Skip Heitzig - Acts 15:36-16:30
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Every time I travel I think of Paul the Apostle. Why? Because it's estimated that Paul the Apostle, in his lifetime, traveled 13,400 miles. He didn't get on an airplane, didn't have a hotel room. He usually went from prison to prison, from city to city. And those were 13,400 what we would call airline miles. Not that he got on an airline, but you just draw a straight line and add up the miles. But if you think of walking that and the circuitous routing of his travels, it was many more miles than 13,400. And traveling as I mentioned, can be very exhausting. But for Paul, it was very fruitful because he begins on his first missionary journey traveling seeing what the Lord wanted him to do. And God used him to plant churches.
So in 47 AD, there were no churches in the areas that he traveled on his first missionary journey. 10 years later, 57 AD, there are many. So in 10 years, he has planted several churches. On his first missionary journey, Paul traveled, if you remember, I'll just refresh, from Antioch in Syria, and he went to Cyprus. And then from Cyprus, he went north by ship and landed in the area of Galatia And in Galatia, he went to cities like Lystra, Derbe, Iconium, Perga of Pamphylia And then, he went back to Antioch. Now he's going to begin his second missionary journey. And his desire is to go back over all of those areas on his first trip and just see how those believers are doing.
You know, he went there and he did evangelism. And it was very successful. He was very controversial, but he had great results. So now it's time to go back, he thinks, and visit those people who responded on the first trip, see how they're doing. That's where we left off at the end of chapter 15 around verse 36. But Paul has started in 10 years churches in four Roman provinces. The province of Galatia, which we covered in the first trip, and I just mentioned, The province of Macedonia, where he's going to go in chapter 16, the province of Achaia and the province of what was called back then Asia, not modern day Asia, Asia, which was a part of what we would know as Asia Minor. So in four Roman provinces, churches are established.
It's time to go back. And in going back, he talks to his buddy, his friend, his colleague in ministry, Barnabas. But we know him better so we just call him Barney by now. He says, Barney, we ought to go back and just see how those brethren are fairing. So they both agreed. They agreed on the mission. They agreed on the action. The mission of the team, they both agreed on. The composition of the team, they didn't agree on. And the problem was over the cousin of Barnabas named John Mark. If you remember back in chapter 13 verse 13 of that chapter, it says that, "when they were at Perga of Pamphylia, John Mark, Barbabas's cousin, departed from them and went back to Jerusalem."
Evidently, Paul did not take kindly to his returning home. He saw it as a failure. He saw it as a weakness. Barnabas, however, did not. You've got to understand Barnabas is Mr. Encouragement. Paul isn't so encouraging. Well, let's just refresh our memories, verse 36, "then after some days, Paul said to Barnabas, let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord and see how they're doing. Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John, called Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them. The one who had departed from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work."
He didn't finish out the work that they had set out to do in the first trip. Then verse 39, "the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark, sailed to Cyprus. But Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. And he went to the area of Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches."
Now notice the language in the verses that we have covered. Notice that in verse 37 it says, "Barnabas was determined." He made up his mind. He's bringing his cousin John Mark again. We're going to call for him, he's in Jerusalem. I want him to go with us again. He was determined, he put his foot down. Now notice verse 38, strong language with Paul the Apostle. It says, "but Paul insisted." So one is determined, the other insisted. And then verse 39, "then the contention," Now that word contention is an interesting word. The Greek word is paroxumos, where we get the English word paroxysum which is to have a fit, a heated argument, a divisive, confrontive disagreement.
A split was inevitable, a paroxysum, an angry argument that led to a split. That's a very, very strong word. Now I can just imagine the conversation. Barney, let's go back. Barney says, great. I'll call for John Mark. Oh no you won't. We tried that already. It was your idea to bring him on the first trip. I'm not interested in bringing him. He didn't finish the task. He's a featherweight, he's a lightweight. Aw, come on, Paul. Give him another chance. If you remember, I, Barnabas gave you a chance. I was the one who stood by you when the church at Jerusalem wanted nothing to do with you. I stood up for you. Doesn't matter, he's not coming. And evidently, they couldn't agree so they agreed to disagree and go in two different directions.
Now people often ask, well, who was right? And we'd like to say, well, Paul is right. Because after all, it's Paul the Apostle. My view is that both are right. You say, well, what a shame. They divided from one another. Well, you could look at it as a shame or you could look at it as a victory. Now God has two teams, not one. Now they can cover more ground. OK, they disagree, that's OK. Why? Because later on at the end of Paul's life he will write something very interesting to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4 He said, "only Luke stood with me. Demus hath forsaken me, having loved this present world. When you come, bring Mark with you also for he is useful to me for the ministry."
