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Bible Search
Acts #57 (chapter 16:11-15)
The Book of Acts
A Truly Liberated Woman
Acts 16:11-15
 
When we last left Paul and Silas and Timothy, they have received a call from a man in Macedonia asking for their help. They determine that is where they should go and in obedience, they take off.  Verse 10 indicates that they wasted no time in getting on the road. In fact, verse 11 makes it even more clear:
 
verse 11
 
They sailed in a "straight course" to Philippi with only one stop on the way and that was at Neapolis and they arrived there in two days. Later we will learn that the return trip took five days.  So if they made it in two days, that means the wind and sea was favorable for travel. 
 
And while I don't want to read too much into the details, at the same time I don't want to miss the fact that when it's time to move, God can arrange the details to expedite the trip!  So two days after hearing the Macedonian call, they are standing on European soil.
 
And immediately upon arrival, their first contact is with two women.  Now these two women mirror for us all of humanity because everybody that's ever lived fits into one or the other of the categories they represent.  And I thought a lot about how to title these studies. 
 
 
I first thought about identifying them as a transfigured woman and a disfigured woman.  But then I realized somebody would go out and tell about me talking about women's figures. So I scrapped that idea.
 
What I settle on is a liberated woman and an enslaved woman.  Any way you title it, you quickly realize that these two women that we're going to meet today are exact opposites. One of them is godly and one of them is Satanic. One of them belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ, one of them does not.
 
And in reality, they are mirrors of every woman because to one degree or another, every woman fits in to one category or the other that we find here. By the way, the truth of the matter is, not only women, but every human being fits into one of these two categories.  There are only people who are free and those who are enslaved.
 
So in verses 14-15, we meet a woman named Lydia who shows us a person who is free, and then in verse 16 and following we find a slave girl who has a spirit of divination and she illustrates someone who is enslaved. 
 
Tonight, let's think about what it means to be truly liberated through what we are told about Lydia.
 
Now in order to be fair to what we read about her in verse 14 and 15, let's look at what we are told leading up to those verses. 
 
verse 12
 
So Paul and Silas arrive in Philippi, and we are told two things about the city.  First, it is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, and it is identified as a colony.
 
Being identified as a foremost city just means it was a very important city.  We might call it the primary city or the leading city. We don't know all of the aspects of its importance, but it is important.  Some of that had to do with its location on the Egnatian Way which was a 490 mile long highway built by the Romans for military access to the east. 
 
Notice also, Philippi is identified as a colony and this is the only city in the book of Acts that is called that. Colonies were cities that were under Roman rule and Rome extended them self-government, freedom from Roman tribute to the emperor and all the rights of Roman citizens.
 
Every colony was ruled by guys called praetors or magistrates and under them was a group of people called lectors which were the police force and they walked around with clubs beating up the people the magistrates told them to hit.
 
Down in verse 22 will see that's exactly what happens to Paul and Silas. So these colonies were actually little microcosms of everything Rome was. little cities that followed the Roman pattern of law and order.  And all of a sudden, the gospel arrives by way of Paul and Silas. And you would think it would be typical of Paul to hit the ground running.
 
But notice what happens:
 
 
verse 12b
 
It appears they just hung around for a few days. So what are they waiting for?  I would guess they are waiting for the Sabbath.  Paul's custom was to first establish himself in a synagogue when the Jews met to worship and study.
 
He always went to the Jews first.  Why"  First, that is consistent with the teaching of Jesus.  He said that's how the gospel would be shared.  But more to the point, he went to the Jews first because if he went to the Gentiles first,  the Jews would never accept him.
 
Also, he went to the Jews first because they were a built in audience before who He could speak because he was a Jewish Pharisee.
 
Thirdly, he went to the Jews because if he could win some of them to Christ they could help him evangelize the Gentiles. So his custom was to go to the synagogue. 
 
However, in Philippi there was no synagogue. It took ten men to constitute a synagogue, and apparently there weren't ten Jewish men in Philippi.  In fact, it appears there weren't any men.
 
So a few days pass and the Sabbath rolls around.
 
verse 13
 
That verse is why I say there weren't any Jewish men. If there were, they weren't gathering with the Jewish women.  So they couldn't have a synagogue.
 
