The Gospel Call
Acts divided into 6 parts
each part an account of growth and spread of the church as the Apostles and disciples fulfilled the Great Commission by the enabling of the HS
Acts 1:1 - 6:7 - birth of church at Jerusalem with a focus on the preaching of Peter
Acts 6:8 - 9:31 - spread from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria and Galilee
Acts 9:32 - 12:24 - conversion of Paul - explosion of church as it spreads to Gentiles
Acts 12:25 - 16:5 - church in Asia Minor and Galatia
Acts 16:6 - 19:20 - extension of church further west
Acts 19:21 to end - Paul’s final ministries and spread of gospel to Rome
Acts is a record of the relentless spread of Christianity from Jerusalem to Rome, the capital city of the Roman Empire and the centre of Satan’s dominion.
accomplished through 12 ordinary men who had been trained by the Son of God who had been rejected and crucified by his own people
270 years later Christianity was declared the official religion of the Roman Empire
how was this possible?
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
the Word of God is inspired by the HS (2 Tim 3:16), as such it is living and abiding (1 Pet 1:23) and it is powerful (Heb 4:12)
Acts a record of the triumph of the Word of God as it was carried by the Apostles and the disciples to the ends of the earth
it is continuing it’s victorious march through time and to the uttermost parts of the earth bringing into the Kingdom of God an innumerable host of people from every tribe, kindred, tongue and nation
it is why we are hear this morning
It is through the Word that we are saved, it is through the Word that we grow and it is through the Word that we are more than conquerors and over-comers as we continue to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.
today we will witness how the HS directed his witnesses to a woman in whom he had been working
we will see the HS overcoming the hard and sinful heart of a successful business woman through the power of his Word
The Gospel Delayed
The Gospel Delayed
6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.
forbidden = prevented, held back, to stop, restrain
Paul and Silas wanted to preach the Gospel in these areas but the HS said “not here, not now”.
note v.7 where Luke gives more clarity saying, “the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them”
it was Jesus himself through his Holy Spirit who kept Paul and Silas back from preaching in these areas
it was not Jesus’ will that the Gospel be preached in that area at that time
this is hard for us to understand knowing that apart from hearing the gospel there is no salvation,
13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
how do we reconcile this with 2 Pet 3:9?
9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
in his letters Peter is writing to persecuted believers encouraging them to persevere to the end
3:1 - “I am writing to you, beloved”
3:8 - “do not overlook this one fact, beloved”
their enemies were scoffing at their belief the Lord would return
reminds them the Lord is not slow in keeping his promises
if he does appear to be slow it is so that everyone chosen for salvation should come to repentance
an encouragement to persecuted believers that the end will not come until all the elect are gathered into the Kingdom of God
God is patient toward pre-believers, or the unsaved elect, not wanting any of them to perish, but that all whom he has chosen (the elect), come to repentance.
compare this to Acts 18:10
10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”
Though the Corinthians had not yet been saved they were God’s people because he had chosen them. (Acts 18:10)
what about 1 Tim 2:3-6?
3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.
if God desires all people to be saved but Jesus withholds the gospel from some for a a time there appears to be a contradiction
if there are contradictions in the bible then it cannot be trusted and neither can we trust the one who wrote it and we might as well not be here but on the beach or cutting the grass
how then do we reconcile these two statements which appear to contradict each other?
Since God is sovereign over all people (Lam 3:37-38) if he wanted all people to be saved they would be.
the question then is not about God’s ability to do as he pleases but over the meaning of “all people”
since “all people” cannot mean “every single individual” it must therefore mean all kinds of people
is this conclusion justified?
1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,
v.2 tells us who the “all people” are: kings and those in high positions
if we want to expand the “all people” it might include all who have an influence on our ability as believers to lead peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified in every way
would include all who have the power to make our lives miserable: neighbours, co-workers, bosses, teachers
[also note passages like Jn 12:19 where “all the world” is used of a much smaller group of people]
so it is in v.6: where Paul says that Jesus gave himself as a ransom for all
if Jesus’ perfect and sinless life was indeed a ransom payment for every single individual, then every individual would be freed from their slavery to sin and death and we would not have to preach the gospel to them or warn them of hell
ransom for all = ransom for all kinds of people
No one is excluded from saving grace because of their race, social standing, gender or intellect . (Gal 3:28)
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
negative way of putting it: John 14:6
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
another way of understanding whom “ransom for all” applies to
since Jesus’ life was a ransom we will know for whom by those who are freed from their slavery to sin and death
All those who are ransomed by Jesus confess him as their Saviour and serve him as their Lord.
