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
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
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
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
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
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
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."
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
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
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
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
CHRIST WAS PREPARING
THE HEART OF A WOMAN
A business woman in
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
Lydia was one of several
women who were proselytes to the Hebrew faith. The
Holy Spirit was preparing her heart to receive His
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
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 News 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
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).
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
"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
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
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 molds
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.
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
When God opens the door
be ready to share Christ.
As a believer are you
seizing the opportunity God has given you to share
the Gospel? It may be that God can't use you
at this time because your heart is not right with
Him. If that is the case will you take a few moments
right now and get things straighten out with Him? 1
John 1:6-10 is the Christian's bar of soap. Use it
often. Claim the forgiveness of Christ and ask Him
to take you and use you right where you are today.
Take a few minutes today
and write out your salvation experience. Think it
through and include key Scriptures on salvation.
Below is a link to "Peace with God" with Scriptures
to help you. This is the best preparation to share
Christ with a lost friend or colleague.
16:6-15, 40 Lydia: A Woman with an Open Heart
Series: People in the
Life of Christ