Student Bible - Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Detour: An unplanned visit and a conversation spawn a new church

Acts 16

Acts 16:9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

In his travels, Paul concentrates on the chief trade towns and capital cities of the Roman provinces. From this melting pot of diverse cultures the gospel message can radiate out across the globe. If a young church shows promise, Paul stays on, sometimes as long as three years, to direct its spiritual growth. His letters glow with affection for the friends he develops in this way.

This chapter contains one of the Bible’s most famous episodes of divine guidance: Paul’s vision of a man of Macedonia. Yet the account actually shows how uncommon such a revelation is. It certainly startles Paul, who abruptly changes his travel plans. Following his normal procedure, Paul arranges this missionary trip strategically, linking together major towns and cities in sequence. But this time he runs into a roadblock and must adjust his itinerary.

A Woman and a Jailer

As a result of this change, one of Paul’s favorite churches comes into existence. Philippi is a leading city in the region of Macedonia, the place to which the vision has directed him. A casual conversation with a woman by a river opens the way for Paul (women play a crucial role in many of the early churches). What takes place in Philippi stands almost as a pattern for Paul’s never-dull missionary visits: early acceptance, violent opposition and providential deliverance from danger.

When in danger, Paul does not hesitate to use the prestige and status that come with his Roman citizenship. He is escorted from Philippi with proper respect, but he leaves behind two transformed households: one led by a woman cloth merchant and the other by a city jailer. From that unlikely combination grows the lively church at Philippi, to whom Paul later addresses the book of Philippians.

Life Questions

How has God used a casual conversation to bring someone or something important into your life?

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