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Women In Ministry

April 29, 2010

Here’s an age old controversy which has spawned much contention, and caused many women to question their call by God.  At one time, I also questioned whether God was calling me to ministry, based upon a few places in the Bible that seemed to discourage women from leadership positions in the church.  I was also attending a church which strictly forbade women to hold any position of authority other than teaching women and small children, and this was to be done outside the church.  Women were never allowed to stand at the pulpit, or to teach in a mixed setting (where both men and women were present). Since this was such a hurdle for me prior to attending seminary, I would like to encourage other women who may be going through similar trials by sharing some information I compiled on the subject before I answered my call.  While each person has to come to her own decision concerning how she will respond to God’s call, I will share information which hopefully will help women make a more informed decision.  For the next few weeks I will write posts and provide videos to this site for that purpose.

May God continue to bless and guide you in all endeavors.

Pastor Sheryl

Our Perfect Union with Christ

April 25, 2010

Our Perfect Union with Christ

The moment we believed on Christ we were brought into a vital saving relationship with Him. Faith is the means by which this vital union with Christ is established and maintained. Our salvation, life and blessings all come from Christ. They become ours only as we are identified with Him by faith.

The apostle Paul declared “Christ who our life” (Colossians 3:4a) lives in us and we in Him.

The closeness of relation between Christ and the believer is almost beyond description. Paul pushes language to its limits stressing the closeness of a living relation with Christ. He dwells in us and we in Him. We die to sin in Him. We have been crucified with Him. We have been made alive in Him. We are baptized into Him and into His death. Christ is the head and believers constitute the body. He is the foundation and His people the building. He is the husband and His people the wife. Paul’s life is so identified with Christ that his life is a manifestation of the very life of Christ.

Paul describes this vital union with the living Christ as a union with God. The import of this union with Christ is that in Him we come to know God with all that is humanly possible on this earth. It is a decision between knowing God in Christ or not knowing Him personally (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). This union with Christ takes place in the realm of personal spiritual experience (John 3:3). Without spiritual regeneration there is no life in Christ.

Our vital union with Christ centers on the question of how we can be received into God’s favor. Is it on the ground of what we do ourselves, or only on the ground of what Jesus Christ does for us? If we expect to have a right relationship with God based on what we do ourselves it is called justification by works. However, if we are seeking a right relationship with God solely on the foundation of what Christ has done for us it is called justification by faith.

Justification by faith means we look to Christ and to Him alone for salvation. We as guilty sinners go pleading Christ’s death and righteousness as the only ground of our hope of receiving God’s favor and eternal life. We as evangelical Christians believe that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. It means pleading the merits of Jesus Christ alone before the throne of grace instead of our own merits of good works, virtue, character, etc.

God has made a perfect provision whereby He can judicially acquit the guilty sinner.

There is no justification for sinful men except by faith. Justification is being pronounced righteous by God. Where can a sinful man get works that are as righteous as God? He definitely cannot from himself. The works, even good works, of a sinful man can lead only to condemnation because all his works are as sinful as he is. Sinful man must go out beyond himself to find works that can offer righteousness to God. There is only one place to find such righteousness and that is in the person of Jesus Christ.

“If we are to be justified at all, it must be on the ground of the merits of Another, whose merits can be made ours by faith. And that is the reason why God sent His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish but have everlasting life. If we do not believe in Him, obviously we must perish. But if we believe in Him, we shall not perish but have everlasting life. That is Justification by Faith. Justification by Faith is nothing other than obtaining everlasting life by believing in Christ. . . And there is none other name under heaven, given among men, wherein we must be saved . . . ” (B. B. Warfield). Everything about us as believers is centered in this great teaching of the Scriptures. Through God’s grace we are provided with an open door into the presence of God. We have access into His grace. Only those who have believed in Christ have entered into the door into God’s presence. We have access by faith into this grace (Romans 5:2). It gives us standing before God. The wonderful thing the apostle Paul stresses is that we are not only saved by grace, but we now stand in grace. This is our new position in Christ. The believer in Christ is ensphered in divine grace. It surrounds us every moment in every situation in life. The same grace that saved us now sustains us.

