ďThe Saints In Christ Jesus At PhilippiĒ††††† Acts 16:6-40†††† September 5, 2010

 

SI:Weíre beginning this morning a study of Paulís letter to the Philippians.

Out of all the letters Paul wrote to the churches, Philippians is the sweetest.

†† It is a warm, happy, personable letter.

Paul didnít write this letter to teach doctrine, like his letter to the Romans.

†† Although there is great doctrine in this letter.

And Paul didnít write this letter to deal with problems, like letters to Corinthians.

†† Even though he does challenge some church members about some things.

 

He wrote this letter because the loved them.

†† Out of all the churches he had planted, all the churches he had visitedó

†† this was his favorite church.And he wanted to thank them for what they had

†† done for him, and encourage them to keep on living the Christian life.

 

Bible teachers have often called Philippians, the Epistle of Joy.

†† Because even though Paul was writing from a Roman prison,

†† he talks about the joy of Christ, rejoicing in the Lord.

And itís so natural, and Paul is so at ease writing to this church,

†† that it gives us a glimpse into Paulís mind.

We see him letting his guard down, so to speak, and underneath there is this

†† person who is truly at peace.Truly calm and joyful and confident in Christ.

 

For all of those reasons, because itís such a warm, personable letter, and such an

†† uninhibited expression of faith in Christ, Philippians has many favorite verses:

ďFor me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.Ē

†† ďI can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.Ē

ďAnd my God will supply all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.Ē

†† ďRejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, Rejoice.Ē

 

So weíre in for a treat.

†† Philippians is a feast of joy and peace and Jesus Christ and the grace of God.

And one more thing that makes this letter special, is that we have, in Acts,

†† the story of the founding of this church and the personal stories of three

†† charter members.Itís almost as if the Holy Spirit wanted us to see why Paul

†† loved this church so much, by showing us the people in it.

Thatís where weíre going to start.With the planting of the Philippian church,

†† and see what it teaches us about the grace of God.

 

INTRO:Every so often there is a news story about a celebrity who has become a

†† Christian.And you hold your breath, because there is often a follow-up story

that is disappointing.

A few years ago Anne Rice, the vampire novelist, became a Christian.

†† She was interviewed in several Christian publications.

But a few weeks ago, you might have seen this in the news,

†† Anne Rice said that she will no longer have anything to do with the church.

†† She still considers herself a follower of Christ, but has rejected the church.

And she had a list of complaints about the churchósome valid and some not.

 

Sheís not alone.There are lots of people who say the same thingó

†† they say they are Christians but they have little or no use for the church.

Thatís a growing trend in Americaó

†† spirituality without community or accountability.

†† Just me and God. Itís very convenient.

 

But itís totally out of step with genuine, New Testament Christianity.

Throughout the writings of the Apostles, an authentic, faithful walk with Christ

†† is inseparable from love for and life in the church.

And by the church, I donít mean the church as an idea,

†† but the church as a specific congregation with real people.

 

Here we have the great Apostle Paulóa profoundly spiritual man.

Paul had spiritual experiences that none of us will ever have.

†† Jesus Christ himself appeared and spoke to him from heaven on the road

†† to Damascus.He had other heavenly visions.He saw inexpressible things.

Paul knew the Scripture, he had great resources in himselfó

††† and yet when he was in prison in Rome,

†† what did he long for and think about and pray for and find joy in?

A church.A specific congregation.The Philippian church.He said,

†† ďIt is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I

am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in Godís grace with me.Ē

†† ďAll of you.ĒHeís talking about the members of the Philippian church.

 

What a quirky church that was.What an unlikely bunch of people!

There was Lydia.She was a well-to-do businesswoman.

†† Her business was purple cloth, which was a luxury item.

She was the head of a household and had a home that was large enough to host the

†† church.She was referred to as a worshipper of God.

That was a specific term which meant a Gentile who was interested in the God

†† of the Jews, and who attended Jewish worship, but had not converted.

When Paul shared the Gospel, she put her faith in Christ and became

†† the first member of the Philippian church.

 

Then there was the demon-possessed slave girl.She was at the opposite end

†† of the social order from Lydia.She was property.Her owners used her

†† condition to make money.She had suffered a degraded life.

But she was also saved.Thatís what casting out a demon means in the New

†† Testament.Itís a picture of deliverance from bondage to sin and unbelief.

She became the second member of the church.

 

And then there was the Philippian jailor. Philippi was a Roman colony,

†† and all civil positions were given to men who had served the Empire.

So he was probably ex-military.He was a tough, no-nonsense man.