So now at the end of Paul's journey, he admits how useful John Mark has become to him in doing some form of ministry on his team. So a division has caused a split. Now there are two teams. Why the split? Because you have two different leadership styles going on. And I just want you to make note of this. It's not that one is bad and the other is good. They're just both different. You see, Paul looked at a person, and he asked a question. What can that person do for the work of God? Barnabas, when he looked at a person, said what can the work of God do for that person? Two different ways of doing ministry, both are OK. Both fit different tasks. So for Barnabas he was a rehabilitator, he was the son of encouragement.
That's how he got his name. He had this personality of finding people who were broken and made a mistake. And he would stick up for them and stand up for them and get them going again. And Paul thought, OK, thank you for doing that for me. And that was OK then but. On these missionary journeys. I can't afford that. We have a higher calling. We have a task to do. What can this person do for the work of God? For Paul, church wasn't a parking lot. It was a launching pad. For Barnabas, church was more of a parking lot, rehabilitation, got to get these people whole, get them going, and give him a second chance.
All of those ideas are correct. It just depends on the task. And so God, in His grace, in His wisdom, now has two teams, one to go to Cypress where Barnabas is from. Barney owns land there, sold land, gave it to the apostles in the early part of the book of Acts, so he's familiar with it. They had been there on the first journey so they're going to go cover Cypress. Paul and another partner are going to go back over to the area that Paul and Barnabas first went on. So verse 1:16, "then he came to Derbe and Lystra." Do you remember those two towns from previous studies in the book of Acts?
Derbe and Lystra were not kind to Paul. Paul got stoned there. I don't mean he got loaded there, didn't get high there. They stoned him there. Paul wasn't like getting stoned. They threw rocks at him and thought he was dead. So they go back over to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, "a certain disciple was there named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed. But his father was a Greek." Now we know her name, don't we? It's not mentioned here, but in 2 Timothy chapter 1 Paul writes her name, Lois, was the mother of Timothy. And we know his grandmother's name. Anybody remember? Eunice. Eunice and Lois, both Jewish women messianic believers, believed that Yeshua was the Jewish messiah, Jesus was the Messiah.
But it was a mixed marriage. You have a Jewish now believer and an unbelieving Greek father. But it mentions Timothy. And it says, "he was well spoken of by the brethren, who were at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek. And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and the elders at Jerusalem. And so the church's restrengthen in faith and increased in number daily." Now do you remember the decrees from Jerusalem?
I know it's been a few weeks since we've been in Acts, but do you recall that they were able to boil them down and say, look, tell the Gentiles that you don't have to keep the laws of Moses to be saved. You don't have to be circumcised to be saved. You just have to abstain from blood, from things sacrificed to idols, and from fornication. If you do these things, you do well, farewell. Very easy.
They didn't want to lay a burden on them as Peter said, "that we nor our fathers were ever able to bear." So they delivered the decrees that were given by the Jerusalem church. And it's interesting that in the decree it was to answer the question of must a person be circumcised to be saved. And yet, Paul takes Timothy in what does he do with him? Circumcise him. Now we wonder why. If you answered the question of circumcision in chapter 15 and you're not telling people to be circumcised to be saved, why on earth are you going to have Timothy circumcised? Very easy answer. And the answer is in your Bible, right there in your text.
It says in verse 3, "he took him and circumcised him." What does that say after that? Because of the Jews, "or they all knew that his father was a Greek." One translation says, and it would be better understood if you translated it this way, "he circumcised him out of consideration for the Jews." You see, Paul didn't want to make circumcision an issue when witnessing the Jewish people. It's like if I have to get into this conversation and explain why this person isn't circumcised because that's the only question that's on their minds. They know his background, Timothy's background. They know his dad is an unbeliever. And chances are he's not circumcised. It's going to be an impediment to preaching to the Jewish people.
It's just like I have a friend in Israel, I met with him this time for a couple hours on this trip. He owns a tour company there, the one that we used in the country. He's a Jewish believer. His father started the first messianic synagogue in modern Israel way back in the 40s, the late 40s, early 50s, first messianic synagogue, first set of messianic believers in modern Israel.
His son, this friend of mine, keeps kosher law. And I said, Sammy, why do you do that? He goes, just because now it's not an issue. When I went to Jewish friends if they see me not keeping kosher law, it's such an impediment to them that I make it not an impediment. Now it's not an issue. Now though listen to me.
So to remove the roadblock, it's like what Paul said, "I become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. To the Jew, I become a Jew. To the Greek, I become as a Greek." And so to remove that from his in-road with them, it was really an act of consideration for them, he had Timothy circumcised. But the verses introduced us to Timothy here, whom Paul will now take on his second missionary journey. If you know much about Timothy, you know that Timothy became Paul's protege. He was called by Paul, "my son in the faith, my true son in the faith," 26 times in Paul's writings, Paul mentions Timothy. In six different letters when Paul writes the letter, he writes it not just from Paul but from Paul and Timothy.
