Category Archives: Mission

Acts 18:1-17 – God’s people in Corinth

Context

Paul’s second missionary journey has taken him from Antioch in Syria to Athens in Greece. He is only a short boat ride away from Rome. He preached the gospel in Athens while he was waiting for Silas and Timothy to join him there. He reasoned with the Athenians that Jesus is God’s chosen one, risen from the dead, who will judge the entire world one day with justice. No other so-called gods are anything.

Observation

Structure

  • 1-3 Paul meets refugees Priscilla and Aquila
  • 4-6 Paul is done with the Jews in Corinth
  • 7-11 God points Paul to his people in Corinth
  • 12-16 The Jews being pushed aside
  • 1-3 Paul meets refugees Priscilla and Aquila

“…went to Corinth…” A church was formed from Paul’s visit here which receives at least 3 letters from Paul (only 2 of them have survived). Crispus (v8) and Sosthenes (v16) are both spoken of in 1 Corinthians 1:14 and 1:1. Paul had impact in this first visit that would establish a church of Christ.

“…there he met Aquila…with his wife Priscilla…” This husband and wife team became partners in the gospel with Paul. They housed him while in Corinth and went on to travel with him before commencing gospel work of their own (see v19, 26; Romans 16:3; 1 Cor 16:19; 2 Tim 4:19).

“…Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome…” Priscilla and Aquila were refugees from Italy since Jews were being forced out of Rome. They were Greek since they were native of Pontus. Pontus is mentioned among the exiled Christians in 1 Peter 1:1.

“…he was a tentmaker…” Both Paul and Aquila were tentmakers. While Paul waited for his colleagues, Silas and Timothy, to arrive, he held an income alongside Aquila by working his trade. While tentmaking to earn money, he continued his habit of reasoning in the synagogues. This has become a modern shorthand phrase to refer to someone who works a low-key position somewhere in order to receive income while they continue their main goal in life which is to win people for Christ.

4-6 Paul is done with the Jews in Corinth

“…every Sabbath he reasoned…” Paul has continued to persist with the Jews in every town that he has visited. I am constantly amazed at how far and wide the Jewish faith had travelled for a religion that was all about the land and the Temple. It is apparent that the faith was also about the heritage and the hope that one day God would come and deliver them and re-establish his kingdom. And for this reason, Paul would reason with them every Saturday.

“…Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching…” When Siras and Timothy finally arrived to be with Paul, they may have brought rations and money with them to enable him to drop the tentmaking and devote all of his time to preaching.

“…testifying…that Jesus was the Messiah…” As we’ve mentioned in earlier posts, the subject of Paul’s message was not to establish the need for a Messiah but to prove that Jesus is the Messiah. In modern terms, we might say, in every context, that Jesus is the reason and purpose of life. Know Jesus, know life – No Jesus, no life. A Jewish faith that is honest and humble will recognise Jesus as the Messiah. But these Jews would not see it.

“…your blood be on your own heads…” Paul has made his case for Jesus and they have rejected Jesus as Lord. This will not fall on Paul’s head come judgement day, but on those who rejected. John 3:18 says that “Whoever believes in [Jesus] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” Condemnation falls on this fact alone: whether Jesus is accepted or rejected. Welcome Jesus today and you will be welcomed too into eternal life. Reject Jesus and you will receive the same response on the day of judgement. Paul is washing his hands of the Jews in Corinth.

7-11 God points Paul to his people in Corinth

“…Paul left the synagogue and went next door…” Paul’s next stop was not his lounge chair but to the next house. Right there, a stone’s throw away from the Jewish synagogue, stood another house containing a man who had regard for God. Perhaps his worship was unschooled or perhaps he fashioned his theology after the Jews that he heard next door.

“…many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptised…” Where one door had been closed to Paul, others were opened. Rejection by the Jews didn’t stop him from preaching and it turns out that some of the synagogue turned to Jesus and were baptised.