†† But the Lord saved him too and he became the third member of the church.

 

That was the core group of the Philippian church:

†† A wealthy business woman, a formerly demon-possessed slave girl,

†† and a retired military man working as a prison guardóalong with their families

†† and servants.Talk about people with nothing in common!

They must have had some very interesting congregational meetings.

 

And yet when the great Apostle Paul was in prison, the thing that gave him joy

†† and happiness was thinking about this church and praying for them.

Why?Because their very existence as a church was a testimony of Godís grace.

†† It was evidence that God is in control and his grace is sovereign.

 

One of the big faith lessons we will see in Philippians is the importance of the

†† church.How living the Christian life and even thinking rightly about God and

†† Christ is impossible without love for and life in the church.

So letís start with this wonderful snapshot in Acts 16.

†† A snapshot of the planting of this church and its charter members.

 

Letís see what it teaches us about the grace of God,

†† and then how that gives us joy and confidence in the trials of life.

 

Three points:The existence of the church shows us that God grace is

†† particular, irresistible, and covenantal.

MP#1Godís grace is particular.

Godís grace focuses on and fastens on particular people.

†† Itís specific.Itís personal.God goes after particular people for salvation.

 

This is driven home in opening verses about the founding of the Philippian church.

In those verses we read that God prevented Paul from sharing the Gospel in two

†† places, and led him to a third place.Twice Paul tried to go east, deeper into Asia.

Both times he was prevented by the Holy Spirit.

†† Then he had a vision of a Macedonian man begging him to come.

†† So Paul turned west and took the Gospel there, to leading city in Macedonia.

 

Asia and Bithynia did not hear the GospelóMacedonia did.

And because Macedonia heard the Gospel, particular people in Philippi

†† were saved and given forgiveness and eternal life through faith in Christ.

And because Asia and Bithynia did not hear the Gospel, all the people there

†† were left in their sin and unbelief and faced Godís judgment.

 

Who ultimately made the decision about who would hear and who wouldnít?

†† The Lord.It was the Spirit of Jesus who directed Paul toward some people and

†† away from others, because there were people God wanted to save in Philippi.

 

Now, letís ponder this for a few minutesóbecause the implications are profound.

The Bibleís view of history is pretty simple.It goes like this:

†† All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.All sinners deserve hell.

But God in grace chooses to save some who deserve spiritual death.

†† And those he chooses, he saves through the work of Christ

†† and through the witness of the church.

 

The Lord directs the spread of the Gospel and the expansion of the church

†† so that particular people he has chosen can be saved.And that means he

†† deliberately passes over others and leaves them in darkness and unbelief.

I donít hesitate for a moment to admit that this troubles the mind.

†† But itís a truth that cannot be denied.Here it is in black and white.

Paul, go to Macedonia with the Gospel.Donít go into Asia.

†† Why?There are particular people, particular lost sinners God wants to save.

 

And when you ponder that long enough,

†† and think about it in relation to yourself, it brings you to your knees in worship.

It humbles you to the dust and at the same time lifts your spirits as nothing else can.

Why were you born in a time and place where you could hear the Gospel?

†† Why werenít you born in a dark, pagan part of the world where you would

†† never hear the name of Jesus Christ?Where you would live and die in sins.

Did you have anything to do with when and where you were born?

†† Of course not.Thatís Godís grace.His particular grace to you.

 

Why do we have the Gospel in America?Itís because when Paul wanted to go

†† east, the Spirit of Jesus made him go west.Philippi was first church in Europe.

That shaped history.Europe became the center of Christianity.And from Europe

†† the Gospel went to the New World, and in our day we are starting to see the

†† Gospel continue to circle the globe and make significant impact on Asia.

Thatís Godís particular grace.

 

And when Paul was in that prison in Rome, and when he was suffering in chains,

†† he thought about the Philippian church.He remembered how the Lord had

†† changed his plans and in so doing, brought grace and salvation to particular souls.

And that reminded Paul of Godís particular grace in his own life,

†† and lifted his spirits even in prison.

 

When you are in a church.When you love a church, and love the members,

†† and take part in the life of the church, you come face to face with the

†† particular grace of God.You get to know people and see how the Lord moved

†† heaven and earth to save them in particular.And that fills you with joy.

 

I was at a Christ Covenant function a few days ago and I talked briefly with one of

†† the young people in our church who was adopted from another country.

And as we talked I was thinking about how the Lord had brought this particular

†† child across the ocean and into the heart of a particular family that loves the Lord,

†† and into a particular churchóand I was praising God in my heart.

