Philippians

Philippians: A Church is Born

This devotional is written by Matt Coombs. Matt is one of the leaders at St Mary's and is married to Pip.

Acts 16:6-40

Paul's vision of the man of Macedonia

6 Paul and his companions travelled 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.

Lydia's conversion in Philippi

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 travelled 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 worshipper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptised, 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.

Paul and Silas in prison

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 round and said to the spirit, β€˜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 realised that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market-place to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, 'These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practise.'
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 baptised. 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.

Reflection

Closed Doors & Open Doors.

Today is the first in a series from Paul's letter to the church in Philippi, but before we get stuck into chapter 1, I thought it would be good to read the origins of this church.

Paul and his friends are journeying together preaching the gospel until the Holy Spirit kept them from the province of Asia. Then Paul hit another wall and was again redirected in his travel plans when the Spirit kept them from entering Bithynia, instead leading them to the town of Troas.

Closed doors.

Paul knew God had some purpose for it, but he had no idea what it was. Then, in the middle of the night Paul had a vision of a Macedonian man calling for him to come help them. From that vision Paul was directed to Macedonia and Philippi (16:6-10).

In each of these seeming hindrances to his plans, Paul continued to move forward every day, trusting that God would give him further clarity and direction along the way.

Sometimes when I feel like a door has been shut I consider that the end of the story. I may feel despairingly about the situation, and I will then often try to sort it out on my own.

Do you feel like a door has been closed for you?
Could God have something else in mind for you?

For Paul, shut doors were not a disappointment, but opportunities to trust and see what God was doing.

Open doors.

Because Paul was sensitive to the Spirit and faithful to walk into the open door the Spirit provided, Paul saw Lydia converted and had the opportunity to speak the gospel to her friends and family. And when Paul and Silas are sat in prison, seemingly experiencing another setback to their plans, God opens a door, not just one door but all the jail doors.

Trust that God can change any circumstance you're facing!

Questions to mull over...
Can you think of a time when God gave you clear direction about a next step to take? What were the results of you following/or not following those steps?

If you've experienced a closed door, what was your response? Despair? What will it take today, for you to change your perspective?

Where and to whom is God leading you today?


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