The Founding of the Philippian Church
When I was a kid, Saturday mornings meant one thing – cartoons. And one of those cartoons, on one the three channels we had, was the strategic genius of Wily E. Coyote and his eternal chase of the Road Runner. With large batches of anvils, giant rocks, rocket-powered roller skates, tornado seeds, explosive tennis balls, TNT, mallets, painted tunnels into a rock face – he was always trying a new way to outsmart the Road Runner. But we see in episode after episode that his tools and outfits from the ACME catalog never actually produce the result he wants. The Road Runner outsmarts him every time.
It’s easy to think of reaching our community for Christ and mission as “big tools” we hope will work out, like dynamite strapped to a rocket with a fuse – what could go wrong? The church has a tendency to look for programs, new tools, or events (we flip through the ACME/Lifeway catalog) – but this is not how the NT shows us that the early church grew. Today we will look at Principles for Acts 16 on how the early Christians shared their faith.
Four Principles That Led to a Growing Church (vv. 1-10)
Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.
“Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra” Paul has already been to these cities two-three years before proclaiming the gospel, healing the sick, and he was stoned there (Acts 14:19). The scars would have still been on his body. So now Paul goes back to strengthen the young churches.
(v. 1) Paul normally does not travel alone, but he and Barnabas had and argument about another young protégé named John-Mark. Their argument was so heated that they decided to part ways. Barnabas took John-Mark and went in one direction, and Paul set out in another direction with Silas. So, Paul is doubling back over previous covered territory that he had already been through with the gospel but he is also intentionally looking for someone to help him in his ministry, to do what John-Mark did in their ministry.
#1. Don’t Do Ministry Alone—Find Someone to Invest In.
It is more than likely Timothy’s father was a non-believer (Christian or Jewish), and it is likely that Timothy and his mother were converted in Paul’s earlier visit to this area. In between then and now Timothy’s mother and grandmother were growing in their walk with the Lord, 2 Timothy 1:5 “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well,” and 2 Timothy 3:15 “and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings.”
(v. 3) Timothy was “well spoken of” meaning he had a reputation among the people of the city. He was known, his father was known, and his mother was known. As Paul and Timothy would have traveled from there to town to town this reputation (even though it was good), everyone would have wondered why he had not been circumcised – it would appear that he was refusing to adhere to the law.
“Timothy was both Jew and Greek and would continually give offense to the Jews . . . so for the sake of expediency, “because of the Jews,” Paul voluntarily removed this stumbling block to the ministry of Timothy. Otherwise, Timothy would not have been allowed to preach in the synagogues.” We need to move past this lesser argument or discussion to get to the things of greater importance – they would constantly face this lesser issue, and it would be a stumbling block to them getting to the gospel.
And Timothy taking this step would have a favorable impression on the people they were trying to reach. “It was no question of enforcing circumcision upon Timothy as if it were necessary for salvation; it was simply a question of what was necessary under special circumstances in which both he and Paul were to seek to gain a hearing for the Gospel on the lines of the Apostolic policy; “to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Also, Timothy was willing to endure pain for the sake of reaching other people with the gospel.
#2. Having a Good Reputation and Getting Rid of Unnecessary Obstacles
Opens the Door to Conversations about the Gospel. Prioritize Life.
Earlier in Acts 15:1-2 Paul and other church leaders were discussing doctrine, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” 2 And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question.”
So that by chapter 16:4 “they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem” – the Church was just beginning and they were working through foundational doctrinal questions; so Paul and Timothy as they went from town to town, they would instruct these groups of new believers the decisions that had apostolic authority. The result of sound doctrine is that “the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.”
#3. Solid Doctrine is Essential to a Strong Growing Church.
1 Timothy 4:16 “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
(v. 6) “having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia” – “Passing through it but not preaching the gospel,”
“immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia,” – Once Paul and Timothy had a clear direction from the Lord, they did not delay, but immediately started in that direction. It is also at this point the pronouns, for Luke the author of the book, move from them to we and us, “immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us,” It was at this point of the missionary journey that Luke joins the team.
All the things that came before chapter 16 were Luke going and gathering witnesses and other’s account of what happened, here he can give a firsthand account of what happened. Some scholars believe that Luke was a resident of Philippi or the surrounding area and became a convert as Paul passed through. And look how quickly Luke goes from convert to traveling missionary.
(v. 10) “concluding that God had called us,” – The word used for concluding means to “make to go together,” “to knit together,” “to make this and that agree.” “This is a proper use of the reason in connection with revelation, to decide whether it is a revelation from God, to find out what it means for us, and to see if we obey the revelation when understood.” “Because of Paul’s obedience at this point, the gospel went westward; and ultimately Europe and the Western world were evangelized. Christian response to the call of God is never a trivial thing.”
#4. Life Changing Ministry Must Be Spirit Led.