Timothy became very important to Paul. Paul took him on on his second missionary journey, which begins here. Later on when Paul goes to Jerusalem with an offering of money, a financial offering that the Gentile believers took for the poor, struggling church in Jerusalem, Timothy went on that trip. And much later on Paul will tell Timothy to go to Ephesus, a place where he spent a few years himself getting a church started and teaching them. He's going to send Timothy to Ephesus to pastor the church. And his job will be to teach correct doctrine, to raise up good leadership, to confront false teachers, set them straight, get them out of the church if need be.
And in all those cases, Timothy proved faithful, so much so that later on when Paul writes his book of Philippians, he's going to visit Philippi to in this chapter, he's going to say, "for I have no one who is like minded as Timothy." Isopsuchos is the Greek word, means like-minded equal souled. We track, we're on the same wavelength. He values what I value. He's a true son in the faith.
So Timothy, from this point on, becomes very, very valuable to Paul the Apostle. Interesting thing about Paul, he reached into the younger generation. And he seems, on his journeys as part of the makeup of his team, to have a younger man with him. On the first trip it was John Mark, not so much on the second trip. But on the second trip as if to replace that zeal that, maybe, John Mark had initially, he brings Timothy. OK, he's got a good reputation, well spoken of, very energetic, very zealous. I'm going to train him. I'm going to take him under my wing. I'm going to instill my principles into the next generation.
Why? Because he knew that's the future. I'm always on the lookout for young men with that fire in their eyes to do ministry. And when I find one who really, really, really wants to serve the Lord no matter what, that's worth investing in. Because you want to make sure that you're going to have those people who are going to carry on the ministry when they carry you out.
And Timothy will do that, one of his young men for Saul of Tarsus or for Paul the Apostle. So what does that mean? It means that for the next few years in all of the cities he's going to visit, Timothy will be able to listen as Paul preaches sermons. He will be with Paul as he has individual conversations with people. He'll be with Paul when he's in the synagogue arguing with people about Judaism, faith versus grace versus works, et cetera. And in all of that it's going to shape him. It's not so much his preaching as much as following his lifestyle and being around him for such a long period of time. He's going to get and have imparted to him those values of Paul. Somebody once said the ministry is more caught than it has taught.
You can teach a person classes on theology and teach them all sorts of head knowledge, but to just be able to observe someone's life up close like Timothy did with Paul is tremendous. Howard Hendricks, who is now in heaven, once wrote that every Christian, every disciple, every follower of Christ needs three relationships. You grade yourself as to how you're doing on these. He said everybody needs a Paul, some mentor, someone who inspires their faith, meets with them regularly, semi-regularly, inspires them in the things of the faith. Then he said everybody needs a Barnabas, because we all need encouragement. You feel down, I'm not going to make it, I quit Lord can't use me anymore.
You have somebody go, oh yes, He can. Let's get up and try it again. But then Hendricks said everybody needs a Timothy, that person that they can pour their life into pour themselves into and help shape their future. So evaluate how you're doing in those three relationships. Who's your Paul, your Barnabas, your Timothy?
And it says in verse 5, "so the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in number daily. Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bythinia, but the Holy Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas." So get the picture here. They are moving from the east to the west.
And as they moved from the east to the west, they are evaluating where to take the gospel next. So they attempt to go south, that would be the area at this time of Ephesus Colossae, Sardis, Smyrna. It's an area of what today modern day Turkey, I've been to those places. But they met resistance. They were unsuccessful. Luke writes, "the Holy Spirit didn't let them."
So they thought well, do we do now? Well, let's go north to Bythnia. Bythnia is, if you were to look at a map, you would see that it's the southern shore of the Black Sea. It would be the area of what would be Nicaea and Nicomedia. Again, the Holy Spirit said no, didn't allow them to go. So they have come from one direction they try to go south, no. They try to go north, no.
So they go to Troas. Now I've got to tell you something, I love Troas. I've always been drawn to Troas because of this verse. What is going to happen because they go to Troas changes the world. It's the reason the gospel leaves that part of the Near East and launches around the world. Because it gets now for the first time into Europe. Eventually, it will go all the way to Rome.
But it makes that leap now from Asia, Asia Minor, those Roman areas, all the way now into Europe. So it's a pivotal point. So I remember one time we did a tour, a journeys of Paul tour. And it was by bus through Turkey. And these were long days on a bus, because I had this romantic idea that we're going to see all these cool places. And they were cool, I thought they were cool. And one of them was Troas. And I remember telling the people who put together the tour that I want to go to Troas. They go, where? And I told them where and showed them where in the Bible. And so they said, why do you want to go there? Nobody goes there. And when I went there I saw why.
There's nothing there anymore. The city is gone, the harbor is washed away. There's just a few ruins. There's a little restaurant and a little, it's like a 7-11 store but scaled down. And I had the people on our bus off on the beach. And we were on the stones by the ruins and just going through this section of the book of Acts. But this was such a pivotal moment for Paul, because he had gone from one direction to another direction to another direction, it was no, no, no.