God is not willing that any whom he has chosen perish in their sins
God may withhold the gospel in judgment
God has demonstrated to us in the scriptures that his normal way of dealing with people who continually harden themselves against them is to give them over to their sinful desires thereby hardening them (cf. Rom 1:21)
God may withhold the gospel from those who harden their hearts against him, in which case he gives them over to their sins so that they become darkened in their hearts and their thinking becomes futile and they become more and more wicked (Rom 1)
the lesson for us: God is patient and he is slow to anger but not indefinitely
there comes a time when God gives people over to the sin they love
what should we do?
if you are not saved, repent and believe in Jesus
if you are saved, rejoice and be glad, and keep pressing forward in your spiritual growth to maturity
we do know that the gospel eventually penetrated these areas because Paul wrote a letter to the churches there called, “Galatians” and Jesus address churches there in Rev 2-3
The Gospel Call
The Gospel Call
8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. 11 So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days.
having passed through the regions of Phrygia and Galatia Paul travelled further west into the province of Asia where they were again prevented by the HS from speaking the Gospel
an important region where the 7 churches of Revelation 2-3 were eventually established
with nowhere else to go they turned south to Troas where at last they received instruction from the HS as to where he wanted them to go and preach the gospel
they were instructed to go to Macedonia, the first entrance of the Gospel into Europe
10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
“we” - Luke, the writer of Acts has joined the missionary team
like Timothy he would become Paul’s faithful companion and fellow labourer for the rest of his ministry
Jesus, by his HS, prevented Paul and Silas and their team from preaching in certain areas
knowing they had been called and commissioned by the HS to preach the gospel they kept on travelling, trusting the Lord to open the right doors
The missionary team’s experience illustrates a basic principle of knowing God’s will: to move ahead and allow Him to close doors until the right opportunity is reached. (John MacArthur, Commentary on Acts)
the missionary team of Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke kept pressing forward until they found the open door for ministry
if they had not been faithful to their call and persistent the opportunities for witness in the following verses might have been lost
sometimes in our efforts to do the will of God it seems like we constantly face roadblocks
at such times it is important for us to embrace the will of God and keep doing it even though we have nothing to show for it
As we are obedient God will direct our steps and provide opportunities for ministry.
The Gospel Call, Part 2
The Gospel Call, Part 2
today we will consider God’s sovereign work of saving Lydia and Satan’s devious and malicious effort to derail the Paul’s church planting work through a demon possessed slave girl
we have already considered God sovereignty in determining where Paul preached Gospel and when
we will see in this account one of the reasons Paul was forbidden from preaching in certain areas:
God had been working in Lydia and the jailor and was drawing them to himself
he was directing Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke to Philippi where they would meet them and others he had prepared and plant a church there
we need to understand and embrace God’s sovereignty in salvation if we would see God establish churches
we must also be aware of the tactics and schemes of Satan to oppose our efforts and destroy the church
having been forbidden from preaching the Gospel in Galatia, Phrygia, Bythinia and Mysia, Paul and his team kept travelling westward until they could go no further on foot
not until they reached the Aegean Sea at Troas and reached what appeared to them the end of the road did the HS instruct them to sail to Macedonia and preach the gospel there
their perseverance in obeying the call of God brought them to the place where they finally received God’s direction
sometimes ministry is simply being faithful
in faithful obedience they boarded a ship and travelled to the port city of Neapolis and from there travelled inland on foot to Philippi
timeline of Philippi:
church planted 49-51
according to Acts 16 it would appear that Paul was not able spend very much time there because of the opposition of the unbelievers in that city
so Luke says they remained in the city some days (v. 12; not weeks or months)
Paul’s letter to Philippians written during his first imprisonment about 10 yrs later: 61-63
The Gospel’s Power - Lydia’s Salvation
The Gospel’s Power - Lydia’s Salvation
11 So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 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. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and 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.
having crossed the Aegean Sea from Asia Minor (Western Turkey) to Macedonia (Greece) Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke landed at the port of Neapolis and from there travelled to Philippi
Luke describes Philippi as a leading city and a Roman colony
as a leading city it ranked above the others in the area
it was at the end of an important Roman highway = it was an important and popular destination
as a Roman colony it was independent of the provincial government and enjoyed the privilege of being self-governing, they were exempt from tax and its citizens had the right to personally own land
a desirable place for business and commerce!
on the Sabbath day Paul and his team went outside the city to find the place of prayer
It was Paul’s habit to go to the local synagogue where as a rabbi and the student of the greatest rabbi of the day he would be invited to speak.
it would appear there was no synagogue in Philippi
needed 10 Jewish men who were the heads of households to form one
in urban centres where there was no synagogue a place of prayer was designated which became a meeting place
this one was outside the gates of Philippi beside a river
flowing water was a requirement for certain kinds of Jewish ritual cleansings
they sat down
the normal posture for teaching (Mt 5:1, 13:2; Lk 4:20)
Paul began teaching the women who had assembled
another indicator that the Jewish community was very small
Because there were no men to lead , the women gathered to pray and read from the OT law and discuss it among themselves.
