Acts 16:1-15 – How the Gospel works
The title is drawn from an examination of the process of how Paul, who in our text Spoke the Gospel and Responded to the Holy Spirit’s leading, contributed to God Opening the heart of Lydia.
1) THROUGH THE ACTION AND RESPONSIVENESS OF A BELIEVER – OBEDIENCE
Paul, Silas & Timothy committed to ACTION in their “walk” with Christ:
As Christ had commanded, sharing the Gospel was of primary concern.
Their commitment to this command to share Gospel is reflected in their actions.
Circumcised him – verse 3
Went on their way – verse 4
Went through the region – verse 6
Had come up to Mysia – Verse 7
Attempted to go – Verse 7
Passing by Mysia – Verse 8
Went down to Troas – Verse 8
Immediately we sought to go – Verse 10
Setting Sail – Verse 11
From there to Philippi – Verse 12
Remained in the city – Verse 12
Went outside the gate – Verse 13
Sat down and spoke – Verse 13
Their commitment to action was guided by their RESPONSIVENESS to the Holy Spirit:
6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia.
7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them.
8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas.
9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, • urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
10a And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go…
Both our obedience in action and our responsiveness to the Holy Spirit are an indicator of the maturity of our faith.
The more we excel, personally, in all of the Biblical Unity principals the more action and responsiveness we have.
2) THROUGH THE SPOKEN WORD OF A BELIEVER – THE GOSPEL
We are called to speak the Gospel:
10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
The New Testament is clear that communicating the Gospel requires speaking it (Matt 28:19)…preaching it is speaking it!
This command is fulfilled by communicating the Gospel in words – this is not a command to lifestyle evangelism.
1st Peter 1:23,25 – since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God…this word is the good news that was preached to you.
Or as John Piper puts it, “the seed that God uses to create new life in spiritually dead, unbelieving hearts is the seed of the word of God.”
Some examples of this speaking:
Luke 9:6 And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.
Acts 8:25 Now when they had testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.
Acts 8:40 But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.
Acts 14:21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch,
Rom 1:15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.
Rom 15:20 and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation,
1 Cor 9:16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!
2 Cor 2:12 When I came to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ, even though a door was opened for me in the Lord,
2 Cor 8:18 With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel.
2 Cor 10:16 so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another’s area of influence.
Gal 3:8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ In you shall all the nations be blessed.” (Paul’s sermon in Ch. 13)
3) THROUGH THE SUPERNATURAL POWER OF GOD – BORN AGAIN
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.
All we must do is speak, but the sinner must hear with faith:
Galatians 3:2 – Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith
Romans 10:17 – Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ
We are told that Lydia heard the Gospel.
Why did she hear it when so many in Paul’s journeys had not “heard” it.
The hearing is in God’s hands:
Lydia’s ability to hear the Gospel was linked to God’s opening her heart, “…the Lord opened her heart to pay attention…”
God’s role in this process is made all the more evident in the following verse.
1 Corinthians 1:18 – For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing…
Why would anyone believe in something that is foolishness to them?
Clearly, God’s involvement in the opening of the heart has something to do with it.
God’s power seems to enable the deaf and folly minded to hear the truth.
An example of Christ’s power to give hearing to the deaf:
32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him.
33 And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue.
34 And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.”
35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
This “opened” is the same “opening” that Lydia experienced.
Not only is it the same word, literally, but it is what she experienced spiritually.
She, like all of us, was deaf to the truth of the Gospel and could not speak the Gospel in truth.
Christ opened her heart so that she could hear the truth (and respond with belief) and speak the truth.
POI – This opening of our hearts/ears is what we also call being born again!
1 John 5:1 – Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God…
If your heart has been opened to believe or “hear” the Gospel, you have been born again or “born of God.”
And it began with a Paul in your life who OBEYED, RESPONDED TO GOD’S DIRECTION and SPOKE the Gospel to you.
John Piper describes the process as follows:
God causes the new birth through the seed of the word, the Gospel.
God brings about the new birth through your telling people the Gospel.
God regenerates people through the news about who Christ is and what he has done on the cross and in the resurrection.
POI – Luke 24:45 – Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures…
It is the power of God that even allows believers gain a deeper understanding of the Bible.
That the hearing is in God’s hand is great news for us:
It should take all the pressure off of us to “close the deal.”
1 Cor 1:17 – For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
Paul tells us the power of the Gospel is not in our words but in Christ!
And so we have come full circle.
We are to Speak the Gospel because it and only it is the seed.
Our lifestyle will save no one; it is not the seed.
We have to speak the Gospel; we have to evangelize with God’s abiding word and good news.
And then pray that God would give hearing ears and open hearts to those with whom we have shared.