“The Founding of the Philippian Church”
In the Greek Islands, one can seek out the home of Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine. In the area, one can also find an olive tree, supposedly dating from his time. If this is so, this tree would then be some 2400 years old. The trunk of this tree is very large but completely hollow. The tree is little more than thick bark. There are a few long, straggling branches, but they are supported by sturdy wooden poles every few feet. It has an occasional leaf here and there and might produce a few olives each year.
In the fields around, however, are olive groves in many directions. The strong, healthy, young trees with narrow trunks are covered with a thick canopy of leaves, under which masses of olives can be found each year. The tree of Hippocrates can still be called an olive by nature, in that it still shows the essential unique characteristics, but it has long since ceased to fulfill an olive’s function. Tourists file up to inspect this ancient relic, having some link to a dim history, but the job of the olive tree passed long ago to many successions of replanted trees. Do you know any churches (or even people) like the tree of Hippocrates? The form is there, but the function is not. They have stopped reproducing and are satisfied just being big, or having a noble history.
Four Principles That Led to a Growing Church (vv. 1-10)
#1. Don’t Do Ministry Alone—Find Someone to Invest In.
#2. Having a Good Reputation and Getting Rid of Unnecessary Obstacles Opens the Door to Conversations about the Gospel. Prioritize Life.
#3. Solid Doctrine is Essential to a Strong Growing Church.
#4. Life Changing Ministry Must Be Spirit Led.
Characteristics of a New Church (vv. 11-34)
A. People are Saved (vv. 11-15) – Lydia and her household
B. Darkness is Broken (vv. 16-24) – the demon possessed girl
C. Opportunities to Show Compassion (vv. 25-34)
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and 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 bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.
(v. 25) “Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God” – “Praying they were singing (simultaneously, blending together petition and praise).” “and the prisoners were listening to them,” The original word usage tells us they were enjoying what they were hearing. In the dark dungeon, while in stocks, sore from beatings, Paul and Silas were experiencing joy.
In preaching I could tell you of all the things that Jesus has done for you and because of that you should not sin. This is called the debtor’s ethic – In light of all that Jesus has done for you, now the least you could do is live in obedience to Him – you owe him this debt. But in most cases, this is not a strong enough motivation to avoid sin. Instead, when confronted with sin, I would remind you of the gift of joy that He has given to us.
“One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the incomparable pleasure of true joy. As David said, ‘You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with you in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.’ (Psalm 16:11). What if we seek to pursue this kind of pleasure in life? In our time of temptation to passing pleasure we can see how much more enjoyable is the incomparable pleasure that Christ gives. We will want to guard that pleasure and not let it be spoiled by lesser pleasures.” We will willingly give up one type of pleasure for God and the joy we find in that relationship.
In response to Paul and Silas praising God, the rocks wanted to praise God too, (v. 26) “and 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 bonds were unfastened.” There are other examples of earthquakes freeing followers of God, other examples of prisoners being freed, and they do escape (Acts 5:19; 12:11). Paul, Silas, and all the other prisoners have freedom – all they have to do is walk out the door but they choose to stay put.
But look at what they choose to do with their freedom; each in his own cell – door open, free, but they voluntarily stay. Paul and Silas voluntarily bind themselves to this man, so that he may come to know Jesus. Are you willing to give up your freedom to do what you want so that others may come to know Jesus?
“Bellevue Baptist Church exists to make disciples for Jesus Christ,” our mission can only be accomplished when enough people are willing to lay down their wants, desires, and preferences in order for a lost community to hear about Jesus. You give up your freedom, so that others can be set free.
How did Paul and Silas know to stay in prison instead of leaving like Peter earlier on Acts 12? In Acts 12 there is an angel waking Peter up, and leading him out, and there is no angel here. But there was it a shadow on the wall, the sound of the sword being drawn – something alerted Paul that the jailor was about to take his life. If he did this, then they would surely be free – but they stay. They want to use their freedom, to help to free him as well.
This is one of the joys of salvation; it is one prisoner tells the other prisoner how to be free. Some people don’t know they are really in a prison, and some people forget they used to be a prisoner.
The jailor knew why Paul and Silas had been put under his custody. How the demon possessed girl yelled out how they were “servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation, then he heard them singing and the praising in the darkness, but it was not until his world was shaken and an act of compassion was shown, they he started to ask the most important question a person can ever ask. For some it has to be a divorce, or a doctor’s test results, a financial loss – something that shakes us to our core, and we are scared to death before we are willing to ask the real questions of life.
(v. 30) “Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” – Paul and Silas were followed all through the town by the demon possessed girl, that they were “servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation (v. 17.) Then through the night they had sung songs, quoted Scripture, and prayed aloud – then an earthquake that could have cost him (the jailor) everything (but the prisoners showed him compassion), Paul says “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here,”
All Paul had to do was stay quiet and their freedom was certain. But he would have to experience a man take his own life, knowing he could have done something to stop it. But a man of God cannot remain quiet when he knows he can set a man free. Paul knows why he is in the jail cell he has a mission.
