Ministry in Philippi (Acts 16:11-40)

Ministry in Philippi (Acts 16:11-40)


  • 2MJ began in conflict and continued in confusion.
  • Paul blocked by the Spirit.
  • Macedonia was not on Paul’s initial itinerary.

Read Acts 16:11-40

  • No mass conversion, just a few important individuals embrace Christ by faith, which implies “regeneration”.
  • Redemption Accomplished and Applied, John Murray, “The believing and loving response which the calling requires is a moral and spiritual impossibility on the part of one who is dead in trespasses and sins.”
  • God must begin that work! God’s initiating grace dramatically changes the desires of our hearts.
  • Ezekiel 36:26, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.”

I. God Opens Closed Hearts (11-15). II. God Cleanses Evil Hearts (16-24). III. God Softens Calloused Hearts (25-40).

God Opens Closed Hearts (11-15)

  • Philippi was a Roman colony without a synagogue (< 10 Jewish Men)
  • Lydia
    • From Thyatira in Asia. v.6 > Macedonia, first conversion is a woman from Asia!
    • A wealthy person:
      1. Royal clientele.
      2. Host the missionary team (v.15) and eventually the church (v.40) in her home.
    • “Worshipper of God” = “God-fearer”.
    • The Lord opened her heart (explicit regeneration). For anyone to respond in faith to the gospel requires the Spirit’s enabling.
  • Baptism
    • Household (Cornelius 10:48; Jailer 16:33).
    • Administered with same covenant pattern of OT.
  • Hospitality
    • General characteristic (2:46)
    • Numerous examples in Acts.
    • Fundamental aspect of Christianity. “Seek to show hospitality,” (Rom. 12:13).
    • I envy the hospitality etiquette in Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Established members of the community called upon newcomers, who would then return the favor. How social relations began. It would’ve been considered rude for either party to ignore the rules.
    • It is a shame that today’s social community is primarily found online rather than our neighborhoods.
    • Karen Mains, “Hospitality does not try to impress but to serve…Entertaining always puts things before people…Hospitality, however, puts people before things.”
  • God’s initiating grace dramatically changed the desire of Lydia’s heart so that she was attentive to Paul’s teaching, followed by baptism, and an earnest desire to show hospitality.
  • The implications for us today are simply that:
    • Are you attentive to the preaching of the gospel?
    • Have you and your household been baptized?
    • Are you showing hospitality?

God doesn’t just open closed hearts…

God Cleanses Evil Hearts (16-24)

  • Python-Possessed. Originally thought to be a snake or dragon that was defeated by Apollo. The spirit of this snake was thought to give the slave girl her clairvoyant abilities.
  • Why cast out a demon speaking the truth?
    • Might give the impression that the God of the missionaries was just one of many gods.
    • Might have suggested they were all on the same team.
  • God cleanses the evil spirit from the heart of the slave girl.
  • Luke probably intends her to serve as another example of a Philippian conversion. Implied by previous pattern of healings/exorcisms in Acts.
  • The slave girl might have experienced the most dramatic change of all, especially if she indeed became a believer. At the very least we know that her desires were no longer controlled by a demonic presence.
  • Bruce, “When Paul exorcized the spirit that possessed her, he exorcized their source of income as well.”
  • Paul and Silas (not Luke and Timothy) unjustly and humiliatingly, stripped and beaten (1st or 3x; 2 Cor. 11:23, 25; “shamefully treated at Philippi” 1 Thes. 2:2). And imprisoned.
  • v.24 Jailer completely unsympathetic:
    • They were in excruciating pain, backs covered with lacerations.
    • They were hastily thrown into stocks which would have made them even more uncomfortable.
    • The jailer doesn’t bother to wash or feed them.

God opens closed hearts and cleanses evil hearts. Also…

God Softens Calloused Hearts (25-40)

  • “About midnight”, Paul and Silas are unable to sleep.
    • Question calling or 2MJ?
    • Philippi not where we should be?
  • Rather than groaning and complaining, they are praying and singing hymns.
    • Characterized by complaining or praying?
    • Do you know hymns by heart? Taylor Swift won’t comfort you in prison.
    • Everyone listened in shock.
  • When the earthquake causes their chains to be loosened, they remain (unlike 5:19 & 12:7f). They seem to know God is up to something. None of the prisoners take advantage of the situation!
  • The awakened jailer assumes everyone has escaped (a capital offense), so he prepares to kill himself.
  • v.29-30 How did he know to ask this?
    • Heard Paul preach in Philippi?
      • Slave girl’s “way of salvation”?
      • Conduct, prayers, singing in prison?
    • Did he grasp the full implications of his question?
  • Paul’s response is simple and straightforward.
    • No theological lecture.
      • No background check.
      • No requirements from letter.
      • Not sanctification, but justification!
    • Jesus was the only answer Paul could give.
      • Same message Lydia heard.
      • Same name that healed the slave girl.
  • God’s initiating grace softened the calloused heart of the hardened jailer transforming him into a compassionate and joyful follower of Christ.
    • He washes their wounds. Coldness > compassion.
    • He and household baptized. Is belief a prerequisite for baptism? The whole household heard the message (v.32), but only he is explicitly mentioned as believing (v.34).
    • He shows hospitality.

Does the initiating grace of God fill your heart with awe and praise?


  • Transformation takes place in each case:
    • Lydia’s heart was open to the gospel.
    • Slave girl’s heart was cleansed of an evil spirit.
    • Philippian Jailer’s heart softened.
  • Transformation because Christ was the message. If the apostles had focused on all the lifestyle changes, Christ would’ve been lost.
  • But when Paul simply proclaimed Christ, transformation followed.
  • Do you know the “way of salvation”? Has your closedevil, and calloused heart been changed? Do you know Jesus Christ? Have you seen Him for who He is? Have you responded to Him in faith?