And much like the exiled Jews in Babylon, centuries before who sat down by the rivers of Babylon and wept, these exiled Jewish women, are down by the riverside, faithfully meeting for prayer.  And they did it often enough and regularly enough that it was known that they met to pray. 
 
And once Paul found out where the Jewish people were meeting, he went to join this little gathering of ladies. And one of those ladies is named Lydia.
 
verses 14-15
 
Now her name is Lydia and she is from Thyatira, which is a prominent city in the Bible and it is known primarily as being the recipient of one of the letters from the Lord in the Revelation.  So we know there was a church there. 
 
But archaeological studies they have also determined that there was a large Jewish synagogue there. So here was a Gentile lady who apparently, while she was living in Thyatira, had become a God-fearer.  I mean by that she was a Jewish proselyte who had turned to the God of Israel.
 
By the way, Thyatira was famous for purple dye and Lydia made a living selling the dye from that area. And this woman is about to be the one the Lord had in mind to be Paul's first convert to Christianity in Europe. God is about to set her free.  Let me show you from her life, how that comes to pass.  And I'll just pull the points from the text.
 
The first think I notice about here is that
 
 
1. She Worshipped God
 
verse 14
 
Now that doesn't mean she was saved.  It just means she was not a pagan. If she had been a typical Greek, she would have been worshipping any number of gods through all kinds of pagan practices and rituals. 
 
But that's not here.  She worshipped God.  She was what her culture would call a God-fearer in that she was a Gentile who has turned to the God of Israel.
So God is already at work in her life.  He has begun the process of drawing her to Himself.
 
She did not yet know the gospel but she was seeking to know God. People always say, "Well what about the heathen who never hear?"
 
The book of Acts answers that question time and time again.  It doesn't matter if you are an Ethiopian eunuch off in a chariot in the middle of the desert or a lady from Thyatira who is seeking God as a pagan,  if there is somebody out there who is honestly seeking to know God, God will get to them!
 
I'm afraid most people who ask about the poor heathens aren't really concerned about their eternity.  If they were, they'd go tell them about Jesus.  They just want to make God look bad. Don't worry about God.  He knows exactly what He is doing. And He knows exactly where the seeking hearts are.  And if He has to move heaven and earth, God will get to that seeking heart.
 
Look at what has happened already just to get Paul to Lydia.  God cut off travel to all of Asia.  Don't go to Ephesus. Don't go to Asia. Don't go to Bithynia. Finally the call comes to go to Macedonia.  He goes and all of a sudden, very first stop, here is a lady that's seeking God.  She was a seeker and God never turns down a seeker.
 
Second thing, she not only worshipped,  
 
2. She Listened
 
verse 14a
 
Luke writes. "She heard us."
 
You know, some people have ears but they don't hear. They hear, but not really. That happened all the time with the teaching of Jesus.  The scribes and Pharisees and hypocrites that were standing around had no idea what He was talking about.  That's why those who have ears to hear are encouraged to listen.
 
But Paul gets to Philippi and goes down by the river to meet with these ladies, and when he preached, she heard it. And the implication is she heard it with faith. How does faith come?  It comes by hearing the word of God.  We translate it "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God", but that's not exactly right. 
 
The actual Greek of that verse is" Faith comes by hearing and hearing by a speech about Jesus."
 
 
And that's what she heard. She heard Paul making a speech about Jesus.  You say, "Well the text doesn't say that!"  What else would Paul have talked about?  Now the gladiators were doing in the coliseum?  How the politicians don't have any idea what they are doing?  Whether or not it was going to rain this week?  What a great deal he got on his chariot down at the local dealership?
 
No, that's what we talk about, but Paul talked about Jesus.  He gloried only in the cross.  he is on mission to deliver the gospel message.  Paul spoke about Jesus and she heard!
 
Third thing about her; she not only worshipped and listened, but then
 
3. She Responded
 
verse 14
 
She's out there by the creek seeking God, Paul showed up and shared the gospel, she listened to what he said, and then acted on what she heard.
The word "heed" means to respond in obedience. 
She put her faith in Christ.
 
