Until now, the gospel has advanced in Gentile territory through the cosmopolitan trading hubs of Asia Minor, the region we know as modern-day Turkey. Now the missionaries come to Europe (Macedonia) and the great intellectual centres of Greek philosophy.
Initially Paul plans to visit northern Asia Minor, but guided by God, he has a vision of a man from Europe calling him to come and help (v. 9). This was God’s call for work to begin in Europe, and the first city Paul and his team visits is Philippi.
The absence of a synagogue implies this is a fully Gentile city, and the team knows they will find Jews and God-fearers meeting by the river instead. They find just such a group, composed mainly of women, and Lydia becomes the first European convert—God is active here (v. 14). Lydia is baptised and extends hospitality to the missionaries.
The removal of the evil spirit from the fortune-telling slave girl (vv. 16–18) and her discernment of who Paul and his team are (v. 17) leads to the first opposition in Europe, and it arises for commercial reasons (v. 19).
Paul and Silas are flogged and imprisoned. The gospel seems to have hit a brick wall. But no—there is an earthquake, the chains of all the prisoners are loosened, but none of them escape (vv. 26-28).
The slave girl earlier said, “These men . . . are telling you the way to be saved” (v. 17). Now, the jailer asks, “What must I do to be saved?” (v. 30). He is told he will be saved if he believes in the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 31).
This calloused man, who had secured and shackled Paul and Silas in the inner cell, now bathes the wounds he had inflicted (v. 33). He and his family are baptised and “set a meal before them” (v. 34). What a remarkable day for that household.
The first church at Philippi (v. 40) was very diverse—a woman of wealth with her household, the hardened jailer, now transformed, and his household, and some others. Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female—all one in Christ Jesus (see also Galatians 3:28).
The next day, after being released, Paul and Silas are asked to leave the city. They do so after encouraging the believers, leaving behind the first church established in Europe.
Paul had been stoned at Lystra and left for dead. Now he has been stripped, beaten, severely flogged, and imprisoned. Beware of glossing over the agonising pain involved in these experiences too quickly.
What can you learn from the experiences of Paul and his fellow missionaries?
What does this teach you about perseverance in the face of adversity?