Here is the Week 2 recap for the Bible study “Shine Like Stars” for anyone who missed class or is following along from a distance. (It’s a long one – grab a cup of coffee.) Feel free to leave questions and comments.
I can’t wait to jump into the book of Philippians, but first we are going to get the backstory about this place and the people Paul knew in Philippi. Acts 16:6-40.
Why did Paul go to Philippi?
*Paul had a dream, or vision, of a man asking him to come to Macedonia (v.9).
*The Holy Spirit stopped Paul from going anywhere else! (v. 6-7) His first choice was to go south to Asia Minor (present day Turkey), but he was blocked somehow. His second choice was to go north into Bithynia and Paul got to the very border but had to turn around. Since he was coming from the east, west was the only other option. He traveled as far west as he could before coming to the Mediterranean Sea and stopped in a town called Troas. There, Paul and his traveling companions met a doctor named Luke. (There is some speculation that the reason they were stopped from going north and south had to do with health issues. They found a doctor in Troas who happened to be Luke and he joined the team to be Paul’s personal doctor. Interesting idea, but no scriptural proof.) Luke ended up writing both the the Gospel of Luke and The Book of Acts.
There are some subtle clues in verses 8-10 that indicate Luke joined them at this point. Verse 8 says, “So they passed by…” Verse 10 says, “…we got ready at once….” Watch those pronouns!
*When they got to Macedonia, they still needed God’s leading on which city to go to. Paul went to Philippi because it was the “leading city of that district” (v. 12). Paul always went to the the place where there was the most potential to have the biggest impact and to reach the most people.
Just think how the western world would be different if Paul hadn’t obeyed God’s leading to bring the gospel to Europe. Just think how different the Bible would be without Luke’s writings. What if Paul had gone ahead with plan A to go south? Or plan B to go north?
One of the questions we’re asking in this study is “What does a mature believer look like?” Paul shows us right here. A mature believer trusts God’s “no”. Paul was willing to change his plans in response to the Holy Spirit’s leading. Paul was stopped from doing something we normally think of as good (preaching the gospel) because it wasn’t in God’s timing. I find it comforting that even the great Apostle Paul wasn’t always clear as to what God’s will was, yet he didn’t give up when things didn’t go according to his plans.
So they went to Philippi, which was a Roman outpost in Macedonia (Greece). Paul took the gospel international. This was the first time the good news crossed over into a different continent – Europe. All of us with European ancestry should be grateful God sent Paul west.
Who went with Paul?
Silas (Acts 15:40), Timothy (Acts 16:1) and Luke.
Paul had significant interactions with three different people in Philippi. List as many facts as you can about each person.
Lydia (Acts 16:11-15)
*She was a dealer in purple cloth.
*She was a woman who ran her own business. Purple dye was very costly, extracted drop by drop from shellfish. A person in this line of work had to have money. Purple was the color of royalty, so her customers were high on the social scale. Lydia was a metropolitan fashionista.
*She was from Thyatira, Asia. She was not a native Philippian, but traveled there often.
*She owned a home in Philippi, indicating she may have had a “house on both coasts”.
*She was a worshiper of God, meaning she didn’t buy into paganism. She was open to the Jewish God and was actively seeking more spiritual depth.
*She gathered her girlfriends together to pray by the river outside of town. This is significant because it shows there was not a Jewish synagogue in Philippi. A Jewish place of worship required ten Jewish men, which Philippi obviously didn’t have. Lydia took it upon herself to gather some women to pray.
*She was the first convert to Christianity in Europe. The Macedonian man in Paul’s dream turned out to be an Asian woman!
*She was hospitable, immediately inviting Paul and his team to her house, which became the gathering place for the first believers in town (Acts 16:40).
*She had “people”. All of her “household” also came to believe, which could have been family or more likely, servants.
*She had a heart open and ready to respond to Paul’s message. Once she heard it, she was all in and wanted to be baptized in the river right away.
The Slave Girl (Acts 16:16-18)
*She was a fortuneteller, able to predict the future because of an evil spirit that possessed her.
*She was enslaved by “owners” who exploited her for their financial gain. Today we call this trafficking.
*If she was local, her ethnicity would have been Greek.
*She was from the lowest class of society, with no rights and no hope.
*Something in her was drawn to Paul and the demon within her recognized Paul was a godly man. What she said was true (v. 17), but she was out of control, constantly shouting and harassing Paul. He didn’t want the message of the gospel being confused with this form of evil so Paul cast out the demon. “Paul didn’t appreciate free advertising from a demon.” (Matt Chandler) Consider the source.
Because Paul disrupted the fortunetelling business, the owners accused him of “throwing the city into an uproar” (v. 20-21). Paul and Silas were arrested and thrown in jail after being severely whipped. (Anybody been flogged lately?) Luke and Timothy were not arrested (they were Gentiles) and there is a clue in verse 20 as to why: “These men (Paul and Silas) are Jews.” Apparently there was some racial bias going on in Philippi. The prison guard was told to keep them safe and to guard them carefully. The jailer took it upon himself to go a little farther and put them into stocks in the inner cell.
The Jailer (Acts 16:25-34)
*He was a rule follower, didn’t want to mess up, just wanted to do his job well.
*He was probably an ex-G.I., a retired Roman soldier living in Philippi.
*He was a middle-class, blue collar worker who “wanted to put in his time at work, go home, have a beer and watch the game” (Matt Chandler).
*He was a family man and owned a house.
*He may have been getting an earful of the gospel from Paul; it may have been the first time he ever heard singing in his jail.
*He fell asleep and was awakened by an earthquake.
*He was a man of honor, who was willing to take his own life for failing to carry out his duty.
*He was blown away when Paul and Silas didn’t escape but instead took charge and stopped him from committing suicide.
*He wasn’t ashamed to ask Paul “What must I do to be saved?”
*He immediately wanted his family to hear the gospel.
*He was a changed man, shown by his tender washing of Paul’s wounds, which he had inflicted several hours earlier.
*This may have been the first time his household experienced real joy.
3 very different people:
- an Asian business woman from the upper crust who responded with her intellect.
- a young Greek slave girl from the lowest class who responded from her spirit.
- an Roman man who came to believe through a supernatural, miraculous event.
God brings people to Himself in so many different ways. And all Paul did was watch and see where God was moving and joined in. “There’s some women praying. Let’s go see.” “This girl keeps following me around. I think I’m supposed to do something here.” “I’m in jail so I might as well talk to the guy guarding me.” Paul was always aware and watching for an opportunity to share Jesus. Nothing stopped him.
What preceded all three encounters? (v. 13, 16, 25)
Prayer. I think we underestimate the power of our prayers.
What would you say to someone if they asked you, “What must I do to be saved?”
Because we’d better have an answer. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved (v. 31). It’s a belief that embraces these truths:
*Jesus Christ was God in human form.
*He died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins.
*The sacrifice of Jesus is the only adequate payment and covers it completely.
*He rose from the dead and is alive, preparing a place in eternity for all believers.
Say yes to this, accept His offer of forgiveness and salvation, and you are saved.
What a church it must have been in Philippi! So diverse and multi-cultural! Yet united by the Holy Spirit and alive with excitement! Now as we dive into the letter Paul wrote, we will be able to picture Lydia, the slave girl (no longer a slave!), and the jailer — Paul’s dearly loved friends.