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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Paul's Second Missionary Journey

Paul’s Second Missionary Journey

Paul and Silas, along with Timothy had planned to go to Asia and preach on Paul’s second missionary journey. But God seemed to be telling them that it was the wrong time to go. We don’t know how they knew they shouldn’t go into Asia at that time. All Scripture says is: “they were forbidden at that time by the Holy Spirit to preach the Word in Asia.” (Acts 16:6b) Scripture says that Paul, Silas and Timothy kept going. I am sure that they were asking God to guide them and were waiting for His further directions.

When God closes one door He usually opens another one. So soon after that Paul had a vision while he was sleeping. “A man from Macedonia (Greece) stood and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’”. (Acts 16:9b)

So Paul, Silas and Timothy headed off for Macedonia (Greece). It must have been exciting to follow Gods’ leading and to know that they were part of Gods’ plan. Paul, Silas and Timothy walked to Philippi, which was one of the main cities in Macedonia and settled in.

Usually when Paul and his helpers arrived in a city they would go to the synagogue and preach, but they couldn’t do that this time because there was no synagogue in Philippi. Instead a group of Jewish women and God fearing gentiles held prayer meetings at a spot outside the city down by the river. Paul, Silas and Timothy joined the prayer meetings at the river and soon Paul was opening the Scriptures and showing this prayer group how the Scriptures prove that Jesus is the Savior. Lydia, a gentile woman who sold purple dye, was one of the first to believe in Jesus. But many others at the riverside prayer meeting believed in Jesus along with her. Lydia and her whole family were baptized and she invited Paul, Silas and Timothy to stay at her house while they were preaching in Philippi.

Paul, Silas and Timothy settled into Lydia’s home and continued going to the prayer meetings and telling everyone that Jesus is Savior. One day as they were going to one of the riverside prayer meetings they were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of fortune-telling. Scripture says that this girl “earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling.” (Acts 16:16b) `The girl with the spirit followed Paul and Silas and Timothy everywhere they went. She shouted after them “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” (Acts 16:17b)

Even thought this young girl shouted the truth about Paul and the others, she was really mocking them. Everywhere they went the slave girl followed close behind screaming and yelling. “She kept this up for many days and finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to come out of her.’ At that moment the spirit left her.” (Acts 16:18)

The spirit came out of the girl and she quit shouting at Paul and Silas. She could no longer tell fortunes and her owners were really angry. “When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities.” (Acts 16:19) The girl’s owner accused Paul and Silas of preaching about Jesus which they insisted was unlawful. Roman subjects were not supposed to have any other king besides Caesar and perhaps Paul and Silas were teaching the Philippians that Jesus was king instead of Caesar. The magistrates agreed that Paul and Silas were dangerous and the slave girls’ owners stirred up a crowd against them. The mob gathered around shouting angrily. They grabbed Paul and Silas, tore off their clothes and beat them with rods. When they were bloody and badly beaten they threw them in prison where the jailer fastened their feet in the stocks. Poor Paul and Silas!

You would think that Paul and Silas would hate being chained with their feet in the stocks on the dirty prison floor. But Scripture tells a different story. “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening in. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose.” (Acts 16:25-26) Could the power of praise from Pauls’ and Silas’ lips have opened the prison doors?

The jailer came running in and when he saw that the prison doors were open he pulled out his sword and started to kill himself. Since the jailer was responsible for his prisoners, if they escaped, he would be killed. Paul called out to the jailer and told him not to worry! “All of us are still here and we won’t run away,” Paul assured him. The jailer was trembling as he got a light and tiptoed into the jail. “What must I do to be saved?” he asked Paul and Silas.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Paul answered. (Acts 16:31) The jailer took Paul and Silas into his house and washed their wounds and fed them a nice dinner. They preached the Word to the jailer and his family and told them that Jesus is the Savior. And the jailer and his whole family believed in Jesus and were baptized that very night. Scripture says: “He (the jailer) rejoiced greatly because he believed in God with all of his household.” (Acts 16:34b) There is always a lot of joy in being a Christian! Joy is one of the gifts of the Spirit that we receive when we believe in Jesus.

The next day the Philippian magistrates sent word to the jailer to let Paul and Silas go. Paul and Silas spent more time at Lydia’s house encouraging the new believers and then they said their goodbyes and left for their next destination – Thessalonica.

Paul’s plan was to stop at the large cities and plant churches. When they arrived in Thessalonica they did what they always did and started preaching in the local synagogue. Soon a large number of people both Jews and Gentiles believed in Jesus! And as usual the trouble came. It seems that Paul gets persecuted in nearly every city he goes to. “But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob and set all the city in an uproar…” (Acts 17:5a) Paul and Silas had to run away. They had started a large church but they had to leave it and flee Thessalonica so that the angry mob wouldn’t harm them. Paul and Silas fled to Berea where they stayed and preached and many Bereans came to the Lord.

On this second missionary journey Paul stopped in Athens along the way and preached in the Areopagus, which was a place where intellectuals came together to debate ideas. Athenians had for centuries been patrons of the arts, music, and free thinking. Athens was the only city where very few people came to Christ when Paul preached to them. There are no records of baptisms in all of Athens. We have the Thessalonian church, the Philippian church, the Corinthian church and the Ephesian church, but there was no Athenian church! The Athenians had their art and their literature. They had their great thinkers and their fashion and culture. But they didn’t want Jesus!

Perhaps few came to Christ when Paul preached in Athens because the intellectual Athenians considered the claims of Christ to be just another theory to debate. To become a Christian they would need to open their hearts and give their lives to Christ. But the sophisticated Athenians were only willing to debate the claims of Christ as an interesting idea: and that wasn’t enough.

When we read the book of Acts we see that when Paul preaches about Jesus he gets into trouble again and again. In Philippi he and Silas are beaten and thrown in jail because he casts an evil spirit out of a young girl. Instead of the Philippians being glad that a young girl in their town is no longer mentally ill, Paul and Silas are thrown in prison because without her mental illness the girl can no longer make her owners money. So money was the bottom line here. Do we Christians ever allow children in our midst to stay mired in their problems so that we can save money? Scripture says that we cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6:19-24) And “The love of money is the root of all evil”. (1 Timothy 6:10) We have to love Jesus more than material possessions.

Scripture tells us that Paul suffered many persecutions because he obeyed Gods’ call and went traveling around Southern Europe bringing Christianity. And the Bible also says that every Christian (that means you and me) will be called on to suffer persecution as well. Does that mean that we will have as many problems as Paul had? Maybe not? In reading the book of Acts it does seem that often Paul got into more trouble than his helpers did. Paul was thrown out of several cities while the believers he left behind in those cities were tolerated. Was this because Paul was an apostle and signs, miracles and healings seemed to accompany his ministry more than they did for most of the other believers? We don’t have all the answers, do we? But we do know that when we follow Jesus we are told to take up our cross. That means that we can expect some persecution along the way. Are we ready to take it?

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