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Introducing the Church in Philippi

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
April 29, 2024 12:00 am

Introducing the Church in Philippi

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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April 29, 2024 12:00 am

What happens when God's path seems blocked and his "no" becomes a "go"? In this captivating episode, we explore the unlikely beginnings of the first church in Europe. Join us as we travel to ancient Philippi and meet a wealthy businesswoman, a demon-possessed slave girl, and even a hardened jailer. Discover how the gospel of Jesus Christ transcends societal divides, heals the broken, and sparks a spiritual revolution that would eventually transform a continent.


Lydia was wealthy.

This young lady had been a penniless slave and the jailer was a member of the middle class. So you have representing the top and the bottom and the middle of their society. Think about the fact that as God establishes this church, the entire empire is represented by these three people. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the unifying principle that binds a church together. Not that we are like each other, but that we share a life in Christ. Have you ever wondered why some churches thrive while others fail? Today we journey back to uncover the secrets of one of the earliest churches in Europe. Think about some people with seemingly nothing in common.

A wealthy businessman, a troubled young slave girl, a hardened prison guard. Imagine them finding a place to belong together. Their story reveals the power of God's love to break down barriers and build a community of faith unlike any other. Stephen Davey examines the birth of the church in Philippi today on Wisdom for the Heart.

Get ready for some surprising lessons. Can't help but think of the fact that the church is a living demonstration of a unifying, forgiving, redeeming gospel of Christ who takes different people and puts us together in love. This body of believers in Philippi is going to become a model church for many reasons we're going to uncover together. It's little wonder why they'll be one of Paul's favorite churches in the years to come.

I got to tell you, when it first started out, it didn't seem to even have much of a chance to get off the ground. Let me show you why. Go back in your Bibles to Acts chapter 16. That's where we'll spend the balance of our time preparing our perspectives for this letter. Acts chapter 16 is the delivery room where the church at Philippi will be birthed. Keep in mind the church is people. It's not a steeple. If you have a steeple, terrific, but the church is a living body, an assembly of redeemed sinners committed to following Jesus Christ who find their common life in him and common desire to fulfill his commission.

So the spotlight isn't on a building project. It's on the spiritual birth of the first believers. In fact, this chapter is going to give us the testimony of the first three people, one to faith in Christ in Europe in the town of Philippi who no doubt became a part of this early church. The first person mentioned is a woman named Lydia. Look down at verse 11.

We'll sort of jump ahead here as they're setting sail now. From Troas, he says, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace and the following day to Neopolis. And from there to Philippi, walking several miles to get there. It's the leading city, Luke adds here in this account, of the district of Macedonia and it was a Roman colony. Now, tuck that away because that'll matter as you get into the book of Philippians.

And this is where Paul runs into his first problem. There's no synagogue here. There's no consecrated space here in a town of well over 15,000 people. So what this means then, you would think that there aren't at least 10 Jewish men in this city. Probably, no, that isn't true.

I wouldn't imagine. What is more likely is that this means there are not at least 10 men of Jewish origin following God in this city who care enough about their heritage to establish a place of worship. This is the kind of city they have arrived in. So after a few days of searching around, they can't find a synagogue, they're told about a prayer meeting that's held by Jewish people down at the river.

And that's what happens next. Look at verse 12. The latter part, we remained in the city several days and on the Sabbath day, we went outside the gate to the riverside where we supposed, that is we were told, there was a place of prayer and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together.

And I get that, not one Jewish man involved. So you've got this lady's Bible study down at the riverbank. I don't know, they're doing an inductive study through the book of Exodus, maybe the minor prophets.

They're studying the law, they're coming up with more questions than answers. Imagine, here comes a former Pharisee, a man who knew and defended the law of God but had been redeemed, now a teacher, preacher, missionary who just comes down to the riverbank with Silas and says, hey ladies, do you mind if we sit in with you and maybe I can fill in some blanks. Verse 14, one who heard us was a woman named Lydia from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods who was a worshiper of God. Here's an Asian who's interested in the God of Israel which is really remarkable given what we're just told here by Luke.