“…the Lord spoke…’I have many people in this city.’…” The Lord spoke to Paul in a vision, encouraging him to remain in Corinth and to keep speaking because his elect are there waiting to hear and believe. The Jews may be hard-hearted but God had prepared many other hearts in the city to receive Jesus as Lord of their lives.

“…so Paul stayed…teaching them the word of God…” As Paul stayed, he continued to make the word of God his teaching platform. The gospel does not grow or expand or sway or vear or increase or mature with other things. It remains about Jesus the Messiah who died and rose again according to the scriptures. Paul wants the world to hear the word of God – not the wisdom of Paul. With all the self-help books in the world and the thousands of hours of podcasts from Christians and other insightful people, nothing can grow and mature us quite like knowing and reading and learning from the word of God.

12-16 The Jews being pushed aside

“…the Jews of Corinth…brought [Paul] to the place of judgement…” Once again, the Jews are on Paul’s case to try and stop him from preaching Jesus. Once again, the Jews used their local Roman official to cast judgement for them. There is nothing new under the sun. These Jews will not succeed because God has been protecting Paul along his journey plus God had spoken to Paul and said that no harm was going to come upon him. It seems almost like God’s word could go unfulfilled – but we know better than to think that!

“…settle the matter yourselves…” Even before Paul has a chance to defend himself, the proconsul silences everyone and declares that this is none of his business. This is a waste of time for him. What does he care what Paul is preaching?

“…the crowd there turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader…” Sosthenes was one of the Jews who had believed Paul, we know this because he is later mentioned by Paul in 1 Cor 1:1. The Jews turned on one of their own who had succumbed to the new teaching. Unable to do any real damage to Paul on their own since he was not part of their synagogue, they made a violent point to those within.

“…Gallio showed no concern whatever…” The Roman view of the Jews is becoming increasingly low. Aquilla and Priscilla had been driven out of Italy because they were Jewish. Now Gallio seems totally unfazed by what the Jews do to themselves.

Meaning

The Jews are no longer considered the people of God but only those whom God has set aside to receive Jesus as Lord. Both God and the rulers of the land seem to cast the Jews aside.

Application

  1. When do you stop reasoning with people about the gospel? What do you do when one dead end is reached on the mission field?
  2. A five year plan was set for us all to bring one person to church and to Christ in the next five years. What stage of the plan are you up to? Take time to pray for the person or people you believe God has given you to witness to.
  3. Paul was a tentmaker for a time but later devoted himself fully to preaching the word of God. Discuss how we use “tentmaking” and giving people fully to the work of the gospel in our church and community.
  4. Reflect on Acts 9-18 and consider the various ways the gospel has been presented. Look back over a map and see the area that Paul has covered. Give thanks to God that the gospel spread so far and so quickly into a world that had only known darkness. Pray for our world today that still needs this gospel so that we can know God, know eternal life and know the freedom that comes from serving Him alone.

Acts 17:16-34 – How to preach Jesus as Lord in a Gentile world

Context

It’s a new world where God has revealed Jesus to be the Messiah. He was rejected by his people and crucified but was raised to life again, showing his approval by God. Jesus is God’s Son, His promised Saviour, and, quite literally, the Champion of the world. But will the world receive Him?

Paul has been travelling a great distance from his home church in Antioch to take the gospel to the Gentile world. He left with Silas and also Timothy whom he collected on his journey. Paul preached in Thessalonica and Berea and was escorted from Berea to Athens for his safety while Silas and Timothy remained. His travel partners were summoned for, however, and Paul waits for them in Athens.

