Expanding Ministry – Acts 16:6-40

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Sermon Study Sheets

Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

April 9, 2006

Expanding Ministry

Acts 16:6-40

Introduction

Last week we examined the conflict that occurred between Paul and Barnabas as they planned their second missionary journey. They both desired to return to the cities in which they had proclaimed the gospel on their first missionary journey in order to strengthen the believers there. However, they could not agree about whether Barnabas’ cousin, John Mark, should go with them on this trip. Barnabas wanted to take him along, but Paul did not because John Mark had deserted them on the first trip. Tragically, these two men who were so foundational to the spread of the early church ended up in a “sharp disagreement.” They allowed their passions to control them to the point that they were contentious and provoking to one another and ended up separating from each other. They did not behave as they should have. Barnabas took John Mark and sailed off to Cyprus while Paul choose Silas and headed north through Syria.

As I pointed out in last week’s sermon, the failure of Paul and Barnabas in this incident is an important reminder to us that they were just men. Too often we tend to put the people that accomplished great things that are written about in Scripture on such a pedestal that we forget that they were just like us. It is God that accomplished great things through them and He desires to use us in similar ways. If there is any substantial difference between them and us, it is only in our willingness to yield ourselves to be used by God. It is my firm belief that as you are willing to let God use you and commit yourself to following Him, then God is going to use you to accomplish great things for Him and His kingdom.

Part of my reason for saying that is the fact that God will use those who are seeking to serve Him even when they fail. Though Paul and Barnabas were wrong in the manner in which they became divided, God still used that division to double the missionary force and accomplish His will in both of the areas in which they went and in the lives of those that went with them. Barnabas went back to Cyprus and took John Mark with him. We know that he had an effective ministry to John Mark because he is mentioned as being useful and even a co-laborer with Paul in several of the epistles written in later years. Paul went north through Syria and then over to Cilicia taking Silas with him. Silas, like Paul, was a Roman citizen, and this proved to be a great advantage to them both. In addition, Silas was a representative of the church in Jerusalem, and that was an advantage as they delivered the decree to the churches from the council in Jerusalem concerning the Gentiles.

Never let your failures discourage you or cause you to even waver in your pursuit of holiness and serving the Lord. We have not reached perfection, but God is conforming us to the image of His Son. We are still spiritually immature, but God will use us even while we are in the process of maturing. Like Paul in Philippians 3:13-14, “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, [we are to] press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

This morning we will begin to trace the expanding ministry that God gave to Paul and Silas. Turn to Acts 16.

The Macedonian Call (16:6-10)

The Spirit’s Resistance (6-8)

Last week we stopped at verse 5. Paul and Silas have passed through the region of Cilicia and have returned to the city of Lystra where Paul adds Timothy to the missions team. Starting in verse 6 Paul strives to go into new areas, but the Holy Spirit is restricting his efforts.

6 And they passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; 7 and when they had come to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; 8 and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.

We are not told how the Holy Spirit communicated this to Paul, but He would not allow Paul to preach in the region of Asia through which he was traveling. This is the province immediately west of Galatia. Paul travels all the way to Mysia, which is the northwest region of Asia. Paul tries to go to the northeast to the province of Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not let him go there either. Paul finally ends up in Troas, a port city on the Aegean Sea in western Mysia.

There are a couple of things to take note of in these verse. First, the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of Jesus are used interchangeably. The Holy Spirit is not an impersonal entity as some groups heretically claim. He is the third person of the triune Godhead. He has personhood and is co-equal with the Father and the Son as we have seen earlier in Acts 5.

Second, note Paul’s sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Paul was a fairly pragmatic individual. He would plan what he wanted to accomplish, yet he was always sensitive to God’s leading. It appears that Paul was heading west to new areas along the major trade route leading to Ephesus. However, when Paul got to the region of Phrygia the Spirit would not let him preach. We are not told the specific manner in which the Holy Spirit directed Paul, but in whatever manner it occurred, Paul paid attention and followed it. Paul was planning his way, but he was letting the Lord direct his steps (Prov. 16:9)

How could the Spirit have directed Paul? We know in the next passage it comes through a vision in the night or a dream. In Acts 10 Peter received a vision during the day. In several places in Acts we find that God sent angels to direct people. In Acts 13 it appears that the Holy Spirit directly communicated to the church leaders in Antioch in reference to setting aside Barnabas and Saul for missions work. This passage is more vague and it could have been any of the above or just an impression God placed upon his own spirit. That is a way God still communicates to us in our own time though we must be careful in discerning if it is actually God’s spirit working on us or our own desires and emotions leading us. However the Spirit had lead Paul, he was now in Troas and not sure what to do.

