Hello everybody, and welcome in to episode 44 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Acts 16 today and our focus is on the spread of the gospel around the world. We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in . Thanks for listening! Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast Don’t forget about our new web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more – Click here for our reading plan!
Acts 16 is a great chapter – tonight we read it during our family Bible time, and our 9 year old daughter Phoebe told me at bedtime that this was one of her favorite Bible chapters ever – I think she’s right! Lot’s of great things in this chapter, including that beautiful picture of Paul and Silas praying and singing to God while in jail, having just been nearly beaten to death. Acts 16 is a microcosm of how the good news of Jesus spread throughout Asia Minor in the first century. It wasn’t easy, and many sacrifices were made – let’s look at a few of the pictures of Acts 16 to get a good idea of how the good news went forth, and what cost was paid.
First episode – Timothy is selected to be Paul’s partner, but oh no – he has to be circumcised! This is a huge deal for an adult male to have to go through given that they didn’t have scalpels or antibiotics, or anesthesia. Why does Timothy have to get circumcised, Paul?! We know from Paul’s own writings that circumcision is not necessary for salvation, and that it spiritually means nothing:
19 Circumcision does not matter and uncircumcision does not matter. Keeping God’s commands is what matters. (1 Corinthians 7:19)
So why would poor Timothy have to go through with this? And the simple answer is because it would help the gospel spread further, because of the prejudice of the Jewish people against the uncircumcised. Paul and Timothy are here willing to make a sacrifice so as to be all things to all people – to put no stumbling block in front of the Jewish people. Romans 14:13 might be a somewhat application of what is happening here:
Romans 14:13 Instead decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in the way of your brother or sister.
Must Timothy have gotten circumcised? Not at all. Would doing so cause there to be less hindrance to the spread of the good news? Apparently so, and he was willing to make a big sacrifice to do so. Thus the Word of God spread.
Second episode. Paul and Silas try to spread the Word to Asia, but the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let them. Then Bithynia, but the same result, so they found themselves, by way of a vision, in Macedonia, in a town called Philippi. There, they found out the reason why the Holy Spirit called them there – to start a church. How was that church started? It began through a group of women who met on Sundays by the river to wash clothes and pray to God. Paul and Silas didn’t preach a big message, or have an evangelistic campaign at first – they just sat down and shared the gospel with these praying washer-women, and the church at Philippi was born – the recipient of Paul’s majestic letter to the Philippians.
Third episode. In that same town, Paul and Silas are sharing the gospel and making disciples. They are being followed around by a young – probably teenaged – girl who had a python spirit. Whoa, you might be saying – a PYTHON spirit? My Bible says a spirit of divination. That’s probably true – almost no modern translation says python spirit, but that’s exactly what the Greek word is – she had a spirit of python, named after the region where the oracle of Delphi – a supposed future-seer and fortune teller in the ancient world was located. There was said to be a Pythian dragon who dwelt near Delphi who guarded the oracle there. And this girl was apparently – according to the Bible – possessed by such a spirit. Not a charlatan, or a faker, but the real deal. And this girl followed Paul and Silas around for days:
“These men, who are proclaiming to you a way of salvation, are the servants of the Most High God.” (Acts 16:17)
Finally, after days – Paul cast the evil spirit out of her. Why wait for days – the Bible doesn’t tell us, but I believe it SHOWS us. As soon as the spirit was gone, the ‘owners’ of the girl attacked Paul and Silas, dragged them to the authorities and had them beaten to a pulp and jailed. I suspect that Paul knew this would be the outcome of casting the spirit out of the girl, but he did so anyway – probably out of mercy and anger at the evil spirit. And thus, Paul and Silas find themselves chained up in jail – having done no evil whatsoever. Their backs are bleeding and possibly infected, and they are no doubt physically miserable. Do they complain? Threaten a lawsuit? Give up? No – they pray and sing hymns to God – a tremendous testimony to all of the other prisoners. Given a miraculous chance to escape due to an earthquake, they stay right where they are, and their response – their faith and their decision not to save their own skin is such a testimony to their jailer and his family, that all of them are saved and baptized that very night. And the good news continued to spread.
And that, my friends is how the good news spread in the first century, and how it can and should continue to spread today. There will be sacrifice. There will be conversations by rivers with people washing their clothes. There will be persecution, and there will be confrontations with evil. We do what Paul and Silas did. Pray, worship, persevere, proclaim the good news and keep going forward in faith. Let’s read our chapter.
End of the Show: Bible memory verse for FEBRUARY: Acts 9:31 So the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
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