Finally, he's at Troas, thinking what does God want me to do? And that's when he gets the vision of a man from Macedonia. OK, freeze frame for a moment. Let's say you were there. And you happened to be Troas, and you walked up to Paul the Apostle and said, Paul. Where are you going? Where is the Lord leading you, man? He would say to you, I have no idea. I haven't a clue what God is saying.
Now I bring that up because I've had people ask me that question. What's God saying in your life lately? And they expect some profound answer. They don't expect I don't know. I got nothing. But Paul said, I got nothing. That's what he would say, he did not know. All Paul could tell you now is that every place I've chosen to go is a closed door. And Paul is learning a very important lesson. I wonder if you've learned in this lesson. God's no is just as important as God's go.
Closed doors are one of the ways God leads you. Why isn't God opening a door? Because He doesn't want you to go there. Isn't God's leading wonderful? So the Bible says, Psalm 37, "the steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord, and he delights in His way." Did you get that? "The steps of a righteous man," every single step that a person makes in the Lord, the Lord directs those steps. "The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord." But there's another truth. The stops of a righteous man are also ordered by the Lord. God's no is just as important as God's go.
So Paul stopped, doesn't know what to do, has no word of revelation from God, doesn't know where he's going. Now God's going to reveal, very dramatically, through a vision, where to go. A couple of thoughts to tie this up.
I think you would agree that Paul, his personality, he was headstrong. Would you agree with that? Yeah, he was a pretty determined guy. He's just going to go until he hits a wall. And he hit two walls. Bam, whoa. Goes another, bam whoa.
OK, I'm not going there again. Now I'm going to sit and wait at the intersection till God gives me a green light. He was pretty headstrong. How do I know this? Because later on he's determined to go to Jerusalem for one final time, it ends up. And he goes to the shores of Meletus. And he calls for the Ephesian elders.
And they gather around him, and he says something interesting goes. "Now I want you to see that I go bound in the Spirit, bound in the Spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things which will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit says in every place the chains and tribulation await me. But none of these things move me, nor do I count my own life dear to myself, that I might finish my course with joy in the ministry of the gospel by the Lord Jesus Christ." That's headstrong.
Yeah, I'm going to Jerusalem. I don't know what's going to happen, except everywhere I go, I get these words from the Lord that say that it's not going to be good, not going to be good, not going to be good, lot of beating, a lot of tribulation, a lot of pain. I don't care. I'm going, see you. And he keeps going. And when he makes it to the shores of Lebanon, he goes to Tyre. He gets another set of revelations saying, Paul, they're going to beat you up at Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit is saying, through all of these means, all of these people, that it's going to be bad. That happens in Tyre.
He goes all the way down the coast to Casaraea on the coast. And he goes into the house of Philip the evangelist, we read about him. And there's this strange prophet named Agabus, who is very visual in his prophecies. He didn't give vocal prophecies. He gave visual prophecies, sort of like Ezekiel and Jeremiah. He grabs Paul's belt and ties himself up in front of the church. And he goes, the man who owns this built is going to be bound by the Jews at Jerusalem and given to the hands of the Gentiles.
It was Paul's belt. So it says Paul's entire team, as well as those in Philip's house, "all begged him with tears not to go to Jerusalem." Now listen to Paul's response he said, "what do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am willing not only to be bound, but to die for the Lord Jesus Christ." OK what do you do with a guy like that? You let him go. That's what you do. A guy that's that headstrong, you just don't tap him on the shoulders and go, I think the Lord doesn't and want you to go, That's not going to work. He's got to hit a wall. Some people are attuned to the Spirit, God can move them easily. Others are a little bit headstrong and take more dramatic means for God to get a hold of and direct their lives.
Bob Pierce, who started World Vision and then Samaritan's Purse, had a great saying. He said God gently leads His children. Me, He yanks. Have you ever been yanked by God? Couple of times I've been yanked by the Lord, where he gets your attention. OK, I get it. And so Paul hit a wall, hit another wall. Now he's in Troas, and he's waiting. Now here's another question. It says, "the Holy Spirit forbade Paul to go on." how? By what means did the Holy Spirit forbid Paul to go where he wanted to go, those two no's? Well the answer is we don't know.
You can guess. You could say, well, maybe he didn't have a peace in his heart. You know people say that. I don't feel a peace about this. Of course, you can say that after a bad meal. But you know, it could be that he just lacked peace to go in a direction. I don't think so. It could be that there were political policies that forbade him to go from one area to another area. He couldn't traverse a border crossing, so to speak. But we're just not told. It just says that the Holy Spirit forbade him. Maybe it was by direct revelation, after all, he got one in Damascus or on the road to Damascus. You know, the whole Lord Jesus appeared to him, that's pretty dramatic. But we're just not told.
