Jokes take something that’s familiar and changes it. It breaks patterns. There is no area that’s not affected when the gospel is proclaimed. It changes everything. Here we see the planting of the Philippian church. What makes them distinct?
This becomes the first church in Europe. Whenever Paul and his team go to a city they preach the gospel in a synagogue. Here they find a group of women. Purple was a colour of royalty, extravagance. Lydia was a worshipper or God. She’s a successful business person but she can’t save herself. The Spirit opens her heart. She’s the first European Christian that we know of. She goes from praying on the outskirts of town to offering hospitality. When the gospel is proclaimed it breaks up all of our religious pretence so that it can take root.
The demon in the slave girl was trying to hinder Paul’s mission. The gospel means how you make money matters. It has cultural consequences. It can mean upsetting unjust systems. Do we act ethically? Paul and Silas could’ve escaped prison after the earthquake but they didn’t. The jailer asks what everyone wanted to know. What must you do to be saved? Let go of everything and believe in Jesus. The gospel affects both the body and the soul.
Paul knew that the magistrates had acted illegally. What pattern in your life needs to be upended by the gospel? Let go of your hurt or pride and believe in the one who is raised and has defeated death. The gospel changes everything. It takes root in our hearts and grows into joy.
This passage seems like random incidents. In first century terms we are the ends of the earth. They ask us a serious question – what are you prepared to do for the sake of the gospel? It’s all about faith. Have we put our faith in Jesus so that God declares us righteous? It’s all about teamwork. When Jesus sent his disciples out, he always sent them out in pairs. This was carried out by the apostles. Occasionally you get someone who goes out by themselves (Philip).
Paul had a good model of encouraging others to keep going. Barnabas modelled this too. They agreed on visiting people who they’d met to see how they were doing. They fell out about the little details. That can happen quite often. The text doesn’t pass judgement on Barnabas. He seems to disappear after this. Paul takes a different view. Mark grew sufficiently in his love for Jesus (Paul refers to him in Philemon). Don’t write off struggling disciples. The disagreement is described as sharp. It seems that from what happens that God’s intention was that there should be two missionary teams. They didn’t divide the church over it. They were strengthening the churches.
Team building (15:40-16:5)
Paul chose Silas who was recognised by the leaders of the church in Jerusalem and a prophet. Timothy was clearly a convert from the missionary journey. Paul is desperate to make sure no one has a barrier to understanding the gospel. The Holy Spirit moves when people are committed.
Team direction (16:6-10)
All scripture is God breathed. As we absorb the word of God we start to agree with God and approve of what he wants to do in our lives. How does God guide this team? Paul and his companions were kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching in certain areas. The Holy Spirit was guiding them as to where and when to preach. We are not the only ones doing the job. You can only be in one place at one time. Are we listening to his voice? Make sure you’re part of an active team for the gospel.
This isn’t normal (getting up and walking having never been able to). The crowds were ready to believe that a miracle had happened. What matters to you more than anything? We are all prone to false worship.
Stop worshipping worthless things (v14-18)
Is Jesus what matters most to you? How much more should we worship God who has revealed his love in sending Jesus? The crowd didn’t want to stop.
Don’t be surprised if you suffer (v19-22)
Paul was stoned because the people refused to believe the good news of Jesus. Paul shows that following Jesus is costly. We should have a desire to share the gospel with others but there will always be people who reject him and persecute Christians, making them suffer. Paul and Barnabas didn’t stay out of sight. We’re not facing threats but we need to be prepared for rejections.
Celebrate what God is doing (v23-28)
Acts points us to God’s work. The purpose of Paul’s work is God’s work. The work of God establishing churches isn’t just for Israel, but for the whole world. God’s concern is for the advance of the gospel (Acts 1:8). Are we celebrating what God is doing? His good news is for all people. Do we give God thanks for what he is doing among us? Is what matters to you what matters to God?