He writes that she had a license to sell goods and not just any kind of goods but highly expensive goods, purple fabrics. Here she is with a group of Jewish women. We're told a follower of God, she's denied the polytheism of her culture and she says, you know, this God of Israel, he's real but I don't have all the questions answered. Verse 14, we're told that God opened her heart to believe the grace of God apparent in her life. Some time later, evidently not right away because by now she's got her staff, servants, family members perhaps involved. Verse 15, after she was baptized in her household as well, she urged us saying, if you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay and she prevailed upon us.

She's not the kind of woman you say no to. I can tell you as a church player how significant a place to stay is. We have a student here at Shepherd Seminary right now, he's living in the back apartment off a house owned by a widow who's letting him stay there for a nickel and he's living, he's from India.

Came here by faith to start school, didn't know anybody or anything. Just finished his first year, this past year, he's cramming a three-year indiv program into two years. He's just going at it full-time, married. He went back this summer for the first time in a year to see his wife and also to see his newborn baby girl who is now 10 months old. Doesn't have money and India's not a short hop, skip and a jump away and we don't have anybody in the church that we know of that owns a Boeing 747. If you do, he wants to meet you and pray for you and adopt you actually into his family.

He sent me a picture recently of his reunion with them in the airport just this past week. He's going to graduate this coming spring and he's going to leave that widow and her hospitality and go back to India where he's going to be the president of a Bible college and seminary that his father started a few years ago. In the meantime, there's this gracious woman who has said, my home is yours. I find it fascinating that the first church in Europe was strategically impacted by someone who understood the connection between God giving them much and that being used for the Gospel. In fact, think about it this way, the man in Paul's vision turns out to be a woman who says, my home is yours.

There's another charter, remember I got to have you meet. We got to move quicker here but look at verse 16. He says, as we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune telling. Now the word here translated divination comes from the Greek word puthon which is transliterated as transliterary gives us the word python, the serpent. This was a cultic, demonically empowered fortune telling. Now how do we know that these were fallen demons and not good angels? Well because of the word of God, God's word expressly forbids divination, attempting to tell the future or contacting the dead, Deuteronomy chapter 18. And God forbids it by the way not because it's all hocus pocus and you know smoke and mirrors but because it is legitimately connected to the underworld, the demonic world that wants nothing more than to divert and distract people away from God's revealed word. The simplicity of the gospel, a walk of faith, trusting God, not knowing the future.

Now these individuals won't deny the wisdom of God's word necessarily but they'll open the minds of people to the possibility of something being better than God's word which is very dangerous. They don't know the future so to speak but listen, demons know the nickname of your great uncle. They were around when he lived. They know what your mother said to you right before she died. They know your deceased brother's favorite baseball team. In fact they know you're going to be hired by that company.

Not because they know the future but because one of them listened in at HR two states away and they know the letters in the mail. They have a global network of communication that would boggle our imaginations and they relay it into impressionable and pliable and fallen demonically inspired minds who are in tune with that fallen spirit world to communicate and feed to people who are vulnerable. These conduits of communication are connected to a demonic world and I say all that very quickly just to say don't play with it. Don't mess with it. Don't get near it.

Don't even joke about that fortune cookie you'll open. Don't watch TV shows where necromancers are connecting people with the dead, giving them information. Not because it isn't true but because it might be true or it might come true and you'll soon face a temptation and distraction from waiting on God and studying his word and relying on his spirit like never before.

And the world at large of course panders after it because it's fast and quick and perhaps because some of it is true. It isn't long then before the occultic practices of Philippi begin to harass Paul and Silas. Here's this temple servant girl. She's made money, the text says, for her owners. That imperfect tense means she's actually bringing them a steady stream of revenue.

And would you notice she's telling the truth? Look at verse 17. She followed Paul and us crying out literally screaming these men are servants of the most high God who proclaim to you the way of salvation.

It's the truth. But she was the wrong person to be doing the advertising campaign. In fact she is discrediting the gospel by her connection with it. She's demonically inspired, belongs to a pagan temple and she's advertising for Paul. Not a good idea. Let me give you an illustration. You might watch some heavyweight boxer who finishes pummeling his opponent into unconsciousness and then as they cart the man off on a stretcher to the hospital he stands there before the microphone and an announcer with blood on his gloves and the first thing he says is, I just want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

For what? I just assume you leave Jesus out of there. So this demonized girl, even though she's telling the truth, is discrediting the gospel.

