Philippians 1:1-2, Acts 16 - The Plan of God

Philippians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  35:56
0 ratings
We are starting a new book today. We are going to be going through the book of Philippians. I am so excited to get started into this incredible book. This first week will be a bit atypical as we will only cover the first two verses in the book itself and instead, we will reflect back to Acts 16 which shows the formation of the church in Philippi. My aim is that we do not get so wrapped up in the great accounts that we will cover today that we miss the big picture that gets us moving into this book. My goal for us today as we start this journey in this great book is that we see the plan of God despite persecution, trials, and difficulties. I pray that we see that God is always faithful and whatever He wills - will come to fruition. Lets start by reading the first two verses of this book.
Philippians 1:1–2 ESV
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let’s start our journey through this book with some background information.
Written by: Paul with the help of Timothy
Date: Likely around AD 61/62
Place: Paul is likely in Rome at the time
Why is Paul likely in Rome at this time? Well - it is because he spent a lot of his last decade of life in prison!
Paul’s Imprisonments
Caeserea (AD 58-61)
Rome (AD 61-63) - During this imprisonment he likely wrote Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, and Ephesians.
Rome (AD 65-67)
It is believed that Philippians was likely written from one of Paul’s imprisonments (he had 3 during the last ten years of his life!). Most scholars think it was his second imprisonment.
Isn’t is amazing how God’s plan takes even the worst of circumstances and uses them for His glory. Paul may have never slowed down in his journey enough to finish writing these epistles that we have today. But God took persecution and trials and turned them for His glory. And now we are able to understand God even more fully because of the revelations given to Paul in the writing of these four letters.
And for you history buffs out there:
Setting – Philippi – Named after Philip II of Macedon (the father of Alexander the Great).
Philip conquered the region in the fourth century BC and by the second century BC Philippi became part of the Roman province of Macedonia (remember that name for a moment!) (modern day Greece).
It was noteworthy also because in BC 42, the forces of Antony and Octavian defeated those of Brutus and Cassius at the Battle of Philippi.
After this battle many veterans of the Roman army settled in Philippi and it became an official Roman colony – giving them the same rights as those in Italy. Many of conquered provinces of Rome outside of Italy-proper were treated like Israel. They were taxed heavily and oppressed. Yet, Philippi was not that kind of area. They were an extension of Rome and were treated as such. However, this came with all of the indulgences and pagan worship that the Roman culture brought with it as well.
Getting back to our Philippians introductory Scripture:
Philippians 1:1–2 ESV
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul gives a beautiful greeting in verse 2. Grace and peace. There is only one place grace and peace can come from - and that is from our Savior.
Looking at verse 1, Paul is most definitely writing this letter to a church. To the saints with the overseers and deacons. This word for overseer is the same church leadership position as Pastor or Elder. And the church had deacons as well. Today we are going to explore how this church came into existence. We are going to see how God’s plan unfolds even when it seems impossible.
The first moving of God in starting the church in Philippi was directed by:

I. The Plan of God…Is Directed by the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:6-10)

Acts 16:6–8 ESV
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. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.
Acts 16:9–10 ESV
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.
In case you were wondering - we will be in Acts 16 from here on out.
Verse 6 lets us know that Paul wanted to preach the Word in Asia and beyond to the east. He had plans to go that direction and yet was prevented by the Spirit of Jesus. This is an interesting phrase as it only listed here and also none other than in Philippians 1:19 as well. When referring to the Spirit, Biblical authors usually use the Spirit of God or the Holy Spirit. Yet, this is another area where we see that they are all interchangeable as God. God is one God in three Persons - the Trinity.
So Paul’s personal plans are hindered by God. He is shut down by the Spirit of Jesus.
God then gives Paul a vision at night of a man in Macedonia urging him to come that way. Do you remember when I told you to remember the term Macedonia? Here it is! Philippi is in Macedonia and because of God’s direction, Paul’s plans change and he heads to Macedonia.
This is an incredibly important section of Scripture for us to see. God has a plan and He uses His Holy Spirit to guide and direct His people. We may not have a vision like Paul did, but God will confirm His plans as we seek Him and pray.
God is a sovereign God and He is intimately involved with His creation. So many today have a false belief that God is far off and not intimately involved with his creation. They believe that he wound up creation like a music box and then is just letting it all play out. This could not be further from the truth. He cares about every decision we make. He is involved in all of the details. Trust Him my friends. His plans are good and will succeed. Let’s jump into seeing how God moves His plan forward as we see:
Scripture References: Philippians 1:19