God is gathering a people for himself (Revelation 7:9-10). Jesus says we need saving. If we think we can be saved in any other way, we’re saying Jesus’ death is a waste. Christians are called to join in with God’s mission (Acts 1:8).
The local church sends missionaries (12:25-13:3)
This is a group of people gifted by the Holy Spirit to speak God’s word to others. Worship is giving glory to God. It’s communal and focused on Jesus. Fasting is done to remind ourselves that we depend on God. It’s wise to test what the Holy Spirit is saying. We should take time to listen to the Holy Spirit; the primary way is through the Bible. When churches gather together, this is a bit of what we’re trying to do. Are you there expecting to hear from the Holy Spirit?
Missionaries do the things that Christians do (13:4-12)
This opportunity comes with opposition. Saul stands against opposition to the gospel. If someone tries to stop us, we should stand against that. They’re not opposing just us, they’re opposing God. The teaching causes them to believe. We should send people to every area of the world and support them. Are we willing to send our very best? We need to join in with God’s mission where we are, too. Do we see the opportunities around us and speak up? We are to gently and firmly tell people the truth.
Who is Herod? He slaughtered the babies in order to try to kill baby Jesus. This Herod is his grandson. He had been brought up in Rome. He was popular with the Jewish people as he was Jewish. He used his influence on behalf of those people. The one in between had John the Baptist’s head chopped off.
This Herod made a political calculation and is using his power to do what he wants. Sometimes we wonder why politicians make the decisions that they do. Jesus said there will be trouble. Herod was popular and so Peter was kept in prison. Release was humanly impossible.
How should the church respond to this? They’ve lost James, now the leader is in prison. They were earnestly praying to God. What might the church have prayed for Peter? Jesus showed to Peter that when he was old he would be executed. God intervenes because it was impossible for Peter to escape. He doesn’t float out. He was given things to do. The angel did for Peter only what he couldn’t do.
How did the church respond to answered prayer? They are still praying. What does the church look like? Where are they doing it? In homes, through the night, sustained over days. It’s easy to say the same things. Do we believe God is going to answer our prayers? We must take none of the credit. Listen to what God has done in answering prayers.
Herod ignores the possibility of divine intervention, but it was normal if guards lost a prisoner. God always has the last word. Who’s in charge? The word of God continued to spread.
Why are Christians different? Church should be a community of people who have been changed to live differently. There was something different about these guys (v26). They needed a new name.
Tell others the hope that we have. We need to speak, otherwise how will others know? We need to do it sensitively and appropriately but we still need to speak. Lots of Jewish background Christians thought you had to become a Jew first. We need to be careful as it’s easier to spot errors in other cultures but not our own. Are there people we don’t consider speaking to?
See God’s grace in the lives of others. Keep on. Remain true to the Lord. These guys had been running away from persecution. They probably didn’t feel successful. Sometimes we need someone else to encourage us. We are called to remain true to Jesus.
Help each other see how to respond to what God teaches us in the Bible. Christian teaching should never be just about information. It should always call us to respond.
Look for practical ways to help others. A whole church that looks to the interests of others is attractive. They want to serve. If you’re a Christian you’re called to live a distinctive life, but you’re not on your own. You’re part of a church. As we do that more and more, the world will see we are Jesus’ disciples.
All of us can be welcomed into God’s family because of his rescue. In Acts 8 the apostles are there to give testimony. Acts is all about Jesus who completely transforms lives.
Jesus grows his church (v31-32) and Jesus uses Peter to heal and to save (v33-35)
Miracles aren’t everyday occurrences. This is similar to what Jesus has done (paralysed man). Luke wants us to see the similarities. Jesus speaks with his own authority by forgiving sins. Peter’s authority comes from Jesus. Miracles are signs pointing to the truth of Christianity. This is a glimpse of Jesus’ power. He’s going to make the world as it should be.
