We are now in that part of Acts in which Luke is describing the second missionary journey of the Apostle Paul. This is the story of the entrance of the Gospel into Europe. What started in the temple in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost as a trickle was spreading out over the known world just as Ezekiel 47 predicted.
We saw in our last study that God had closed many doors to the mission team:
And they passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; (Acts 16:6 NASB)
They were forbidden to preach the word in Asia. Doesn't that sound strange to you? These guys were missionaries. God is sovereignly directing them to Europe:
and when they had come to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; 8 and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. (Acts 16:7-8 NASB)
Troas was named Alexander Troas for Alexander the Great. It was a town that became somewhat well-known; ten miles away from Troas was the city of Troy. Helen of Troy and the great heroes of the Trojan War came from that area there. It was as Greek really as the land of Greece just across the Aegean Sea.
And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a certain man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." 10 And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. (Acts 16:9-10 NASB)
In a vision Paul sees a man of Macedonia saying, "Come and help us." There was the call of God in a dream, in a vision, at night. The Greek word translated here as "vision" is horama, which means: "something gazed at, i.e. a spectacle (especially supernatural), a sight divinely granted."
Ray Steadman writes, "We are studying the section of the book of Acts which sets before us the account of the early church in operation and which outlines for us the pattern of normal Christianity. We must remember that this book is intended to describe Christianity as it ought to be in every age."
How many of you have had a vision? You are not going to get a Macedonian call. Preachers of the present day have no authoritative visions by night to guide them. Why is it that Paul is having these visions, and we are not? How are we different from Paul? Paul lived in the Transition Period, we do not. In the Transition Period, from Pentecost to the Second Coming in A.D. 70, God worked in the church through miraculous gifts and spoke to His prophets.
Let's look at some terms that will help us understand this: Revelation--God unveiling Himself, making Himself known. Paul received direct revelation. Inspiration--The Holy Spirit making secure that revelation which was known. This was done through the writing of the Word of God. Revelation was God unveiling Himself, and inspiration was God securing it in the canon of Scripture. Revelation and inspiration are closed. God is not giving revelation today. If He did, it would be on par with the Scripture and binding on your life. Illumination--God making Himself understood through the writings. God speaks to us today through His word:
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NASB)
The Scripture is all we need. But many within churcheanity today still claim to see visions. This brand of mysticism is most commonly seen in the Charismatic movement where Scripture is a distant second in importance to visions and revelations. Some of the worst excesses in the modern-day Charismatic movement are derived from such visions. There is no need for extra-Biblical revelation through visions, because we have the Word of God.
When someone comes along with a notion, however spiritual it may sound, or a vision, however authentic it may seem, if it contradicts the plain teaching of the Word of God, we have to say they were tuned to the wrong channel that day. You have to always judge the experience by the Word of God.
The Spirit was guiding them directly. God told them, "Don't go that way." God sovereignly called Christianity to Europe. This experience of revelation is not the norm in the Church today.
Therefore putting out to sea from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the day following to Neapolis; (Acts 16:11 NASB)
Paul and his team set sail northwest from Troas, making a straight line for Samothrace, a mountainous island that rises over 5,000 feet. About halfway on their voyage they anchor for the night on the north side of the island. They complete their 156 mile journey the next day, landing at Neapolis. Neapolis was a sea-port town of Macedonia, a few miles eastward of Philippi. They must have had tail winds, because on a later journey the voyage in the opposite direction took them five days (Acts 20:6).
Paul and his missionary team, which now includes Luke, had to sail across the Agean Sea, from the continent of Asia to the continent of Europe. Acts 16 is the story of the entrance of the Gospel into Europe. As we look back, over twenty-one centuries, we can see that this is one of the most important events of all time. It changed the whole course of Western civilization. Christianity has had a dramatic and powerful influence on the Western civilization.