She's the wrong person to advertise. They're going to connect it to the demonic spirit world because of her. Paul and Silas just can't shake her off. Finally after several noisy days Paul, verse 18, turns and says to the spirit, I command you in the name of Jesus Christ, exit, exit her, come out of her. And it came out that very hour the church in Philippi just doubled its attendance.

One more to disciple. Two women. It couldn't be any different, did they? Both of them rescued from the kingdom of darkness. One didn't really look like she needed it and one really did look like she needed it.

Both did. Lydia is Asian. This girl is Greek. Lydia was in control of her, is in control of her business enterprise. This slave girl is enslaved to an enterprise. Lydia is cultured and refined. This young girl is going to have to be taught the very basics of life. Lydia has been living the dream.

This girl has been living a nightmare. Lydia was known by name and had all the right connections. This girl had all the wrong connections. But listen, the liberating gospel of Christ rescued them both.

Don't miss this. They both needed it the same. They both were going to hell.

One of them just had better manners and nicer clothes. Now this second rescue makes headlines. The next paragraph is going to set the scene for the third person to effectively join the church in Philippi, become part of this growing body of believers. You're familiar with the narrative, but I'm going to make you look at it again and pick up on the attitude of what will come out in the Philippian letter. Look at verse 19. When her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, that's the issue by the way.

That's the issue. They seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers, the magistrates. Notice they had two accusations. Number one, these men are Jews and they're disturbing the city.

Did you see where they started? These men are Jews. Evidently there were Jewish men who were keeping their heritage to themselves. The second accusation, not only are they Jews upsetting our city, they advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice. That's a nice way of saying they don't follow our customs.

They don't believe the same stuff we do. You would never imagine Paul and Silas, now they're going to be deep, literally in the inner recesses of the prison. You'd never imagine Paul saying to Silas, man, is this great or what?

Church planting, I love it. You would never imagine Paul and Silas thinking that their next conversion to Christ was somehow related to the management of this prison. We often rush to the earthquake that releases them. We overlook how hardened this jailer, this prison warden was. Look a little closer. Verse 23, 24, we're told that he was supposed to keep them safely. Now we're told that he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. He's not afraid they're going to escape. He's interested in torturing them.

We have to understand that this word for stocks is not like our idea of stocks that you see in Williamsburg when you go and visit. You put your head and your hands through a wooden block and it lowers down on top of you or maybe your feet in little holes. That isn't this instrument. This is an instrument of Roman torture. It was a long block of wood on the ground, a beam.

There were all these different holes along that beam. What they would do is they would take the inmate or the prisoner and they would stretch their legs as far apart as possible until their tendons tore. Then they'd lock their feet in that position. On top of that, to lie down with open wounds on their backs bleeding would have added to their excruciating pain. He locks those stocks down and he leaves.

What do you do now? The next verse tells us that around midnight Paul and Silas are praying. We can understand that one. Singing, we can't understand that one. The prisoners were told were listening to them.

I'll bet they were. You don't sing with open wounds in stocks in a prison at midnight. See, Paul is by the strength of Christ demonstrating what he will write to them ten years later in this little letter where he will say to them now they are facing poverty and persecution. He will say, listen, rejoice in the Lord, not in your circumstances, in the Lord always.

Say it with me, again I say rejoice. An earthquake interrupts the third stanza. We've got to hurry but all the stocks, the chains come open which is not just gravity at work but these stocks are unlocked and lifted up. The jailer awakens, verse 27, and when he saw that the prison doors were opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself. Why? Because he's a dead man. The Roman code of Justinian declared that if a jailer allowed a criminal to escape under his care, he would be given that criminal sentence. Evidently there are some men in that prison on death row, maybe even Paul and Silas. If they escape, he's going to be tortured and killed.

It'll be easier to just take care of it now. Paul interrupts him in verse 28 with a rather shocking news that none of them have left. They're all there. Now what was so remarkable about that, I think our Sunday school picture is that the chains have just fallen off and the jailer runs in and instead of running they stand there. That's not what this text is telling us.

Let's kind of refashion our thinking. Keep in mind that he has no doubt heard them preaching earlier but he has not been listening to their midnight concert. He's not been in his bed growing under conviction as he hears them singing their duets.