The Vision Given to Paul (9-10)

Verse 9-11 record the direction that was finally given to Paul. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a certain man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. This was the direction that Paul had been waiting for. Paul with the rest of his team conclude from the vision that they were to go to Macedonia and preach the gospel there.

I don’t know about you, but there are times I wish God would make His will known in such a clear manner in our own time. I would like to have a dream, a vision or a visitation by an angel that would then tell me exactly what I was to do and where I was to do it. But that is not how the Lord has shown Himself to work after the conclusion of the apostolic times. In our own time, He leads us through the commands, principles and precepts of His word, the impressions by His spirit, the confirmation of these by the counsel of other godly people, and His providence.

What then does God want me to do? Scripture is clear that I am to walk in holiness and serve God with whatever gifts He has given me. I am to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. I find out what my spiritual gifts are by trying different things and seeing where the Lord uses me. The particular ministry he calls me to will expand as He desires but also in reflection to my faithfulness to Him. His providence will lead me to the particular place in which I use this gift.

I remember an old friend of mine telling about how he had believed that God wanted him to be a missionary to France. He then prepared himself by going to Bible college and learning French. He was prepared and ready to go to France, but he ended up in Montreal, Canada. He had the correct language, but the wrong place. God directed this man through the Scriptures, a burden He placed on the man’s heart, the wise and godly counsel of other believers, and through providence. The same is true for all of us.

A final item to note from verse 10 is that this is the first time Luke includes himself in the text with the term “we.” It appears that Luke joined with Paul, Silas, and Timothy in Troas.

Ministry in Philippi (16:11-40)

The Journey to Philippi (11-12)

11 Therefore putting out to sea from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the day following to Neapolis; 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia, a [Roman] colony; and we were staying in this city for some days.

They travel across the Aegean sea past the island of Samothrace and to the Macedonian port city of Neapolis. From there they traveled north to Philippi. Our text only gives a general calling to Macedonia, so why go to Philippi in particular? Perhaps the Lord had given Paul some specific direction in this that is not recorded for us, or it could be that Paul was simply applying his normal effort to be strategic in where he went.

Philippi was a Roman city located on the fertile alluvial plain of the Gangites river. ( Picture: Ruins of Philippi below Acropolis. Picture: View from Acropolis at Philippi). Verse 12 points out that it was a leading city in the area. There were also gold and silver mines in the vicinity. But its real importance to Paul was that it was on the Egnatian highway that connected the roads to Europe with those going toward Asia. ( Picture: Egnatian Hwy at Philippi). If a church was planted there it would be able to easily influence the travelers that went through it and in that way extend to the gospel to other areas.

Philippi had been founded by King Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great. In 42 B.C. the Roman republic forces under Brutus and Cassius were defeated by the Roman Imperial forces under Marcus Antonius and Octavian (who became Caesar Augustus). Antonius and Octavian then established Philippi as a Roman colony. In a real sense, this made the city an outpost of Rome itself. The Philippian citizens were also Roman citizens. The city used the Latin language and coinage, its civil leaders were appointed from Rome, they were independent of the provincial government, and they were exempt from certain taxes. This made it very attractive to the many Roman veterans that settled there.

Paul had spent several days there and on the Sabbath he goes to look for those who worshiped God. ( Picture: Gantites River near Philippi).

The Conversion of Lydia (13-15)

13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled. 14 And a certain woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. 15 And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

Paul’s practice was to go to the synagogue, but there is not one there. It takes at least 10 Jewish men to form a synagogue and when Paul did find the place of prayer outside the city by the river, there were no men there. Who he does find there are some women. These would have been Jewish women and / or Gentile women who worshiped the God of Israel. One of these, Lydia, is the first convert in Europe in Paul’s mission. She was from Thyatira which is a city in the province of Asia (modern Turkey). She is a business woman who is a “seller of purple,” the dye made from the Myrex clam. We do not think twice about colored clothing, but at that time such clothing was expensive, especially purple. That is why purple came to be associated with royalty. Paul preached the gospel and she and her household believed. They were then baptized and she was able to get them to stay at her home while they were in Philippi.

This was a very positive response to the gospel, but compared to the large receptions the gospel had received in Galatia and other places, this was an indicator that the work here would be slow and difficult. It was not long before they met another spiritual woman, but this one had the wrong spirit.