The jailor (and his household) wants to know ‘where does that kind of life and compassion come from?” There was something about Paul and Silas’ night of singing and praising and prayer – that caused the prisoners to stay and see what was going to happen next. (v. 25 b) “the prisoners were listening to them.” The jailor believed that Paul and Silas had the answer to his question. The lies, the beating, the travel, being away from family, the stocks, the prison – was all worth it, when this man asks this question.
(v. 31) “And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.” The jailer and his household, don’t have to do anything to be saved, only believe on Jesus. But if you have no biblical foundation – Who is Jesus?
Romans 10:14-15, 17 “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?3 And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? . . . So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
Paul had already preached Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Paul takes God’s Word and explains to the man and his household how Jesus paid the price for their sin by dying on a cross and how He had fulfilled prophecy, and was the Son of God, “And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house,” This man and his family had no idea of who God was – he did not have the biblical upbringing of Timothy. “He (Paul) had been accustomed to using the Judaistic background as a support for his message.”
He did not have the Jewish OT of Lydia or the women who gathered to pray. But like the girl freed of demon possession – they have no foundation – so “they spoke the word of the Lord to him.” The world is crying out, “what must I do to be saved?” and they need people to speak the word of the Lord to them. They don’t have a clue.
Bellevue Baptist Church exists to make disciples of Jesus Christ – we have to go and tell them who Jesus is and what He has done for them.
This jailor was part of a system that brutalized Paul and other Christians, but through the work of God there is a symbolic picture of things changing, “And he (jailor) took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he (jailor) was baptized at once, he and all his family. Look at the radical difference in the life of the jailor; (v. 27) “he drew his sword and was about to kill himself,” (v. 34) “And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.”
This is the heart change of a person who has placed his faith in Jesus. From darkness and fear to rejoicing. This was the same man who shoved them into a inner prison cell, locked them in stocks, cared nothing for their wounds, now he washes their wounds, brings them into his house, puts a feast before them. This is a heart change. The first act of the new believer and his family is to serve.
Another example of salvation is Zaccheus in Luke 19:8 Jesus wanted to go to his house, as a tax collector he had stolen money from the people, and after his salvation Luke tells us “And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Where he had been greedy and a thief – now he becomes generous and wants to bless others. Where there is salvation, there is a heart change.
The prisoner and the jailor sit down together sharing the same faith and love. To be a Christian is to sit across a fellowship table from all kinds of people, each with a very different story to tell of how Jesus has changed their lives. This begins in a prison “about midnight,” then dad brings home two of the prisoners, after a major earthquake.
Something is different about dad, then the two strangers explain who Jesus is, and then you place your faith in Jesus, then your whole family is baptized, in the middle of the night – then you eat a meal, early in the morning – then dad and the two strangers go back to jail before daybreak. What a night.
40 says, “So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.” Paul visits with these new converts and then leaves. “That is all we hear about the first members of the first church plant in Philippi: a business woman and her household; a former slave-girl; and a city employee, the jailer, with his household.
That’s the beginning of the church plant in Philippi.” That small group shared the gospel, and many came to know Christ through their testimony and witness. The Holy Spirit guided the church planters, Paul and Silas shared the gospel to a few – it was then these few that spread the gospel.
Paul leaves them to continue sharing the gospel in other towns – but what does he expect of them? What are they supposed to do? Next week we will look at Philippians chapter 1 and I want you to see the difference from where we leave this small group of believers to that first chapter.
When does a group of people who get together change into a church? If we define a local church as “A church is a group of Christians who meet together regularly and who have some measure of a commitment to each other to be the body of Christ together, which includes biblical leadership and biblical teaching and preaching and a proper celebration of the Lord’s Supper and a right application of Christian discipline.” We will see next week that this small group go to work after Paul leaves – so let us follow their example in reaching our community for Christ.
I will conclude with this article, “This is my church. It is composed of people just like me. It will be friendly if I am. It will do a great work if I work. It will make generous gifts to many causes if I am generous. It will bring others into its fellowship if I bring them. Its seats will be filled if I fill them. It will be a church of loyalty and love, of faith and service. If I who make it what it is, am filled with these, Therefore, with God’s help, I dedicate myself to the task of being all these things I want my church to be.”
 “In Roman law a guard who allowed his prisoner to escape was liable to the same penalty the prisoner would have suffered (Code of Justinian 9.4.4).” Longenecker, 464.
 Robertson, 250.
 Ajith Ferando, The NIV Application Commentary, Acts (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan Publishing House, 1998) 456.
 See Luke 19:40.
 Clifton J. Allen, The Broadman Bible Commentary, Volume 10 (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1970) 99.