13 August 2008

Verse by verse through Philippians (Introduction, part 3)

We are still in Acts 16, examining the beginnings of the church at Philippi. We left off last time in the middle of verse 14. Paul is talking with Lydia, a woman from Thyatira, a city that is steeped in paganism. Her craft, her profession encourages those who practice it to worship pagan “gods.” And now, she is in this city, Philippi, which is under Roman control, where they have this system of many “gods” and where they worship a man named Caesar. So it wasn’t just that God sent Paul and Timothy and Silas to this little group of women by a river. He sent them to a particular group of women with a particular background. He sent the gospel to a group of women who worshipped God, the God of Israel, YHVH, and they were going to take this gospel back to their pagan city and turn it upside down. Paul would then—probably—come back a year or so later and expand their knowledge of Christ. You know, it’s really easy to read the book of Acts as simply a string of events. It can be real easy to just skim over it. But this is God’s word. I have learned, these last couple weeks, not to “skim over” anything in here. And one little event shows us how important it is that Luke gives us so much information about this woman in just a few words. She was a seller of purple from Thyatira and she worshipped God. Big deal. Yeah, it is a big deal.

Then look at what it says at the end of verse 14. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. Was she convinced by Paul’s oratory skills? Was she swayed by his intellect? Did his knowledge of the Law of Moses finally win her over to the Lord? No. God opened her heart. How is it that we can read the Bible and know that it came from God and contains all we need to know about who God is and how to be saved—yet an atheist can pick it up and read it and dismiss it as a fairy tale and a myth? It’s the same book, the same Bible. Same words. Some of them may be printed in red in your Bible. “Well, they just don’t understand what it says.” They don’t understand it because God has not opened their eyes. Not only are these people in darkness, they are blind as well. So even if somebody did turn on the light, they still wouldn’t be able to see because their eyes are closed. Later on in the book of Acts, Paul is standing before King Agrippa. He tells Agrippa that Jesus promised him, 17 “I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, 18 to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God…” (Acts 26:17-18). The first thing God does is to open the eyes of the blind. Later on in that chapter, Agrippa tells Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian” (Acts 26:28).

2nd Corinthians 4:3-43 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe. If you take me blindfolded into a room that is pitch black. Turn on the light, I can see now, right? I'll just be blinded in a bright room. But once the blindfold is taken off, then I can see. That is what God does for Lydia here. She may have had some exposure to the light. She may have heard something about this Jesus. And although she may have been exposed to some light, her eyes had not yet been opened. Remember the two people on the Road to Emmaus, Luke 24? Verses 15-1615 So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him. What does He do later on in that chapter? Verses 44-45 tell us, 44 He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. They had the Light standing right there with them. But their eyes had not yet been opened.

Here, He has sent Paul to this little band of women. These are women that know God and worship Him. But they don’t yet know of this Jesus. They might have heard something about Him. But because of their profession, they are most likely travelling quite a bit, and they may have picked up a little bit here and a little bit there. But their eyes were closed until now. Sometimes we get discouraged when we are trying to share the gospel with someone and they seem like they are right there…but nah, not today. And we want so badly to plead with them and beg them to accept it. And sometimes what will they do? They’ll just say a little prayer just to shut us up. A person cannot accept Jesus as their Savior until God prepares their hearts first. He has to open their eyes. Then He will turn them from darkness to light. He has to show them the truth. 1st Corinthians 2:9-11, 149 But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God…14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. What a wonderful gift of God’s grace that He has chosen to give sight to us. We who once walked in darkness. We could still be walking around in darkness, stumbling over ourselves, just blindly headed toward destruction. But He opened our eyes, turned us from darkness to light, and transferred us into the kingdom of His dear Son (Colossians 1:13). Then in verse 15, And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” So she persuaded us.

They preach the gospel to these women, they receive Christ as their Savior. Lydia invites them to her house to stay for a while. This may turn out to be a great trip. Is anything ever as easy as it seems? Verses 16-18. 16 Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17 This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” 18 And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And he came out that very hour. “The spirit of divination.” Fortune-telling. If you wanted to know the spread on the game this weekend before you put your money down, this is the girl you wanted to talk to. It says she followed them for many days, proclaiming “These men know the way to the Most High God!” That’s a good thing, isn't it? 2nd Corinthians 6:14do not be yoked with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?

Do the demons know who God is? Do demons know the way to God? When Jesus cast out demons, did they know who was casting them out? Many times they even cried out that He was Lord. Matthew 8:28-3228 When He had come to the other side, to the country of the Gergesenes, two demon-possessed men met Him there, coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way. 29 And suddenly they cried out, saying, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?”…31 So the demons begged Him, saying, “If You cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of swine.” 32 And He said to them, “Go.” So when they had come out, they went into the herd of swine. Even this spirit of divination, that gave this girl such power, and gave her masters a pretty good income, knew that these men had come in the name and the power of Jesus Christ. Because even demons believe God exists, they know what their final end will be, and they know Jesus is the Son of God. James 2:19You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!