II. The Plan of God…Is Deployed by God’s Resources (Acts 16:13-15)

Acts 16:13–15 ESV
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.
I don’t want us to spend too much time on the incredible person of Lydia, but isn’t it amazing that this woman from Thyatira, which is a pagan area at the time, is having a ladies gathering on the Sabbath and is a worshiper of God?
Here is a map showing where she came from and where she is in Philippi selling her purple linens. We know she has a home in Philippi. We don’t know if she had moved there permanently or she went back and forth. But we know that she has some roots in Philippi at this point. She has friends and people that she is doing life with.
As an aside - we can learn a lot about her engagement of her culture around her. She is ministering to people and is known as a worshiper of God. She is involved in her community and knows those around her. Let’s take some notes about how Lydia reached her town and let’s do the same in our own. Get to know your neighbors and others around you and make an impact on your neighborhood by sharing the Gospel. May we all be known as a worshiper of God in our communities.
And we also have this amazing mystery given to us in these verses. She is as a gentile woman living in a polytheistic culture and she is worshiping a monotheistic God. We have no way of knowing how she came to such knowledge but we see the plan of God coming to fruition. We see God, in His sovereignty, select this woman to hear the Gospel. And through her conversion He chooses her to help finance the early Philippian church. You see, purple fabrics were used by affluent persons of that time. It was a sign of importance and even royalty. She likely had a prominent place in her present society and had a great amount of wealth. And she becomes a conduit of blessing to this early church.
Let us not rush past the mercy and grace of God as it says the Lord opened her heart and she came to a saving knowledge of Jesus. Our God is a God who saves lost persons. He draws us to Himself and asks that we respond to His free and wonderful grace. Lydia made this profession of faith became a follower Christ.
After her conversion, she then begins to minister to the missionaries there.
We see her continuing to be a servant and supporter of this early church in Acts 16:40 which is found later in this chapter.
Acts 16:40 ESV
40 So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.
So far we have seen God sovereignly use the Holy Spirit to guide Paul to Philippi in Macedonia. Now we have seen God sovereignly save a gentile woman of affluence who is helping fund this new church plant in Philippi. And then we see:
Scripture References: Acts 16:40

III. The Plan of God…Is Delivered by the Power of God (Acts 16:16-18)

Acts 16:16–18 ESV
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 is quite the account! God has already directed Paul to Philippi to plant a church. He then moved on to provide a solid financial contributor to the church. And now God moves to showing His power in this area and show that He is most definitely at work and moving.
We do not know whether this slave girl was saved after this encounter. One would hope that she was! When we look back at the Gospels we see that Jesus cast out demons in seven distinct Scriptural occurrences. These are included in your handout here and we aren’t going to go in detail about each one. But we do see in a few of these with a star beside of them - that these people most certainly did follow Christ. The others may have very well followed as well - we are just not given any further information about them in Scripture. None of these accounts state that the person who had the demon removed opposed Christ. I would argue that it is very likely that each one of these encounters ended with the people following Jesus.
Jesus Casting Out Demons in the Gospels: (This was formed using a reference from Harold Williamson from Liberty University)
1. Mark 1:23-28; Luke 4:31-36 - Demon possessed man has demon cast out. We are not told whether this man in Capernaum followed afterward.
2. Matt 12:22; Luke 11:14 - Blind and mute demonic spirit cast out. We are not told whether this man followed Jesus afterward.
3. Matt 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39 - Gadara demon possessed men who are terrorizing the people before Jesus casts them out. Luke and Mark let us know that at least one wanted to follow Jesus and Jesus told him to stay and the man told many about Jesus.*
4. Matt 9:32-33 - In Capernaum a demon oppressed mute man healed. We are unsure if he followed afterward.
5. Matt 15:21-28; Mark 7:24-30 - Canaanite woman’s daughter in Tyre and Sidon healed. The woman seems to already have faith so it is extremely likely they both followed Jesus.*
6. Matt 17:14-18; Mark 9:14-29; Luke 9:38-42 - Jesus heals the boy with a seizing demonic spirit. His father humbly asks Jesus to help his unbelief. We are not told whether they continue following Jesus.
7. Luke 13:10-17 - Healing of a very crippled woman on the Sabbath. It says that she glorified God. She very likely followed after Him after this.*
I included each one of these encounters in your handout as well so you could grasp the main point of this message on the plan of God. God is all-powerful. He overpowers any evil that exists in this world. Satan and his demons must flee at the very name of Jesus Christ.
In a world that is marked by human-trafficking even to this day - Christ has the power to deliver. In a world where people exploit others for their own financial or personal gain - Christ has the power to deliver.
Acts 16:16–18 ESV
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.
Like Christ did - we see Paul and Silas suffer persecution for standing for the truth. We see in verse 18 - Paul - being greatly annoyed…this has to be one of my favorite parts of Scripture. It just gets very real there. Paul is pretty much done with hearing the same rant over and over and over again. This demonically-possessed slave girl continues to provoke them and continues to try to interfere with their evangelism. She is mocking them over and over again. How many times do you think Paul went to share the Gospel and then she comes and interrupts him. I would imagine it happened a lot. To the point that he gets greatly annoyed. And proceeds to cast out the demon.
This seems like a great thing, right. The slave girl is healed. She is free. Let’s have a party now!
Yet, what do we see recorded in the Scripture in verse 16? She was a fortune teller and brought her owners great wealth. Paul just ruined their meal ticket. And this leads to Paul and Silas being thrown into prison. They are placed in chains for standing for the truth and for delivering the oppressed. Yet God has just shown his power in delivering the slave girl and as we are about to see in the next account - he is about to show his power through a miraculous escape and another life forever changed.

