A Current Bible Study:
"Keeping Hope Alive"
Bible chapter could be described as "bittersweet." It illustrates both
the great pain and great beauty of the Christian life. On a personal note,
I have found it difficult to study and write about this. There is something
here for us, you and me, beloved, that our spiritual enemy definitely does
not want us to obtain in our understanding, or to attain in our living.
We will see Paul, the murderer, and Paul, the Great Apostle of Christ,
setting the example for our lives today.
are some things that set the scene for Acts 16. It was a "wild" time of
activity in the Apostolic Church:
admit, this is a long introduction. But it's important to see the ups and
downs of the Apostolic Church. If we ever wondered, now we can say for
sure, the Christian life is not always steady and easy. There are great
victories but also set-backs along the way to Heaven. In Acts 16 we will
ultimately see, through Paul and Silas, how to live and hold on when the
purposes of God must go beyond blessing us at that moment in time.
preached and Gentiles believe on Christ at Antioch
and Barnabas threatened by Jews and dignitaries and must flee Antioch
Iconium Paul and Barnabas do miracles of faith and preach the Gospel to
threatened with stoning by the unbelieving, they flee to Lystra
sees the faith of God in a lame man's eyes and commands him to get up and
the people at Lystra see the lame man walking around they misunderstand
and begin to worship Paul and Barnabas as pagan gods
Paul and Barnabas reject the people's attentions and persist with their
Gospel preaching and teaching, Paul is taken away by a mob and stoned
by the disciples later, apparently dead, "he rose up," and they travel
back to Antioch (Some preachers say God brought Paul back from the dead
at this time.)
Antioch the Church rejoices with Paul and Barnabas over the recent missionary
successes among the Gentiles
an argument arises within the Body over what rule of conduct the Jewish
church should impose on the new Gentile believers
great meeting is called at Jerusalem where Paul, Barnabas, Peter, and James
propose total equality and freedom for the Gentile believers while the
other faction advocates that they all be circumcised and keep the laws
of the Old Covenant
"freedom" faction wins out that day (As a Gentile believer, I praise the
Lord for that!)
Paul and Barnabas proceed to re-visit their mission circuit
and Silas, believing prophets from the Jerusalem Church accompany them
and Barnabas have a dispute along the way over a disciple named John Mark
questions his commitment to their mission and Barnabas defends him to the
point where Barnabas and John Mark continue on to Cypress alone and Paul
takes Silas and heads back to Lystra
Calling of Timothy to the Ministry
Acts 16 :1-3- "Then came he
Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there named Timotheus,
the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father
was a Greek: Which (Timothy) was well reported of by the brethren
that were at Lystra and Iconium. Him would Paul have to go forth with him;
and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters:
for they knew all that his father was a Greek."
Gentiles were now part of the Body of Christ along with the Jews who had
believed. In Timothy we see the first Gentile called by God, through His
Apostle, into the ministry. But why would Paul circumcise Timothy? The
Church had decided that a Gentile believer need NOT be circumcised in the
flesh to be saved. Well, there is something beautiful being revealed here
about the ministry. It requires extra commitments. Timothy could have raised
a fuss about this circumcision and technically, maybe, he could have gotten
out of it. But he listened to Paul, I believe, because he realized that
he was being sanctified (set apart) by the Lord for His work. O that we
all today, all believers, could see how God has separated us out from His creation. And that you and I, brother and sister, could remember to
set Him apart in our lives! If you are an unbeliever today, I challenge
you to believe and be healed, and if you are already a believer, I challenge
you, as I do myself, to listen for God's calling on your life and sanctify
the Lord Jesus within you. That's what happened with Timothy. And he was
willing to do whatever it would take to accomplish the Father's will.
Led by the Holy Spirit
Verses 4-12- "And as they went
through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that they
were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. And so
were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.
Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and
were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, after they
were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered
them not. And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. And a vision appeared
to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying,
Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision,
immediately we (Luke,
the physician and earthly author of the Gospel of Luke, was possibly traveling
with Paul and company and keeping a journal which became the Book of Acts)
to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for
to preach the gospel unto them. Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with
a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; and from
thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia,
and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days."
how they answered to no man or committee, or even to their own opinions.
They were sensitive to the Holy Spirit that dwelt in their hearts. You
see to us, with our busy schedules and agendas and multi-task goals, this
may not seem efficient. But friend, this is the way of Christ. When we
in the ministry plan without consulting the Spirit, we may accomplish something,
but it won't be anything like what these apostles were doing. We must be
always listening when we pray and not just praying. It's hard to
reign ourselves in. It takes patience. But the more we listen and obey
the Father, the more we will come to trust His direction for the Work.
In this way, when Paul went somewhere, he KNEW it was the Lord's will that
he be there. And he rightfully expected the mercy and power of Christ to
be at work along with him and his fellows. This is one reason Paul never
lost hope, no matter what was going on around him. Remember, now, Paul
isn't to be worshipped, but rather, he's our example. And we ALL can follow
in his ways, for all believers are indwelt by the same Holy Spirit that
was leading him!
