“So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us. As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.” (Acts 16:11–18 ESV)
Paul and Silas witnessed the birth of a new church in Acts 16. It was quite the whirlwind as they arrived in the Roman colony of Macedonia. They walked in to Philippi and ended up talking with an affluent woman from Thyatira, Lydia, who was a worshiper of God. This was a commonly used phrase to describe Gentiles who believed in the God of the Hebrews, but had not converted to Judaism (see Cornelius in Acts 10:2). But something happened to Lydia that is often read right over at the end of verse 14 – “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” It was not by Paul’s persuasive powers or his wisdom – it was by the supernatural work of God, by whom all are drawn to Him. And we know that no one comes to God unless God draws him (John 6:44, 6:65). If you are a Christian today, it is because God drew you to Himself, regenerated your heart and gave you faith to believe. Don’t gloss over that – allow it to sink in.
The excitement continues as Paul & Silas are heading to Lydia’s house to stay for a few days when a demon possessed slave girl, who earned a lot of money for her owners by fortune telling (Acts 16:16), began following them saying, “these men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”” Paul finally gets annoyed with her and casts the demon out of her in the name of Jesus (Acts 16:18) – what a power do you walk in when you get annoyed and cast out a demon? Paul was probably annoyed because he did not want the gospel message to be identified with a demon possessed girl who told fortunes. The girl’s owners became angry because their source of income was now gone so they call on the city officials, complaining that Paul & Silas were causing a commotion. A miscarriage of justice occurred when the magistrates gave orders to have them beat with rods and thrown in to jail (Acts 16:22-24, 2 Corinthians 11:25, 1 Thessalonians 2:2). This was just a prelude to the real action, though. While they were in jail, they began singing and praying and a great earthquake shook the foundations of the jail and all of the doors burst open. The jailer was shocked and attempts to take his own life, but Paul stops him. The jailer then asks what he must do to be saved. He believes and is baptized.
What an exciting way to see a church come in to being! Fights, earthquakes, doors bursting open! It is easy for us to read this and be unmoved by all of the miraculous things that are going on because most have never experienced these types of miracles. But, the most miraculous thing that happens in this text, still happens today: God opens the hearts of rebellious creatures to believe the gospel. Why would a perfect, holy, all powerful Creator make peace with creatures who want nothing more than to take His throne? Why would He draw such people to Himself? Why would He justify them? Why would He adopt them into His family? Why would He do this for you and me? For your joy and His glory. The real miracle in this text – and one that still happens today – is that God has called you, justified you, adopted you into His family and will one day glorify you. Allow this truth to move you!