the message proclaimed by Paul she and her household was baptized. Her household may have included the other women that were gathered that day and were her employees. We are not sure who is meant by her household, but one thing is for certain they were changed by Lord because of the actions that followed her conversion. She was a remarkable woman and was a great benefit in the church at Philippi.
So God’s grace reaches a seeking heart, next,
GOD’S GRACE RELEASES A SATANIC HEART – 16-18
Luke tells us that all did not go as smooth as this conversion in Philippi. Isn’t it like Satan to try to disrupt the things of God by sending a interruption. Satan is unceasing in trying to distract people from hearing the gospel or from doing the Lord’s work. He is quite the deceiver and we must keep our guard up at all times so that we do not fall to his tactics that he unleashes on the servants of God.
So Paul and his men one day were going to the place of prayer when they were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune telling. The ancient world had a strange respect for mad people because they said the gods had taken away their wits in order to put the mind of the gods into them. So these owners knew they had a gold mine in this young girl.
She had a spirit of divination. This word divination is a interesting term and has a unique history. Python, in the Greek mythology, was the serpent which guarded Delphi. According to the legend, as related in the Homeric hymn, Apollo descended from Olympus in order to select a site for his shrine and oracle. Having fixed upon a spot on the southern side of Mount Parnassus, he found it guarded by a vast and terrific serpent, which he slew with an arrow, and suffered its body to rot (πυθεῖν) in the sun. Hence the name of the serpent Python (rotting); Pytho, the name of the place, and the epithet Pythian, applied to Apollo. The name Python was subsequently used to denote a prophetic demon, and was also used of soothsayers who practised ventriloquism, or speaking from the belly. The word ἐγγαστρίμυθος, ventriloquist, occurs in the Septuagint, and is rendered having a familiar spirit (see Levit. 19:31; 20:6, 27; 1 Sam. 28:7, 8). The heathen inhabitants of Philippi regarded the woman as inspired by Apollo; and Luke, in recording this case, which came under his own observation, uses the term which would naturally suggest itself to a Greek physician, a Python-spirit, presenting phenomena identical with the convulsive movements and wild cries of the Pythian priestess at Delphi.
In verse 17, she followed Paul and his men shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” Yet, when she says this she was indication that this was one of many ways of salvation offered to men.
Our society is good at doing the same thing. They will say that Christianity is not the only way to God. But there are multiple ways to God and who has the right to declare one over the other. Well, none us really, But God has specifically declared in His word that there is only way of salvation. And Jesus is that way and all other ways lead to the road of destruction.
So Paul was worn out by this slave girl’s testimony. Literally he was annoyed and grieved by the whole process. So he turns and casts the demon out of her and in that very hour the spirit was gone. So Satan the serpent is gone, but Satan is not through. He next turns into Satan the lion by throwing the apostles into jail.
Folks, one of the greatest obstacles to the kingdom of God is the selfishness of men. Whenever Christianity attacks vested interests trouble follows. So God’s grace reaches a seeking heart, God’s grace releases a satanic heart, and next,
GOD’S GRACE REMOVES A STUBBORN HEART – 19-40