Because of this legal standing before God we are vitally united to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Because of this vital union with Christ, the believer partakes of all that Christ is. He has “blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”

Among the various ways our vital union with Jesus Christ is illustrated in the Scriptures is in a legal or judicial position in a court of law.

EVERY PERSON IS GUILTY BEFORE GOD.

The Bible confronts us and declares that all mankind has sinned and has come short of the glory of God. The entire world stands guilty before God. No one can answer back to God. There is no individual who is not a sinner and who has not “become accountable to God” (Romans 3:19). The apostle Paul declared ” . . . there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God . . . ” (vv. 22b-23). We have all experienced personal sin. We are guilty in the eyes of God and before a watching world.

God infinitely abhors sin. We are all guilty sinners before a righteous and holy God. He is holy and He cannot look upon sin. He cannot tolerate our sin. We stand guilty and condemned in His sight.

God sees the unbelieving sinner as:

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Therefore, the age-old question is how we can stand right before God.

NO ONE IS JUSTIFIED BY GOOD WORKS.

The Bible tells us, ” . . . by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin” (3:20). Then the apostle Paul tells us the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law (v. 21).

He makes it very clear in Galatians 2:16 where he writes, ” . . . a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.” He is rather emphatic in his statement. He repeats the negative statement three times just in case we miss the point. He writes, “a man is not justified by the works of the Law,” “not by the works of the law,” “by the works of the law no flesh will be justified.” We can’t miss it, can we? The reason why is because “the Scriptures has shut up all men under sin” (Galatians 3:22). It locked us up in prison and threw away the key because we are guilty. It can’t set us free. It can’t even give us power to overcome sin. All the Law can do is make us more and more conscious of our sin and guilt.

All we sinners can produce is more sinful works. Therefore, we are not right in the sight of God.

Not our merits

Not our virtue

Not our character

Not our faithfulness to the church

Not our baptism or sacraments

Not our church membership

Not our religious experiences

How can a righteous and holy God, therefore, justify the sinner without justifying his sin? How can God save the sinner from the legal penalty and save Himself from compromise? God’s own holiness demands the execution of the penalty of sin. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). “The soul that sins will surely die” (Ezekiel 18:4). God’s love and tender mercies longs to rescue sinful, guilty men and at the same time His righteousness demands man’s execution because we are guilty.

THE BELIEVING SINNER IS JUSTIFIED AS A GIFT OF GRACE.

A. W. Tozer correctly said, “A real Christian expects to go to Heaven on the virtue of another.”

The believing sinner is justified as a gift of God’s grace based upon the death of Christ for our sins. We are “justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith” (Romans 3:24).

God can’t just wink His eye and say “boys will be boys, everybody does it.” In our day the expression, “we are all sinners” is a popular excuse to go on sinning. For many people there is no contrite conviction in those words. They are nothing more than an excuse for more sinning. Every body does it so why can’t I?

In order for God to acquit us of all guilty charges He must first deal with His own righteous standards. He cannot deny Himself and continue to be God. The apostle Paul tells us God can deliver us from the guilt of sin because Jesus Christ paid the debt in full for us on our behalf. Christ is our “propitiation in His blood.” It is His bloody sacrifice on the cross that turns away the wrath of God. He bore our death penalty on the cross. The death penalty for our sins was paid in full at the cross. Christ paid it in full by dying on our behalf, and now the wrath of God is completely satisfied against the believing sinner.

The basic idea of salvation by grace through faith in Christ is the substitution of Christ for the sinner before the law of God in His Supreme Court. God sent Jesus Christ, His own Son, to satisfy the penalty of our sins and turn the wrath of God away that we may be justified freely by His grace through faith in His blood.

John R. W. Stott eloquently states: “Jesus Christ came into the world to live and to die. In His life His obedience to the law was perfect. In His death He suffered for our disobedience. On earth He lived the only life of sinless obedience to the law which has ever been lived. On the cross He died for our law-breaking, since the penalty for disobedience to the law was death. All that is required for us to be justified, therefore, is to acknowledge our sin and helplessness, to repent of our years of self-assertion and self-righteousness, and to put our whole trust and confidence in Jesus Christ to save us” (The Message of Galatians, p. 62).