Jesus uses Peter to raise and save (v36-42)
Tabitha was always doing good and helping the poor. Those things aren’t optional. A Christian should always be doing those things. It’s not too late to change and begin to live a life honouring Jesus. Jesus has his own authority. He’s the one through whom the universe was made. Jesus gave authority to his apostles. The NT is a record of all that they said and did. He is bringing about his great plan. We rarely get to see things from God’s perspective. We can when we look back.
We can be confident that Jesus is always working his good plans behind the scenes. He does wonderful things through normal Christians living normal lives trying to honour him. Christianity is about putting Jesus first and others second.
For Christians there’s a sense that everything starts on a Sunday. The early church couldn’t stop talking about the resurrection. In some way, all believers are sent once. Mission involves us all.
The continuation of God’s mission through Jesus
The goal of mission is the gladness of people in the gladness of God. God wants his love to overflow to others. He sent Jesus so that we can know the Father as he knows the Father. God had an only son and he made him a missionary. We have to continue what the apostles began.
We have a mandate for our mission
We have a command from God to go. The great commission isn’t a suggestion. God wants to send you somewhere to somehow be witnesses. We can know peace because we have peace with God through the cross.
The same mighty power of the Holy Spirit
People have hard hearts and are deaf to the word of God. The apostles weren’t just filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost but they prayed they would be whenever they were preaching the gospel.
The same message of the gospel
As the apostles were sent out, they weren’t to die for the sins of others. They were to proclaim the message of forgiveness and reconciliation. It’s still the same message.
Jesus sends us to be his witnesses
God wants to send us into the world to tell the world that it’s true. Not everybody will believe us. The early church had to speak because it is true. They couldn’t deny the truth. Are you willing for God to send you anywhere?
Paul says being content is something of a mystery. He gives a stark contrast. He knows what it is to be in need and what it is to have everything. We strive to obtain the best possible circumstances. Paul doesn’t know if he’ll be led to execution. He is amply supplied and is content.
Being content is something we learn
Paul has set out the pattern of how to learn throughout Philippians. Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus. Being content isn’t dependent on how we feel about a situation. Lasting joy and satisfaction can never be forced into your life by a new job or child etc. We think and live as if our circumstances now is all there is. The only way we can be content isn’t by being self sufficient but by being Christ dependent.
Being content is depending on Christ
Orientate your life on someone who is unchanging. The risen, exalted Jesus. He is who we rejoice in. Learn to set your mind on him. We need to look away from ourselves. It’s only through Jesus that we can have the strength to be content. Paul means that in whatever situation he finds himself in, he can be content, because it comes from God.
Being content leads to blossoming generosity
Paul rejoices greatly in the Lord as he sees the gospel minds of the Philippians blossom. He rejoiced in their motive. People who give generously know that being content doesn’t come from their circumstances. It’s not a sacrifice to earn a favour. Paul concludes by sending greetings. Their gift has helped others in Rome become Christians.
What is your treasure? What’s worth giving up your life for? The issue is where these things sit on the scale of what’s most important to you. Has it replaced the God who made you? Knowing Jesus as Lord is better than anything else. It’s only through faith in Jesus that we can be made right with God forever.
Knowing Jesus as Lord is better than our performance (v1-7)
The key to a Christian’s spiritual safety is delighting and rejoicing in the Lord. Paul says to watch out for wild dogs. Our lives aren’t spent learning how to be good enough for God. Paul knew that our performance isn’t going to protect us. We can never be good enough on our own. Surrender your performance to him.
Knowing Jesus as Lord is worth partnering in suffering (v8-11)
Paul expands the value of Jesus. A relationship with Jesus surpasses anything the world can offer. We gain Christ that guarantees righteousness with God. The mark of a relationship with Jesus is resurrection power in your life.
Knowing Jesus as Lord is the ultimate prize, but we’re not there yet (v12-14)
God calls us to press on towards the finish line. Paul’s staying focused on what matters. Fix your mind on knowing Christ himself. Is knowing Jesus the treasure of your heart? He demonstrated how much he loves you by dying for you.