by Frank Luke
FCF: God uses each of us as we are made and raised.
Intro to Sermon: God makes us as we are and saves us as we are. He uses our training and preferences in His work. We can see this in Scripture as God uses the personalities of the prophets and apostles to write His word in their way. This is why Luke’s Gospel is written differently than John’s. God uses our passion to advance His Kingdom. Consider St. Patrick of Ireland. He was a former slave whom God called to the priesthood. He was then called as a missionary to go back to the very place where he had been enslaved. Once in Ireland, he preached in a different manner than those who converted Britain. What worked in Roman Britain wouldn’t work in untamed Ireland. Instead, as he made converts, he founded more monasteries than churches. His converts came from the work the monks did in their neighboring communities. At his death, all but one kingdom in Ireland had become Christian, a small, German colony on the southern tip.
He wrote this prayer: “Christ be within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ inquired, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.”
Patrick, who had been bound with iron chains, fought hard to free the Irish from their spiritual chains.
Intro to Scripture: As you turn to Acts 16, think about Luke, Paul’s companion. Luke was a gentile, a Greek. He would have been raised to worship pagan gods. We know that he was not born a Jew or a convert to Judaism because Paul does not include him in the group “of the circumcision” in Colossians 10-14. Luke is the only gentile who wrote Scripture, and God inspired him to write 27% of the New Testament. That is more than any single writer. Paul wrote more books, but his books are 23% of the NT. St. John comes in with 20% of the New Testament in his five books. One action by God brought about the man inspired for 27% of Scripture. And now, Acts 16:6-15.
Acts 16:6-15 6 ¶ They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; 7 and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; 8 and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 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.” 10 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.
11 ¶ So putting out to sea from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the day following to Neapolis; 12 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.
13 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. 14 A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. 15 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.
Point 1: God forbids the message to many that one may be saved 6-10
Acts 16:6-10 6 ¶ They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; 7 and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; 8 and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 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.” 10 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.
Paul, Timothy and company travel about, preaching the Gospel. Amazingly, God does not allow them to preach in the regions of Phrygian and Galatia, in modern-day Turkey. On one hand, this surprises us when we read it. God does not allow them to preach the salvation message? Doesn’t God want people to be saved? Why then would He forbid it?
God forbade preaching in those regions because God’s goal is not just to save people, but to save as many as possible. If they had preached in those regions, they might have stayed too long. Paul often wound up staying places for months and even years to help the new church along. God had a larger goal in mind right there. It wasn’t because of who lived in Turkey. In fact, God’s target was in Troas, another part of Turkey.
Even so, don’t worry about this region of Turkey. God never forgot it. His plan was for another missionary to minister there. God moved in other ways and other times. A few years later, many Christians are attested. 1 Peter 1:1 tells us there are churches here. One of the Roman governors interviewed and tortured Christians from that area in his queries regarding the Christian faith. Pliny’s logic, if I torture them, they’re sure to tell the truth.
While preaching in Troas, a man named Luke came to faith. Luke doesn’t see himself as important to the focus of Acts, so we know this only from the way he worded it.
Look again at verses 8-10. 8 and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 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.” 10 When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia.
“They” went into Troas, but “we” left. While the team preached, one man, a Syrian, heard the call of Christ and responded. He was a physician and possibly had been born a slave. It was common for a wealthy family to have a house slave trained in medicine. He heard, responded, and joined the team. Luke tells us very little about himself. Paul tells us little more than Luke was a physician and stayed with him even when the others had left or gone on to minister elsewhere. That obedient act of keeping silence made Paul a lifelong friend and companion. When Paul was sick and nearing death, a physician was with him.
As a physician, Luke has a very orderly mind. Actions have consequences. There are differences in types of disease. When we dig into the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, we see how God used that mind. Paul loved to write letters, and we see how God used that preference to communicate Scripture. Matthew, a tax man, shows a great interest in numbers and specifics just like Luke does. Yet, when Luke tells us about Jesus healing someone, Luke is always quick to point out if the illness is physical or demonic. Luke usually gives more information than the other Gospel writers, but there is a major exception. When Jesus heals the woman with the issue of blood, Mark tells us that she spent all she had with the doctors and only grew worse. Luke tells us she spent all her money with the doctors but never got better.
That analytical mind, trained not just in medicine but history, was called to write a Gospel. And note how he sets out to do it. He compares all the accounts of Jesus that he can find, for there were many in those days, and sets out the most orderly story of His life. He goes and talks to people who were knew Jesus. From the way he worded the tales of Christ’s youth, Luke spent a lot of time with Mary, Jesus’ mother.