Now let me give you another way of thinking about this. It's a possibility. I don't know how the Holy Spirit said no. But it could be, and I lean to this, he got sick. Now, I know that my brothers and sisters who believe in a faith theology would disagree with that, because, after all, they would say Paul the Apostle would never get sick. But the problem is you have to pull out and rip out and destroy verses in the New Testament to believe that. But I believe Paul got sick. How do I know this? Because he just came from Galatia, do you remember the book of Galatians? He said, "the reason I minister to you in Galatia for as long as I did is because I had a physical ailment, a physical infirmity. That's why I extended my ministry to you there." And he said, "you were so filled with love you would have plucked out your own eyes and give them given them to me if you could." So perhaps he had an eye disease.
But certainly, he did get sick. That's why he ministered in Galatia as he did and as long as he did. He could have come with that sickness. Because he came from Galatia, and he tried to go to Bythinia, tried to go south. The Holy Spirit said no. So now he's at Troas. Not only that, but who wrote the book of Acts? Shout it out if you know it, Luke. What was Luke's profession? He was a doctor. In verse 10, which we're going to read in just a few moments, trust me, we're almost there, for the first time in the book of Acts, the writer of the book of Acts uses the personal plural pronoun we, indicating that at this point Luke joins Paul's team. And from now on, he's writing not they, not this is what Paul's told me, but we because now I'm a part of the team. That doctor joins the team in Troas.
And it could be that Paul needed that personal physician for the rest of the trip, because of his sickness. That could be. It could be as simple and as ordinary as he just got sick, and that's how the Holy Spirit was forbidding him to go. But at the end of the day, we just don't know. Verse 9, "and a vision appeared to Paul." So he's in Troas. "And a vision appeared to Paul at night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, come over to Macedonia and help us." He's on the seacoast, he would have to take a boat ride to get to Macedonia. But he has this vision.
Now after he had seen the vision, "immediately, we sought how to go in and Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called them to preach the gospel to them." I got to laugh at that verse. It's, see, we tried to go that direction, couldn't go that direction, tired to go that direction, couldn't go there. We came from here, tried to go there, tried to go there.
Now I get a vision from heaven that says come over there. And I wake up, go you know, I conclude that that's what the Lord wants us to do. Duh, you get a vision from God saying go there. So we conclude, I just like the way it's worded. "We concluded that we are to go to Macedonia." God called them to preach the gospel.
Now notice in verse 10, the we. "After he had seen the vision, immediately, we, that's the first use of that term from the author's perspective in the book of Acts. "We", so Luck joins the team, "sough to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us", Luke's now a part of that team, "to preach the gospel to them." Who was the man from Macedonia that Paul saw in the vision? Anybody know? It's sort of a trick question because there really is no answer. I don't know. Some have speculated that it was Luke himself, Luke the doctor from Troas was, that's what Sir William Ramsay the New Testament scholar believed. I don't know I think I would discount that.
Others believe, William Barclay, the New Testament commentator, said it was probably a vision of Alexander the Great, the archetypical Macedonian man, the man who tried to join the eastern part of the world and the Western part of the world together that was his dream, to unite them as one. And that perhaps he had seen this vision of the historical figure of Alexander the Great, saying, come over to Macedonia and help us.
But Paul had never met Alexander the Great, he'd been dead a long time. So he probably wouldn't have known that anyway. The answer is we just don't know who it was. It was just a man from Macedonia. Therefore, "sailing from Troas as we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis," which is the port in Macedonia. Now that means it took only two days to get there, which means the winds were at their back, the winds were favorable. I bring this up because later on when he takes his journey by boat, the prison boats sailed from Caesarea to Rome, in Acts 27, it will take him five days to get from this place to that place. The winds were against him.
Isn't that funny how life is? Sometimes, you go somewhere and the winds are at your back, It's just easy going. And so you go, oh isn't God good? This must be confirmation this is the Lord's will. Well, was it any less the Lord's will for Paul to go to Rome the way he did later on? No. And yet, the winds were against him. And yet, he had a shipwreck. But sometimes, the winds are at your back. And sometimes, they're not. And you can't always think it's because it's an easy road that this is the Lord's will. You does go with it. And if you are determined because you believe God called you there, so what? I'll get on another boat. That sinks, get on another boat.
But on this journey, the winds were at their back. "And from there to Philippi, which is the foremost of that part of Macedonia," a colony, meaning a Roman colony. They prided themselves in being well, Rome away from Rome. Everything you would see and get in Rome, you would get to a lesser degree but have all of the accolades and, all of the accouterments, I should say, of Rome in that colony city of Philippi. "And we were staying in that city for some days. And on the Sabbath day, we went out of the city to the river side where prayer was customarily made. And we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. According to Jewish law, if you had 10 Jewish males in a city, you would establish a synagogue, a meeting place, a gathering center, for the reading of the law, for the fellowship. You would have an actual place called the synagogue.
