Summary: Are there really “coincidences” in Christians’ lives? The answer is no. This sermon presents a biblical view of the amazingly serendipitous things that happen in the lives of believers, with some examples of God's amazing providence.
The Providence of God
July 23, 2017
TEXT: Acts 18:1-6 – “After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; 2 And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. 3 And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers. 4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. 5 And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ.”
Illus. – Before my dad retired from the Air Force, he and my Mom began seeking God’s will for their lives after retirement. Dad had earned a university degree in the service, and he had always wanted to be a Christian school teacher in a missionary school overseas.
One day, Dad was praying for God’s direction and he flipped through a Christian magazine and an ad jumped out at him. It said: “Wanted: Christian couple to teach in Christian school in Okinawa, Japan.”
Now the last place in the world Mom and Dad wanted to go to was Okinawa, since that was where my brother had been electrocuted to death. But they wanted to be open to the Lord’s will, so Dad wrote the school.
Now catch this: he wrote that he had a B.A. degree in secondary education (that is, high school). His main subject area (what is called a proficiency) was physical education and his minor was history. The principal of the school wrote back immediately, saying that Dad and Mom were exactly what they had been praying for. A couple had recently left and the husband had been the P.E. teacher, who also taught history, and by the way, his wife was the kindergarten teacher.
They needed someone qualified to fill EXACTLY the positions my Dad and Mom were trained for!
Now let me ask you a question: Do you think that was a coincidence? I don’t believe there is any such thing as “coincidence” in the lives of a believer. I believe in what in theological terms is called “the providence of God.”
The doctrine of the providence of God is taught all through the Bible, and it is clearly evident in our text. Paul came to Corinth from Athens alone, without his co-workers, Silas and Timothy.
Not only was we alone, but he seems to have been discouraged and pennyless as well. The establishment of the church in Athens had not been particularly successful.
Furthermore, Paul was out of money. He had sometimes lived on the contributions of churches and individuals up to that time. But in this chapter it tells us that Paul returned to his trade of tent-making. All Jewish rabbis were required to have a back-up trade so that they could support themselves if they found themselves unemployed as a rabbi. Later, Silas and Timothy would arrive with financial support from churches because after their arrival, Paul gives up tent-making and goes full-time as a preacher from that point on. But in the meantime, Paul had to work on the side to support himself.
It was during this difficult, discouraging time that verse 2 says Paul “found” a certain Jew and his wife named Aquila and Priscilla, whom we talked about last Sunday. But actually, God had sent these people into Paul’s life to help him through a critical juncture in his life and ministry.
Notice the progression of God’s providence in this passage:
1. In verse 2, Emperor Claudius commands all Jews to leave Rome.
2. Also in verse 2, we read that Aquila and Priscilla move to Corinth and it is there they meet Paul who is lonely and pennyless.
3. In verses 2-17, they’re won to Christ, and/or discipled by Paul and they all work together to build a church in Corinth.
4. Paul later leaves Corinth and on the trip leaves Aquila and Priscilla at Ephesus according to verses 18-23, where they continue to minister.
5. At Ephesus, they meet with Apollos whom they disciple in the faith (verses 24-28).
6. Finally, chapter 19 tells us that Apollos returns to Corinth to replace Paul as the pastor of the Corinthian church.
So there is a full circle from Paul and Aquila and Priscilla’s meeting in Corinth to the eventual replacement for Paul in Corinth some years later! Now all this looks like a series of coincidences or chance meetings with key people who would play important roles in both Paul’s life and the development of the early church. In fact, all of these people were fulfilling God’s grand scheme to fulfill His will in their lives and to get just the right man to replace Paul in Corinth. They were acting in accordance with the providence of God.