A Classic Conversion (Acts 15:30-16:24)
A Classic Conversion (Acts 15:30-16:24)
Revisit & Resolving a Rift (15:36-41)
Paul’s first missionary journey initiated several new churches throughout the region. Paul’s heart, however, is not just concerned with seeing new churches begin, but he also desired to see the new converts growing and maturing within those churches. No special guidance drove Paul’s desire, other than a general pastoral desire and duty. God had made it abundantly clear that they should preach the gospel to the entire world, and he didn’t need ongoing reminders of such clear standing commands. The same should be true of us. We have standing orders from our King to love God, love others, earn our daily bread, care for our families, witness of Christ to the world, pay bills, pay taxes, respect authority, etc. You don’t need special guidance about whether or not to obey what God has spoken.
Barnabas wanted to take John Mark to revisit the new churches, but Paul was adamant that John Mark should not join them due to his previous desertion. Barnabas’ patient willingness to minister to and alongside of John Mark proves justified, as Paul himself will later regard John Mark as a “useful” servant (2 Tim 4:11). Though John Mark had messed up, he wasn’t doomed to live a second-rate Christian life, never having the smile of God’s approval. God is a forgiving God, and John Mark was eventually restored to usefulness in the Lord’s work. In the end, the solution between Paul and Barnabas to part ways and go to different regions resulted in the continued advance of the Gospel.
- What clear commandments of the Scriptures are you refusing to obey? What would it look like to take each of God’s commandments seriously in your own life?
- Have you messed up terribly like John Mark? Why is the account of John Mark’s life an encouragement for people like you?
Timothy Recruited (16:1-5)
Why would Paul want to circumcise Timothy after so decisively rejecting circumcision? Though circumcision was unnecessary for acceptance with God, it was necessary in order to be accepted among the Jews. For the sake of peace and unity within the church, Paul understood that it was necessary for Timothy not to exercise his liberty, but instead to act in love toward others. What is not necessary for salvation was necessary for fellowship.
Restrained and Redirected (16:6-10)
When Paul set out to reach certain new areas, the Holy Spirit prevented him (v6). Then, when they attempted an alternate route, he wasn’t permitted there either (v7). After these two negative divine orchestrations, a positive one comes, through a vision calling Paul to go to Macedonia (v9). Paul was willing to trust the Lord for guidance, rejoice in His restraints, and praise Him for prohibitions. And because of the call of God to go to Macedonia, Paul could be confident in the purposes of God. We may fish all night and catch nothing, but when God instructs us where to cast the nets, we expect to haul in loads of fish.
- What does Paul’s journey to Philippi teach you about trusting in the Lord’s sovereign control of circumstances? Why does knowing God’s control of circumstances give us confidence to faithfully bear witness to Christ where He has placed us?
Regenerated at the Riverside (16:11-15)
Paul’s usual practice of preaching in the synagogue is altered, since there is no synagogue in Philippi. When they go to the riverbank, they find a group of women praying, among whom is Lydia from Asia. She is a “worshiper of God,” meaning that she accepted monotheism, was given to prayer and seeking the one true and living God, but was still a stranger to the gospel. Like the rest of mankind, her heart was naturally shut against the truths of Christ. But from being closed toward Christ, Lydia’s heart was opened to Him. Through the instruction of God’s Word, she was given insight into her need and responded in faith. The preaching was not effective in and of itself; God worked through it. The Word and Spirit are inseparable in the conversion of the lost to Christ. As a result of regeneration, Lydia made a public profession through baptism and was committed to Christian fellowship and hospitality.
Removing Demons Results in Arrest (16:16-24)
After several days of the slave girl crying out, Paul is disturbed deeply. Paul’s response to her was compassionate, concerned for the bondage that she was in: bondage to the evil spirit, bondage to her cruel masters. The slave girl’s profession that the gospel is the “way of salvation” reminds us that it is possible to be familiar with the truths of the gospel without experiencing any of its saving power. The girl’s true words masked the lost state of her soul. By healing the girl, Paul hurt her masters, and the same devil that was flattering Paul through the girl now uses her masters to arrest, beat, and imprison Paul and Silas. Though arrest and imprisonment were meant to impede the progress of the gospel, they serve to advance it in the end.
- What can we learn from Lydia’s conversion about the sinfulness of our hearts and the grace of God? Why is it necessary for God to open our hearts like He opened Lydia’s? What can we learn from her about fruits of conversion in a believers life?