Who could have dreamed that when the ship moored at Neapolis, and the gangplank was let down, the little bald-headed man with bow legs who came down it to stand on the soil of Europe for the first time was about to change the face of Europe? In Acts 16, Luke has woven together three separate, but related incidents. The first is the conversion of Lydia (16:13-15). The second is the encounter with the demon-possessed slave-girl, from whom Paul eventually casts out the demon (16:16ff.359). The third incident is the conversion of the Philippian jailer and his household. For this morning we are just going to look at Lydia.
and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia, a Roman colony; and we were staying in this city for some days. (Acts 16:12 NASB)
Philippi was about 10 miles inland. It was founded in 368 B.C. by Philip , who was the father of Alexander the Great. Alexander the Great was very instrumental in having the known world at that time speaking Greek. As he conquered, he made his subjects speak Greek. Philip had founded Philippi because there was no more strategic site in all Europe. There is a range of hills which divides Europe from Asia, east from west, and just at Philippi that chain of hills dips into a pass so that the city commanded the road from Europe to Asia, since the road must go through the pass.
Philippi had rich gold and silver mines, which Philip used to finance his military campaign. And it had a famous school of medicine with graduates throughout the then-known world. Luke's mention of Philippi's status as a Roman colony is unusual; he did not identify Roman colonies as such elsewhere. Some scholars conjecture that Philippi was Luke's hometown or the town in which he lived before joining Paul's party.
Near Philippi was fought the battle in 42 B.C., which resulted in the victory of Antony and Octavian (the future Emperor Augutus ) over Brutus and Cassius, the assassins of Julius Caesar. (It is from Shakespear's references to this battle in Julius Caesar that the undying misquotation, "We shall meet at Philippi," is taken.) After the battle, the victors settled a number of their veterans at Philippi and made it a Roman colony.
It was the custom of Rome to send out parties of veteran soldiers, who had served their time and been granted citizenship, to settle in strategic road centers. Usually these parties consisted of three hundred veterans with their wives and children. These colonies were the focal points of the great Roman road systems, which were so engineered that reinforcements could speedily be sent from one colony to another. The Roman roads were incredible. They were cement foundations with huge blocks put on top of them. They were well maintained and ran for miles and miles. They connected all these colonies together. These cities were founded to keep the peace and to command the strategic centers in Rome's far-flung empire. At first they had been founded in Italy; but soon they were scattered throughout the whole empire as the empire grew. In later days, the title of colony was given by the government to any city that it wished to honor for faithful service.
Wherever they were, these colonies were little fragments of Rome, and their pride in their Roman citizenship was their dominating characteristic. The Roman language was spoken; Roman dress was worn; Roman customs were observed; their magistrates had Roman titles and carried out the same ceremonies as were carried out in Rome itself. They were stubbornly and unalterably Roman and would never have dreamt of becoming assimilated to the people amidst whom they were set. Philippi was a miniature Rome
The distinctive prerogatives of a colony were: (1) Autonomous government, (2) Immunity from tribute and taxation, (3) Treatment as if they actually lived in Italy.
It was a strategic place for a Christian Church, as travelers passing back and forth would come in contact with the Gospel, and if converted, would carry it to their ultimate destination.
Luke devoted more space to Paul's evangelizing in Philippi than he did to the apostle's activities in any other city on the second and third journeys even though Paul was there only briefly.
What did these missionaries do when they got into the city? They most likely got jobs to support themselves, and then they began to look for ministry opportunities.
And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled. (Acts 16:13 NASB)
Why didn't they go to the synagogue like they normally did? There was no synagogue in Philippi. The rabbis taught that any city in which ten or more Jewish males resided was suitable for the setting up of a synagogue. If ten were not available, the worshipers would meet by any body of water--lake, ocean, pond, etc.
In Rome at this time some uprising had happened; Jews were blamed, and Claudius the emperor began persecuting Jews, driving them from the city. This mini-Rome, Philippi, was apparently doing the same thing, forcing Jews out of public view, driving them underground. They were not meeting in public. No men are mentioned. Perhaps there were none who were willing to stick their necks out in times of persecution.
