Philippi Class Graphics

God often has disregard for our plans. Indeed, the Bible says

      The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9


  You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail. Proverbs 19:21 NLT

 God does want us to make plans. He gives us wisdom, and He allows us access to His mind through our prayers. He speaks directly to us through His Word and audible voice.

But I have often found that my plans fall very short of God’s vision for the moment. His plans for my life have always been bigger that my own. It has taken me years, but I have discovered when my plans fall to the ground, usually God has something much better in mind.

   The disciples at Antioch were about to learn this very valuable principle of ministry.


36 After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s go back and visit each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are doing.” 37 Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. 38 But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. 39 Their disagreement was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. 40 Paul chose Silas, and as he left, the believers entrusted him to the Lord’s gracious care. 41 Then he traveled throughout Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches there. Acts 15:36-41


Principle: Sometimes God will use disagreements between ministry partners to further expand His ministry.


Paul went first Derbe and then to Lystra, where there was a young disciple named Timothy. His mother was a Jewish believer, but his father was a Greek. Timothy was well thought of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium, so Paul wanted him to join them on their journey. In deference to the Jews of the area, he arranged for Timothy to be circumcised before they left, for everyone knew that his father was a Greek. Then they went from town to town, instructing the believers to follow the decisions made by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in their faith and grew larger every day. Acts 16:1-5

Does it seem unusual that after the Council in Jerusalem where Gentiles were told that they didn’t have to be circumcised, that Paul arranged for Timothy to undergo that painful procedure? Paul’s focus was on ministry, especially to his own Jewish people. He wanted nothing to negatively affect that.

 Paul knew that having a young disciple along would be an excellent opportunity to train another missionary.


Paul reminded Timothy of this principle in his second letter:

You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. 2 Timothy 2:2


Principle: Always be on the lookout for that young person whom God will bring into your life who will benefit from your life and ministry experiences and be equipped for their own.


Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas.

That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” 10 So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there. Acts 16:6-10


What follows is an eyewitness account of the incredible launch of ministry in Europe.


Principle: Often God’s plans are much bigger than our own.


11 We boarded a boat at Troas and sailed straight across to the island of Samothrace, and the next day we landed at Neapolis. 12 From there we reached Philippi, a major city of that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. And we stayed there several days.


Neapolis is now called Kabala, and it is a picturesque fishing town with a beautiful harbor. We had lunch at a café at the harbor with our study tour group.  Neapolis is where the Via Egnatia begins. It is a Roman road that connects Macedonia with Rome. You can still walk on the paving stones. The Romans built their road ‘to last forever’.


 Via Egnatia

Via Egnatia 

Via Egnatia Flowers



Philippi Forum


Philippi Amphitheater


 There is a prayer that many Jewish men, especially the Pharisees, began their day. It went something like this:

“Lord, thank you for not making me a woman, a slave, nor a gentile.” 

 Saul the Pharisee probably uttered those words often in is Christian persecution days. This prayer would come to life for Saul/Paul in what came next.


13 On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there.

The 'Lydia' Stream


14 One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. 15 She and her household were baptized, and she asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed.                                                                       Acts 16:11-16


It was a custom among Jews that if there were not enough men for a synagogue (10 was usually the minimum), then any Jews living in a community would meet for prayer at the nearest steam, lake, or river.


Laura and Craig contemplating the moment

The mission team joined a group of ladies and began to share. God ‘opened’ the heart of Lydia, and she understood her need for a savior, saw the beauty of God’s plan for her salvation, the compassion of God for her life, received Jesus as her Lord.



 Thyatira arches

Principle: It is a good practice that as we begin our day of ministry, we ask God to open the hearts of those we encounter. He is the only one who has that ability.


Lydia insisted that the Mission Team stay with her and enjoy her hospitality. This is a sign of genuine faith that we should look for in any who profess Jesus as their Lord- they become givers rather than just consumers.


Principle: When you work with new believers, look for evidence of ‘others centeredness’ in their lives as confirmation of what God has done.


Now the team has their base in Philippi and continue the ministry. All is apparently going well until one day something unexpected happens.


 16 One day as we were going down to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit that enabled her to tell the future. She earned a lot of money for her masters by telling fortunes. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.”

18 This went on day after day until Paul got so exasperated that he turned and said to the demon within her, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And instantly it left her.