Why? Because the Lord had opened her heart. I think we do people a disservice when we encourage them to open their heart to the Lord.  The truth is they can't.  No one can open their own heart tot he Lord.  God has to open those hearts.
 
Every so often someone will ask me if I ever get discouraged because so few respond to the invitation.  No, because i can't open their hearts. 
That's not my job. If I thought somebody's salvation depended on me I'd be in deep depression.  If I thought whether people were going to make it into heaven was dependent on me and how well I presented things I could never rest.
 
Salvation isn't dependent on me.  It's dependent on God. He's the one who does the opening.  Don't ever forget that evangelism isn't your work.  It's God’s work. Invitation times make me very nervous because I don't ever want to be guilty of manipulating people for a response. 
 
If you've noticed, I don't say much of anything through the invitation.  I want God to be able to speak and I need to be quiet to let that happen. 
 
But the most important thing in evangelism is not a some clever approach. I know preachers who try all kinds of gimmicks to get people to respond. But think about this: 
 
The most important thing in presenting the gospel is clarity.  I don't care how fast you can share the gospel.  How clearly can you share the gospel?  That's the important thing. 
 
If it is God who is preparing heart of the seeker, and  it is God who opens the ears so that they may hear, then I need to make sure that I make the content clear enough that someone can understand it so God can open the heart to respond to the truth of His Word.
 
Go through the book of Acts and you will never hear Paul say, "Let's just sing another verse and if no one comes, the invitation will close."
That is not the heartbeat of evangelism. I think our mistake is we think of evangelism as making an emotional decision about God.  But it isn't.  Sometime it's emotional and sometimes it isn't. 
 
It is first and foremost God at work in the heart of an individual. And the most important thing we can ever do is make the presentation of the gospel so clear that God can use it to open the heart.
 
The reason some of us can't remember when we were saved or have no assurance of our salvation is because we got bits and pieces of the gospel, or in some cases, no gospel at all, and we don't know when we really understood enough of it to be saved.
 
I'm of the conviction that if somebody is going to reject the gospel, we should at least make sure they understand what they are rejecting and it they are going to accept it, we must make sure it's what the Bible presents.
 
This lady heard the facts and since she had a heart that was already seeking God, God opened her heart to respond.
 
By the way, notice her response was not just to hear and respond in faith, but to give witness to that inward decision through an outward symbol.
 
verse 15
 
Apparently there wasn't even any discussion about whether or not she should be baptized.  It was jsut accepted and assumed that as a follower of Jesus Christ, she would outwardly and openly identify with Him through baptism.
In fact, not only was she baptized, her family was also. Verse 15 says she and her whole household were baptized. 
 
By the way, this sixteenth chapter of Acts is the household chapter. The next person that gets saved is the jailor and he gets saved and his whole house. So what's God doing? He is building an instant church in Philippi through a couple of households.
Suddenly the church in Philippi is not just a few women down on the creek bank. 
 
There are men and women and children and teenagers and life and vibrancy and excitement and enthusiasm and it all began with one lady who was seeking the Lord.
 
In fact, down in verse 40 we will see that the local church in Philippi actually met in her home.  Lydia 
became a leader in the church, which leads to the last thing I want you to see and that is
 
4.  She Served
 
verse 15
 
She gave evidence of her salvation by the desire to be in the place that God designed her to be. Isn't that beautiful? There's not a higher calling in the world than being in the place where God designed you to be.
 
And notice, her desire to be used by God was not some kind of burden that she dreaded.  She begged them to let her use her God-given resources and giftedness to serve them.
 
In fact, the last phrase says, "She persuaded us."  Other translations use the word "constrained". 
That word is used only one other time in the New Testament and that was when Jesus was walking with those two disciples on the Emmaus Road and they kept constraining Him, same word, to come to their house and abide with them.
 
So is that you're approach to service?  The process of salvation always takes us to the place of service.  Our freedom always finds its greatest expression in being made a servant of God. 
 
Lydia worshipped, listened, responded and served.  What a godly example of those who love and serve the Lord. 
 
Let's pray.
 
 
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