The Acts of the Apostles
Introduction – This is a very exciting session because we begin Acts 16 we see launch of Paul’s second missionary journey. This will begin one of the most powerful seasons of the early church. From this point becomes the catalyst that starts a revival fire that consumes the Roman Empire in a span of about 40 years.
We will really begin to see how the operation of the apostolic gospel works, discover what that type expression looks like and how we can reproduce it. In Acts 16, we will pick up keys on how to interpret visions, deliver people from demons, endure persecution, heal the sick, and move in the power of love. Our time stamp at the beginning of Acts 16 is AD49.
a) As Paul and Silas began their second missionary journey strengthening the Churches that he had planted with Barnabas, we are introduced to Timothy who is from Lystra. Lystra had been a particularly hard place for Paul. Their revival began with a massive power demonstration when the lame man was healed at the city gates. Paul’s ministry in Lystra ended after he was stoned. It is important to see the contrast between that church that was birthed in power and persecution, to the current situation of peace as they arrive and meet Timothy.
b) Timothy (honored by God) was later to become a major force in serving the Church in Macedonia and he helped Paul for the entirety of his ministry. We have the letters of 1 & 2 Timothy that demonstrate Paul’s love for him, and belief in his destiny as a second generation apostle. Timothy eventually landed in Ephesus and served there most of his life. He was martyred in Ephesus at the age of 80 (AD97) when he attempted to preach the gospel at the annual feast of Diana. He was stoned to death for warning the people and urging them to leave the idolatry of the temple of Diana/Artemis.
c) Timothy is described as a disciple, an avid learner (Greek). His grandmother Louis and mother Eunice were observant Jews who taught him the Scriptures. Timothy had a good reputation as being godly. 2 Timothy 1:5
d) Technically Timothy was a Jew by birth. We can imply from the text that Lystra had less than 10 male Jews there because there is no synagogue and Timothy was not circumcised. The conditions there are similar to Philippi. There was no Rabbi to perform the sign of the Covenant. This is important to keep in mind as we move on.
a) Keep in mind that Paul is delivering the letter from the Council in Jerusalem to the Gentile churches in Galatia. We have what might be a contradiction because Paul circumcises Timothy.
b) It must be remembered that it was common knowledge that Timothy was considered Jewish by the community in that region, but uncircumcised and regarded as an unconfirmed son of the Old Covenant. Paul circumcises Timothy to legitimize and confirm him to the Jews of the region. Remember Paul is still recognized as a Rabbi/Teacher of the Scriptures. This was done not for the reason of salvation, but for the reason of confirming Timothy as a Jew so that he would have an effective ministry to the Jews in that region.
c) Verse 4 tells us that the churches were strengthened in faith and daily grew in numbers. The letter from the Council released freedom. Freedom from religious works is the best soil for faith to prosper and for churches to grow. We should expect church growth when we move away from religious works based systems of ministry and embrace an expression of freedom, love, honor and Holy Spirit led ministries. This is the soil that revival grows in.
a) We see the practical side of being led by the Holy Spirit as we do life with the Lord. Paul, Silas and Timothy were moving in the mandate of the Great Commission and willing to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom everywhere. However, as they sought to move out, doors were closed. By these doors closing, they were forced to wait on the strategy the Lord wanted to give them.
b) If we contrasted this event in the light of the whole history of the Christian Church, we would see the big picture here. Looking at the map of their second missionary journey, the places they were seeking to go were low impact areas as far as political position and population. The Lord had His eyes on the Roman Empire, and Rome in particular, the seat of the Beast and the Harlot; He wanted to conquer the most powerful empire that the world has ever seen by the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we move through Acts, we will see how in one generation the message of Jesus was spread through the entire Roman realm. This would have never happened if Paul had gone toward the sparsely populated regions of the Roman frontier. God is into great feats of transformation and high areas of high influence.
a) Notice the “we” in verse 10. Luke is the one telling this history of the early church, and we can conclude from the verse 10 that Luke joined Paul in Troas. Troas was an important port of commerce in the Roman Empire that linked the East to Western Europe. Luke shifted from the story based on interview, to a first person account. We covered the back story of Luke in our introduction to Acts so we will spend much time here re-telling his history. You can find his detailed history on my blog at the Refuge website. See Acts week 1.
b) Notice that the Holy Spirit led Paul by a vision. Greek – HORAMA – a sight divinely granted in an ecstasy or in a sleep, a vision – We should have an expectation that when we need an answer from the Lord, He would communicate to us in a night vision. This should be a common way of God communicating to us and is a normal part of our Christianity.
c) Let’s unpack the vision so that we will gain keys in understanding them. 1 – Man
from Macedonia was begging or appealing for them to come. God was giving them a target. The man represented the people of that region as whole. 2 – Come help us – Greek – BOĒTHEŌ – to help, succor, bring aid – The appeal was an invitation for them to give comfort and life through the gospel to a region. This is the first incursion of the gospel into Europe. Our message is life, peace and comfort to people because we are reconciling them to God. See 2 Corinthians 5:19 – namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 3 – Paul moved in faith and immediately obeyed the vision. Co-laboring with God is a relationship of hearing and responding. Lastly, I will point out that the first person they ministered to in Macedonia was a woman named Lydia and not a man. We cannot be a literalist when it comes to subjective experiences with the Holy Spirit. The nature of visions, and other supernatural encounters are interpreted symbolically.
a) Philippi (lover of horses) – Established in 350BC by Phillip of Macedon. It is located in modern Greece and the ruins of Philippi are preserved as a World Heritage site. This city was established as transfer place for gold that was mined in the area and at time of Paul’s visit, Philippi was still an important wealth transfer city. It was located on the Via Egnatia road. At this time, it boasted a huge agora (marketplace), coliseum, and good population of people. This was a very prosperous city, in fact today there are many Latin inscriptions in the ruins that testify to its wealth. This city became vastly Christianized by AD 160, and the early church father Polycarp wrote them a letter. In 343 the Christian community built a church dedicated to Paul. We have the wonderful letter to the Philippians from Paul who wrote that letter to their community.
a) We can conclude from the text that Philippi had a very small Jewish population because it had no synagogue. In that culture, if there was no synagogue, the people would pray by running water. I want to point out that the first fruits of the European Church were women of prayer who were mixed Jews and Gentiles who were seeking the One True God of Israel.
b) Lydia – “travail” – It is totally God to save the first person in Europe who boasts a name that means travail. Her name is fitting for a prayer warrior. Lydia is an important person. She is wealthy because she has a large house and sells purple cloth from Thyatira. She is a successful business woman who is blessed by God. Thyatira is mentioned in Revelation 2:18-29, and was a very wealthy city known for its fine, purple and indigo cloth, the covering of the rich and famous in that day.
c) Notice the ministry of the Holy Spirit in opening people’s hearts to the gospel. See John 6:44 – “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
a) Lydia is born again in faith and baptized. The text mentions her whole household. We can assume she was probably a divorced woman or a widow, and the household was probably consisted of children and servants. Not only is Lydia the first fruits of the European Church, she is the first baptized, and the first house church leader. See Acts 16:40.
Next week we will see a massive power encounter and spiritual warfare clash between the gospel of the kingdom and the forces of satan, and see them play out in the natural.