Observation

Structure

  • 16-21 The context of the gospel in Athens
  • 22-31 Paul’s gospel to the Gentiles
  • 22-23 Introduction
  • 24-28 About the Lord of heaven and earth
  • 29-31 About the man God has appointed to judge the world
  • 32-34 The people’s response

16-21 The context of the gospel in Athens

“…he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols..” The idols described are of gold or silver in tribute to as many gods as the Athenians are aware of and even to any that they have not yet heard (17:29; 23). They were not merely statues for artists to create and admire, but were dedicated to the gods and regarded even as gods. This distressed Paul. He didn’t simply see a cultural reflection from a spiritual people, he saw the foolishness and ignorance of a people who have failed to acknowledge the one true God. They were lost without the knowledge of the truth.

“…so he reasoned…” So Paul got to work to reason with the people. They were responding to information that they had heard up until now about deity and now Paul took up the opportunity to inform them of the reality. You see, Paul doesn’t consider that the truth is open to interpretation or that their perception of the world is just as valid as his. Rather, he sees that they are lacking the piece of the puzzle of life that can set them free! They need to know Jesus and this is not just his own faith and part of his custom, but it is the truth which they need to hear and respond to. The gospel is something that we can speak reasonably to people about. Of course it is since it stems from where life came from.

“…What is this babbler trying to say?…Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection…” Although he was reasoning with them, he also spoke to them, perhaps, in the manner which he had grown used to among Jews and Gentile converts. He included background information that may have sounded reasonable and contextual for a Jew but to the Athenians, this was a new idea and a new perception.

“…talking about and listening to the latest ideas…” His new audience were very interested to hear more since this was their custom. Paul had attracted the ears of locals who loved to listen to new ideas. They were philosophers. They were people who enjoyed to ask the big questions and fill the answers with interesting and plausible – even testable ideas. It’s ironic that the oldest story ever told, because it is literally the oldest story, is being considered by the Athenians as a new idea. Sure, Jesus is a new name in the world, but his story is part of the oldest one alive. Strangely, even though we now live in a world where the story of Jesus is old, I sense that he is so misunderstood, so overlooked and so under taught (both literally and properly) that he can even be presented today as a new idea. Don Carson, who is an North American Theologian, has been doing university missions for 40 years and he reflected on a pod-cast (speaking at Queensland Theological College) that the current missions he runs are not like the ones he used to run. Forty years ago, people knew enough of the story of Jesus and of church teaching that they had plenty to argue about. Today, introducing people to Jesus gives a hugely different response. People are interested and not offended. People have elementary questions rather than hate and pre-rehearsed debate.

22-31 Paul’s gospel to the Gentiles

22-23 Introduction

“…you are ignorant of the very thing you worship…” This is the opening of Paul’s speech and the point of his talk. He didn’t open with this line of course, he remarked positively on the very thing that he had found disturbing. He was taking their idolatry and describing it in a light that would lead him to talk about Jesus. Paul had found an opening and an intersection between his message and their understanding. This is a great lesson in evangelism, knowing where to start and where the gospel connects with the audience. When and how you begin is really not important except that you find where it is! The really important part of sharing the gospel is not so much where you begin but where you end up. The gospel is all about repairing people’s ignorance and giving opportunity to turn to Jesus and live.

24-28 About the Lord of heaven and earth

“…The God who made the world and everything in it…” This is Paul’s way in. The gospel is universal because the God who sent Jesus is the same God who made heaven and earth and everything in it. Of course, he is the only God! The point, though, is that God is not local and subject to certain communities and their borders. Rather, he is above everything and we only need to know who he is and what he has done and calls us to do. He is not contained by temples or things made by humans because he, first and foremost, made us! Even Solomon, who made the first great Temple knew this (See 1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chron 2:6).

“…as if he needs anything…” It’s a great mistake of all human religion that treats God like he needs to be appeased, fed, calmed, polished or whatever. Perhaps a robot might feel like they can provide for their human creators who made them for service. But the comparison is more like a soccer ball who feels that they have something to offer David Beckham. What possibly could an inflated cow-hide give to an athlete who knows how to be in control. Beckham does not serve the ball and the ball does not serve him – the ball merely is and does at Beckham’s whim and fancy.

