google-site-verification: google3e8cc4742c5fd8a2.html The Spirit Explodes 15
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The Spirit Explodes

Part 15 of 22
Excitements at Philippi!
Acts 15:36–16:40.


by Roger Kirby

This is the beginning of what is usually labelled the Second Missionary Journey.

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Read Acts 15:36 – 41.

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We do not know why John Mark had left the little group of missionaries to return to Jerusalem. Of course it turned out that the most important thing he would ever do, writing his Gospel, was still some distance in the future. It is also clear that Paul forgave him enough to have him working with him and then to be anxious to be visited by him when in prison.

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Question 1: What about a bit of guesswork? What reasons might Mark have had for going back to Jerusalem that he thought were good reasons and Paul did not?

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I think these must almost certainly have been family reasons. Perhaps he had heard someone was dying, or perhaps he had left a pregnant wife behind and wanted to be near by as she reached the time to give birth. Family events like these are still difficult for people working overseas with the Gospel.

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Read Acts 16:1 – 5.

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Question 2: Why did Paul circumcise Timothy just after it had been agreed that non-Jewish Christians did not need to be circumcised?

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With mixed race parents Timothy’s status must have been ambiguous. Was he a Jew or not? If he was going to work amongst them it would be best if the ambiguity was removed. In doing this Paul was following his usual policy of not letting any practical thing stand in the way of people accepting the good news of Jesus.

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Read Acts 16:6 – 12.

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This is an interesting passage. As I read it Paul had a policy of deciding what to do next on the basis of common sense, only following spiritual guidance when he was forced to do so.

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Question 3: Would you agree that this is a good way of proceeding?

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There is distinct possibility of disagreement here. I guess it depends on our personality types and our faith and church background how we approach the question of what we should do next. My argument is that the Lord has given us brains and he means us to use them! I think relying on feeling we have a small voice telling us what to do after prayer is susceptible to too much personal desire creeping in. You may disagree; think about it.

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We do not know who the man of Macedonia was. The most common guesses are Luke himself, or Alexander the Great. Who ever it was Paul was quite sure this was the word of the Lord to him and immediately obeyed. It was a comparatively short voyage from the port of Troas, on the shore of modern Turkey, to Neapolis in modern Greece. But for Paul and his companions this was not a journey from one country to another but just a slight extension of their travels within the Roman Empire. They then go on to the important Roman settlement of Philippi.

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Read Acts 16:13 – 15.

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Lydia must have been an important woman, perhaps a widow, trading in the cloth that was only worn by the Imperial family.

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Question 4: What does the fact that she was baptized mean?

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The Holy Spirit must have come upon her. The fact that her household, presumably family, servants and slaves, were all baptized is recognition that their culture was very different from the strictly individualistic culture of modern western society. Theirs was a pluralistic culture where her dependents would unquestionably accept her decision as being theirs as well and would expect to receive the Holy Spirit as she did. Their action was no less meaningful even if we find it a bit incomprehensible.

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Once again Luke draws attention to the positive role a woman played in the early church.

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Read Acts 16:16 – 40.

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Luke is almost teasing his readers when he has the jailer cry out “what must I do to be saved”! Biblically that sounds more like a theological question than the intensely practical one it is here. As we noticed in the story of Peter’s escape from prison jailers who lost their charges were liable to the death penalty themselves. Paul needs no second invitation. He immediately tells the jailer about Jesus in sufficient detail to convince him of the truth of what they said.

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Question 5: What is the sequence of actions that lead to the joy of the jailer?

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An act of physical rescue, instruction, baptism and caring fellowship. We may assume that the gift of the Holy Spirit fitted in there somewhere. Luke is instructing us in the story he tells.

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A much harder question to answer is this:

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Question 6: Why did Paul and Silas not say they were Roman citizens before they were beaten and avoid a very painful experience?

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It may have been for the simple reason that they could not make themselves heard in the hubbub of the crowd. But it may perhaps have been for the sake of the brand new little church. They did not want it to be dependent on the authorities for its continuation. After the beating they should not have received the local believers were in a position of superior honour in relation to the authorities and not beneath them. They could spend time encouraging the believers before acceding to the authorities request and leaving the city.

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All of which is a good illustration of how to obey the instruction of Jesus in Matthew 10:16: ‘I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.’

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