However, according to Jewish law, if you had less than 10 Jewish men, you didn't build a synagogue. So it indicates there are less than 10 Jewish men in the city of Philippi. But there are women who gather at a river ride. Why a river side? Why did Jewish law stipulate a river side. Well, it's interesting. Part of Jewish worship is to be cleansed ceremonially from your defilement, from your sin, in a little font called a mikvah. And a mikvah is like a baptism. You go in, you soak in it, you get out of it, you dry off, you say your prayers, you're cleansed, et cetera. Well, the law of the mikvah, the little baptism, is that water has to flow in and flow out of it.
Even if it's just a little bit, the water, listen to that description, the water has to be living water, not stagnant water, not dead water, moving, living water. So if you couldn't have a synagogue because there were fewer than 10 Jewish males, you could meet at a river side, because the river was living water, moving water. Now this must have been a disappointment for Paul.
He sees a man of Macedonia saying come over to Macedonia and help us. They go come on, God's in this. They go over to Macedonia, they don't see a man. They see women meeting at a river side. And Paul must have been thinking, huh. That's not kind of what I thought was going to happen once I got to Macedonia. I thought I'd, like, meet the man I saw in the vision.
Well it goes downhill from here. Because he's going to get arrested, he's going to get thrown in jail. And he's going to get beaten in Phillippa it's going to go from bad to worse in a very short period of time. You know the old joke, and I've said it many times, is that whenever Paul or travel go from one city to the next city, whenever he'd hit a new town, he would say, excuse me.
Could you give me the directions to the nearest jail? I just want to know where I'm going to be spending the night tonight, because he seemed to end up in a lot of incarceration facilities. And he will end up in the Philippian jail. Now, I'm painting this picture because I want you to see a point. God is leading Paul every step of the way. "The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord." God's leading his steps. It's not what he anticipated, it's now what he expected.
Kent Hughes, a Bible commentator that I've always enjoyed reading, said that the guidance of God is like a multifaceted jewel. He doesn't guide only one way. He has a variety up his sleeve of ways to direct and guide your life, closed doors, opened doors, direct revelation, peace in the heart, disease, prosperity, a number of ways God guards guides your life, which I've always enjoyed.
I've always viewed following God as the greatest adventure possible. Who cares about a predictable life? You can get that anywhere. You follow God, you don't know what you're in store for. But you're going to go on a wild ride. It's going to be quite an adventure. And God has all sorts of ways of directing His children as he did to Paul.
The Bible says, "commit your way into the Lord, and He will do it." Just let Him do it. Commit your way to the Lord, and then sit back and enjoy the ride. Here's why it ought to be an adventure. Where is this ride you're on taking you eventually? Where are you going to end up when it's all done? Heaven. So your destination on this wild ride is secure. Why not enjoy the view? Why not look around, roll down the windows, get some fresh air, say whoa, that's a bump in the road. Whoa, I didn't expect that turn. But enjoy it. Why go through life with clenched fists and teeth? Ugh, I got to go following God. Who wants that?
I want to see the joy of the Lord, because you don't know where He's going to take you next. So Paul, I get a vision from God after seeing, hearing no and no. I go to Macedonia, it's what I expected. I see women in river side, what's up? What's God up to? well, you're going to go to prison and get beaten, how's that? And before you go, oh, that can't be the will of God. Ask Paul, tonight, if you could be in heaven, do you think it was worth it, to get beaten up and thrown in that Philippinan jail? Are you were angry at God? Are you mad because God allowed that to happen in your life?
Paul would say, are you nuts? Do you not know about the jailer who received Christ and his family and were baptized. And the church that developed there? Well I'm getting ahead of myself. Verse 14, "now a certain woman", this is part of the river side gang, "a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira who worship God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying if you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay. And so she persuaded us."
We can piece some things together in these verses and get a little composite understanding of who this woman was. She was a business woman. She was from Asia Minor, that's where Thyatira. So she's not a local. She has moved from Thyatira and set up shop in Philippi. Why? Well, Thyatira was known historically for a product that it harvested and that was a purple cloth, because they had access to a very rare kind of purple dye in that area.
And so purple cloth came from Thyatira. Purple cloth was very expensive, only the wealthy could afford it. Usually kings and people of royal stature had it. So she made probably a very good living, moving from that area having a direct line for manufacture of it, where she could then sell it in that part of Eastern Europe. And so she was a business woman. Even Homer, by the way Homer, the writer of the Iliad and the Odyssey, years before the writer said and noted about the luxurious purple-dyed fabrics of Thyatira. So it was well established as a place that reveled in this kind of cloth. And it says, "the Lord opened her heart."