“…rather, he himself gives…” It’s an equal mistake to think that God does not care about us puny humans. He is the giver of life. Because He created us and all things, we owe him our attention and respect. The world did not appear out of nothing by accident! God made everything and he place Adam in the world, with Eve, to fill it and subdue it. It is not our place to define God or to order his limitations but to acknowledge ours. From one man, all of life came. And for that, we give thanks to God.

“…God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him…” So, the gospel begins with this information: that God is the loving creator of all things. Next, it follows that all people on earth need to know him and thank him. Just as Romans 1:20 says, the basic outcome of life ought to be that we thank God and worship Him. The bible says that the heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1-2). Mankind is without excuse for ignoring their Creator. Paul adds that really God is not far away but near. The truth about sin is that mankind never reaches out to God. The truth about grace is that God always reaches out for us. Paul again reasons with the Athenians by using some of their own poets to help his argument. He has seen how their thinking and religion reflect that they are God’s creatures who need to be taught clearly about Jesus.

29-31 About the man God has appointed to judge the world

“…in the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now…” God has put up with idol worship for centuries. This was the constant battle of the Old Testament: to overcome idolatry in the hearts of the Israelites. The kings of Israel were graded good or evil based on their tearing down or building up of idolatry. God taught the Jews directly and they ought to have been a lighthouse for the world to tear down their idols and learn though the Jews who the one true God is. Instead, God has been putting up with idolatry for generations. Paul calls this ignorance. But the time is now to put aside ignorance and to teach the world that the living God has spoken to this world. And notice that the ignorance is not an excuse for sin because their next step is to repent.

“…he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed…” God’s dominion and power and authority has been established in Paul’s speech. The sin of all humanity has been laid down. The consequences of continued ignorance or rejection of this message is judgement which is coming. When the day of judgement comes, all will be judged equally and fairly. It is a day of justice. And the one who will judge is Jesus. He came the first time to save, but the second time he comes, it will not be to save but to judge (John 12:47; Acts 10:42; 2 Tim 4:1; Rev 14:7). All of humanity will stand condemned or freed based on their response to Jesus as Lord.

“…he has given proof of this to everyone…” How can we tell the world that Jesus is Lord when they are not Jewish or have any understanding of the being one God over all? How do you convince anyone that this is the truth and that Jesus is more than a carpentar and a prophet? You tell them about the resurrection. Paul places the resurrection as the central most important element of our faith (1 Cor 15). It was the resurrection that converted Paul! Not news about Jesus and his message but knowing that Jesus had been raised from the dead as he appeared to Paul on the Damascus road.

32-34 The people’s response

“…when they heard about the resurrection of the dead…” Now this is where the division begins. Some heard about the resurrection and became followers of Paul and believed while others sneered. John Dickson has done some great work in writing and presenting documentaries on the subject of the resurrection and the trustworthiness of the eye-witnesses. His books and DVDs like ‘The Christ Files’ and “The Life of Jesus” are excellent resources to have. Getting to grips with this discussion is important. Our faith is founded on the reality of the resurrection. Our hope is based on the reality of the resurrection. Our Lord’s character is tested on the reality of the resurrection.

Meaning

The gospel preached to non-Scriptural folk begins with a different context but still concludes with Jesus as Lord and the resurrection from the dead. No human is exempt from this one test: do they believe that Jesus is Lord, risen from the dead. Romans 10:9 says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe with your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Otherwise…judgement is coming.

Application

  1. Being distressed by the world that you live in. Have you considered your own reaction to people saying OMG? Do you worry about the amount of energy and time and dedication people give to shopping malls? When you look at the world, do you see people striving to get along while we wait for our lives to be over or do you see people living in ignorance and desperately in need of a Saviour? Reflect on the way you see the world you live in.
  2. Reasoning instead of attacking. Even though Paul was distressed by the idolatry, he used it as a way to make inroads to the gospel. He did not attack their sin but reasoned with them to see the truth. It seems like Paul did not view the Athenians as primitives but as fellow humans in need of the gospel. Consider how you view those around you? Are they exempt from judgement and true worship because of their different look at life? Or are they living in ignorance and need persuasion to repent?
  3. The resurrection as proof. Do you believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus? Why? What makes you so sure? Could you persuade someone who is interested to listen?