IV. The Plan of God…Is Demonstrated Through the Change by God (Acts 16:25-34)

Acts 16:25–27 ESV
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and 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 bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped.
Acts 16:28–30 ESV
28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
Acts 16:31–34 ESV
31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.
God is showing His power yet again! As Paul and Silas are praying and singing hymns… wait a second. They are praying and singing hymns after being wrongfully imprisoned for doing a good thing? We can learn a lot from their attitude toward persecution. They aren’t whining and complaining. They are rejoicing despite their circumstances. They know God is good and faithful and they are worshiping Him despite how they might feel or what their circumstances might be.
And then we see an earthquake occur which releases the entire prison! I’d like a scientist to try to figure out how every single bond broke off and every single door opened because of an earthquake. That is quite a precise earthquake there! Nothing short of miraculous!
After this wonderful miracle the darkness is shown. The jailer sees what has happened and thinks that everyone has escaped and so what does he do? He seeks to take his life. Now, it was customary in that time period that if a jailer lost those whom he was in charge of - his life may very well be demanded of him. He was personally responsible for his prisoners.
Yet, something else happened. He didn’t take his life. Paul speaks to him before he gets the chance and shares the Gospel with him.
According the New American Commentary on the book of Acts:
Acts The Witness (16:29–34)

The miracle served not to deliver them but rather to deliver the jailer.

Now, the miracle did most certainly deliver Paul and Silas. I think we cannot miss that very fact in God’s plan that He sought to set them free at this particular moment. But the one who ended up more fully delivered was the jailer.
At a moment when he thought all was lost, all was offered.
The Gospel was freely offered to him and accepted by him. And we see the immediate signs of a converted life. A changed heart. A change done by God.
Brothers and sisters - are you in a moment when all seems lost? Does your life seem like it couldn’t get any worse? Like the jailer, you may feel hopeless and there seems to be no hope for salvation from your current situation. But remember - at a moment when all seems lost - all is offered.
The gift of salvation is offered to you my friends. There is always hope in Jesus’ name. There is hope for eternity and there is hope even on earth. We know that God takes the worst this sinful world can bring at us and He turns it for our good (Romans 8:28). Submit yourself to the Savior - Jesus Christ - who died on the cross for your sins, raised three days later and now is exalted in heaven. Repent of your sins - all of them - this means that you not only apologize but that you turn away from your sins. Repent of thinking that even Christ can’t fix your life - because He certainly can! Repent of thinking that even God isn’t big enough to handle the issues of your life - because He certainly can! And trust Him. He is good and gentle and kind. He is merciful and willing to forgive all. Be cleansed by the blood of Jesus that He spilled on that rugged tree. Put your faith and trust and believe in Jesus for your salvation.
Moving forward:
He washes Paul and Silas’s wounds and bandages them. And he and his household are saved and baptized. There is incredible rejoicing in that home as they were all dead but now they are alive in Christ.
The plan of God was demonstrated through the change by God. God can change hearts my friends. He can take a dead heart and resurrect it. He can take a life that is bent on self and rebellion and transform it into a life of joy and peace. He can take a life that seems hopeless and is in despair an infuse hope and purpose. Our God is a big God. Trust Him.
Scripture References: Romans 8:28
Now we have seen the beginnings of the church in Philippi. It has been started because of the plan of God. God has sovereignly orchestrated this church formation. As we already discussed - by the time Paul writes his letter to Philippi there are pastors and deacons set up and the church is growing.
To summarize what we have seen regarding the plan of God:
We have seen that the plan of God:
Is directed by the Holy Spirit. God is intimately involved with His creation.
Is deployed by God’s resources. Our God is a limitless God. He provides for the needs of His church.
Is delivered by the power of God. Our God is powerful and no evil thing can stand against Him. He will prevail over evil.
Is demonstrated through the change by God. Our God is still in the business of changing lives and changing hearts.
I pray that this overview of the formation of the church of Philippi has set a good foundation for our study through this great book. I also pray that it has encouraged you in your life as well. Sometimes it appears that there is so much chaos in our world that God doesn’t seem to truly be in control. Yet, we know that God is fully sovereign. During the first century church setting - there was even more persecution and chaos than we see in American today. Yet God built His church then and He continues to build His church now. Trust Him. Love Him. Worship Him. For He is good.
If you would like to learn more about salvation through Jesus Christ or want to obey Jesus by obeying the first commandment of a believer in going through the waters of baptism - please see me after the service.
Have a blessed week.
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more