READ Acts 15:36
Acts 15:36 inaugurates Paul’s second missionary journey; which marked the first time the Gospel was taken to Europe as an official work of the Lord’s Church. This missionary tour was initiated here in Acts 15:36 by Paul and Barnabas after the council in Jerusalem.
The purpose of the tour was to visit the brethren and the churches that were previously established by Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. But Paul and Barnabas had a falling out over John Mark because John Mark left them on their first missionary journey and went home. As a result of their heated dispute Paul and Barnabas separated and went different ways. Paul took Silas, who was a highly recommended brother in the Lord, and they departed on their journey. Soon they would take on Timothy in Lystra in 16:1-3, and later on Luke in Troas.
They set out only to visit and encourage the brethren in the churches, but they had no idea what great things the Lord had in store for them in their journey.
From Acts 16:4-15 we will notice 3 points: 1) The leadership of the Holy Spirit in the Lives of God’s servants; 2) The Macedonian Call; and 3) Lydia the Greek proselyte.
1. The leadership of the Holy Spirit in the lives of God’s servants.
1) First, Paul and his companions strengthened the brethren in the churches (4-5). First, they delivered the decrees from the council (15:23-29). No doubt these decrees were a great relief to the Gentile brethren, who were already beginning to feel the weight of Judaism and legalism. These heresies were like a heavy chain around the necks of Christians, with all of their ceremonial observances, and calendar observances, and circumcision, and keeping all the Mosaic law. No doubt they were greatly relieved to know that they weren’t required to obey these rules and regulations. In addition to delivering the decrees they taught, exhorted, and edified the saints in their most holy faith. They also preached the Gospel and souls were saved and added to the churches.
These are always good and needful things for preachers to do in the churches. If God’s servants don’t have a special place that we are called to go, we can always edify and encourage the saints, and preach the gospel to the lost right where we are. This is always needful wherever there are true churches and lost sinners who need Christ.
2) Secondly, we see the forbidding of the Holy Spirit in Paul’s ministry (6-8). Here the Holy Spirit forbade Paul and his companions from preaching in certain parts of the country. Why did the Holy Spirit prevent them from preaching in these places? Because He had another work for them to do in another part of the world. The Gospel would be sent to these regions in God’s time, but at this time the Holy Spirit had other plans for them. We need to always be sensitive to the Spirit’s leadership and be willing to follow His guidance.
How did the Spirit forbid them to go into these regions? Maybe by speaking directly to them, or by impressing the thought upon their minds not to go, or perhaps by closing all the providential doors. In any regard, Paul couldn’t turn to the left hand (into Asia), or to the right hand (into Bithynia), but they could only press on westward toward Troas.
How many times has the Spirit forbade you and I from moves in our lives that we tried to make? We may have wanted to go a certain direction in our lives, which seemed good at the time and within the parameters of God’s revealed will, yet the Holy Spirit closed the door on that move! Then later on the Lord opened up another door, which was clearly His will and was clearly better in every way, and would have been impossible if we’d gone through one of those previous doors. God knows best, and we learn to trust the Spirit’s leadership.
3) Thirdly, we notice that the Spirit’s definite directive finally came (v. 9). This directive came in the form of a vision. Do we still receive visions from the Lord today? I won’t say that it is impossible, but I personally rather receive God’s direction from His Word and His providential leadership. I don’t trust my dreams and visions. Most of my dreams I’d just as soon forget that I ever had. It would have to be some stupendous dream or vision for me to trust it and follow it, and that only if providence was also working along with the situation.
I know people who are always looking for, and counting on these kinds of “signs” to lead them in their lives. Sad to say, these people have been lead about as far away from the truth of God’s Word as a person could get. Don’t seek after signs when we a have a whole Bible full of revealed leadership from Heaven that can be trusted. Today may we look for God to open a providential door after all the doors of our thoughts and human reasoning have been welded shut.