It is significant that Paul’s first teaching ministry in Europe was to women and the first Christian in Europe was a woman!
Paul is often criticized as being a chauvinist or worse a hater of women by those who reject his teaching on the role of men and women
that Paul eagerly joined this group of women shows the exact opposite!
Paul was very unlike the Pharisees who would never teach a woman and who grouped them with Gentiles and slaves
the Pharisees despised women
Paul’s behaviour was also contrary to the secular attitudes of the day which also held women in low esteem
In his New Testament letters Paul regularly praised the women who ministered alongside him. (Rom 16:1; Php 4:2-3)
examples: Phoebe (Rom 16:1), Euodia and Syntyche (Phil 4:2-3)
in v.14 we are introduced to a business woman named Lydia
her name means kind or kindred spirit
she certainly exemplified this in her insistence that Paul and and team stay in her home while they were there
she was hospitable
one of the 7 churches of Revelation (Rev 2:18-29)
a church commended for its works, love, faith, service, patient endurance and increasing ministry
condemned for tolerating a female false prophet who was encouraging church members to practice sexual immorality and engage in idolatry
a city famous for its manufacture of purple dye and dyed goods
purple dye very expensive and therefore purple goods were coveted by the wealthy and powerful
a seller of purple goods
owned a house large enough to accommodate Paul and his team (v.15) and eventually the Philippian church (v.40)
Lydia a successful business woman engaged in a lucrative business
a worshipper of God
two kinds of Gentiles who embraced Judaism: worshippers or God fearers and proselytes
a proselyte was considered a Jew
worshipper/God fearer adopted some but not all of Judaism
a worshipper of God:
Lydia had a seeking heart showing that God was working in her, drawing her to himself.
she had turned away from pagan idolatry to worship the God of the Jews
a necessary step if anyone is to turn to Christ
cannot have Christ plus ....
example of Hindus in India who are ok with adding Jesus to the legion of gods
the world will love us as long as we are like them but when we turn away from them to Christ they hate us
we become to them the aroma of death (2 Cor 2:15-16)
they think it strange that we are not like them and don’t live like them (1 Pet 4:4)
Jesus’ call to those who are seeking:
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
must remember that no one rightly seeks God of their own free will
the sinner’s will is not free in that it has been corrupted by sin
as such their natural disposition is to reject Christ and to oppose those joined to him in saving faith
apart from God’s faith giving grace unbelievers will always exercise their “free wills” to sin
Lydia did not seek God on her own for no one naturally seeks after God. (Rom 3:11-12; John 6:44)
11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
she was seeking God because God was seeking her
God was drawing Lydia to himself
44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
Lydia was listening to the gospel and understanding it because the Lord had opened her heart. (Acts 16:14)
apart from God’s grace her heart would have remained closed
as such she would have exercised her sin cursed will to reject the Gospel as foolishness
21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
ex. Paul’s companions on the road to Damascus: they heard the same voice as Paul but did not understand it
Paul’s heart had been opened while their’s remained closed
apart from God’s sovereignty in salvation no one will believe, no one can be saved
being dead in their sins they are unable to respond to the gospel
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins
if we would handle the Word of God correctly when witnessing to unbelievers we must remember that salvation is of the Lord
unless the Lord does his work of opening the heart our words will fall on deaf ears
The salvation of sinners does not depend on how clever or persuasive our presentation is, or how skillful we are. (1 Cor 3:6-7)
this is liberating to believers who think they cannot witness because they do not have the gift of evangelism
salvation is not the result of our ability to convince anyone, it is God’s work
our responsibility is simply to tell the truth to anyone who will listen
6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
although Paul was an accomplished scholar and had a thorough knowledge of the scriptures he realized that his abilities and talents could save no one
17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
this was true of all the evangelists and preachers in the NT and it holds true for us as well
rather than clever manipulation we find clear interpretation and application of the simple truth of the scriptures
they realized that God did not need their cleverness or eloquence or persuasiveness
modern day example: God does not need smoke machines, spotlights and glitzy presentations
What God desires of us is to faithfully communicate what he has already written down for us.
it’s not a matter of how persuasive you can be but how truthful!
the result: Lydia was baptized
God having opened her heart and freed her will, she was enabled to choose Christ
Lydia exercised her divinely “freed will” and as a result she believed and was baptized.
baptism a physical act which demonstrated what had already happened spiritually: her turning away from her old way of life and embracing her new life in Christ
baptism signifies death to sin, to self, to the world and living for Christ
no longer a slave of sin and death but a slave of Christ
those of her household whose hearts God also opened believed and were baptized
Lydia had brought her household with her to the place of prayer where they also were exposed to the gospel
[encourage parents with children who dislike going to church]
example of young person who loved music and parents used this to get him to church
though he hated it at the time he later testified that it was his going to church which had an important role in his coming to Christ
The Gospel Imitated
The Gospel Imitated
16 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. 17 She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.