The Casting Out of the Demon (16-18)

16 And it happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a certain slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortunetelling. 17 Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.” 18 And she continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out at that very moment.

Luke says that this slave-girl had a “spirit of divination.” The word here is puqwn / puthôn from which we get our word, python. It refers to a mythical, legendary snake that guarded the Delphic Oracle in central Greece, but was slain by Apollo, the god of prophecy. The term came to mean a person through whom Apollo was speaking. The interesting thing about what this girl was saying is that she was actually telling the truth. Paul and his team were bond-servants of the Most High God and the were proclaiming the way of salvation. These pronouncements were made by this girl day after day as they would go out to the place of prayer. It finally annoyed Paul to the point that he did something about it. Paul does not want the testimony of demons, even when they did tell the truth, so he casts the demons out of her.

In a Jewish culture this would be seen as a great thing even by those that did not want to believe Paul’s message. In a pagan culture, this would also be seen as something powerful since it demonstrated authority over the actions of their gods, however, it could also been seen as interfering with their gods, and in this case, also with making money. This demon possessed servant girl had been bringing her masters much profit by her demon induced fortune telling. Though this girl had just been freed from the demons, their only concern was the loss of their profit from their slave. They are not happy about Paul’s actions. Verses 19-34 continues the story.

Opposition in Philippi (19-34)

Paul & Silas Arrested (19-24)

19 But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities, 20 and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, “These men are throwing our city into confusion, being Jews, 21 and are proclaiming customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans. ” 22 And the crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them, and proceeded to order [them] to be beaten with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; 24 and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison, and fastened their feet in the stocks.

The slave owners make false charges against Paul & Silas. This results in the magistrates beating them without cause and then unjustly casting them into jail. Once again we find that when ungodly people cannot get what they want by legitimate means, they will lie in order to achieve their goals. Since Paul and Silas are strangers in the city, and specifically Jews, the officers only listened to the slave owners. There is no indication in the text that Paul or Silas were given any opportunity to respond to the charges. All of this was done unjustly, yet that did not affect their attitude – verse 25.

Their Praise (25)

25 But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them;

It is now late at night and what are Paul and Silas doing? Praying and singing hymns of praise. They had a purpose for living that rose far above any circumstances in which they might find themselves. They did not know what the day would bring, but God did, and He unveils his plan in verse 26.

The Jailer’s Fear (26-29)

26 and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains were unfastened. 27 And when the jailer had been roused out of sleep and had seen the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here!” 29 And he called for lights and rushed in and, trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas,

The earthquake damages the prison to the extent that the prisoners could escape, but Paul and Silas did not leave. The jailer, wrongly supposing that the prisoners had escaped prepares to take his own life. While that may seem strange to us, it was not such an irrational thought for this man. If the prisoners escaped then the jailer would be held responsible regardless of the reason for it and would then be executed. It was preferable to commit suicide than be killed by Roman execution. Paul & Silas call for him to stop for they were still there. This caused the jailer to shake with fear. What kind of men were these that would sing praises to their God while in prison and then not escape even though they had the opportunity? What kind of God did they serve that they could have such confidence?

The Jailer’s Conversion (30-34)

30 and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. 33 And he took them that [very] hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his [household.] 34 And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.

The jailer recognized that there was something different about Paul & Silas. He would have heard their prayers and singing. He may well have associated the earthquake as being a result of their prayers, so he would have concluded that their God was powerful. He also knows that he is guilty. Man innately knows that he has offended his Creator even when their knowledge of their Creator is perverted. In this particular case the fact that he was asleep when the earthquake occurred may have added to that conviction. Normally a jailer would stay awake during his watch of the prisoners, though this may have been a situation in which the jailer lived at the jail and so would have had sleeping quarters there. Either way, he recognizes that Paul and Barnabas have something he does not. He brings them out of the jail cell and into the courtyard and then asks them, “sirs, what must I do to be saved.” His great respect for them is shown in calling these men that had been his prisoners, “sirs.”

The question itself should not be stretched too far in its theological meaning since the man’s understanding would have been limited. Perhaps he had heard the slave-girl say that these men proclaim the way of salvation? Perhaps he had heard the content of their prayers? Though his understanding would have been limited, he knew he wanted to have the confidence and peace of mind that Paul and Silas had due to their relationship with God.