19 Her masters’ hopes of wealth were now shattered, so they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities at the marketplace. 20 “The whole city is in an uproar because of these Jews!” they shouted to the city officials. 21 “They are teaching customs that are illegal for us Romans to practice.”


The Team is being harassed by a slave fortune teller. She is in bondage to the controlling spirit, as well as her master. In modern terms, perhaps we should think of her as a “drug addicted human trafficked prostitute”.



22 A mob quickly formed against Paul and Silas, and the city officials ordered them stripped and beaten with wooden rods. 23 They were severely beaten, and then they were thrown into prison. The jailer was ordered to make sure they didn’t escape. 24 So the jailer put them into the inner dungeon and clamped their feet in the stocks.


Philippi Jail

Paul and Silas are beaten and bloody and suffer further by having their feet clamped in uncomfortable bindings. These men are Roman citizens, and what just happen is a not allowed under Roman law!


25 Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening. 26 Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell off! 27 The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. 28 But Paul shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!”


The jailer is probably a retired Roman centurion. These government jobs were given to retired legionaries. He is an honorable man, who knows that Roman law has placed the responsibility of these prisoners in his hands, and if any escape, he will pay for it with his life.

 Imagine his surprise when Paul cries out “Don’t kill yourself. We are all here.”

 Perhaps these are the jailer’s thoughts:

“Why would these prisoners whom we have beaten and tortured not want to escape, but instead have decided to save my life by remaining in the jail? Who are these men?”


Something that Paul and Silas did caused the jailer to have a sudden change of heart.


29 The jailer called for lights and ran to the dungeon and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” 32 And they shared the word of the Lord with him and with all who lived in his household. 33 Even at that hour of the night, the jailer cared for them and washed their wounds. Then he and everyone in his household were immediately baptized. 34 He brought them into his house and set a meal before them, and he and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.                                           Acts 16:16-34


 The ministry in Philippi really took off as a result of an experience wasn’t on the Mission Teams’s schedule.

I was in the ancient city of Philippi a few years ago, standing in the ruins of a Fifth Century church. I marveled at how this prison experience resulted in a church that lasted since then and spread throughout the rest of Europe, eventually to North America, then to Hawaii, and finally to me.

Philippi Church Ruins


 Principle: Faithfulness in the Mission will have far reaching impact well beyond our lives.

 35 The next morning the city officials sent the police to tell the jailer, “Let those men go!” 36 So the jailer told Paul, “The city officials have said you and Silas are free to leave. Go in peace.”

37 But Paul replied, “They have publicly beaten us without a trial and put us in prison—and we are Roman citizens. So now they want us to leave secretly? Certainly not! Let them come themselves to release us!”

38 When the police reported this, the city officials were alarmed to learn that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. 39 So they came to the jail and apologized to them. Then they brought them out and begged them to leave the city. 40 When Paul and Silas left the prison, they returned to the home of Lydia. There they met with the believers and encouraged them once more. Then they left town. Acts 16:35-40



There were huge advantages to having Roman citizenship. The city officials had to apologize to Silas and Paul, and escort them out of the prison.


Imagine sitting in the home of Lydia in a gathering to worship the Lord Jesus. Sitting on one side is a slave girl and on the other a Roman jailer and his family.

 This was unheard of in Roman and Greek society.


There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.                                                Galatians 3:28


 Principle: Although the Christian Church has been accused of being an exclusive club, the reality is it has been the most inclusive organization in all human history.  All are welcome.


 Let’s understand the varying methods that the Holy Spirit reached these three different individuals.

  • Lydia was convinced by hearing the Word.
  • The slave girl experienced a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit.
  • The jailer was stirred not by words, or an encounter with God, but by what the disciples did.


 Principle: The Holy Spirit will use whatever He thinks best to reach that person in front of you. Sometimes it will be simply speaking God’s Word. Other times it will be our prayers and experiencing God’s presence that will touch them. Most often it will be how we care for them and model the ‘others centered life’ in our communities.


The Paul/Silas/Timothy/Luke Mission Team had an unexpected adventure in Philippi.

 Adventure: a risky undertaking; a remarkable experience.


This adventure has resulted in the salvation of all of us. Yes risky, but remarkable.

 Let’s live out our own adventure that God has designed for us.





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