Reading for Friday, April 27: Acts 16
An interesting development occurs in the early verses of ch16: Paul comes across Timothy, a disciple of Jesus with a Jewish mother and a Greek father. Paul circumcises Timothy “because of the Jews who were in those places,” (v3). For those who would accuse Paul of looking for any reason to violate the circumcision command, Timothy is the rebuttal. Paul never teaches Jews to abandon their Jewish heritage; his concern is for a path to Gentile conversion that is unobstructed by Jewish practice.
V5 is another of Luke’s summary statements: “So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.” Daily, incremental growth — numerically, spiritually — defines the early church.
V6 is also fascinating: (From the ESV Study Bible) “From Antioch in Pisidia, Paul and Timothy travel far northward, and then westward. Natural human wisdom would have led them to think they should preach the gospel in all the cities that they passed through, but instead the Holy Spirit directed them on a 400-mile journey by foot to Troas. They must have had a strong sense of the Spirit’s direct guidance and concluded that he would guide others to preach the gospel in the northern regions of Asia.”
God sends Paul a vision of a Macedonian man and this prompts Paul to alter his travel plans. Acts is clear that God is still the primary character. As the narrative shifts from the exploits of Peter to the activity of Philip to the missionary impetus of Paul, God remains front and center — prompting, guiding, leading. This is because this is HIS mission; we are but willing participants in HIS missionary work.
God blesses Paul’s faithfulness — leading him to Lydia, who is converted; a spirit-possessed slave girl, who is healed; and a Philippian jailer, who is set free from the bondage of sin. The text says Lydia is a God-fearer or a God-worshipper — she has a context for understanding the Gospel in light of her previous understanding. The slave girl represents those who are adamantly opposed to the work of God’s Kingdom. And the jailer doesn’t even understand his own condition as a prisoner to sin. Yet, each of them receives the invitation into God’s Kingdom life. Each one experiences new life resulting from the Gospel proclamation.
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” (v31).