These Four Principles 1) Doing ministry in teams 2) removing obstacles and prioritizing 3) watching our doctrine 4) and being Spirit Led – now lead to a new church in Philippi. Let’s look at the characteristics of this new church plant and then ask, “Is this true of our church?”
Characteristics of a New Church (vv. 11-34)
People are Saved (vv. 11-15)
11 So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.
As far as we can tell, there were some Jewish women who gathered to pray, but there seems to be no church, no synagogue – but God is going to establish a church in this area referred to as Philippi upon women who had gathered to pray. Zechariah 4:10 “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” (NLT)
(v. 13) “and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together.” – The custom of Jewish teachers was to teach from a seated position, “Luke’s use of the first person plural implies that each of the four (Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke) preached in turn, with Paul as the chief speaker.
“The Lord opened her (Lydia) heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” Salvation has two parts; 1) The Lord opening her heart and 2) the girl paying attention to the gospel. God through the Holy Spirit showed her sin and need for a Savior, she paid attention to Paul’s sharing of the gospel and responded in faith.
Darkness is Broken (vv. 16-24)
16 As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. 19 But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. 20 And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. 21 They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23 And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24 Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
(v. 16) As Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke were going to the “place of prayer” they were met by “a slave girl who had a spirit of divination” – the type of divination mentioned is where we get the word ventriloquist The demonic spirit would speak through the girl – who is just as much under its control as the demonic (Matthew 8:28). The darkness is her complete control by the demon and that there was a company (multiple business owners) who used this girl to make money through this demonic possession.
Paul “said to the spirit,” not the girl. The girl has no control over what is happening. Notice that the demon says (through the girl), “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” It is speaking the truth, there is a recognition of who they are and what they are doing, similar to the demons recognizing Jesus, His authority, and what He was doing; Luke 8:28 “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.”
Why does Paul not permit the demon to continue yelling that they are servants of the Most High, and that Paul and the others are proclaiming the way of salvation? Do you allow the testimony of evil men, because the testimony in itself is true?
“The hour of gravest peril for the Gospel in Philippi was not the hour when they put Paul in prison; it was the hour when the girl with the spirit of divination told the truth.” Evil can tell the truth, but it can just as easily tell a lie. It can take the truth of the gospel and twist it just enough to make it a false gospel. “Every time a demon confirmed that Christ was the Son of God, Jesus rebuked it – every time!”
The girl returns to being a normal girl – free from demonic possession and it enrages the slave owning businessmen. The church should not be surprised when the gospel is shared, the darkness is broken, that those that profit from the darkness become enraged and angry. Nor, should we shy away from the consequences of sharing the truth. For Paul and Silas it cost them being lied about, severe beatings, and imprisonment. Again, there is pain for those who seek to share the gospel.
These two characteristics of 1) the gospel being shared and people coming to know the Lord, and 2) darkness being broken, are two of four characteristics of this new church (we will look at the next two characteristics next week).
So Does Wiley E. Coyote ever catch the Road Runner? Wile E. is chasing the Road Runner through a series of pipelines, which causes both of them to emerge in a greatly shrunken state. Upon discovering their situation, they re-enter the pipeline and be transformed back into full size. The Road Runner emerges at normal size, but Wile E. is still in small size when he comes out. Upon discovering this turn of events, the Road Runner stops and allows his rival to “catch” him.
The Coyote does not notice anything until he steps over his opponent’s feet, and looks up to see he is massively outgunned. The Road Runner utters a low-pitched “beep beep”, much to Wile E.’s horror. He can only hold up two signs to the audience stating, “Okay, wise guys, you always wanted me to catch him.” and “Now what do I do?” So when the world comes to the church and the Holy Spirit is working in their hearts – we must be ready “to give and answer for the hope that we have.”
1 Peter 3:15-17 “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”
 Regarding the idea that Paul seems to argue against this later in Galatians, “Those who deplore the absence of consistency from Paul miss the higher consistency which is aimed at bringing all the activities of his life and thought ‘into captivity to the observance of Christ.’ (2 Cor. 10:5) and at subordinating every other interest to the paramount interests of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:23).”
 W. Robertson Nicoll, The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Volume 2 (Grand Rapids, Michigan; WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967) 339.
 Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Volume 3 (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1930) 244.
 Nicoll, 342.
 Robertson, 248.
 Richard N. Longenecker, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, John & Acts, Volume 9 (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan Publishing, 1981) 458.
 See also Luke 24:45.
 Robertson, 251.
 “They were handed over to the lictors – the magistrate’s police attendants – to be soundly beaten. The lictors carried as symbols of office bundles of rods, with an ax inserted among them. . .” Bruce, 315.
 Nicoll, 349.
 G Campbell Morgan, The Acts of the Apostles (Old Tappan, New Jersey; Fleming H. Revell Company, 1924) 385.
 Morgan, 385.
 R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word, Acts, The Church Afire (Wheaton, Illinois; Crossway Books, 1996) 215.