Friday, November 13, 2015

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday November 15, 2015

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FROM DERBY TO PHILIPPI
(Taking the Gospel across social and cultural barriers)
(Acts 16:1-15)

   Acts 16:1-15 chronicles the story of the beginning of the Apostle Paul’s second missionary journey, which for the first time, would lead him into Europe. Along with Silas, and later, Timothy and Luke, Paul travels into the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedonia, which, at that time (around A.D. 50), was a province of the Roman Empire. The men had persistently tried to go north, deeper into the peninsula of Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), but the SPIRIT OF JESUS, by way of some unexplained methods, had not allowed them to enter at that time.
    With the issue of the basis of “Gentile inclusion into the Church” now officially settled at the Acts 15 council, Paul, sets out with Silas, who had replaced Barnabas on this second missionary journey. Paul and Barnabas had split after a disagreement concerning Barnabas’ cousin John Mark. Paul had become disappointed with John Mark, because he abandoned them on their first missionary journey, while at Perga of Pamphylia (Acts 13:13).
    Barnabas and John Mark had already set sail for Barnabas’ homeland, the island of Cyprus, to begin working their second missionary trip there. Meanwhile, Paul and Silas make their first stop in Derbe, and then, move on to Lystra, the home of Timothy, where Paul had preached on the first missionary journey, and was stoned by an angry mob and left for dead.
    The people of Lystra had thought that Paul and Barnabas were the Greek gods “Hermes” and “Zeus” after they had healed a cripple man there in their city. However, some Jews came down later from Antioch and Iconium, and they turned the people against Paul and Barnabas, causing them to have to flee to Derbe (Acts 14:8-19).
    While in Lystra, they meet the young Disciple Timothy, whose mother was a Jewish believer, but whose father was a Greek. Timothy was well respected by the believers in both Lystra and Iconium, and so Paul asked him to join them on their mission. Out of respect for the opinion of the Jews in that area who knew Timothy’s father was a Greek, Paul arranged for Timothy to be circumcised before they left. The three men then traveled from town to town explaining the decision made by the Apostles and Elders at Jerusalem during the Acts 15 council, that, “Gentiles did not have to be circumcised to become Christians”.
    Next, Paul, Silas, and Timothy traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, as the HOLY SPIRIT still would not let them go any farther into Asia Minor, at that time. They traveled instead, on to Mysia, and again, tried to go north, this time, into Bithynia, however, the SPIRIT OF JESUS compelled them, instead, into the city of Troas. It is here that the author of GOD, Luke, joins the journey, and it is also there that GOD shows Paul a vision, telling him to go to Macedonia (Europe) and preach the Gospel there.
    So they boarded a boat and sailed from Troas to the island of Samothrace. There they spent the night, and, the following day, they sailed on and landed in the port city of Neapolis. They then went to the neighboring major city of Philippi, a Roman colony at that time, in the district of Macedonia, and there, they abided for three days.
    On the Sabbath, they went down to the riverbank, where the people who were worshipers of GOD met to pray. They sat down to talk to some of the women who had come together there. One of them, Lydia of Thyatira, who was a merchant of expensive purple cloth, and a devout worshiper of GOD, listened intently and opened up her heart to what Paul and his companions were saying about CHRIST.
    Lydia soon accepted what Paul and his crew were saying about CHRIST, and she was baptized, along with other members of her family. Lydia then insisted that Paul and his entourage come to her house as her special guests. She and her family had, that day, become the first Europeans in recorded Scripture to accept CHRIST into their lives, and this was truly a cause for celebration.
    And so we see, at a time when it seemed that all doors were being shut to Paul and his companions, it turns out that GOD, in HIS infinite wisdom, had something much greater in store for those who were willing to work according to HIS will. It must have seemed strange to Paul, being blocked from the Roman province of Asia by the HOLY SPIRIT, but no one can ever know and understand the eternal plan of GOD. Ironically, as history would have it, Asia Minor would become the place that was to contain all of the recipients of the letters to the seven churches mentioned in the Book of Revelation by the Apostle John.
    Paul and his entourage were then compelled to go the route of Alexander the great, a pagan king, whom GOD had used some 400 years earlier to spread the Greek language and culture all over world. HE had, by doing so set the stage for the writing of the New Testament, of which Paul himself would be its most prolific writer. The world had also already seen the translation of the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures, into what then had became, the universal Greek language of the “Septuagint” (the Greek version of the Old Testament) at Alexandria over 200 years earlier.
    Paul, Silas, Luke, and Timothy all believed in the sovereignty of GOD over all things, and we can see, quite vividly, throughout the Book of Acts, just how that belief impacted their everyday life and travels. And as for the Thyatiran woman, Lydia, and her family, they, in a very special sense, had become immortalized through their faith and belief in CHRIST. They will forever be remembered as being the first European family to accept our LORD and SAVIOR. And her first act as a Christian was, ironically, to invite other Christian people into her home. It is the kind of human action that CHRIST had just a few years earlier, commanded us to perform.
    Before we can offer our love, charity, and ministry to people who come into our Church, we must first be able to offer that same love, charity, and ministry to people who come into our homes. Oftentimes we look at home as a place where we go to shut the world out, but equally, it should be a place with an open door. The effectiveness of our ministry at church is always predicated upon the life we live at home. The way to a changed home, church, job, and life, has always been, through a changed heart.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
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