 

And the thought that crossed my mindóa very Presbyterian thoughtó

†† How can you look at this young lady, and not believe in predestination?

How can you look at her and not say:

†† Oh Lord Jesus, you do indeed fasten your love on particular sinners,

†† and then direct the steps of men and the history of nations to save them.

And youíve done that for me, Lord.

†† Youíve poured out your particular grace on me.

If you believe that.If you see it in your own life, can anything really bother you?

†† Can you be down for long about anything?No, you canít.

Brings us to second point.Existence of the church shows us that . . .

MP#2Godís grace is irresistible.

When God chooses a person for salvation, nothing can stand in the way

†† of their eternal lifeónot the world, not the Devil, and not even that personís

†† indifference or love for sin or hatred of God.

Godís grace will irresistibly open their hearts to Christ.

 

In this chapter are three conversion storiesóLydia, the slave girl, the jailor.

†† Weíve already seen how they were so different in life experience

†† and in their socio-economic standing.

The way their conversions took place was also different.

 

With Lydia it was through Paulís preaching.His typical sermon to Jews

†† was heavy on Old Testament prophecy, proving that Jesus is the Messiah.

There are lots of conversions like that.Where people hear the Word preached

†† or someone shares the Gospel with them, and they respond.

†† Itís a gentle, thoughtful conversion.

 

With the slave girl it was a power encounter.

†† A direct challenge to the bondage of Satan, the casting out of a demon,

†† that signified the work of the Holy Spirit freeing her from sin.

A few months ago I was visiting a neighbor, and he told me how he was

†† in bondage to drugs as a young man and his mind was so messed up that

†† he couldnít even read.He literally couldnít focus on the words

But a man told him about Jesus Christ and told him to read the Bible.

†† And at first everything was a blur, but then words miraculously focused,

†† and he read Godís word and his bondage to sin was broken and he was saved.

 

And with the jailor it was a crisis.

When the earthquake struck and he thought the prisoners had escaped,

†† he knew the law would hold him accountable and demand capital punishment.

So in typical Roman fashion, he drew his sword to kill himself.

†† Up to this point, he was acting as he always hadóa hard-core ex-Roman soldier.

But then when he found out the prisoners had not escaped, that he was not

†† going to die, something happened.He was plunged into a spiritual crisis.

He was overwhelmed with the fear of God and judgment.

†† He knew that he had come face to face with God and needed to be saved.

†† Paul told him to believe in Jesus Christ and he did.

And of course, many come to Christ through crisesófinancial, marital, health.

As different as these people were, and as different as their conversions were,

†† the very same thing happened at a spiritual level.

Godís irresistible grace drew them to salvation.

 

Itís described so well in Lydiaís conversion:

†† ďThe Lord opened her heart to respond to Paulís message.Ē

Lydia herself responded in faith.She prayed to receive Christ, as we say.

†† But the reason she did, was because God first, in grace, opened her heart.

And why did he open her heart and not others?

†† Why were others left in their willing rejection of the Gospel?

 

All we can say is that Lydia was a particular object of Godís grace.

†† His grace was focused on her, and when the time came he opened her heart,

†† and his grace was irresistible.A few chapters earlier, Acts 13:48 says:

†† ďAll who were appointed for eternal life believed.Ē

 

And when Paul was in that prison in Rome, and when he was suffering in chains,

†† he thought about the Philippian church.He remembered how the Lord had

†† opened each heart in different ways and drawn them to faith in Christ.

And that made Paul think about his own conversion.

†† How the Lord opened his heart on the Damascus Road and lifted his spirits.

†† Because he knew that the God who saved him by such mighty, irresistible grace,

†† would take care of him till the end.

 

When you are in a church.When you love a church, and love the members,

†† and take part in the life of the church, you get to see firsthand,

†† the irresistible grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in hearts.

Remember a member of this church once telling me:If God hadnít chosen me

†† and saved me, I never would have become a Christian, because I was running.

 

And hereís what it does for you in times of troubleó

†† it reminds you of his irresistible work of grace in your own life,

†† and gives you assurance that nothing can harm you.

When our children were little we taught them to pray:

†† God is great, God is good.Let us thank him for our food.

†† By his hands, we all are fed, Give us Lord our daily bread.Amen.

Where do you see the greatness and goodness of God most fully displayed?

†† In his irresistible grace of salvation.

And you can be confident that he will extend that grace to every part of your life.

Brings us to third point.Existence of the church shows us that . . .

MP#3Godís grace is covenantal.

Thatís just a shorthand way of saying that God delights in pouring

†† out his grace along the lines of generations.Godís grace often works in families.