And when Luke writes, his Greek is the best of the New Testament. His ability to move in Greek and Jewish circles is amazing. When writing about times with Jews, he uses Jewish sayings, but when he is writing about a Greek setting, those Hebraisms disappear.
Point 2: God uses that one for the gentiles 11-12
Acts 16:11-13 11 ¶ So putting out to sea from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the day following to Neapolis; 12 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.
Paul is preaching in gentile regions here. Even so, Paul starts in the synagogues. This isn’t prejudice or bias against Greeks. No, Paul preaches there first because they are ready to receive. The Jews and converts have heard the prophecies and await the Messiah. God has given Paul a platform to work from. He doesn’t have to lay the groundwork. When Paul needs to do so, such as in Athens, he can and does. But Paul starts with the Jews because they just need a little pushing.
Luke shows a different emphasis in his Gospel. When you read Luke, notice how often Jesus ministers to those from outside the Jewish faith. That’s because Luke was outside the faith when he first heard. Luke and Matthew both trace the line of Christ, but where Matthew stops with Abraham, father of all Jews, Luke goes back to Adam, father of all humans. Christ is not just the Messiah the Jews have been waiting for. He is the Messiah that all have been waiting for even though they never knew it.
In Luke, we see Jesus ministering to the poor and downtrodden more than in the other Gospels. That’s one indication that Luke was a slave at one time. Throughout his writing, Luke screams a silent cry, one that you hear only from your heart, not with your ears. Look what Jesus did for those just like me! The gentiles, the poor, the slaves! Your course of life is not determined by your birth! Jesus the Messiah can upend that!
All of this is important as they come into Phillipi in the region of Macedonia. They have passed through Asia Minor and are now in Europe for the first time. God is about to break loose on the gentiles, and Luke is here for that.
Point 3: God uses that one for the women 14-15
Acts 16:13-15 13 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. 14 A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. 15 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.
Here in Acts, Luke points out that Paul ministered specifically to women. They had expected to find a synagogue near the river, but there was none. So Paul and company ministered to those they found there. They were instant, in season and out of season.
Most ancient historians would have skipped this story because women in the ancient world were less important than men. Luke does not believe that. Jesus didn’t pass Luke by because of an accident of birth. Why would He pass by these human beings for an accident of their birth?
Luke tells about other women of faith also. Only Luke tells us of the angel Gabriel visiting Mary or Mary’s visit to Elizabeth (another woman of faith). Luke tells us of Anna, the elderly widow in the temple who wept to see the Christ child. Luke tells us how Mary, “pondered all these things in her heart.” Another woman only in Luke is the sinner with the alabaster jar of ointment that she poured on our lord’s feet.
The woman that Luke tells of here, though, is different. She is Lydia, the most wealthy woman in the New Testament. We know that because she sold purple fabric. That was the top and most expensive color. That she was here in Phillipi makes perfect business sense. Phillipi was connected to the source of the best purple die by one trade route and to Europe, a major buyer of purple, by another.
Lydia is significant not just because she is rich and well connected. She is the first convert of the missions team in Europe. She, a woman, was the first to respond to the message. Could this be why Luke includes so many women in the Gospel?
Luke mentions how the Lord opened her heart very matter of factly. He has no fanfare, no miracle here, no opening of the Heavens for a voice of God. Luke is presenting her response as how it should normally be. The logical response is to be converted. Similarly, Luke tells how she opened her home to them. There, not only was the first convert in Europe a woman, but we see from verse 40 that the first church in Europe was in her home!
Conclusion: We might look at these events and think that God telling them not to preach here was a small pebble thrown in the river. We might expect the river to ripple and then look exactly the same. Instead, God threw a pebble at the side of a hill. That pebble dislodged a boulder, which caused a rockslide, which diverted the river.
Christian history was changed by the events of that day. Luke ministered for the rest of his life. He traveled with Paul and others, always taking the Gospel to where it needed to go. As a physician, he was able to mend the wounds of the missionaries. His mind, trained and ready, was used by God to present the Gospel to all of us in the Greek manner of searching and researching history.
God changed that gentile’s life. After the death of Paul, the most reliable and early sources say that Luke died at the age of 84 in southern Greece, preaching the Gospel to the very end.
Please visit Frank Luke’s Blog where this sermon is also posted.