Summary: This is the second in a series on the Philippian church. The experience of Paul and Silas in Philippi shows us key principles of salvation and joy.
The Not So Great Escape
Melbourne Community Church
I love prison escape movies. It seems that no matter how badly they behaved to get themselves into prison, once they start trying to get out, I’m rooting for them to make it. It’s even easier to sympathize with the escaping prisoner in a war movie – like Union soldiers at Andersonville or Jewish holocaust survivors at Sobibor concentration camp. I admire their ingenuity and their desperate determination to free themselves. Then we have Paul – kind of slack when it was his turn to escape. All of the hard work was done for him. The earthquake opened the doors and broke the chains, yet he stayed put. Why? Later we’ll see that he wasn’t much of a lawyer either. What explains Paul’s behavior? I believe it was that Paul had learned one of the most important lessons any disciple can ever learn: It’s not about me.
This is the second message in a series on Philippians. Last week we learned about the first European converts in Philippi, and next week we’ll start into Paul’s letter to Philippians, verse by verse, but today we’ll see what else happened when Paul visited Philippi on his second missionary journey.
Let’s back up and put this story in context. After his conversion, Paul and Barnabas went on a missionary journey throughout Asia Minor.
SHOW MAP – 1st missionary journey
After his first missionary journey, Paul returned to controversy in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Council met and concluded that Gentile converts did not have to convert to Judaism on the way to Christianity. They placed a light burden on the new believers, asking them to refrain from behavior that was most offensive.
Jerusalem Council (Acts 15)
n Don’t eat food sacrificed to idols.
n Don’t drink blood.
n Don’t eat the meat of strangled animals.
n Abstain from sexual immorality.
Paul was eager to spread the good news of the Jerusalem Council’s decision, so he started planning his second missionary journey. The church at Philippi was planted during this journey.
SHOW MAP – 2nd missionary journey
Last week we looked at Acts 15:36-16:15 to see what happened during the beginning of the second missionary journey and how Paul and his companions went to Europe.
Last week: Acts 15:36-16:15
n Paul and Barnabas split up over Mark.
n Paul and Silas went to Asia Minor.
n Paul circumcised Timothy, and he joined the trip.
n The Holy Spirit blocked them in Asia.
n Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia.
n They went to Philippi.
n Lydia and her family became believers.
These are the highlights of the historical narrative from last week, but it’s not enough to stop there. We should always ask what we can learn about our own lives based on the truth of Scripture.
What did we learn last week?
n Leaders should be prepared to meet a higher standard.
n When God closes one door, he will open another.
n God speaks to his people through visions.
Let’s pick up Luke’s account in the middle of Acts, chapter 16.
Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. This girl 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.”
What’s wrong with that? She was telling the truth, but Paul didn’t like it. Why not? It wasn’t irritation but rather concern for his ministry. Demons tell the truth one moment and then lie the next. Also, allowing the demon-possessed slave girl to continue her advertising campaign places them in a working relationship. Paul was unwilling to continue working with Barnabas because he thought that Barnabas set his standards too low; he’s sure not going to be willing to work with a demon.
She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled 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.
When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”
This is one of two times in the book of Acts that we see a serious Gentile uprising against Paul and his teaching, and both times it was about money. It Acts 19, Demetrius and other Ephesian silversmiths started a riot because Paul’s success was cutting into their idol-making business. Here, the slave’s owners are not concerned about doctrine. They are angry because Paul is taking money out of their pockets.