The Mysterious Macedonian Man!
Verses 13-15- "And on the sabbath
we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made;
and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.
And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple of the city of Thyatira,
which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended
unto the things that were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and
her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful
to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us."
dream of a man in Macedonia was really just a call to go there and offer
the Gospel to any who would listen. This woman, Lydia, listened, was touched
by the Lord, and became a believer and a blessing to the missionaries.
The older I get the more I realize that male or female, it means very little
to God. He's looking for those who are willing to listen to His Word, and
He is no respecter of persons.
The Cost of Living by the Spirit
Verses 16-24- "And it came to
pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of
divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:
The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants
of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this
she did many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit,
I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came
out the same hour.
And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught
Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, And
brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly
trouble our city, And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive,
neither to observe, being Romans. And the multitude rose up together against
them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat
them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into
prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely: Who, having received such
a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in
wonder Paul hesitated before trying to free this unfortunate girl of the
demon living in her. He suspected, I'm sure, that there might be consequences.
But as God's man in the place Christ had called him to be, Paul could not
just stand by while God was blasphemed by this demon day after day. I'm
also certain that Paul and Silas, and the others did not enjoy suffering
any more than you or I do today, beloved. But the sad facts are these,
if we belong to Christ, His enemies are now our enemies, too. And sooner
or later, you and I have to take a stand in the spiritual battles. At that
point the world will turn it's back on us. Count on that, and don't
Keeping Hope Alive
Verse 25- "And at midnight Paul
and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them."
beaten, abandoned. And now they were s-i-n-g-i-n-g? Now, to tell the truth,
this whole idea is confusing. Is this what the Lord demands of us?
No wonder you don't hear much about this passage today. Had Paul and Silas
gone mad? There is something unsettling here for me and I think I figured
out what it is. It scares me that they weren't scared. How did they get
to be so bold?
as we have seen, they were 100% SURE that God had led them to Macedonia.
This is the great advantage of staying in His will. It brings assurance
that He is WITH you. They had that.
when down and defeated like this, they chose to dwell on their faith, not
their failure. Even a small faith, whatever God gives us at the time must
become our focus! Paul and Silas did this and the Good Lord put a song
of sincere hope into their broken hearts. Why, I believe I've gone from
being scared to wishing I could have been there in chains beside them that
night, just to partake of that precious Manna of hope that came down upon
them in the darkness. But, we all have our own battles to face. And the
times come when we all need to remember their example.
God is at Work, Even in the
seen the gifts of faith and hope. And, frankly, they have been so rewarding
to witness and take in that I could end right here. But with God faith
and hope are never an end in themselves. He always leads us, and it's always
t-h-r-o-u-g-h faith and hope, ever onward to His final and greatest gift
of all: love. Sure the demons were having their revenge for a while, and
worldly men were indifferent to the Cause of Christ, but here at Philippi,
right in this jailhouse, the most powerful force in all eternity was just
about to explode on the scene:
Verses 26-40- "And suddenly
there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were
shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands
were loosed. And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and
seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed
himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with
a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he
called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before
Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to
be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt
be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord,
and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the
night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.
And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and
rejoiced, believing in God with all his house. And when it was day, the
magistrates sent the serjeants, saying, Let those men go. And the keeper
of the prison told this saying to Paul, The magistrates have sent to let
you go: now therefore depart, and go in peace. But Paul said unto them,
They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us
into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let
them come themselves and fetch us out. And the serjeants told these words
unto the magistrates: and they feared when they heard that they were Romans.
And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them
to depart out of the city. And they went out of the prison, and entered
into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted
them, and departed.
the Lord started this love explosion with sparks in the hearts of Paul
and Silas. They sang and prayed to witness to those other prisoners. Even
in their stricken condition, through the eyes of Jesus, they had begun
to look on those other men with compassion and genuine concern for their
souls. Then God, in His own love, delivered Paul and Silas, even as He
had delivered His loving (and faithful, and hopeful) Son from the tomb.
Lydia wasn't the only one in Macedonia who had "ears to hear" the Gospel.
Look at what happened with the Philippian jailer. A regular sermon wasn't
ever going to touch him. But do you see how God can use even our apparent
defeats and very real suffering to bring about a unique and marvelous good?
Not that God causes the suffering, not by any means. Lydia, the jailer,
their families, and soon others were saved and became the Church at Philippi.
Later Paul, remembering all that had happened there, wrote and told them
of the pathway to the faith and hope that he and Silas had been so blessed
to find in that dark dungeon. And so we close, beloved:
Philippians 4:4-9- "Rejoice
in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known
unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every
thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be
made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding,
shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren,
whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things
are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever
things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any
praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned,
and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall
be with you."
May Jesus Christ richly bless