“Full o’ Philippi”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Through the Written Word,
And the spoken word,
May we know Your Living Word,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I want to start this morning by asking you to turn, in your Bibles, or maybe in the Pew Bibles, to the New Testament history book called Acts, chapter 16 (that’s on page 784 in the Pew Bibles) – that’s actually not the real name of this book, it’s really called (what?) something more like “The Acts of Jesus Christ after His death and resurrection through the work and words of His Apostles”.
The opening line goes like this: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” (A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens) No, wait: “It was a dark and stormy night.” (A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle) First lines are sometimes unforgettable, right?
Acts starts like this: “In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day He was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the Apostles He had chosen.” Too long for a NY Times Best Seller, right? But did you hear that?
Luke, the author, makes immediate reference to the Gospel According to Luke, and summarizes that book by saying it is about what “Jesus began to do and teach ….”
The implication, it seems, is that this sequel is about “all that Jesus continues to do and teach through the Holy Spirit and the works and words of the Apostles He had chosen.” (Although, frankly, anyone who has ever read this book knows that it’s really about what the Apostle Peter does and teaches, and then what the new Apostle of Jesus Christ named Paul does and teaches.)
Chapter 16 is a story about Paul.
Your bulletins say Acts 16:6-40, which gives the whole context, but just so you know, I’m going to concentrate on the verses that tell about Paul and Silas’ imprisonment in the Roman city of Philippi. Listen carefully, follow along, because after the reading I’m going to ask some questions, non-rhetorical questions. Are you ready? Acts 16:6-40 …. —-
6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.
19 When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”
22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.
35 When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” 36 The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.”
37 But Paul said to the officers: “They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.”
38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. 39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. 40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.
That was a longer reading than we normally do, but I wanted you to hear the whole Philippian encounter – from why/how Paul went to Philippi all the way to the end of their visit there.
So, here’s where we all get to share some insights or ask some questions as a part of our group encounter with the Gospel message. I will ask some specific questions, and then I’ll follow up with some open-ended questions.
- Where does this story take place, in what city? [Philippi]
- What else do we know about this city, Philippi? [Paul wrote an Epistle to the Church here – long after his visit, while he was a prisoner in Rome.]
- Why does Paul and Silas and their team go to Philippi? [The Holy Spirit, the Lord, blocks their path to “Asia” and “Bithynia”, and then by a vision/dream a man pleads for them, they went to Macedonia, where Philippi is located.]
- Name one key thing that happens in Philippi:
- [At the river they met a group of women, and the first recorded European convert/baptism happens – Lydia, and her whole family; Lydia is from Thyatira, a city in the province Paul was forbidden by God to go to. That makes me wonder if, in fact, the Asian person he was supposed to meet was Lydia all along, and had he gone to Mysia (right near Thyatira), they would have missed their divine appointment….
- There seems to be a lot of description about the “place of prayer”.
- Also, Paul and Silas are arrested and thrown in prison – notice the photo on the front of today’s bulletin (Victor Avery, from Louisiana, and me) – What happens to them in prison?
- They worship – sing and pray – why? – because even in suffering, even under dire circumstances, even when life might seem unbearable/impossible, they know that they are under God’s watchful eye, and that God is good, all the time (all the time, God is good).
- What does their worship lead to?
- Their potential freedom (their chains fall off, the prison doors are opened)
- The second recorded European conversion/baptism – the jailer and his whole family!
- Their actual freedom is granted by the officials!
- Their chance to bear witness of Christ’s presence and power to the highest authorities when they declare their Roman citizenship!
- Back to Lydia’s house, where they “encouraged them”.]
So, allow me now to ask one (?) last question:
- What does this Bible story ask us to do?
- What is the Holy Spirit nudging you to do with this?
- In the blank spot at the bottom of your bulletin, write down how you apply this faith story to your own faith life.
Who wants to share?
This story from Acts 16 is our intro to the next few weeks of sermons from the New Testament Epistle from Paul to the Christian Community in the Pagan city of Philippi. May God bless us 21st Century Spokanites as we hear God’s Word together. Amen.
Morgan, G. Campbell; The Acts of the Apostles; Fleming H. Revell Co.; Old Tappan, NJ; 1924; Pp. 377-397.