Acts 16:1-40 – Being lead by the Spirit

Context

While Paul and Barnabas worked well together in spreading the gospel to the north-west of Israel, they disputed over working together with Mark (formerly known as John). Barnabas and Mark sailed to Cyprus but Paul and Silas went through Syria and Cilicia.

Observation

Structure

  • 1-15 The Spirit leads them to Lydia (gathering gospel partners along the way)
    • 1-5 Paul picks up Timothy
    • 6-10 Paul is led by the Spirit and picks up Luke
    • 11-15 Paul meets Lydia
  • 16-40 The Spirit leads them to the Jailer
    • 16-18 Paul rebukes a spirit
    • 19-24 Paul is imprisoned
    • 25-34 Paul and Silas convert the jailer
    • 35-40 Paul escorted out of jail

1-15 The Spirit leads them to Lydia (gathering gospel partners along the way)

1-5 Paul picks up Timothy

“…a disciple named Timothy…” This young man would become a very close and invaluable partner in the gospel for Paul. He is mentioned in almost all of Paul’s letters (excluding Galatians and Ephesians and Titus), two of which were written directly to him. Timothy was regarded as a son, a brother and a co-worker in the gospel to Paul. His mother was a believing Jew while his Father was a Greek. There is no mention of his father’s faith but his mother and grandmother taught him well from youth about the scriptures (2 Timothy 3). Paul met Timothy while travelling and found a young man who was already growing steadily in the faith and in good regard in his neighbourhood. These are two excellent agendas for life: to grow in love for the Lord and be respected in the community – particularly when the latter flows out of the former. Luke 2:52 says that “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”

“…he circumcised him because of the Jews…” In light of the previous chapter, you may think this is a hypocritical decision. The point though is about being received by the Jewish community so that the gospel can be heard. The circumcision decision was not done for the purpose of religion. Remember 1 Corinthians 9:22 tells us to become all things to all people so that by all possible means (even circumcision) we might save some.

“…as they travelled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles…” Even while Timothy had been circumcised, they intended to continue the encouraging message that life in Christ brings freedom and unity between Jew and Gentile.

6-10 Paul is led by the Spirit and picks up Luke

“…kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching…” Who knows how the Spirit did this. The means are not really important (or else we might be told) but when doorways are closed to the disciples, they regarded this as a sign from the Spirit of Jesus (v6 and 7). When some doors are closed, others are opened and one town that received the gospel as a result is Galatia – the church there would receive the Epistle to the Galatians – a book filled with gospel truths and a strong argument against staying with the law now that Christ has come.

“…concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel [in Macedonia].” This conclusion was reached after Paul had a night vision. Some people claim to receive words from the Lord like Paul did here. I don’t wish to dismiss things too quickly. But the practice overall is that we walk by faith in the knowledge of the word of God. This is the norm. To expect anything else as the norm or more common is to regard the books of the bible as average and common stories. In the first century, the gospel is fresh and the mission of God was to take the name of Jesus to the nations (Acts 1:8). Some areas had been restricted in the wisdom of God but others were opened and Paul was being lead by God to go to Macedonia.

“…we got ready at once…” Notice the pronoun ‘we’. For the first time in the book of Acts, it is written in the first person. Introducing Dr Luke to the story. He doesn’t make note of his joining in the mission and he comes in and out of the narrative without further attention (16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1-28:16).

11-15 Paul meets Lydia

“…we travelled to Philippi…of Macedonia. And we stayed…” Philippi is described as the major city of the area of Macedonia and we know that Paul founds a Christian church here which he will write to later in the New Testament. They stopped here since this is where God had directed them and this is where they planned. This is where the story unfolds and we meet Lydia.