The law was fully and completely fulfilled in the perfect obedience of Christ and His vicarious suffering death for our sins. Christ satisfied the just demands of the law of God and the moment the sinner put his faith in Christ God judicially acquitted that sinner. In so doing God does not compromise His holy standard of justice and righteousness. Therefore, Paul says God can remain “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (v. 26). Then he adds, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart form the works of the law” (v. 28).

Grace repudiates all self-effort in our search for salvation. Grace makes all self-effort foolishness in the sight of God.

How are we declared acquitted? “The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe . . . being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith” (vv. 22-25).

Justification by faith in Christ is our legal standing before God. God declares the believing sinner just in His right. The unjust, believing sinner, is accounted and treated as just or righteous before God. Because of the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf on the cross a just and holy God can remain perfectly just and holy and at the same time judicially acquit the believing sinner and give him a right standing before God.

Galatians 2:16 also positively states our justification three times. Paul wrote, “A man is . . . justified . . . through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ . . . “

Faith in Jesus Christ is a personal act of commitment. We have literally believed into (eis) Christ Jesus.

Justification means to be declared righteous, to be pronounced right in the sight of God. It is the process by which a man is brought into a right state in His relationship with God. It is a legal and formal acquittal of all guilt by God who is our Judge. He pronounces and treats, accounts or reckons the guilty, believing sinner as righteous in His relationship with God. God acquits the believer based upon his accepting on his behalf the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Romans 3:9-20; Galatians 2:16; 3:10-11, 25-26; 5:1, 4).

In fact, over thirty things occurred the very moment we put our faith in Christ including:

Because of what Christ has done for us we can now enter into a life-transforming relationship with Him. This vital living union with Christ radically transforms us. We are “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). We actually share with the Son of God a unique life.

OUR JUDICIAL ONENESS WITH GOD

Everything in the Christian life depends upon this vital judicial legal union with Christ.

God sees every Christian as being “in Christ.” We have this new position in Christ because of our justification by faith. We are in union with Christ and identified with Him in His death, burial, resurrection and exaltation. This new relationship with God applies to all believers.

We are in Christ; He is in us.

Romans chapter six makes it clear that “There has been on the part of every believer, a death unto sin; and a burial with Christ in the sepulchre; and that death and burial are expressed, confessed and symbolized in baptism,” write A. T. Pierson. This standing can be understood only in judicial terms.

“We are all of us conscious of no such actual identification with Christ in death and burial. We have never yet really died or been laid in the grave. The only way to interpret these words is to interpret them, not as expressing a historical fact, but a judicial act, something counted or reckoned or imputed to our account by the sovereign mercy and grace of God.”

God reckons the believing sinner to be one with Christ and His obedience is imputed to the sinner as his own. God reckons to the believing sinner, as his own the results of the atoning suffering of Christ as the satisfaction for the death penalty for sin.

Therefore, we have died to the law. By dying with Christ, we died under the law’s penalty. All of the law’s demands were satisfied in Christ. It no longer has a hold on us. The dominating control of the fallen nature has been broken.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

The believer is in Christ, in the sight of God and is therefore judged and acquitted as clothed with His righteousness. That is our standing with God based upon the righteousness of Christ.

We have received imputed righteousness on account of faith in Jesus Christ. The ancient Jewish patriarch Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness. Similarly, we believe on Christ and God reckons up righteousness in His sight (Rom. 4:3ff, 22-25).

As a result of justification by faith we have peace with God (Romans 5:1). All controversy between the believing sinner and God is over! Our enmity has been done away with by our acceptance of Christ’s death. The verb tense in the original means a once-for-all completed transaction. We have been declared not guilty once and for all.

When God justifies the sinner He actually counts them righteous when they are not. He does not impute sin where sin actually exists, and does impute righteousness where it does not exist.

“He [God] made Him [Jesus Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

A. T. Pierson wrote, “The believer counts God able to make him alive with His own life and holy with His own holiness. God in turn counts the sinner now dead in sin to be dead to sin and alive to God, counts him as righteous, and then proceeds to make him what he at first only reckons him to be (Romans 4:4-8, 17, 21, 22.”

The old Puritan John Bunyan testified: “Suddenly, this sentence fell upon my soul, “Thy righteousness is in heaven.” . . . I saw, with the eyes of my soul Jesus Christ at God’s right hand. . . It was glorious to me to see His exaltation and the worth and prevalency of all His benefits. . . . By this also was my faith in Him, as my righteousness the more confirmed in me, for if He and I were one, then His righteousness was mine, His merits mine, His victory also mine. Now I would see myself in heaven and earth at once; in heaven by my Christ, by my head, by my righteousness and life, though on earth by my body or person.”

No longer is our life self-centered. The Lord Jesus lives out His life in us day by day as we maintain total dependence on Him by faith.

In summarizing the secret of great Christians who lived Christ-like lives V. Raymond Edman wrote in They Found the Secret, p. 152, the following:

Life is not achieved by longing for a better life and lingering at the cross. There must be appropriation by faith of the Holy Spirit to fill life with the presence of the Lord Jesus. That obtainment is by faith, and not by works. Inquires the Scripture: “This only would I learn of you, Received the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Galatians 3:2). Just as salvation is by faith, so also is the exchanged life. Just as we accept the Lord Jesus by faith as Savior, so by simple faith we receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Just as we took the Lord as our sin-bearer, we take the Holy Spirit as our burden-bearer. Just as we take the Savior as our penalty for sins that are past, we take the Holy Spirit for power over indwelling sins that are present. The Savior is our atonement; the Holy Spirit is our advocate. In salvation we receive newness of life, by the Holy Spirit we find life more abundant. In each case the appropriation is by faith, and by faith alone, wholly apart from any feeling on our part.

Baptism by immersion is the most beautiful symbol of this vital faith-union with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection with risen power. We go down into a watery grave, as Christ did, expressing our faith in following Him in His death, burial and resurrection. “God reckons us to have died and been buried when He died and was buried. Judicially it is true, for what happens to our Great Representative is true of all whom He represents,” notes Pierson.

All believers in Christ died when Christ died, but the personal appropriation of their death with Christ came later in time when they put their personal trust in Christ. Our baptism is a beautiful picture of our funeral as we are solemnly consigned to our death in Christ. The marvelous message is that we do not remain dead, but we rise with Him from death and even in this world experience the power of His resurrection as men who have already died and risen again.

There are great applications of this great truth to our relationship with God. Faith in Christ makes us one with Him, so that, “in God’s sight, what is literally and actually true of Him, becomes judicially, representatively, constructively, true of us. We died when He died; we were buried when He was buried; and as many of us who have been baptized into Christ has been baptized into His death, that is, our baptism was the confession of our identity with Him, and our symbolic putting on of Christ” (Pierson).

Charles G. Trumbull speaks vividly of this new life in Christ: “The resources of the Christian life, my friends, are just––Jesus Christ. . . . I realized for the first time the many references to Christ in you, you in Christ, Christ our life, and abiding in Christ are literal, actual, blessed fact, and not figures of speech. . . Jesus Christ does not want to be our helper; He wants to be our life. He does not want us to work for Him. He wants us to let Him do His work through us, using us as we use a pencil to write with––better still, using us as one of the fingers of His hand.”


Title:  Romans 3:21-26; Galatians 2:16 Our Perfect Union with Christ
Series:  Exchanged Life in Romans

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2008. Anyone is free to use this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author’s written consent.

Women of the Bible: Lydia

April 25, 2010

Lydia: A Woman with an Open Heart

All that Jesus began to do and teach in His incarnate body of the flesh He is still doing, but now He does it in a different body. He is no longer limited, no longer restricted. Having risen ascended, and by the baptism of the Holy Spirit having united Himself with those who believe in Him, He created a new Body, a spiritual Body. Now we watch that same Lord carrying on the same work through these members of His Body––the local church.

