ACTS – CHAPTER 16 - The Church at Philippi


May 24, 2022, the Year of Our Lord

Pastor Carolyn Sissom


This chapter is power-packed.  There are at least eight sermons in this chapter alone.  Only the Holy Spirit can enable me to teach it in one hour.


Acts 16:1-5:  Then he came to Derbe and Lystra.  Behold a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek.  He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium.  Paul wanted to have him go on with him.  He took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek. As they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem.  So, the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.


Barnabas returned to Cyprus and Paul with Silas goes north to visit the churches of northern Syria and Cilicia.  They were the ones named in the official letter from Jerusalem.  Lystra was where Paul was stoned and left for dead.  It is considered that Timothy would have been one of the disciples who prayed for Paul and helped him to get back into the city.  We see Paul in his role as spiritual father to Timothy.  His affection is clearly stated in 1 & 2 Timothy:


To Timothy, a true son in the faith; To Timothy, a beloved son.  The young Timothy was well spoken of by the brethren.  Paul has a letter in his pocket freeing Gentiles believers from the Jewish rite of circumcision.  Yet, Paul found it necessary to circumcise Timothy.  The only clue we have to this decision is verse 3: He took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek.  Appeasement?  Expediency?  Avoid giving offense? Timothy’s choice?  After the hard-fought battle in Jerusalem, we have to accept the scriptures as written.  However, in the case of Titus who was a Greek, Paul did not require circumcision.


In his letter to the Galatians, he forbids Gentile circumcision.


Gal. 5:6:  For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. 


Gal. 5:11-13: And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution?  Then the offense of the cross has ceased.  I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off!  For you, brethren, have been called to liberty, only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 


1 Cor. 7:19:  Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.


Ten years have passed.  The churches of Asia Minor founded on Paul and Barnabas’ first missionary journey are now established and flourishing.  Phase 3 of the Great Commission is well underway. 


16: 6-10:  When they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy spirit to preach the word in Asia (Turkey).  After they had gone to Mysia (Turkey), they tried to go into Bithynia (Turkey), but the Spirit did not permit them.  So, passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas (Turkey).  A vision appeared to Paul in the night.  A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”  After he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.


Two divine interventions by the Holy Spirit in verses 6 and 7. 


In 1 Peter 1:1-2, these areas that were forbidden to preach in were later visited and are called “the elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.”


To the pilgrims of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, elected according to the foreknowledge of the God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.  Grace to you and peace be multiplied.


The missionaries were being sent by the Holy Spirit on a divine timetable to Europe.  At Troas, a coastal port, they receive their call by vision and visitation to Macedonia.  This is the first “we” mentioned by Luke in Acts.  This makes it evident that Dr. Luke joined the party.


The Macedonian call is to establish a church at Philippi.  I can only approach this with wonder!  Once when I was pastoring, the Lord spoke to me that He wanted a church like the one at Philippi.  As you would guess, I studied Philippians and taught it.  Over many years, I see clearer the extraordinary call to Philippi.  When they answered the call, they were slighted, and overlooked.  Their ministry was to a group of women praying down by the riverside.  Their first convert was a woman.  They were harassed by a demon spirit.  They were beaten with rods; locked in an inner prison; then honored.  When they left town, there was no visible fruit of their labors.  Yet the church at Philippi became eminent, the people were generous, gave Paul joy, were filled with the fruits of righteousness; and were obedient.  Paul calls them His beloved and longed for brethren; my joy and my crown. 


Phil. 4: 15-18:  You Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving, but you only.  For even in Thessalonica, you sent aid once and again for my necessities.  Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.  Indeed, I have all and abound.  I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.


Matthew Henry says, “Let not ministers be discouraged, though they do not see the fruit of their labors presently and the seed sown seems to be lost, under the clods, but it shall come up again in a plentiful harvest.”


Lev. 19: 23-25:  When you come into the land, and have planted all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count their fruit as uncircumcised.  Three years it shall be as uncircumcised to you.  It shall not be eaten.  But in the fourth year, all its fruit shall be holy, a praise to the LORD.  In the fifth year, you may eat its fruit, that it may yield to you, its increase.  I am the LORD your God.


Rich Joyner addresses this in a prophetic bulleting I read in 2000, “Church planting takes about five years to begin to bear fruit that can be used.”  The church at Philippi became rooted and planted in love for a people and a place.    


16: 11-15:  Sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day to Neapolis, from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony.  We were staying in that city for some days.  On the Sabbath day, we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there.  Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us.  She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God.  The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.  When she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.”  So, she persuaded us.


In 2021, on Mother’s Day, I honored Diana Terlep as a “Lydia” to the body of Eastgate Church.  She urged us to come to her house to stay and so she persuaded us.  We are happy and blessed to have our own place and be so well cared for.


