Monday, March 7, 2011

It Started With a Vision

Acts is largely a sequence of events. Because we don’t want to read long passages before teaching a lesson on it, we often break it up into manageable chunks. We might for example, talk about how Paul cast a spirit out of a damel. We might talk about Lydia. We might talk about the Philippian jailer. All of these stories stand on their own in our head, but we lose sight of the sequence. All of those stories I mentioned are connected with a cause and effect relationship and it all started with a vision.

Paul saw a vision in the night of a man of Macedonia saying, “Come over into Macedonia and help us.” Why there’s a sermon on missions right there. But what we find is that because of the vision, Paul and his companions travel to Philippi, which was the chief city of Macedonia. On the Sabbath, they meet Lydia and some other women in a prayer group. After baptizing Lydia and her household, they stayed in her house. But while they were doing that, they encountered a damsel possessed by a spirit of divination, a soothsayer. She gave them no rest by going after them and crying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who show unto us the way of salvation.” Paul got tired of it and commanded the spirit to come out of her. When it did, this angered her masters, so they took Paul and Silas before the magistrates. After being beaten and cast into prison, Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises. An earthquake came and freed them. The jailer was so afraid they had fled that he would have killed himself rather than face punishment, but they were all there. It was then that he asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” It is then that we see that great answer in Acts 16:31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou should be saved, and thy house.” He and his household were saved and baptized. Paul and Silas were freed the next day.

God’s plan to save the Philippian jailer and his household began with a dream. Actually, it probably began well before that, but God used some rather unusual circumstances to bring the man to Christ and it started with a vision. Imagine if Paul hadn’t listened. Imagine if they hadn’t stayed with Lydia. Imagine if they hadn’t met the damsel. Imagine if Paul hadn’t cast out the spirit. Imagine if the earthquake hadn’t freed them. One change in that sequence of events and the jailer and his family might not have been saved. It is important that we study the sequence as well as the smaller stories.

What sequence do you see in your own life that brought you to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?