And so she becomes a believer. She gets baptized. Now she's a business woman. And can I add, she was probably a very successful businesswoman. And I say that because just the way she talks to Paul and the team, says, if you have counted me faithful, then you'll stay at my house and let me keep you up there and give you what you need.
Now that's just putting the pressure on him. If you've counted me faithful, you'll let me take care of you guys. In other words, if you don't let me put you in my house, you haven't counted me faithful. So she's just got a good technique, kind of a high pressured sales person. That's how I view her just by her wording. I would also surmise that she has probably a nice home, a sizable home. Because in verse 15 she has a guest facility for Luke and Paul and Silas and the other team members to be housed there, taken care of. And in verse 40, it would seem that the brethren, that is the Christians of the church in Philippi, were meeting in her home. So I think that's probably enough said about her, an accurate description of who she is.
But think of it this way, the Lord opened her heart, and she became a Christian. She opened her home, and it became a church, beautiful tie-together of those two things. "Now it happened," verse 16, "as we went to prayer", that's river side prayer, "that a certain slave girl possessed with the spirit of divination", she demon possessed, spirit of divination, "met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. "This girl followed Paul and us and cried out, saying, these men are the servants of the most high God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation."
Now what's wrong with what she said? What she said was true. She she's demon-possessed, and she speaks something true. And most people would hear this and go, well that's good advertising. That's free advertising. But Paul doesn't want to let Satan do his advertising. So "she did this for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to this spirit, I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out that very hour. But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone", it was all about the bottom line, "they seized Paul and Silas, dragged him into the marketplace to the authorities. And they brought them to the magistrates and said, these men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city. And they teach customs, which are not lawful for us being Romans to receive or observe." Then the multitude rose up together against them. And the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods."
The Romans believed in corporal punishment. They would beat prisoners with a whip. Jesus was beaten with a flagellum, we've described that on several occasions. Sometimes, and in this case, they would beat prisoners with rods, sticks, hard sticks. And they would put welts on them. It's interesting that there is a country across the world from us that believes in corporal punishment, a very sophisticated and advanced country called Singapore. And if you go to Singapore, what's amazing is that you don't see gum on the sidewalks, it's punishable. You don't hear certain kinds of language or advertisement, it's punishable. And certain activities are punishable by beating with a cane, a stick, a rod.
Some of you will remember the hoopla back in 1994. You remember that? When a 19-year-old American was over there and was arrested for vandalism and theft. They arrested him, put him in jail for four months, the sentence was four months, and six strikes with a cane. Sentence was reduced to four. So they believe in corporal punishment. The Romans did as well, but much more severely than Singaporeans. I had a thought, and I lost it, non-important. Verse 23, "and when they had laid many stripes on them," oh yes. Paul talks about the punishment that he received in his ministry in one of his letters. And he says, "three times, I was beaten with rods."
This is one of those times. The other two we don't have the assurance on when there was. But he says, "three times, I was beaten with rods. I had many stripes laid on me, innumerable stripes. But three times in particular, I was beaten with rods." This is one of those times, just wanted to tie that thought.
Verse 24, "having received such a charge, he, the jailer put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in stocks." Now is the low point of Paul's ministry in Philippi. Now he's in the inner prison. Roman prisons had three parts. They had sort of an outward community part where there was both light and air that was fresher for prisoners who had minimal charges. Then there was the interiorium, the anterior portion of the prison where they were separated by metal bars and gates and placed in stocks.
But then, there was the inner prison, the third part, sort of like a dark hole in the ground, like the Mamertine Prison in Rome. Paul was placed in that inner dark prison. Now he is looking for the will of God, he's is out to serve the Lord. He's in the ministry because of the call of the Lord on his life. He gets a no and then no and then a vision. The vision said come to Macedonia and help us. I'm coming, Lord. I'm coming, man from Macedonia. Gets there, no man, but a few chicks at the river. And one of them says yes to Jesus. We're off to a good start. Not what I expected, here we go. Now I'm in jail, now I'm in the inner prison.
That's a low point. What does Paul do? Does he blame God? Does he get angry with God? How could a God of love allow this to happen to an apostle. No, he praises God. He worships God. It's the amazing part of the story. Verse 25, "but at midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God. And the prisoners were listening to them." Now, I don't know how excited they were to hear them at midnight. I mean, you might want to just try this at midnight tonight when your wife or husband is sleeping. Just sit up and start singing to them and see how they respond to you.
I don't know if they were so stoked to hear hymns at midnight. It's like, dude, get some sleep. It's hard enough in here. Just a thought. "Suddenly, there was a great earthquake so that the foundations of the prison were shaken and, immediately, all the doors were opened and everyone's chain was loosed." Paul's in prison, what did he do? You know, would you do? You follow the will of God. You want God's will for your life. You think God is leading you, and He is, but to a jail in the inner prison my feet in stocks? What do you pray? How do you pray for those who arrested you? Well, a psalm comes to mind.