Just as the church at Philippi was birthed through miracles of God, so have we been birthed. 


Lydia was a businesswoman, a “seller of purple,” and probably one of the most successful and influential women of Philippi.  But more than that, she was a seeker after truth, thus a seeker after God. She became Europe’s first convert.


Through the close to eleven years, I have known Diana Terlep, I have come to respect her as not only as a woman whose heart is to seek the Lord, but I am now witnessing her business skills to organize and administrate the construction of our new church building in complete harmony with her husband, Tom Terlep, contractor and engineer.


The LORD opened her heart to heed things spoken by Paul.  God’s servants speak, but it is the Holy Spirit who bears witness.  The first organized missionary effort in Europe began with the winning of a woman to Christ.


It seems the Lord’s charge to me that He wanted a church like the one at Philippi has found its home in the cradle of the arms of another woman with the spirit and heart of Lydia. 


16:16-19:  It happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling.  This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most-High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.”  This she did for many days.  But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.”  And he came out that very hour.  But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.


The slave girl was possessed by a divining spirit.  The Greek word is “spirit of python or Apollo, son of Zeus, Demon of light and purity; could reveal future, skilled with bow and lyre, poetry and music.”  Note:  The demon spoke the truth: “These men are the servants of the Most-High God, which show unto us the way of salvation.”  The evil purpose here was to discredit the message of the apostles by making the people think they were in league with demon spirits.  the people would conclude they were doing miracles by the devil and so discount the gospel.  When the demon was cast out in the name of Jesus, it proved they were of God and not of demons. 


Paul went on the offensive, commanded it to come out and it did!


The devil retaliated with angery men.  He always uses men and women.  They were no longer attending obscure prayer meetings.  They triggered the wrath of Hell. 


16:20-21:  They brought them to the magistrates, and said, “these men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city, and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans to receive or observe.”


The charge brought against the apostles was they were Jews not that they were Christians.  Romans were very zealous for their national worship.  On this account, Jews were banished from Rome.


16:22-24: Then the multitude rose up together against them, and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods.  When they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely.  Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.


The beating would be what Paul described in 2 Cor. 11:23:  In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.  Jews gave only 39 stripes; but Romans gave as many as they chose.  The jailer threw them into an inner cell.  But this jailer is going to be the third person in Philippi to be saved by the power of Christ. 


16: 25-28:  At midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.  Suddenly, there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.  The keeper of the prison, awakening from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself.  Paul called with a loud voice, saying “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”


The power of praise in the midst of adversity is a weapon of warfare.  God answered their prayers by sending a great earthquake.  A very great miracle!  Our God is an Awesome God!  To the Philippians, Paul wrote his testimony 4:5:  Rejoice in the Lord always, Again I will say rejoice.  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.


The jailer is humiliated, but Paul intervened.


16:29-30:  Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.  He brought them out and said, “sirs, what must I do to be saved?”


This is the faith that will surrender all to God.  However, it came through the fear of God.


16: 31-34:  They said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”  They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.  He took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes.  Immediately, he and all his family were baptized.  When he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.


Note the promise: “You and your household.”  This, Christian is your promise to apprehend for all of your lost loved ones.  I believe all Christians can claim this promise.  The Lord has blessed me that all my family is saved and those who have gone on before me have also been saved.  It is a promise to all who will believe.


16: 35-40: When it was day, the magistrates sent the officers, saying, “Let those men go.”  The keeper of the prison reported these words to Paul, saying, “the magistrates have sent to let you go.  Now, therefore, depart, and go in peace.”  Paul said to them, “they have beat us openly, un-condemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison.  Now do they put us out secretly?  No indeed!  Let them come themselves and get us out.” The officers told these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans.  Then they came and pleaded with them and brought them out, and asked them to depart from the city.  So, they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.


Paul stood not as a victim, but as a victor.  Thrown out of town Yes! But as an honorable Man-of-God whose God answered him in an earthquake.  It is a point of justice that Paul makes his stand.


We should all stand for justice and demand it.  It is good that justice here cause the mean magistrates to be afraid and be brought to plead with them.


This was an extraordinary call in the midst of an extraordinary book with extraordinary fruit from the Church at Philipp which would have been started by Lydia.


Phil 1:3-6:  I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing; that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. 


Carolyn Sissom, Pastor

Eastgate Ministries Church

Scripture from N.K.J.V. – I entered into the labors of Matthew Henry’s Commentary; F. F. Bruce Bible Commentary and C. S. Lovett’s Lights on Acts; Carolyn Sissom teaching notes from May 14, 2000. 

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