The Story of the First Christian in Europe (Acts 16:11-15)
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The story of the first Christian in Europe
Acts 16:11-15 (Pastor Heo)
Lydia’s Conversion in Philippi
16:11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
15:36-18:32 = Paul’s Second Missionary Journey
The original plan was to revisit the churches he’d previously established already in Asian Minor. But the area of his journey was unexpectedly widened.
First part: revisited Derbe, Lystra, Iconium – and tried to preach in neighboring areas. But he was prevented from preaching the gospel by the HS. So, he tried to go near the Black Sea, but he wasn’t allowed. God closed the door twice. So, he went to Troas – the west end of Asia Minor. Here, God opened the door through a vision.
Yes, God closes some doors and opens others. Even today, all our steps and all our stops should be led and guided by God.
In this story, God closed the familiar, easy, known doors, but opened the difficult, impossible, farther doors. We can see 4 wonderful openings in this chapter.
- Opened the doors for Europe mission
- Opened the heart of Lydia
- Opened the doors of the prison (earthquake) – next Sunday
- Opened the doors of the Philippian jailors – next Sunday
- Some doors we want to be opened may be closed (job seeking, children’s education, dreams, ambitions, family, etc).
- But what is important is that though some doors are closed DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED – because God can open unexpected doors.
- Never give up expecting the unexpected guidance of God.
Chp 16 highlights 3 individuals who became believers by Paul’s ministry in Macedonia:
- Lydia – business woman
- Demon-possessed girl
- Philippian jailor
Even today, the gospel reaches old and young, rich and poor, male and female, because it is unchangeable and immutable. “The gospel is the POWER of God for everyone who believes.”
“11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days. “
We know Troas was the place where Paul saw the vision of the man of Macedonia. In response to this, Paul and his team immediately boarded the ship and sailed across the Aegean Sea. They traveled 10 miles inland to Philippi from there. This is a significant location for European mission.
The city name = named after Philip II of Macedon – the father of Alexander the Great. This city became a Roman colony in 42 BC. This place is the FIRST place the gospel was preached in Europe. It was Paul’s first mission in Europe as well. He wrote a letter called: “Philippians” to this church – it is very tender, showing his relationship with this first church he planted.
Remember: Philippi is the FIRST place the gospel was preached in Europe and the first mission of Paul in Europe.
“13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. “
Are you also looking for a “place of prayer” in your life?
Remember, Paul always went to the synagogue first in a new city. This is where the truth-seekers went – the Jews and the Gentiles who liked the Jewish traditions.
Actually, there was no synagogue in Philippi – there were very few Jews. In Jewish traditions, at least 10 Jewish men needed to be present for their to be a synagogue. In this situation, the Jewish people would often go outside the city near the riverbank or seaside for prayer. That’s why Paul went out there – also to pray for guidance in his ministry and to find the people who were praying.
Paul knew personally that God had called him there – but he still needed to pray.
- Yes, when we do NOT know God’s will, we must pray. We know this.
- But, when we DO know God’s will, we ALSO must pray.
Someone said, “We don’t need to pray because ‘God knows your needs before you ask.'” But actually the OPPOSITE is true. If we believe this, then we absolutely MUST pray! Because God will meet our need through our prayer. It is not enough to know WHAT and WHERE God wants us to work, but we must also learn WHEN and HOW he wants us to work.
In this place, Paul’s first contact was with a group of women (even though he’d seen a man in his vision). He presented the gospel to these women.
God led Paul to a Roman colony and a Christian flag was “unfurled” in Rome that day. This area became the beginning of the mission.
“14 One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.”
One woman responded to his message – a woman from Thyatira (referenced in Revelation later) named Lydia.
This woman Lydia, like Cornelius, was very religious and sincere – a worshiper of God – a woman of high character, but not yet saved (so she needed salvation). She needed Christ. “Salvation is found in no one else.” (this is a basic pillar of Christianity).
We need to notice that God opened her heart to respond to the message of the gospel. God opened her heart. This woman listened earnestly, positively, attentively, to the Word of God. It is the Word of God that brings the hearer to Christ (Rom 10:17 “Faith comes by hearing”)
- Phil 2:12 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus Christ, the author and perfector of our faith.”
- Jesus: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my words and obeys them … has crossed over from death to life.”
Paul’s witness of Christ and Lydia’s attentive listening was opened and orchestrated by God. God is opening and closing the doors.
- Proverbs 13:9 “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord establishes his footsteps.”
- “Trust in God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength; in all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.”
“15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us. “
As Lydia placed her trust in Christ, she experienced the joy of all her sins being forgiven, and her joy overflowed into her whole household – and they were all saved and baptized together. This is “household salvation”. In Acts, there are at least 4 instances of this occurring.
- Chp 10: Cornelius and family
- Chp 16: Lydia and family
- Chp 16: Jailor and family (next week)
- Chp 18: Crispus and family
They were all converted together and baptized together (not necessary for salvation). Baptism is an OUTWARD sign of an INWARD reality – that you now belong to Christ.
She then invited the missionaries to use her house as their home base while in Philippi.
The fruit of her conversion: hospitality
Actually, this is so important: the ministry of hospitality.
- Romans 12:13 “Share with those who are in need, practice hospitality.”
- 1 Peter 4:9 “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
Hospitality is related to “hospital” and “hospice.” We practice this when we generously and cordially throw open the doors of our house to care for, strengthen, edify, build up others.
The result? Others find emotional, mental, physical help – they leave us as healthier, happier, more whole people than when they came to us.
Is this your hospitality? Is this your practice?
Our house should be a hospital and hospice.
We are saved by grace alone through faith alone (plus nothing). But remember, salvation has POWER and generates FRUIT.
- “Salvation has POWER”
- “Salvation is new Life”
- “Salvation is new Creation”
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a New Creation. Behold! The Old has gone, the New has come!”
So, if we are TRULY saved, then we will be changed, and there will be transformation in our lives as evidence of this change.