This was a girl who was doubly oppressed: she was a slave and she was demon possessed.
as a slave she existed to do the will of her masters
she became a slave by being born one, being taken captive in war or through poverty
she was also under the power of an evil and malicious demon
through this malevolent spirit she was able to tell the future
fortune telling was a skill highly sought after by the Romans and the Greeks
no military commander would set out on a campaign without consulting an oracle
the emperor would not make a decree without consulting an oracle to find out the outcome
that this girl had supernatural ability is proven by the fact that she brought in a great deal of money for her masters
she was well known for her ability
she was highly sought after
[warn God’s people against any kind of dabbling in tarot card reading, psychics, ouiji boards, etc. - you are literally playing fire!]
The devil is a murderer, a liar, and a deceiver and his demons serve him and carry out his will.
while the devil promises people whatever they lust after, his ultimate purpose is to destroy them
everything we need for life and godliness has been graciously given to us by God in his Word (2 Pet 1:3-4)
if you desire supernatural knowledge that will not destroy you become a student of the Word!
“she followed Paul and us”
meaning: “to follow along behind; probably for an extended period of time and firmness of purpose”
sounds a lot like the attitude and actions of a disciple!
she kept following for many days, they couldn’t get rid of her
she had attached herself to their team
this well-known and sought after girl was crying out to people to pay attention to Paul
remember that as a sought after fortune teller her words carried weight, people would have paid attention to her
to those who knew who and what she was would have assumed she was one of them
and her message was biblical!
“Most High God” was right out of the OT (Ps 78:35, 56; Dan 3:26, 4:2, 5:18, 21)
she pointed people to Paul and his team as proclaiming the way of salvation
“Paul having become greatly annoyed” (v.18)
why not use this girl and her testimony to their advantage?
Paul was aware of the devious efforts of the devil to appear as an angel of light. (2 Cor 11:14)
darkness and light are universal metaphors for evil and good
for most people evil is associated with darkness and light with goodness
importance of light in the scriptures:
in Gen 1:3 we are informed that God created light
in 1 Jn 1:5 God is light
in 1 Tim 6:16 God dwells in light
in James 1:17 light is a metaphor for truth and God’s unchanging nature
in 2 Cor 4:6 God puts light in believers hearts so that they see and know him and understand the truth
in John 8:12 Jesus declared, “I am the light of the world” and that to follow him is not to walk in darkness but to have the light of life
in 1 Pet 2:9 when we are “in the light” we are with God
in 1 Jn 1:7 walking in the light proves one has been cleansed from sin and causes that person to have fellowship with others who have experienced that cleansing
in 1 Jn 2:9-10 light is the place where love dwells
remembering these things listen to how Paul described his orders from Jesus when he was miraculously saved on the road to Damascus,
16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
all people are in darkness under the power of Satan
though he is the father of lies he speaks the truth when it suits his wicked purposes
quoted scriptures to Jesus in order to tempt him to sin!
Satan’s most destructive work is done in the name of Jesus Christ
often uses a little truth to trap people in false religions
remember Jesus’ warning of the devil’s efforts to corrupt the church and make it weak and ineffective
24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ”
Satan knows that people are naturally attracted to the light and so he uses it to keep them in darkness!
since the demon possessed, fortune telling slave girl was agreeing with Paul and following him and affirming his message the natural assumption of unbelievers would be that she was a part of their group
this was therefore a subtle attempt by Satan to corrupt the message and ministry of the gospel
believers are called to witness and God is at work in the hearts and lives of unbelievers
our responsibility is to be faithful and to persevere even when it appears nothing is happening
when the Lord gives opportunities we must not be ignorant of the devil’s tactics
in this case Paul understood that what was happening was more than just a poor slave girl following them and affirming his preaching!
like Paul we must be alert to Satan’s ongoing attempt to deceive people and keep them under his control and his use of the truth to do so
Satan hasn’t changed and the command to be alert and armed remains!
how to remain alert: Eph 6:10ff