Failing to find a synagogue in the city, therefore, Paul and his companions went down by the Gangites River, a mile west of the city, where they found that a number of women had assembled. The team sat down and began to teach from the Tanakh that Jesus Christ was God's Messiah.
The "place of prayer" is from the Greek word proseuche. Sometimes this word was used in Jewish writings as a synonym for "synagogue" since Jewish synagogues were essentially places of prayer. The proseucha was a place of prayer, or a place used for worship where there was no synagogue. It was a large building, uncovered, with seats as in an amphitheater. Such places of prayer were centuries old, as can be seen from this Psalm, depicting Israel's plight while captives in Babylon:
By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down and wept, When we remembered Zion. 2 Upon the willows in the midst of it We hung our harps. 3 For there our captors demanded of us songs, And our tormentors mirth, saying, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion." (Psalms 137:1-3 NASB)
Paul receives this great Macedonian vision--God had called him to Europe, and he gets to Philippi and ends up meeting with a bunch of women at a river. Most preachers I know would have not been too happy with that crowd.
Let"s remember that women in the ancient world, whether you're talking about Greek women, Roman women. or any kind of pagan women; women were looked upon as slaves. If a man didn't like his breakfast, he had a right to kill his wife without recourse. Gentiles, slaves, and women did not enjoy the same access to God in Israel's formal worship as did Jews, free men, and males.
But here we see Paul teaching women! This is a picture of the right and freedom that all women have under the New Covenant. The priests in Israel had to be Jews, free, and males. Now in the church, every Christian is a priest (1 Pet.2:9-10). Women are equal to men spiritually. Paul wrote:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28 NASB)
Lydia represents all women--they are equal in the church with men:
And a certain woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. (Acts 16:14 NASB)
At this river gathering was Lydia, her home town was Thyatira, a city in Asia Minor. The Spirit directed Paul away from Asia because Lydia was not there at the time, she was in Europe. Lydia was an Asian, but she was now living in Europe. She had a house and a business in Philippi.
Lydia was a seller of purple--she was a business woman, probably a widow. Thyatira was well known as a center for this purple dye and fabric made from it. Homer, in the Iliad, says the art of the women in Thyatira and the area is the art of dying with purple. These dyed garments were very expensive. The purple dye was derived from the shellfish in the waters of Thyatira, and the throat of each shellfish produced only one drop of dye.
Since Philippi was a Roman colony, it was naturally an excellent market for purple garments. Romans loved the royal color. With it they trimmed togas and tunics, and wove it into their rugs and tapestries.
Our text says that Lydia "worshiped God"--the Greek phrase denotes a Gentile who had become a proselyte of the Gate. Achaeological studies have determined that there was a large Jewish synagogue there. And here was a Gentile lady who, while she was living in Thyatira, had become a God-fearer, that is she had turned to the God of Israel.
It says of Lydia that she "was listening"--Paul preached Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of the Old Covenant types. Paul preached Christ's death, burial, and resurrection.
Notice carefully what the text says: "the LORD OPENED her heart to respond...." If you try to deny that the one single reason that Lydia understood and believed the Gospel was because God deliberately opened her heart and enabled her to believe, you are fighting God's Word. If you try to get man's "free will" as the one determining factor into this text, you are consciously corrupting the Word of God.
Commenting on this text, Ray Steadman writes, "Lydia was there, and she did not get upset by the message. She did not view it as a challenge to her Jewish faith, but immediately recognized that it was the fulfillment of all her Jewish hopes. So she opened her heart and received the Lord." Is that what the text says?
Steve Zeisler, commenting on this text, writes, "As Paul was speaking, Lydia opened her heart to the Lord." He also writes, "This woman was overtaken by the grace of God, and she opened her heart to the Lord and opened her home to be used." And a third time he writes, "She not only opened her heart, but she opened her home."