Notice a contrast here. Just because someone speaks the name of Jesus, does that mean that the demons will automatically flee? You got some of these guys on TV talking about how they're “casting out demons” and you see these churches where people will be shaking on the floor, and going through all kinds of convulsions. They claim that they are casting out demons in the name of Jesus. I’m not going to say they're all fake, but most of them are. And just because someone speaks the name of Jesus does not mean a demon is going to flee. A few chapters after this, in Acts 19, in the city of Ephesus, it says, 13 Then some of the [travelling] Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” 14 Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. 15 And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” 16 Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. (Acts 19:13-16).

There are some, however, who just may have the power to send away demons. And do many signs and wonders. There’s a guy down in Florida right now that has a whole bunch of people fooled into thinking he is doing that very thing in the name of Jesus. But we should never assume that just because someone is performing “signs and wonders” that that person is of God. Matthew 7:22-23--22 “Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?’ 23 And then will I profess unto them, ‘I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.’” Think Satan can't do miracles? 2nd Thessalonians 2:9The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders.

Now, we need to point something out here. Paul does not rebuke the girl. Paul is not rebuking this girl for proclaiming salvation. Who does Paul speak to? But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit. “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” Paul is speaking to the spirit that is guiding this young woman. This girl is declaring that these are men of God. But he also knows that he cannot allow this to continue. This spirit had to be dealt with. We often read this passage as meaning that she was celebrating these men. But could it be that this spirit was actually mocking Paul and Silas and Timothy? Be careful when Satan wants to be your friend. Also, in Matthew 16:13, When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi—not the city in question here—When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, He asked his disciples, saying, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” What is Simon Peter’s response? “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” Jesus says, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona! For flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto you but My father in heaven!” Know what Jesus says to Peter seven verses later? “Get thee behind Me, Satan.” Was Jesus calling Peter “Satan?” No, He was speaking to the spirit that speaking through Peter. I mean, Peter didn’t want Jesus to have to suffer on the Cross. That’s not so bad, is it? That’s what Paul is doing here, he is rebuking the spirit that is speaking through this slave girl. This is where the trouble starts. What does the end of verse 16 tell us that this girl does for her masters? She brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling.

So, in verses 20-24, they handle Paul and Silas in the most courteous and respectful way they know how. 20 And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, “These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; 21 and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe.” 22 Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. 23 And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. If a person was to write a book about how to start a church, I doubt they would use this as a model. OK, they’ve got a few women to believe. And now, they go and upset the natives, they take away their livelihood, they offend the people in the city. Not very sensitive to people’s felt needs, were they?

So, this is how you build a church, huh? The accusation was “These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city.” They “exceedingly trouble the city? No. What did they “exceedingly trouble?” These guys’ bank accounts. Look at verse 18. How long did they allow this girl to follow them? Many days. Seems like it was all good for those days. Doesn’t say anybody believed their gospel. But they weren’t trying to run these guys out of town, either. They were allowed to go about their business of trying to spread their little religion. They weren’t troubling the city. Until… Who do you think would get more upset and violent about their business being shut down? A guy that owned a restaurant—or a drug dealer? Ever notice the more illegal the business the more violent they get? Does a pimp like it when one of his hookers gets saved? Why? Money out the window. That is what’s happening here. They were watching their future fly away.

The world loves its money, doesn’t it? Think about some of the songs that have been written about money. “Money Makes the World Go ‘Round.” “Money Talks.” “For the Love of Money.” 1st Timothy 6:9-109 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. When Jesus got to the temple, who did He drive out? When the rich young ruler came to Jesus, asking what he had to do to get eternal life, what did Jesus tell him? What happened at the end of that story?

I gotta share this with you. I know I’m preaching to the praise band about this, but I saw a video recently of Creflo Dollar doing an interview on CNN. The woman asked Cashflow, er, Creflo, about the rich young ruler in Mark 10. Know what he had the gall to say? He said that the man sold everything, gave it away, and received a hundredfold in return. It says he went away sad because he had much stuff. In 2nd Timothy 4:10, Paul writes about a man named Demas, who was at one time one of Paul’s fellow laborers, saying that Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world.

Paul had taken away the means by which these guys made their money, and they weren’t none too happy about it neither. And what was the first thing that was done to them? I didn’t pick up on this until just recently. See where it says the magistrates tore off their clothes? The NASB is the better reading of this phrase, as it says, and the magistrates tore their robes off them. Whose clothes did the magistrates tear off? Paul and Silas. Why? To inflict more punishment on them. The men who owned this slave girl had probably gained some prominence in the city because of her. People would go to these guys, have the girl get a vision, and so I believe that the reason the magistrates were so quick to condemn Paul and Silas and Timothy was not because they had “[taught] customs, which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive, or observe.” But because this girl’s “gifts” for lack of a better word, had also greatly benefitted the magistrates as well, and we're going to see more about that next week.

No comments: