Chaos and Conversion
This is a section of the story recorded in Acts that we didn't cover in our Sunday gatherings yesterday. However, there are some really important themes to consider in this text as you study on your own. Below is a summary.
As the story of the early church continues, we see people being converted in the most chaotic settings. In Acts 16 and 17, Paul and his missionary team move through Philippi, Thessalonica and Berea en route to Athens.
Lydia, a business minded woman living in Philippi, believes in Jesus and is baptized with her entire household. She opens her home up to the missionary team as a base of operations for ministry.
Philippian Jailer (Acts 16:16-40)
Paul stirs up much trouble in Philippi by exorcising a demon from a young slave girl who makes her owners rich through divination. As a result of the financial damage they have caused, Paul and Silas are beaten and jailed.
An earthquake damages the prison where the men are being held. A prison break is possible. The despairing jailer is poised to kill himself. But Paul intervenes. The jailer seeks salvation. Paul and Silas preach the gospel to this man and his household. They believe in Jesus and are baptized.
The next day, Paul and Silas are freed yet protest their treatment as Roman Citizens. They receive an apology and are requested to leave Philippi which they do after they finish encouraging the new believers.
Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9)
The missionary team makes its way to Thessalonica. As is their practice and conviction, they first preach the gospel in the local synagogue. Jesus is proclaimed as the Christ. Some Jewish people believe as do some Greeks and leading women in the city. Those who don’t believe stir up trouble for the disciples. They are accused of turning the world upside down (verse 6) and treason against Caesar by honoring King Jesus. In exchange for security money, the missionary team is released.
Berea (Acts 17:10-15)
Escaping under the cover of darkness, Paul and Silas head to Berea. Again, they proclaim Jesus in the synagogue. However, the members of this synagogue are more receptive than those in Thessalonica. They both receive the good news and review the Scriptures to verify the disciples’ message. But trouble follows the disciples from Thessalonica. Once again, crowds are stirred up against the missionaries. Paul is sent ahead to Athens while Silas and Timothy remain.
A Few Big Ideas
Here are a few themes to consider. First, women play strategic roles in Jesus’ mission. Lydia serves in a prominent place in the church along with other women presented elsewhere in the New Testament. As was also the case with Jesus’ earthly ministry as recorded in The Gospels, women are elevated and esteemed in ways that contrast their poor treatment outside the Kingdom of God. Second, households are strategic audiences for the gospel. In this section of Acts, the households (relatives and servants) of Lydia and the Philippian jailer believe the gospel and are baptized. We too often focus on individuals with our mission efforts rather than their network of family and friends. Third, the Kingdom of God threatens earthly power structures. The two accusations made against the disciples in Thessalonica, that they were turning the world upside down and are more loyal to King Jesus than to Caesar (Acts 17:6-7), are indeed true. The advancement of God’s Kingdom will too in our time disrupt and upset the worldly power structures built through corruption and oppression.