By covenantal, weíre referring to Godís covenant with Abraham, when he said:

†† ďI will be your God and the God of your children after you.Ē

We speak of this often and are reminded every time we baptize an infant or child,

†† or when a family stands up here and joins the church together.

This was huge part of the founding of the church of Philippi.

 

Itís not just these three individuals who were saved,

but families and households were brought to Christ and into the church.

The slave girl came by herself, and there are still people who come aloneó

†† but most of us come through families and it has always been that way.

 

Lydiaís heart was opened to believe Paulís message but she and her whole

†† family were baptized.And when Paul and Silas witnessed to the jailor, they

†† explicitly told him that the promise of salvation was both for him and his family.

And both the jailor and his family were baptized that night.

†† Thatís the way itís been with the Gospel ever sinceó

†† we see Godís covenantal grace in the church.

 

Many people have argued that we donít know the makeup of these households.

†† They may have all been adults and all believed just like Lydia and the jailor.

Thatís possible.The Bible doesnít say that, but itís possible.

†† Itís certainly just as likely that there were little children in these households

†† who were included with their parents.The jailorís wife was included in

†† the decision of her husband and changed her faith at first, just because he had.

 

The fact is that Godís grace embraced these whole families.

†† The church was not build on individuals but on families called by God.

And this is consistent with the rest of Scripture.

 

The 2nd commandment says:

†† ďI the Lord your God am a jealous God, showing love to a thousand generations

†† of those who love me and keep my commandments.Ē

And in the Psalms.David sang:

†† ďFrom everlasting to everlasting, the Lordís love is with those who fear him,

†† and his righteousness with their childrenís children.Ē

Itís in the Prophets.The Lord says to Jeremiah:

†† ďMy Spirit is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your

†† mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this

†† time on and forever.Ē

Peter preached it on the Day of Pentecost.

†† ďThe promise is for you and your children and for all who are far offó

†† for all whom the Lord our God will call.Ē

And Jesus Christ himself said:

†† ďLet the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,

†† for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

This is not a minor theme in the Bible.Godís covenant grace is huge.

 

You can see why Paul rejoiced in this.

Why even in prison he thought of those households no longer pagan, but Christians.

†† Husbands and wives and children together on the Lordís day, worshipping Christ.

Even though Paul didnít have a wife and children of his own,

†† he knew that this touches on the deepest concerns and hopes

†† that Christians have for their children.

Will my children walk with the Lord?

†† Will they enjoy Godís blessing in this life and the next?

†† Will my mistakes and failures as a parent harm my children spiritually?

 

Just a few weeks ago I was talking to a mom and dad in our church about this very

†† thing.And in our conversation they expressed their deep concern for their childís

†† future walk with God, and concern about passing on their faith to him.

They believed Godís covenant promises and knew that he was going to use them

†† to be the channel of those promises in their childís life.

(Itís entirely appropriate for me to put a plug in here for volunteering in nursery.Everybody can hold a baby.Youíre a channel of the Lordís covenant grace.)

 

And I can think of a number of families in the church who Allison and I have

†† watched over the years and the work of Godís grace in those families,

†† has given us confidence that he is working in our own.

Of course there are disappointmentsóin the local church there are troubled families

†† and broken marriages, and wandering children.We still deal with the power

†† of indwelling sin. And often it swells up in ugly ways, even in the church.

But God is faithful, and his covenant grace is still at work.

†† And the church is evidence of that.

†† God delights in pouring out his grace along the lines of generations.

 

CONC:In Revelation, John sees Jesus Christ glorified, radiant in splendoró

†† and Christ is walkingóremember his feet are described as glowing bronze.

And where does John see Christ walking on those burning, holy feet?

†† Where is Christ walking and carrying out his purposes?

†† Is it in the boardrooms of the wealthy and powerful?

 

No, Heís walking among the seven lampstandsóseven churches.

†† Real churches.Real congregations with real people.

†† Churches with strengths, churches with bad problems.

But thatís where Christ walks, and thatís where we see his grace most clearly.

 

Are you in a difficult place?

Paul was.Chained in a prison in Rome.

†† And yet his heart was full of joy as he pondered the grace of God

†† in the church that he loved.

 

Donít pull away from the church if you are hurting or disappointed.

†† Donít pull an Anne Rice.

†† If you have friends who are doing that, gently tug them back in.

Love the church, rejoice in it.

 

Because the church, with all of itís quirks and problems,

†† itís very different people who sometimes rub each other the wrong way,

†† is the primary place where God is at work in the world,

†† demonstrating his particular, irresistible, covenantal grace.