Doors sometimes open and sometimes close. When it comes to guidance we much prefer God opening doors for us, but sometimes of necessity he also closes doors, as in the case of Paul and his companions. The doors to Asia and Bithynia were slammed in their faces, while the door to Europe was flung wide open by way of a vision where a man appeared and said – “Come over the Macedonia and help us.”
So in obedience the apostle and his team arrived in Philippi, and faithfulness soon resulted in fruitfulness as three very different people were transformed:-
1 – Lydia (v 13 – 15.)
She was a business woman specialising in purple cloth; who as well as being religious, was probably rich and well to do. She became a Christian and an open heart resulted in an open home as her house became the new meeting place for the church.
Teaching Point = Conversion.
In Lydia’s conversion we see the role of the believer which is to SPEAK the Word of the Lord (v 13); the role of the unbeliever which is to LISTEN carefully (v 14); as well as God’s role which is to OPEN THE HEART and bring about the new birth (v 14.)
2 – The Slave Girl (V 16 – 19.)
She was demon possessed and made shed loads of money for her owners by telling fortunes. She was likely of Greek origin, and being a slave was the lowest of the low. She followed Paul and his colleagues around, until the apostle became so troubled by her rantings and ravings that he cast out the demon. The demise of the demon resulted in the demise of her money making ability, so her gang masters had Paul and Silas arrested and beaten for ruining their economic interest.
Teaching Point = Conflict.
The demon in money is greed, and so whenever the Gospel message clashes with selfish economic interest there will inevitably be conflict (see Acts 19 v 23 – 27.) Most do not seem to be able to possess money without it possessing them!
3 – The Jailer (v 23 – 34.)
They were handed over to a Roman jailer who was probably a former soldier and he put them on the maximum security wing. At about midnight when they should have been getting their beauty sleep, they were instead – “praying and singing hymns to God” in the hearing of their fellow prisoners.
Teaching Point = Circumstances.
They had learnt the difficult lesson of how to sing – “songs in the night” (Job 35 v 10.) When all is dark and seems to be falling apart we need to – “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5 v 18.)
An earthquake followed, along with the conversion of the jailer; and upon release Paul and Silas returned to Lydia’s house where they – “met with the brothers and encouraged them.”
But who would have been present? Let us make the assumption that Lydia and her family would be there as hosts; that the slave girl, who had nowhere else to go, would also have been in attendance; and that the jailer and his family would have been told about the gathering and pitched up.
Teaching Point = Church.
Lydia was rich, successful and upper class; the jailer came from the solid Roman middle classes; while the slave girl was from the gutter, the lowest of the low. All very different, but all bound together in Christ who transcends difference and separation, to bring about unity in diversity in a classless church, enabling it to be a model of hope to a divided world.
Theme: “A classless church!”
Reading: Acts 16 v 13 – 34
Preacher: Chris Hughes
Led by: Chris Hughes