We are given another good example of the work of Christ through this Body in Acts chapter sixteen. We see Christ through His Spirit leading and guiding the Body of Christ in ministry. Paul left on the second missionary journey from Antioch to revisit the churches already founded on the previous trip. He had no vision of the invasion of Europe with the Gospel when he left Antioch on that journey. He was headed to Asia when the Holy Spirit blocked him. At Troas he had a vision, a surprise, a fresh new call, and open door of vast expanses stretching out before his eyes of a whole new continent. There was the deep conviction of Paul and his team that this was the mind of God. When he saw the man over in Macedonia in his vision pleading for help he then changed course and headed to Macedonia. He and his team came to the ultimate result of processing and concluding that God had called them to preach the gospel there. It is the lesson of Divine overruling and the Divine government in sovereign control of His eternal purposes.

In this experience of the apostle Paul and his team we learn principles for our walking with Christ today. How do you know when God is leading in your life?

CHRIST IS SEEN OPENING AND CLOSING DOORS

Christ prepares hearts to receive Him

Watch Christ at work preparing the hearts of individuals who will receive His word (Acts 16:5-10).

Sometimes God closes doors for those who are willing to serve Him (vv. 5-8). It seems strange to us when God closes doors because this is our passion to see people come to Christ and their Lord and Savior.

The churches that had been founded on the previous journey “were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily” (v. 5). They were enjoying an effective ministry of helping these churches become established, settled, confirmed and mature in their faith. There was also a day-by-day increase of people coming to Christ. There was an inward intensive spiritual growth and an outward extensive evangelistic growth. God was at work in their midst.

It is startling for us when we think of the Holy Spirit forbidding, hindering or preventing Paul from preaching. However, Luke tells us the apostles passed on through the region of Phrygian and Galatia, but were “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak to work in Asia,” i.e., west coast province of Asia Minor (v. 6). They then went to Mysia and “were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them.” It is the picture of them attempting, trying again and again to enter an area to minister and the Holy Spirit forbidding them. It must have been a puzzling and baffling time. Then they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas (vv. 7-8). Asia needed the Gospel, but this was not in God’s timing. Need did not constitute their call. The Holy Spirit is the Administrator of missions. He is the One who is seen forbidding, guiding, directing, opening and closing of the doors. It is clearly a picture of the Holy Spirit forbidding Paul and company of starting new work in the northwest province of Asia Minor. He moves on to the east and is forbidden by the Spirit of Jesus to stop and preach. We have the picture of Paul skirting along the edge of Mysia and Bithynia. They had just come from the east and had been forbidden to go south or north, but they did not presume that the Lord was leading them to the west. They waited for His specific directions. Just as need is not the basis of a call, neither is logic alone the basis. Then God opened the doors of ministry. These prohibitions led to a profound conviction of the open doors to preach the gospel in Europe. Watch how God opens the doors (vv. 9-10). They were now at Troas, near the site of ancient Troy. In verse nine Luke tells us, “A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’” Come, “help us,” to be saved. Come, “help us” to obtain salvation. This is a Macedonian, Greek in Europe pleading to hear the gospel. It reminds us of the words of Jesus to the church at Philadelphia, Asia Minor in Revelation 3:8. “I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.”

I sometimes wonder if Dr. Luke didn’t have a twinkle in his eye or grin when he wrote, “a certain man of Macedonia was standing and appealing.” It wasn’t a single appeal. He “kept standing and kept on pleading” to Paul and team “Help!” “Help us!” Luke by his language indicates he could have identified him if he wanted to. Luke knew who the Macedonian man was. Was that man in the vision Dr. Luke? We don’t know, but Luke sure knew him.

Paul saw in his vision a man of the providence of Macedonia standing there and appealing to him and he “kept standing and kept on pleading,” “Help!” “Help us!”

God is at work all about us and He invites us to come and join Him in His work. What a shame when we go off half-cocked on our own in our own strength to do the will of God. God as this passage teaches is already at work and He chooses to invite us to come and join Him were He is at work.