4) Fourthly, we see their immediate and straight course to their goal (vs. 10-13). They immediately set out to do the Lord’s revealed will (v. 10). They wasted no time! They went without delay, and they didn’t stop save to pick up Luke in Troas to help them with their great work in Macedonia. Sometimes the work calls for more helpers. May we be willing to share the work with other Spirit endued men and woman who desire to serve the Lord in the Gospel ministry.
They also set a straight course for their desired destiny (v. 11). They didn’t meander all over the sea. They didn’t stop along the way to visit, or to “catch some rays”, or to catch fish. They didn’t change their course, but stayed on a straight compass line for Samothracia, and then made a bee-line for Philippi.
Beloved, when the Lord reveals His will and His directive for our lives and ministries, we would do well to make haste and take a the straightest course possible to reach that goal. Otherwise we might just find ourselves lost at sea in a typhoon like Jonah!
5) Fifthly, they went to the chief city of Philippi (v. 12). Paul went to the cities where lost sinners congregate in masses. I’m sure they witnessed along the way, and they preached in the suburbs and in rural areas, but mainly they stationed their mission works in urban areas. This is a good pattern for missionaries to follow. When souls are saved and churches are established in those urban areas, those new churches can take responsibility for their “Judeas and Samarias”. There is only so much ground that a few people can cover. We need we use wisdom and judgment with the use of our time, people, and resources, thus the above scenario is good spiritual economy and will get the most accomplished out of the least spiritual resources.
6) Sixthly, we see they went to a riverside prayer meeting on the edge of town (v. 13). It seems there were not enough Jewish men in Philippi to form a synagogue. As one commentator put it, “their were only about 1 ½ Jewish men and a dozen Jewish women and proselytes in all Philippi.” Here by the river the Jews and proselytes gathered to offer prayer to God.
We observe in this text that Paul went to the “Jew first.” This was Paul’s custom, but more than that this is a Biblical principle. The Gospel is the “power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16). Paul certainly had a burden for his countrymen and his kinsmen according to the flesh, but this was not his principle reason for preaching to the Jews first. Rather, it is the will of God and of Christ to do so. The amillinnialist, who has no place for the Jews or national Israel, would have no use for this teaching. Bur for those of us who believe that God still has a place for Israel, many we also follow this pattern and example of Paul, and make an attempt to reach the Jewish people in our community and our mission fields.
So Paul and His company had now traveled about 350 to 400 miles from where the Holy Spirit first forbade them to go into Asia and Bithynia. They had traveled about 150 miles from Troas by boat, and about 800 miles from Antioch where they first began their journey, which they traveled mostly by land and probably on foot. Now here they were on the outskirts of Philippi in Europe, by a riverbank where about a dozen Jews and proselytes were gathered for prayer! Today people would say “what is wrong with this picture?” “Wasn’t that a tremendous waste of time and effort”, but “wisdom is justified of her children.”
It has been 400 miles and hard tell how many weeks since any souls have been reached for Christ, as far as the record of Luke reveals here in Acts. Perhaps Paul’s faith was shaken a bit by now! Perhaps our faith gets shaken much more easily than this! No beloved, Paul’s faith in His Lord was not shaken, but He pressed on in the work the Lord called him to do. May our faith not be shaken when we don’t see the results of our efforts that we would like to see. May we just keep on pressing on in the work of the Lord. He will save sinners, and He will build His churches in His good time. May we just continue to be faithful in what He has called us to do!
2. Secondly, we want to backup and consider the Macedonian call to Paul (v. 9).
1) First, we see the call was to “come over into Macedonia and help us!” I don’t know if this man in Paul’s vision was a real, actual person or not. More likely he was a spokesman for all of Macedonia and Europe. What the man said, in essence, was this: “We need to hear the Gospel too!” “The millions of lost souls in Macedonia and Europe need Jesus too!” “We have never heard about salvation from our sins by faith in Christ!” A dry and thirsty land was in need of the water of the Word of life!
Today the Lord doesn’t speak by visions perhaps, but we can still hear to Macedonian call here from Acts 16! The people have changed, but the need the world over is still the same! People everywhere need the Lord! People everywhere need to hear the Gospel! Do we need to see a new and fresh vision to see this truth! If so, then Lord send us a new vision for the lost!