I don't know what translation they are using, cause the text says "The Lord opened her heart." This is the only place in the New Testament that uses the phrase "opened her heart," and the Bible gives the whole credit for this "opening" to God's power and not to man's will. Arminianism insists that man's free will must furnish the willingness, or power, and the Bible says that the Holy Spirit of God furnishes that power, or ability in the new birth.
Why did God have to open her heart? Her natural mind was blind, her natural heart was averse to God, and her will was in bondage to sin and spiritual death. Only the power of God can free her from this spiritual depravity. The giving of this life and power is solely the work of God. Notice that the Bible explicitly gives God alone the credit for Lydia's heart being opened. It is impossible not to see that in this text, unless you simply refuse to accept what God clearly says.
The Greek word translated here as "heart" is kardia, from which we get the word "cardiac." The Bible always refers to the heart as the internal part of man--the seat of a man's personality. Predominantly, it refers to the thinking processes--not the emotions. When the Bible talks about emotion, it refers to the bowels of compassion, the feelings we get in the stomach or midsection. The Bible even talks about the liver as an organ of emotion (Lam. 2:11). That's because the Jewish writers expressed emotions, such as love and hate, by the effect those emotions produce in the abdominal area. According to the Bible, the heart is what we think with:
For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, "Eat and drink!" But his heart is not with you. (Proverbs 23:7 NASB)
Here we see thinking as a function of the heart:
Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:5 NASB)
We can think of the word "heart" as referring to the will and emotions, because they are influenced by the intellect. If my mind is really committed to something, it will affect my will, which in turn will affect my emotions. The will is like a flywheel; the mind gets it moving, and once it is moving, it moves the emotions. So when our Lord spoke of the heart, He was talking about the mind, our thinking.
When the Scripture says, "The Lord opened her heart"--this is the doctrine of Sovereign Election. Of this doctrine Arthur Pink writes:
God's sovereign election is the truth most loathed and reviled by the majority of those claiming to be believers. Let it be plainly announced that salvation originated not in the will of man, but in the will of God, that were it not so none would or could be saved. For as a result of the fall man has lost all desire and will unto that which is good and that even the elect themselves have to be made willing, and loud will be the cries of indignation against such teaching. Merit mongers will not allow the supremacy of the divine will and the impedance of the human will. Consequently, they who are the most bitter in denouncing election by the sovereign will of God are the warmest in crying up the free will of fallen man.
God's providence refers to the fact that He is sovereignly working behind the scenes, even when we are not aware of it, to work all things after the counsel of His will. In other words, nothing happens by chance, even though it may seem to us to be by chance. Certainly the salvation of a soul, whom God has predestined to salvation before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4-5), is not left to chance!
It doesn't say that Lydia opened her own heart. You might be wondering about:
'Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me. (Revelation 3:20 NASB)
Most in churcheanity see this as teaching that God knocks on our heart's door and waits for us to open it. No! Revelation 3:19 says, "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent." The word "discipline" is the Greek paideuo, which means: "to train a child, to educate, practice discipline, correct." Every use of paideuo in the New Testament refers to believers. God only chastens His Children. This verse is not talking about salvation, but fellowship. This verse is written to those in the Church. Lydia didn't open her heart, God did.
Apart from God "opening the heart," no one can, in and of themselves, come to God:
"No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44 NASB)
Jesus clearly teaches here that "no one" can come to Him "unless" the Father draws him. No one comes unless God does something first. What is it that God does? Some have tried to interpret the word "draw" here as "call or invite." But this is not what the word "draw" means. The Greek word translated "draw" is helkuo, which means: "to drag." It is used eight times in the New Testament. To understand what it means, let's look at a few of its uses:
Simon Peter therefore having a sword, drew [helkuo] it, and struck the high priest's slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave's name was Malchus. (John 18:10 NASB)
Now, did Peter invite or call his sword to come out? No! He grabbed it, and pulled it out.
