The Impact of Following God’s Direction
Acts 15:36-16:15 – February 12, 2023
Acts 15:36. Think back to when you initially became a Christian and how important it was to have someone or some group who would encourage you and help you strengthen your faith walk.
Acts 15:37-41. John Mark had left the missionary effort as noted in Acts 13:13 returning to Jerusalem. We are not told why and there are all kinds of theories put out by commentaries. Key though is that Paul was disappointed by his leaving the missionary team and did not want him on the team again.
Acts 16:1-2. Silas came with Paul. It is estimated it was 4-5 years since Paul’s last trip to these cities. Lystra was where Paul and Barnabas were initially treated as Gods and then later Paul was stoned until believed dead and dragged outside the city walls.
Acts 16:3-5. Paul was impressed with Timothy and wanted him on his missionary team. Timothy accepted and was circumcised by Paul. Are you surprised by this? I was. Then I realized they were going to a number of Jewish communities and synagogues where Gentiles (the uncircumcised) were not welcome. Thus, Timothy was not circumcised for his salvation, but to make it easier for him to minister to the Jews. However, Timothy was considered a Jews as his mother was a Jew, but being uncircumcised he was considered to be an apostate Jew.
Acts 16:6-8. After strengthening the churches in the region, Paul sought to go next to the south-west, towards the important city of Ephesus. Yet, Paul was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to go there. At least he was at this time.
Also note that Asia doesn’t mean the Far East as we know it today. Instead here, it is the Roman Province of Asia Minor, which is modern day Turkey. Next Paul wanted his team to enter Bithynia but now the Spirit of Jesus would not permit it. So he and his team ended up on Troas. This was not Paul’s first choice or even his second choice, but it was where God wanted him.
Acts 16:9-10. In this vision God made it clear it was to Macedonia that Paul was to go. Thus Paul and his team head to Europe, the first ever entry into Europe by a missionary team carrying the word of the Gospel of Christ. The man in the vision was asking for help and help came in the form of the Gospel of Christ.
Acts 16:11-12. They ‘sailed straight for Samothrace’ is telling as this is a nautical expression that means the wind was at their backs. Thus they were able to sail 156 miles in just two days, but on the return trip at a later time (Acts 20:6) it took five days.
In the plains west of Philippi is where the armies of Mark Antony and Octavian defeated Brutus and Cassius, the assassins of Julius Caesar, in the decisive battle (200,00 men) of the second Roman civil war in 42 B.C.
Acts 16:13-15. Knowing the Jews of Philippi had no synagogue and met by the river means that there were not many Jewish men in Philippi, certainly not ten Jewish men as that would have met the minimum requirement to establish a synagogue. The number of women would not matter as the requirement was for ten men.
Lydia was a seller of purple cloth, a valued, luxurious product. The dyes used for making purple were expensive and highly regarded. This woman was the first convert in Europe.
She was a worshipper of God and likely a proselyte to the Jewish faith, so she responded when The Lord opened her heart to what Paul and his team were preaching … the Gospel, repentance of sins, and baptism as a witness of their faith. She may have been the first convert to Christianity in Europe. Her household, family and servants, followed her example.
Where was she from?
Thyatira: one of the seven churches mentioned in Revelation 1:11. Then in Revelation 2:18-28, Jesus tells John,
18 “To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
All of this in Revelation from Paul and his team’s meetings with Lydia from Thyatira.
Bottom Line: What have we learned here in chapter 16? One’s outreach can far exceed any expectations we might have. I’m sure Paul had no idea his success in Philippi would result with Thyatira being one of the seven churches addressed by Jesus in Revelation. Nor do we know what impact any of our outreach efforts will have. The key is to always be reaching out with the message of the Gospel.