David once prayed for his enemies a prayer that I have memorized. "Break their teeth in their mouth, oh God." Isn't that a great prayer? That would be my prayer if I were Paul in that prison. God, get them. You know how to people, get them. But he worships. He turns it into a sanctuary. "And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep, seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword, was about to kill himself." Why? Because he'd be killed anyway. The punishment for a soldier if prisoners escape was death. "Paul called with a loud voice,", gotta love Paul saying, "do yourself no harm. We're here." Not like, the doors opened. Let's get out. He's staying.
"And then he called for a light and ran in and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, 'sirs, what must I do to be saved'"? Don't you love it when somebody asks you that question. Very rarely have I had this happen. But I have had people come to me in the weirdest situations saying, so how do I get to heaven? What do I need to do to be saved? That's an open door. That's probably an indication that God wants you to witness now. What must I do to be saved? And of course, Paul says, well, you should join a church and pay your tithe, and you should be baptized. No, his answer is believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved and your household. What does that mean? We'll tell you next time.
Thank you, Father, for the opportunity we have to look at the life of an incredible individual, an amazing man, who pushed forward, had his own unique style of ministry, not quite like Barnabas but uniquely cut out of Your cloth, uniquely called by You, empowered by You gifted, by You and used by You. Lord, that boldness, that head strong personality got him in trouble many times. But at the same time, oh, how you used him and how thankful we are for all of the prison encounters of the apostle Paul. Because of Paul's imprisonments, we are able to enjoy the book of Philippians and the book of Colossians and many more. Lord, I pray for anybody here who's wondering, what must I do to be saved. What is it I need to do to get from Earth to heaven, to find favor with God? And the answer to them is the answer Paul said this jailer, believe, trust, commit your life to, put their faith on Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. I pray for anyone who is not saved who is with us tonight. They are not sure that if they were to die, they would go to heaven. They're not certain that if they took their last breath, they would see You welcoming them into Your kingdom. Because, Lord, they have not believed. They have not really placed their faith, their weight on You. They haven't trusted You. They've trusted a church. They've trusted an organization. They haven't personally received Christ. I pray for anyone here who hasn't done that yet and needs to do it, that they would place their faith, trust in Jesus right here.
Maybe you are with us tonight. And you're not sure you're saved, you can be sure. The Bible wants you to be sure. Maybe you haven't personally made a commitment to Christ yet, I want you to know God loves you. And He wants to save you. But He need you to let Him. He need you to cooperate by believing in Him. If you are willing to do that, I'd want you to raise your hand up right where you seated. Our heads are bowed, our eyes are closed. I'll see your hand, and I'll pray for you. I need to know who I'm praying for. Just raise your hand if you're saying, "Skip, I'm going to make this my decision tonight". God bless you and you and you and you, four of you right here to my left in the middle. Anyone else? Raise your hand so I can see it, raise it up high. God bless you and you and you right up here again to my left. Anybody else?
Father, we thank you for those who have so indicated. We pray for them, that, Lord, not only would you save them, but you give them a peace that passes all understanding. They would know that their lives will be different from this moment on as they make that prayer to receive Christ as their Savior and Lord. In Jesus' name, amen.
Would you stand your feet? If you raise your hand and ask you to do something. Because Jesus called people in the New Testament publicly. He called them to follow Him publicly. And I had you raise your hand. And when you come forward in a moment, I'm going to lead you on a word of prayer. If you raised your hand, would you please now find the nearest aisle around you, and make your way right up here to the front, where in just a moment you come, I'm going to lead you in a prayer to make it personal to receive Christ into your heart.
This is an important step for you to make. As we sing, get up and come, just say excuse me if you're in the middle of a row. Doesn't matter, just come and stand right up here. God bless you. If you're in the prayer room, come through those doors and stand here. I saw hands go up here. We're going to wait for you, but you come. Come and make sure, come all the way up.
Don't overthink this thing, just get up and come. If you raised your hand, make a public commitment to Christ. Follow that decision up by putting feet on your faith. We'll wait just another moment very quickly. Anybody else? Wanderer, come home. You're not too far. So lay down your hurt, lay down your heart, and come as you are. Come as you are.
Those of you who have come forward, I'm going to ask you to say a prayer with me. I'm going to pray something loud. I'm going to ask you to just pray this out loud after me. Say these words from your heart. Mean them as you say them to God. This is you given your life over to Him. Let's pray. Say:
Lord, I give you my life. I admit that I'm a sinner. Please forgive me. I believe in Jesus. I place my faith in Him. I believe He came from heaven to earth, that He died on a cross, that He shed His blood for my sin. And I believe He rose from the dead. I turn from my sin. I turn to Jesus as my Savior. Help me to follow Him as my Lord. It's in Jesus' name I pray, amen.