But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged [helkuo] them into the market place before the authorities, (Acts 16:19 NASB)
But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag [helkuo] you into court? (James 2:6 NASB)
The usage of this word makes it very clear that helkuo means: "to draw by irresistible superiority." So, John is saying that no one comes to Christ unless the Father draws them by irresistible superiority. So God opening Lydia's heart was His drawing her.
A sinner absolutely cannot (notice it is not "will" not) come to Christ until God first does something in that sinner's nature. That "something" is what the Bible calls "regeneration," or the new birth, and it is the exclusive work of God, the Holy Spirit. Man has no part whatever in regeneration. All through Acts Luke is a consistent Calvinist. "The Lord opened her heart." Notice who it is that believes the Gospel:
And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48 NASB)
Those who God had appointed to eternal life, believed. Until God does a work in our lives, we cannot believe.
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. (1 Corinthians 2:14 NASB)
According to Scripture, the natural man is the man without the Spirit:
These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. (Jude 1:19 NASB)
The word "worldly-minded" is the same Greek word as "natural" in 1 Corinthians 2:14. The natural man, the man without the Spirit, is incapable of understanding the Gospel. The natural man can no more receive the Gospel than you could receive a radio station without a receiver. Salvation is of the Lord, and until God opens a person's heart, they cannot believ:
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, (Ephesians 2:1 NASB)
Until God gives you life, you cannot respond to the Gospel. Dead men do not respond to anything.
Man today will allow God to be sovereign everywhere except over their will. When it comes to the will, man thinks he's sovereign. I was sharing this doctrine of God's sovereign election with a man, and he said to me, "That sounds like heresy to say that God is sovereign over man's will." I responded, "As a matter of fact, it is your position that the church has regarded as heresy." In the fifth century, the Council of Ephesus condemned Pelagius's views of man's free will and upheld Augustin's view of irresistible grace.
In the seventeenth century, the Council of Dort condemned the five points of Arminianism and held to the position that salvation is of the Lord. In the eighteenth century, a man named John Campbell, a Scottish preacher, began to preach that man could choose God of his own free will. Scotland threw him out of the church and declared him a heretic.
We are infiltrated today by humanism. The majority of believers now hold to what the historic church has always condemned:
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13 NASB)
Man is not born again by an act of "the will of the flesh," but of God. The evidence of the new birth is faith:
Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. (1 John 5:1 NASB)
The word "is" is in the perfect tense--has been. The one who believes that Jesus is the Christ does so because he has been born of God. He could not believe if God had not given him life.
So the Lord brought Lydia from Western Turkey to Philippi, and Paul from wanting to go into Western Turkey to Philippi, and brought them together here so that she could get saved!
So there in that quiet place by the riverside there met that small group of women and that once proud Pharisee with his followers, and together they launched the official work of Christ in Europe.
And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us. (Acts 16:15 NASB)
Though Paul normally does not accept hospitality and financial support of converts as he is planting a church in their midst (2 Cor 11:7-9; 1 Thess 2:9), he makes an exception here. He permits Lydia to live out the principle of sharing material goods with those who teach the Word (1 Cor 9:11, 14; Gal 6:6).
The word "prevailed" is an Interesting word, it's a forceful word. It's only used one other time in the New Testament, and that is the time when Jesus was walking with those two disciples on the Emmaus Road and they kept urging Him to stay with them (same word) to come to their house and abide with them.
Lydia's house became the place where the church met. Look at verse 40:
And they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia, and when they saw the brethren, they encouraged them and departed. (Acts 16:40 NASB)
Lydia has the honor of being the first person converted by Paul to Christianity on European soil. It was in her home, no doubt, that the first Christian congregation in Europe was to meet, and the first church in Europe was to be organized.
We see from Revelation 2:18 that there would eventually be a church in Thyatira. Who started this church? I do not know. But I suspect that a Christian business woman named Lydia had something to do with it.
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