That might preach but that's not what's happening. We know he wasn't listening, lying in his bed because of verse 27. It informs us that he awoke when? After the earthquake. After all of the bonds had long since been released. In fact, we're not even told how long after the earthquake before he awoke. It's actually possible to understand from this text that some time had elapsed between the prisoners being freed and the doors open and the jailer awakening.

His alarm might have gone off for all we know. And he comes to the prison and he sees all the doors opened. It may very well be that Paul and Silas have all those criminals and they're in one room and instead of running the Spirit of God has arrested them because that's the only thing that would keep these guys from not running.

And this blows his mind. He's heard enough of these men to know who they represent. He's probably heard this demonic girl chasing them around.

He might have even heard of wealthy Lydia but it isn't natural for him to be able to put prisoners back in their cells. The Gospel was supernatural. And he falls and he says to these missionary church planters, what must I do to be like these men? To be saved?

Believe, place your faith in, trust in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved. You and your household implied in that those among your household who also believe. In fact verse 32 informs us that his entire household heard the Gospel and believed as well. Well the magistrates come along that next day and ask Paul and Silas to leave town. Paul demands an apology not because he's miffed or upset but because he wants to protect this young church from any repercussions and he announces to them he's actually a Roman citizen and that scares them. So having protected this young body of believers he and the other men move on. Now, that's all introduction. Paul writes this congregation ten years later a letter.

Now I want you to imagine with me sitting in that congregation, perhaps as a fashionable business woman, sitting somewhere in there as a former demon possessed girl, a young lady now, and there's this prison warden with his family and probably some inmates who are out on release programs so they can worship along as we have here in our church periodically taking place. These first three charter members represent three different nationalities. Asiatic, Greek, and Roman.

That's the Gospel. They are from three different levels of society. Lydia was wealthy. This young lady had been a penniless slave and the jailer was a member of the middle class.

He was blue collar. So you have representing the top and the bottom and the middle of their society. Think about the fact that as God establishes this church, the entire empire is represented by these three people.

Do you think that's a coincidence? Not on your life. Not on your life. This is a demonstration of the Gospel. There is no one too high to reach. There's no one too low to rescue. Everyone in the middle is after all a part of the Gospel invitation.

We can cross over the railroad tracks, and we ought to. It breaks through ethnicities. This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the unifying, transforming principle that binds a church together. Not that we are like each other, but that we share a life in Christ. Some of you are very different from me and I know you're glad about that.

It's a good thing. You are different from each other. You come from all walks of life. This is the principle of the Gospel that binds a family together where the ground is level and grace binds our hearts together. And to our Lord, who is the Chief Shepherd of the Church. The fact that the Gospel bound this diverse group of people together in unity is the principle that must be at work in our lives and in our churches today. God wants to use you as an agent of love and unity in your church. Allow Him to work in you toward that end.

I'm so glad you joined us. This is Wisdom for the Heart. With today's lesson, Stephen begins a series entitled, To the Citizens of Heaven. Stephen's called the lesson you just heard, Introducing the Church in Philippi. I want to make you aware of a resource that goes hand in hand with your study of the book of Philippians. Stephen has a book in his popular Wisdom commentary series, the book entitled, Philippians. If you'd like to dive deeper into your study through this book, this is a great resource.

Please don't let the word commentary intimidate you. This is a practical and pastoral look at this important book. It's based on Stephen's preaching ministry. There have been Bible study groups in many churches across America that have used Stephen's commentaries as the resource for their group Bible studies. This book on Philippians would be a wonderful group study as well. It's our featured resource during this current series. It's available today at over 60% off and we'd like to give you information on how you can get a copy. Please give us a call today at 866-48-BIBLE.

The number once again is 866-482-4253. We'd be happy to talk with you and give you information on how you can get this featured resource entitled, Philippians. In addition to being the president of our ministry, Wisdom International, Stephen is also the president of Shepherds Theological Seminary. Shepherds is a fully accredited graduate school that trains pastors and other church leaders for service in the church. If you or someone you know is interested in pursuing pastoral ministry or wanting to pursue graduate level theological training you can learn more at forward slash STS. Join us again next time for more wisdom for the heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-04-29 00:09:07 / 2024-04-29 00:18:38 / 10

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