The Life of a Missionary: Having a Fit, Making a Tough Choice, and Singing in Jail

August 25, 2009 at 2:12 pm | Posted in Acts | 7 Comments
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The events recorded in Acts Chapter 15 took place about 20 years after the day of Pentecost. The meeting that is described is often called the Jerusalem Council. Some Jewish “Christian” theologians had come to the Church – possibly sent by Satan – and they had taught a false gospel: Christianity constrained by Judaism.

The result of the Jerusalem Council was a sort of a compromise. There were two commands: avoid idolatry and fornication. And there were two concessions: don’t eat blood, and don’t eat meat from animals killed by strangulation. This result preserved unity in the Church.

Most local churches that wind up destroyed do not get destroyed by outside forces. Most of them split from within.

And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;

Acts 15:36-39

Paul and Barnabas got into a fight about Barnabas’s cousin, John Mark. The Greek word for “contention” in Acts 15:39 is a funny word – paroxysmos – meaning a paroxysm or a “fit.” Paul ended up taking Silas with him, and Barnabas took Mark. Paul cared for people in the sense of what they could do for the Lord. Barnabas cared for people in the sense of what God could do for them, or what God’s work could do for them. Of course, it could just be that God wanted two missionary teams instead of one.

Acts Chapter 16 describes the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey. At Lystra they picked up Timothy to replace Mark on Paul’s team. Timothy and Titus, Paul’s two main proteges, were both gentiles. Timothy was circumcised, but Titus was not. The reason is that Timothy was going to be working with Jews and gentiles, but Titus’s circumcision would have helped Paul’s enemies (Galatians 2:1-5).

Paul’s personal preference was to go east to Asia, but God wanted him to go west to Europe. He went to Troas, then to Macedonia, then to Neapolis, then to Philippi.

On this missionary journey, Lydia of Thyatira, the seller of purple dye, was saved.

And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

Acts 16:14-15

Paul cast a demon out of a girl who was following them, even though she was proclaiming salvation.

And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.

Acts 16:16-18

This young lady’s conversion cost her masters much income, and they had Paul and Silas beaten. Notice how sneaky Satan is! He tried to trap Paul and his team: They could let this girl keep it up and corrupt the message and their separated walk; or, they could oppose her, stir up trouble, get beaten, thrown out, and lose the opportunity to witness. We must wonder if Satan thought he had baited the perfect trap. If Paul and his team let the girl continue, then Satan could use her to start lying. If they silenced her, they would make her masters angry. However, God always makes a way of escape for His people when they are tempted of Satan. So, Paul and Silas were beaten, and then instead of getting thrown out of town, God allowed them to get thrown into prison. Paul and Silas were in prison, singing songs of praise to God!

And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.

Acts 16:25

God shook open the prison doors, but Paul stayed to witness to the Philippian jailor.

And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

Acts 16:30-31

Here, it is important to note that they are not telling one man to believe by himself, such that his belief would be a substitute for the belief of everyone else in his household. They are telling him that each person of the household must believe on his/her own.

And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.

Acts 16:34

Paul and Silas were prisoners, but they were treated differently once they claimed their rights as Roman citizens.

But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out. And the serjeants told these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans. And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city. And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.

Acts 16:37-40

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