“…to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer.” Interesting that they are further and further away from Jerusalem and the use of Synagogues is not as common. Fewer Jews means less money to build such things. But a river makes for a great meeting place to reflect on the creator. Remember that this is where the Israelite exiles met in Ezekiel – they were by the Kebar River and recall Psalm 137, “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.”

“…The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.” A little reminder that it is not Paul’s persuasion but God’s pull to the gospel of grace. Many scholars have read the bible and discussed it thoroughly without seeing clearly that Jesus is Lord. It is with the mind and the Holy Spirit that we hear the good news and respond. Remember what Jesus said to Peter when he finally confessed that Jesus is the Christ, “Blesses are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” (Matt 16:17)

“…her heart…” This is also a little reminder that the gospel ought to be felt. Tears of repentance, grief over sin, thankfulness for mercy and joy to be free.

“…When she and the members of her household were baptised, she invited us to her home.” Paul invited her whole household to hear and respond to the gospel. She accepted and the household presumably followed her lead. Paul and Silas and Luke and Timothy had no place to stay, but when the gospel found a home in someone’s heart, a home was opened to them. Once they were strangers but now, through faith in Jesus, they are brothers.

16-40 The Spirit leads them to the Jailer

16-18 Paul rebukes a spirit

“…a spirit by which she predicted the future…” Who knows what access the spirit world has to future events? Who even knows what access the Almighty has to it? That’s not to suggest that the future is out of his control or takes him by surprise, but can we ever resolve the coexistence of God’s sovereignty with man’s free will? The spirit was in a slave girl and her owners were profiting from her apparent skill. Paul did not know the future, nor did the Spirit of Jesus reveal it to him (except that he should go to Macedonia), but the Spirit of God will lead Paul to the ears of a jailer. We don’t need to know the future to be sure that God has the future under his control. We walk by faith and obedience.

“…he turned and said to the spirit…” For some bizarre reason, the spirit which turned out to be an annoying spirit, was proclaiming the truth that Paul and co were working for the Most High God and are here to show the way to salvation! At first, this might have amused Paul since it was the truth. But even the truth said over and over with no purpose can be counterproductive. Paul cast out the spirit in the name of Jesus – apparently not a spirit ion the side of Jesus.

19-24 Paul is imprisoned

“…her owners realised that their hopes of making money was gone…” The love of money will take many people to hell. Paul’s message of salvation was, to them, a message of poverty and ruin. And they hated him for ruining their livelihood. Their idol was greed and wealth and wanted nothing to do with Paul’s message.

“…the crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas…” Like some of the towns around Judea that rose up against Jesus, the apostle is up against crowd mentality.

“…and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully.” So, they were locked up as public nuisances and found themselves with an audience ordered to be with them. God works in mysterious ways. Who could have planned for Paul to find his way to this jailer – but God worked all things out for good. Though the townsfolk meant their actions for evil, God intended it for good. They will still receive their condemnation for rejecting the gospel of life but their actions were used by God to bring the gospel to one who would respond.

25-34 Paul and Silas convert the jailer

“…praying and singing hymns to God…” The mission has come to a halt – or so it seems. Locked up in a prison cell with only themselves and a guard. Far away from their home church in Antioch where their friends would not know to be praying for their release. But Paul and Silas continued to trust in the Lord. Why not take the time to remind one another of God’s goodness and to praise Him from the heart. While many were safely sleeping in their beds, these missionaries were chained up, perhaps cold, probably uncomfortable, they were awake and praising God. We can’t help associate the earthquake as the intervention of God.