They summarized the gospel saying, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household,” and then they taught him and those with him the word of the Lord. While belief is all that it takes to be saved, it not belief itself, but the one believed in that saves. The belief has to be in the correct person for accomplishing the correct things. Two great heresies in our own time are that salvation comes by belief (faith) in belief or that it comes by belief in a Lord Jesus that is somehow different from the one of the Bible. Salvation is by God’s grace through faith (belief) in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Bible, the one who is God in human flesh, born of a virgin, who lived a sinless life, who died voluntarily as the sin sacrifice, who was buried and rose again from the grave on the third day and is now at the right hand of God the Father making intercession for us and who will return in the future to take us to be with Him in heaven. Any other Jesus is false and those believing in a false Jesus will be condemned to eternity in Hell by God.

Paul and Silas took the time to explain the whole gospel to the jailer and his family after which the jailer took care of Paul & Silas. He and his household came to faith and were baptized that night “having believed in God.”

Their Release (35-40)

35 Now when day came, the chief magistrates sent their policemen, saying, “Release those men.” 36 And the jailer reported these words to Paul, [saying,] “The chief magistrates have sent to release you. Now therefore, come out and go in peace.” 37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us in public without trial, men who are Romans, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they sending us away secretly? No indeed! But let them come themselves and bring us out.” 38 And the policemen reported these words to the chief magistrates. And they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans, 39 and they came and appealed to them, and when they had brought them out, they kept begging them to leave the city. 40 And they went out of the prison and entered [the house of] Lydia, and when they saw the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.

The next day the magistrates send to release Paul & Silas only to find out they had illegally beaten Roman citizens. This was a crime on their own part, so in fear they come and beg them to leave. This was so they could avoid the penalty of their own crime. Paul and Silas did leave Philippi, but only after returning to Lydia’s house and encouraging the brethren.

We do not know the future and we often do not understand the circumstances of the present. When things are going well we usually give our present circumstances and the future only a passing thought, but when things are going badly we easily dwell on them. The Christian can rise above any circumstance to praise God because we know that He holds the future and our lives are in His hands. We may not understand or even like our circumstances, but we can still have confidence that God is in control and will use them for His own purposes even as He did on this occasion in the lives of Paul and Silas on their first trip to Philippi.

I don’t know what you may be facing today, but I do know that you do not have to go through it alone. God’s promise to the believer is that He will be there to go through it with you. In addition, He has placed us in His body together with other Christians so that we can go through the circumstances of life together. Paul and Silas were together and were therefore an encouragement to one another. If something is troubling you today, take the time to pray with one of the other brothers or sisters before you leave so that you can also respond as Paul and Silas did so long ago in praising God.

Sermon Study Sheets

KIDS CORNER

Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help.

Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch.

Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up. 2) Count how many times “Paul” is mentioned. Talk with your parents about how God can lead you in your life.

THINK ABOUT IT!

Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.

Why were Paul and Barnabas in conflict at the end of Acts 15? What was the result? How did God use them anyway? Where did Paul and Silas go after they added Timothy to their team? Where did the Spirit keep Paul from going? How did Paul know the leading of the Spirit? How does God lead you? Describe the vision God gave Paul in Acts 16:9-10. Why didn’t Paul to a synagogue as he had in previous cities? Who was meeting at the river? Who was Lydia? What did she do? What was the source of the servant-girl’s ability for fortune-telling? What did the pagans believe? Why was Paul annoyed with her? What did he do? What was the response of her masters? How were Paul and Silas treated unjustly? What was their response? What was God’s response? Why didn’t Paul & Silas leave the jail after the earthquake? Why was the jailer planning to commit suicide? Why was he trembling with fear when Paul & Silas called to him to stop? What does it mean to “believe on the Lord Jesus”? Explain fully? What are some of the common heresies of related to wrong ideas about salvation through “belief.” What else did they explain to the jailer? What was his response? Why were the magistrates afraid when they found out that Paul & Silas were Roman citizens? How can you respond with praise when you are in the midst of bad circumstances?

Sermon Notes – April 9, 2006

Expanding Ministry – Acts 16:6-40

Introduction

 

The Macedonian Call (16:6-10)

The Spirit’s Resistance (6-8)

 

The Vision Given to Paul (9-10)

 

Ministry in Philippi (16:11-40)

The Journey to Philippi (11-12)

 

The Conversion of Lydia (13-15)

 

The Casting Out of the Demon (16-18)

Opposition in Philippi (19-40)

Paul & Silas Arrested (19-24)

Their Praise (25)

The Jailer’s Fear (26-29)

The Jailer’s Conversion (30-34)

Their Release (35-40)


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