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Sermon Summary - Sunday 1 July 2018

Main Bible passage:  Acts 16:22-34

Philippi was a Roman colony which gave, in Paul’s time, much adoration to the deceased Caesar Augustus. It was also a Macedonian city linked to the earlier emperors of Greece: Philip II and Alexander. So saying ‘Jesus is Lord and Saviour’ in such a place was a dangerous course for Paul and his team! Nonetheless, a church was formed by Jesus leading his servant Paul through events which echoed what occurred in his own ministry in Israel. We can list, at least, nine such echoes.

[1] Luke hints at the series in his description of Paul’s drive to Philippi (Ac 16:10,11). The journey only happens because the ‘spirit of Jesus’ pushes him there (Ac 16:7), reminding us of Jesus’ firm determination to reach Jerusalem (Lk 9:51). [2] On arrival, Paul cannot find a synagogue but can evangelise a Jewish prayer meeting (v13). This results in Lydia’s conversion and the opening of a hospitable household for the gospel (v14,15), like those Jesus told his seventy to seek out during their Judean campaign (Lk 10:7). [3] Following that, Paul finds himself having to silence a troublesome spirit who speaks through a misused slave girl (v16,17) – a problem which Jesus also had to contend with (Lk 4:33-35). The girl is healed when Paul commands the spirit in the name of Jesus (v18). However, that doesn’t stop Paul’s troubles but, rather, intensifies them (v19).

Seeing what happens in Philippi reminds us not to panic about finding THE way to evangelise. The Lord is in charge of building his kingdom and it will happen (Mt 16:18); we must simply seek to honour him. It also shows us that the Lord varies the ways in which he gathers his people since the Philippian approach is not the same as we have seen previously. Having said that, one factor comes through which has appeared before: Jesus wins his greatest victories through suffering, weakness and apparent failure. That humble lesson is an important one for this proud city.

[4] An angry crowd turns on Paul and Silas, accusing them before the authorities of subverting the Roman ways they hold so dear (v20,21). Christians are regularly accused of failing their society’s values due to loyalty to Jesus’ ways; the Jewish leaders used a similar charge against Jesus (Lk 23:2). [5] Sickening violence then falls, leaving the duo painfully beaten and naked (v22,23) just like Jesus after the crowds bayed for his death (Mt 27:22-31). [6] Finally, the local jailer secures them firmly in a dark, inner cell, pinning them down using wooden stocks. Though the torture is not necessarily deadly in itself, it reminds strongly us of Jesus’ cross which Luke has, previously, described as a ‘tree’ (Ac 5:30, 10:39, 13:29 – the same word as ‘stocks’ in v24).

So Paul passes through experiences in Philippi which show a likeness to Christ’s own life. Jesus told his followers to expect this (Lk 14:27; Mt 10:24-26) and the apostle will later reflect upon the need of such likeness (1Co 11:1). In Philippi the number of ways this occurs is striking and this is probably so because Jesus needed that arrogant city to see his humble, yet infinitely better, way to glory (Ph 2:5-11). However, Christians will know smaller versions in their own lives.

[7] The missionaries display their confidence in the Lord’s way by praying and singing (v25). This is how faith reacts to fear and agony, as we hear from Jesus’ lips in his crucifixion (Lk 23:46; Mk 15:34 – see Ps 22:1). [8] Such faith is not misplaced because God shakes the prison and releases the prisoners (v26), just as he shook Israel when he released His Son from the tomb (Mt 28:1-4). [9] At the resurrection the guards became like dead men; here the jailer almost truly dies (v27). But the miracle (v28) also leads him to seek the salvation the slave girl promised (v17), falling before the apostle just as the woman fell before the resurrected Lord (v29,30; Mt 28:9).

The result is that this pagan man is rapidly converted by the Lord (v31, 32) and, following some baptisms (v33), another home is set apart for the Lord’s use in Philippi (v34). The King of heaven is uniting Jews and Gentiles to colonise this Roman colony with his own happy people who have been released from the slavery of this world, evil spirits, sin and death. The way of the cross may seem a strange one but it has a peculiar power to rescue. How come? Because it is God’s way. Christians need to hold that firmly in their hearts by faith. Then we shall have a joyful life.

Nine step strategy
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