Summary: God directed Paul to Philippi to preach the gospel. Acts 16 reveals both the open hearted reception and the opposition he faced. We should expect the same when we share Christ today.
When God opens hearts he comes into them to dwell. Acts 16 gives us the history of how the gospel was planted in Philippi, how God opened their hearts to hear and obey the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This lesson continues our introduction to the letter of Philippians. Let's read Acts 16 and meet some of our early Christian brothers and sisters from that time and place. These are people we will spend eternity with some day, whose names are in the book of life Phil. 4:3.
I wonder what stands out in this passage to you? Who are these Philippians?
First, we meet Lydia, a European merchant with a household. Lydia is a spiritual seeker, Acts calls her a worshipper of God. She is probably not Jewish, but seems to have found God through the Jewish teachings she has heard. There is no synagogue mentioned. That means that there are probably fewer than 10 Jewish men in this town. Instead of a synagogue, there is a place down by the river to meet for prayer services on the Sabbath. Who goes to this prayer service? A women's prayer group! One of the women there is Lydia. She is the only one mentioned by name. Look at verses 13-15 again.
Galatians 3:24 says, The Law is our school master to lead us to Christ.
Lydia has been learning the Law of God and God opened her heart to respond to the gospel of Christ Jesus.
This is a good order for us to lead our own children and friends to Christ. The Old Testament law is God's word too, given to teach and instruct us so that we are lead to Christ. Skipping over the law and running straight to the New Testament to bring someone to Christ is not the way Paul and the other apostles did it. If you read the sermons of Peter and Paul they will always refer to the Old Testament first to lead us to Christ. I've been reading Isaiah and Jeremiah this week in our 90 day Bible reading. Wow! We need a Savior! God's word in the prophets indicts us and judges our sins, then it instructs us and calls us to repent and obey God.
Lydia has probably been instructed in the Old Testament for some time now. She wants to know God. She worships God. So God gave a vision to Paul and his mission team and brought them to that place of prayer by the river near Philippi so she could come to know Christ and obey the gospel.
Lydia's example is a good one for us to learn from. We need to know the word of God and be seeking Him through prayerful worship. We need to listen to the gospel afresh and pray that God will open our hearts and the hearts of our family and friends.
How do you know if God has opened your heart? Look at Lydia. It says she responded to the message. She obeyed the word of God. She wanted to be faithful.
The next Philippian we meet is another woman. A slave girl who is possessed by a spirit of divination. Look again at verses 16-18.
This slave girl may have become a Christian too. The text never mentions it, but many commentators think that she is healed by the name of Christ in part for that reason. Hard to say. This is the only mention of her in the Bible, so it is anyone's best guess. But what we do know about her is what she advertised. She followed Paul and us, says Luke, and kept crying out, "These men are servants of the most high God, and are telling you the way to be saved!"
She was right about who they were and what they were doing. But she was also an irritant to Paul. Verse 18 says that after many days of this Paul was greatly annoyed. What are we to make of that? Was Paul tired of listening to her or was he aggravated at her condition under the influence of this spirit... or perhaps both? She never seems to ask for anything from them. She just follows them around yelling out who they are and what they are doing to everyone in sight.
Some commentators think she was referring to Zeus as the most high god. But there is nothing in the text to support that. She could have simply been correct. One thing about this is that her cries were probably heard by many of the towns people and word tends to spread. I think the jailor must have heard her say this, or at least he heard about her saying this, otherwise why would he ask Paul and Silas what he needed to do to be saved? He is the third Philippian person that Acts focuses on.