“…Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” This is the sort of question every Christian longs to be asked. It’s really the most important question. Is God real? Is the bible God’s word? Why does God allow suffering to go on? These are all very good questions too but ought to lead everyone to the first question: what must I do to be saved? This question, of course, is answered with, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” Both the question and the answer are loaded with side issues and questions, for sure. But this is the heart of importance. John’s entire gospel is aimed at answering this question. Romans 10:9 explains that “if you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” The difference between heaven and hell is this one decision: do you believe in the Lord Jesus. Not simply that a guy named Jesus lived – but that he is Lord. He is your Lord. He is the Lord of all. This is the difference between life and death. Perhaps the jailer understood that the Almighty took care of Paul and Silas and also that the prisoners were not desperate to preserve their own freedom. He may have witnessed the power of God over nature as well as the power of the gospel in the lives of these two men. Whatever he perceived, he was struck to ask these two men about salvation.

“…he was filled with joy…” Oh I wish that we could perpetuate that feeling. If only the church – all of us – would perceive the joy that it is to know Jesus. Our faith is one of knowledge of the truth. We can speak with philosophers who wonder and say that we know God. We can speak with scientists who study and say we know who did this. We can speak with the lost and say that we know the solid rock who gives us freedom from sin. We can speak to those burdened by religion and say that we know the mind of God and his invitation to come and find rest. We can speak to those who have sold themselves to money and say that we know the God of hope who has prepared an inheritance for all who turn to Jesus and believe the good news. We can also talk to God, the one whom we know in truth, and we can ask him to fill our hearts with joy – the joy that comes by faith in believing.

35-40 Paul escorted out of jail

“When it was daylight…” Between midnight and dawn, a man had been delivered from darkness to light. An earthquake had taken place and a man’s whole household had been baptised in response to the good news that Jesus is Lord. A man who previously only knew the fear of his Roman authorities, now was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God. He had opened his home to the prisoners and apparently lead them back to their cell before morning. When the morning came, officers of the magistrate may have thought they were bringing good news to Paul and Silas to release them. But that is no news at all compared to the release of the jailer from his bondage to sin and death.

“…No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.” The boldness of Paul makes me smile. An earthquake came and opened the doors for him to be free, yet he stayed. The jailer took him home and fed him and yet Paul and Silas returned to their cell before morning. Now they are given permission to leave and yet they want to demand their rights as Roman citizens. It’s quirky of Paul. But it illustrates his co-citizenship of earth and heaven. The gospel that he preaches is ultimately about right and wrong. If you are on the wrong side of Jesus you are in the wrong, so turn to him and be saved. He has been dealt with wrongly as a citizen of Rome and he chooses to make an issue out of this too. Sure, he could have dismissed it and gone on with his mission. But he has an opportunity here to declare that they are in the wrong! According to their rules, they have wronged him and they need to make amends.

“…they went to Lydia’s house…” This had become a base in Philippi for the believers and Paul encouraged them with the news of what had happened to him and Silas just as Peter encouraged the believers in Jerusalem after his rescue from prison by the hand of God. He undoubtedly let them know about the jailer and his family. When he left the believers, they supported him financially in his mission and even sent money to him when he was abroad (Philippians 4:14-16)

Meaning

Finding people and places to preach the gospel is as much a part of following the lead of the Spirit as it is setting an agenda and a plan. The plan will fail without the Spirit of God. But the plan must be to preach where the Spirit opens doors (or locks you in). The gospel itself is a work of the Spirit to open the hearts of the elect to respond. And our message must be directed to Jesus as Lord – this is the good news.

Application

  1. Discuss ways in which you have seen the Spirit of God directing you in your life? How have you been aware of this? What principals must we follow to know whether it is the Spirit of God or not?
  2. Our plans do get changed and it is important to understand the sovereignty of God in all situations. Bad events in life are also used by God for his good purposes. Do you have examples of this in your life? How might you see your current situations (today, this week, a specific function) as an opportunity to spread the gospel and to glorify God?
  3. Would you describe your life as full of joy for knowing God? Would you use the word joy at all to describe your life? Why or why not? Discuss.