Verse ten gives us the reasoned conclusion and consensus of the team. “When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

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Here was the clear direction that Paul needed. Paul saw the vision and “immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.” It was a team consensus. They sensed the same leading and conclusion that Paul did. The word “concluding” means, “to make go together, to knit together.” They came to the conclusion after looking at the evidence that this is where God wants us to go and work. God uses various ways to guide and lead us.

God gave Paul the vision and the team concluded that this is where God wanted them to work. There was confirmation from the Body of Christ that God had spoken to Paul through the Holy Spirit in the vision.

It is quite interesting to the observer that beginning with verse ten Luke changes pronouns from “they” to “we” and “us” implying his own presence and participation in the events recorded. It is natural to accept the view that the writer joined Paul at Troas, perhaps as his physician (Col. 4:10; cf. Gal. 4:13, 14; 2 Cor. 12:7). The use of the first person begins at Troas and ceases at Philippi (v. 17), and is resumed again at Philippi on a subsequent voyage (20:6). I think it is plausible to think Luke will stay on and minister and rejoin the team in Acts 20:5 where he says some of the team “had gone on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas,” and in the next verse says “we sailed from Philippi.” This may well have been his place of residence and that he was the man in Paul’s vision.

A. T. Robertson writes, “’We sought.’ This sudden use of the plural, dropped in 17:1 when Paul leaves Philippi, and resumed in 20:5 when Paul rejoins Luke in Philippi, argues conclusively that Luke, the author, is in the party (‘we’ portions of Acts) and shows in a writer of such literary skill as Luke that he is not copying a document in a blundering sort of way. Paul told his vision to the party and they were all ready to respond to the call.” Then he writes on 20:5, “Here again we have ‘us’ for the first time since chapter 16 where Paul was with Luke in Philippi. Had Luke remained all this time in Philippi? We do not know, but he is with Paul now till Rome is reached. The seven brethren of verse 4 went on ahead from Philippi to Troas while Paul remained with Luke in Philippi” (Word Pictures, Acts).

Paul’s response to an open door (vv. 11-12)

Observe carefully the response of Paul and company to the call of God. They acted on what they believed to be the will of God. The next day they went to the harbor, purchased their tickets and set sail by boat to the port city of Neapolis. They struck a beeline to the district of Macedonia. It was a speedy trip because they got the wind in their sails.

“So putting out to sea from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the day following to Neapolis; and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia, a Roman colony; and we were staying in this city for some days” (vv. 11-12).

They landed at Neapolis and without staying there headed to Philippi where a Roman colony was located. At this point Paul was probably impatient to arrive at a town and commence his ministry. He consistently sought cities of primary importance in which radiating centers of Christian influence could be established in a greater outreach of the Gospel to smaller communities.

The ancient name for Philippi was Crenides from its many springs in the area. Later Philippi was seized and named in honor of Philip of Macedon who rebuilt the city and fortified it. It passed to the Romans with the rest of Macedonia in 168 B.C. In 42 B.C. it was the scene of the great battle which decided the fate of the Roman republic, in which Octavian and Anthony defeated Brutus and Cassius. Augustus established a colony composed of soldiers who had been partisans of Anthony. These Roman colonies such as Philippi were organized precisely on the model of the great metropolis with government, laws, and language so that it was a miniature Rome. Philippi was a first-class city of the highest rank.

The word for “straight course” means they struck a beeline, sailing before the wind with a speedy trip. Luke’s language is vivid. It helps us feel the excitement of being at the center of the will of God. What an example this experience is for us.

What is my attitude when I know God’s will?  Do I run a straight course, or do I linger behind?  Do I look for excuses, and drag my feet? Do I have the right attitude toward God in striking a beeline of obedience? It is wonderful being involved in something that will still be worthwhile a million years from now. Paul had the right attitude. God help us to be like-minded.

When the team arrived at Philippi they “were staying in the city some time” with the idea of resting quietly, observing and doing nothing else. They were observing the culture and watching to see where God was at work. They were waiting for the specific opportunity to share Christ. What a contrast this scene is from that in Asia.

CHRIST WAS PREPARING THE HEART OF A WOMAN

A business woman in Thyatira

A woman of commerce was the first known convert on the continent of Europe. Thyatira is where the purple dye industry was located. The dye was procured from a shell-fish (purpura murex) and used to dye cloth.