2) Secondly, we want to see the reality that Paul found when he arrived in Europe. In Europe Paul found millions of souls with stretched out arms just waiting to receive him and the gospel of Jesus. NO beloved, Paul found dead, hard hearted, hard headed sinners engrossed in pagan idolatry and every other imaginable sin. Instead of being received by the Macedonians, Paul was despised and hated. He was beaten with rods and imprisoned. He was thrust out of town, and pursued by his enemies. That is how Macedonia received Paul and his companions! Paul, how is your faith now? Do you still think you are in the will of God now?
Beloved, there were a few elect sinners among the multitudes. God had a people there, and in time and with much effort and much affliction a few were saved, and then many were saved and churches were established. Through these and other subsequent efforts the gospel went throughout all Europe. And from the borders of Europe the gospel came to the United States, and from the United States the gospel is sent throughout the world today. Beloved, God knows what He is doing. Paul and his friends didn’t know what all the Lord would do through their missionary works, but his place was simply to trust and obey!
What about Calvary Baptist Church in Ashland, Kentucky today? I believe that God still has an elect among the multitude in our community. We don’t see many results today, but we see a few. As time goes on, and if we remain faithful to the gospel, we will see more. Where is our faith this morning? Paul didn’t quit and go home; may we not quit either. Beloved, the results are slow, but they are sure. And I might add, the results that are slow and sure are usually the results that last.
Can we here the Macedonian call today? If so, what are we doing about it? And are we obeying that call?
Is our life in tune with the will and leadership of the Holy Spirit. Is He directing our lives by opening and closing doors? Are we following that leadership of the Holy Spirit as did Paul and His company?
Have we heard the “Macedonian call” as it were. Do we see the need to take the gospel to the lost world; both at home and abroad? May God help our church to be zealous for the souls of men, and more obedient to the great commission that He has given to our church to carry out.
We spoke this morning about the leadership of Holy Spirit in the lives of God’s servants, and about the Macedonian call and the importance of “seeing the vision” of lost sinners in need of the Gospel of Jesus.
This evening we want to conclude our sermon on this section of Acts 16 by considering Lydia the Greek Proselyte.
3. Lydia the Greek Proselyte (vs. 13-15).
We want to notice ten things this evening about Lydia from these verses:
1) First, we see she was a certain woman named Lydia (v. 14). Now things are really narrowing down here for us. Paul and his party were sent all the way from Asia Minor to a riverbank in Macedonia outside of Philippi, to a certain woman named Lydia. What extremes and extents does the Lord go in order to find one of His lost sheep? Don’t think for one minute that the providence of God was not at work on all ends! The Holy Spirit was working with Paul and his party by opening and closing doors, and with Lydia and those in her household at the same time.
2) Secondly, Lydia was a seller of purple. Purple die was made from shellfish and was used for dying fabrics and leather. We understand that the garments worn by the Jewish Rabbis had fringes that were died purple. Perhaps in this way Lydia came into contact with the Jews religion, and through her business association she become a proselyte of Judaism.
This die was said to be very costly, and precious. From the information in our text, Lydia was probably a wealthy business woman. This was evident seeing she was a sales representative, doing trade in a foreign land. She was also able to house and accommodate Paul and his companions.
I’m only glad that Lydia wasn’t a member of our church, aren’t you?! Everything in the place would be purple! Purple carpet, purple seat covers, purple flowers. And just think if we had choir robes! We would be decked in purple décor. Well, I think I’m only kidding.
3) Thirdly, she was from Thyatira in Asia Minor where Paul earlier was forbidden to go! The first convert in Europe under Paul’s ministry was an Asian! That’s just like the Lord!
Thyatira was known for its die making and other industries. It is said that Archeologists in recent times have found inscriptions in stone that were made by members of die making guilds, which prove the Biblical authenticity of Lydia’s occupation. When and where the facts of history are uncovered, the Bible is always proved to be true and accurate. In all matters of history and truth let us always trust the Bible and not heathen historians, and anthropologists, and geologists, and paleontologists, and all the other “ologists”. Let God be true and every man a liar!