A businesswoman was temporarily residing at Philippi for the purpose of selling her dyed cloth. She evidently was a successful and very wealthy businesswoman who made her living by working with this very expensive dye. We learn that her home was large enough to be capable of entertaining Paul and his associates.

Lydia was “one who worshipped God.”

Lydia was one of several women who were proselytes to the Hebrew faith. The Holy Spirit was preparing her heart to receive His message.

We learn in verse 13 the opportunity came when they went to “a place of prayer.” It appears to have been, not an edifice, but a space or enclosure in the open air consecrated for this purpose. It was a designation of a Jewish religious site. It was a Jewish prayer meeting in open air, outside the city gates, near a stream where a supply of water for washing of hands before prayer was readily available. The small stream of flowing water would also be sufficient for the ordinance of baptism by immersion of adults.

“And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled” (v. 13).

It was always Paul’s plan to address the Jews first, and through them gain access to the Gentiles. He was concerned that his own people hear the Gospel.

Not only was God at work in this woman’s heart, but also the Holy Spirit had been busy working in Paul’s heart in past years (perhaps in Arabia). Every Pharisee prayed daily, “Oh God, I thank Thee that I am not a Gentile, I am not a slave, and I am not a woman.” God changed that boy’s heart.

Paul could write from the depths of his heart: “There can be neither bond nor free; there can be no male and female; for you are all one man in Christ Jesus.”

“We sat down and began speaking to the women.” Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke each took his turn preaching and giving testimony of God’s grace. Paul, the converted Pharisee preached the Good New in Christ, and Lydia a Greek proselyte hung on to every word! The resurrected Christ was operating through Paul.

The Lord opened the heart of Lydia as she “was listening” (v. 14). The verb is imperfect meaning a sustained attention. She really kept on listening to each word. She sat on the edge of her seat listening to every word. She hung on to the words of each of the speakers. Every pastor loves that kind of an audience. She had an open mind and the right attitude for learning great spiritual truths.

The “Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” In fact Luke says He “opened up wide, completely, her heart.” Her heart was enlightened, impressed by the Holy Spirit and thus prepared to receive the truth about Christ. My good friend Nancy Woolnough used to close our “Happiness Is” broadcast with the words, “Keep your heart tender toward God.” Keep it wide open to hear and respond to God’s Word. Lydia heard the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection and believed on Christ. Paul would later tell the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (v. 31).

Lydia’s immediate response is shared with us in verse fifteen.  And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.’ And she prevailed upon us.”

The Lord opened her heart up and she believed and afterwards was baptized.

“And her household” indicates she had a strong influence on other members of her family and business acquaintances. Who these individuals were is mere conjecture. They may have been family members or business associates. There is nothing in this text, however, that gives any indication that anyone except adult believers were baptized. Children had not begun to be baptized in the time of the apostles. Only adult baptism of believers is demonstrated in the New Testament. The members of the “household” are probably women who assisted Lydia in her business. Only in such cases in which they were so far developed spiritually that they could profess it were they baptized. The baptism of children was not an apostolic institution, but arose gradually in the post-apostolic age and a long-continued resistance. The practice of infant baptism was unknown at this period in church history. We cannot infer the existence of infant baptism from this passage. Baptism of infants did not become general in the church till after the time of Augustine. It is improbable in the highest degree that “her household” includes children of immature age.

Our polity is to follow this line of teaching in the New Testament and baptize by immersion only adult believers and not infants. We teach the proper mode of baptism is by immersion of the individual down below the water. It is a demonstration of the meaning of baptism which is our identification with Christ. We were living in sin and we died in Christ and were buried and have risen to new life in Christ. It is a testimony of what has already taken place within the believer. “Upon your profession of faith in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and in obedience to His command I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,” so goes the formula for baptism. It is a testimony of the individual’s faith in Christ to all those present observing the individual being baptized. The believer emerges from the water, dripping wet indicating their identification with Christ. Such a person is identified as the wet one. It is an outward sign of a greater inner identification with Christ that took place the moment the individual believed on Christ as their Savior.

The apostle Paul always kept his eye fixed on one thing, justification by faith, and carefully avoided everything that could give the impression of support to the notion of justification by outward things. This would include baptism as well as circumcision.

She opened up her house and Luke says she constrained them to enter into her home.  Lydia’s home became the location of the little church at Philippi. Our English word “abide” is too strong for this context because it suggests a permanent residence. She urged the whole company, including Luke to stay there for the time being (cf. v. 40). By the way, did you catch where Lydia was from? The first convert was not only a woman, but also a woman of Thyatira in Asia the very area where Paul had been forbidden to enter on this trip! Very likely through Lydia and her servants and dependants others in Thyatira heard the message when she returned home. I never cease to be amazed at how God does things when we are obedient to Him.

I had the privilege of sharing Jesus Christ with a young college student from the U. S. who was married to a beautiful Ecuadorian lady. I had been praying for the opportunity to witness to my friend and the Lord opened his heart in a moment of crisis and I told him about the life that Jesus Christ gives. Like Lydia he opened his heart wide open and put his faith in Christ as his Savior. Louis went home that day and shared Christ with his wife and she trusted Christ as her Savior. He became burdened for a student friend at the university and began praying for the opportunity to share Christ. We interviewed my friend on the radio several weeks later and his friend at the university sat in the studio listening to the testimony and he turned to me and said, “Man, I have been wondering what happened to this guy. He is not the same. He is a changed man. Now I know.” I responded to him and shared Christ and with tears streaming down his cheeks trusted Christ in a radio studio. Today, my friend is a lay pastor in New Orleans and his student friend is an English and History professor in a university in New York. Look all about you and see where God is at work and see if He will not allow you to join Him in what He is doing.

Some Abiding Principles and Personal Applications for Today

When I have the right attitude toward God He will speak and I will listen.

The Spirit leads men and women who look and watch and wait and follow. G. Campbell Morgan captures the heart of this great passage in his application:

The Spirit guides, not by flaming visions always, not by words articulate in human ears; but by circumstances, by commonplace things, by difficult things, by dark things, by disappointing things. The Spirit guides and moulds and fashions all the pathway.

The important thing is that the man whom the Spirit will guide is the man who is in the attitude in which it is possible for the Spirit to guide him. So we look again at this man, and we find an attitude of life revealed. It is that of loyalty to the Lord, faith in the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and constant watchfulness. There is where we too often fail. It is when a man is in fellowship with the Lord that he sees that the disappointment and the difficulty are also under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is the watcher of the Lord who sees the Lord. If we make up our minds that the way of guidance is the way of flaming vision, the rolling thunder, and an articulate voice, and a lifting to a height of ecstasy, then we may never be guided. But if we are watching for Him, we shall find Him guiding us in the day of difficulty and the day of disappointment, and the day of darkness; when it seems as though the rhythmic and majestic flow of the river has ceased, and we are in the cross currents, and are tempest-tossed. . . What we need is confidence in the guidance of the Spirit in the hours when no voice is heard, and no vision is seen. If we follow then, the hour of vindication will come, there will come the vision, there will come the man of Macedonia. His voice will be distinctly heard, and then we shall conclude that God would have us go into Macedonia (The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 377).

When God speaks our response should be a quick obedience.

Always act immediately whenever you sense God is opening a door.  Don’t hesitate. Don’t put it off. “Here am I, Lord, send me” should be our quick response to His will.

Spend some time looking for where God is at work all about you.

Find a place where God is preparing hearts for the Gospel and patiently wait sowing your seeds.  God will bring forth the fruit. He will open the hearts of those whom He has prepared for salvation.

Where is God at work in your own life?

Have you come to the place in your spiritual life whereby you know that when you died you will go to heaven?

Let’s suppose you died today and stood before the Lord God and He said, “Why should I let you into my heaven?  What would you say?”  What do you think you would say?

Title:  Acts 16:6-15, 40  Lydia: A Woman with an Open Heart
Series: People in the Life of Christ

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2008. Anyone is free to use this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author’s written consent.


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