4) Fourthly, Lydia worshipped God. She was not saved prior to this time, but she was a proselyte to Judaism as opposed to being a pagan. Yet, although she worshipped the God of the Bible and not heathen idols, she still needed Jesus Christ. She still needed to hear the Gospel. Her association with Judaism only put her in the right place at the right time to hear the Gospel preached by Paul.
5) Fifthly, I believe Lydia was a sincere and conscientious person. This is the way Paul was before his conversion. Paul was wrong in his worship, but he was sincerely wrong. But when he was made right by repentance and faith in the Gospel, he was sincerely right! He faithfully took his place and made his stand. He ran his race and fought his fight, and he was faithful unto death! I believe Lydia was also sincere, and that is why she abandoned her native paganism for the only true God of Heaven. Yet, notwithstanding, she still needed Christ and His Gospel to be saved.
6) Sixthly, she heard Paul and his companions speak the Word of God. How important is it for people hear the Word of God, especially the Gospel! If they don’t hear, or they won’t hear, or they can’t hear, then they won’t be saved! Hearing the Word of God is eternally vital and essential to lost sinners if they are ever to be saved!
7) Seventhly, the Lord opened Lydia’s heart. We could preach a whole sermon on this thought alone! We can preach to the lost from now until the Lord comes, but unless He opens their hearts they will never receive and believe the Gospel. Beloved, God’s grace and the work of His Spirit always precede repentance and saving faith.
I want to just read some of the verses in the Bible that confirm this truth:
Ps 110:3 Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.
Isa 50:5 The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.
Lu 24:45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
John 6:44-45 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.
1Cor. 3:6-7 I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.
2Co 4:6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Phil. 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
Job 23:16 For God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me:
Pr 16:1 The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD.
The question is tonight, has the Lord opened your heart to hear and to receive the Gospel of Jesus and be saved?
8) Eighthly, Lydia attended the Word that Paul preached. This means that she listened intently. She listened intently to Paul as he preached about her need for repentance. She listened intently while He preached on her need for faith in Jesus Christ and His work on the cross for her sins, She listened intently about the importance of baptism, and serving the Lord in His New Testament Church.
9) Ninthly, she was baptized after she confessed faith in Christ (v. 15). She not only listened and believed the Word, but she obeyed the Word of God! How important is the obedience of the professing believer? It is immensely important to our Christian service for the rest of our earthly lives. But we must stress that baptism and church membership is only for those who are truly saved by grace through faith in Jesus and His work on Calvary.
We see that not only was Lydia saved, but the Lord saved all that were in her household. Here is an example of household salvation. We will see another such example when we preach on the Philippian jailor later on in this chapter. But beloved, often times the Lord is pleased to saved whole households. I personally must praise God and thank Him for saving all of my household.
10) Tenthly, Lydia lodged, cared, and provided for Paul and his companions. This is good evidence of one’s true conversion, that they love the people of God. Immediately after her conversion, Lydia showed forth the fruits of true conversion by her love and good works toward the messengers of God.
The best evidence of conversion in anyone’s life is their love for the Lord and for the brethren, and for all the things of God. Jesus said that we will know them by their fruits. In genuine salvation the saved sinner immediately begins to hate the sinful things they once loved, and to love the holy things they once hated. But always the fruit of the Spirit is love. The new convert doesn’t know much about the Bible and all of the glorious truths contained therein, but they do know the love of God.
This ought to be a reminder to older Christians. We are prone to leave our first love, as did the church of Ephesus. But as we began the Christian life in God’s love, may we continue in that love.
Perhaps you are a Lydia this evening! Perhaps the Lord has opened your heart to attend the things spoken from the Word of God this evening! Perhaps you have repented and believed the blessed Gospel of Jesus for the remission of your sins and have received the gift of eternal life. Perhaps you now want to follow the Lord in Scriptural baptism, and service in His Church.
Follow now as the Holy Spirit leads you.