Next week I will begin sharing a verse by verse study of Philippians on Monday mornings
The church at Philippi
Paul’s ministry to Philippi started spectacularly. You can read about it in Acts 16. He was on his second trip and had picked up Timothy. He was prevented, in the Spirit, from continuing in Turkey. The Lord gave him a vision of a man from Macedonia, so he headed over there with Timothy. As usual, he went to the Jews first. But there were less than ten Jewish men so there were not enough of them for a synagogue. That minimum is normal Jewish custom.
In the Spirit?
This is a bit of Christian lingo that is used to express a more direct contact with God through communication between our spirit and the Holy spirit. This can take many forms.
He went to the place of prayer, led by a woman named Lydia (a dealer of purple). She was convicted by Paul’s teaching and was baptized with her household. Then she prevailed on Paul to come stay at her house. Evidently she was a strong woman leader.
I remember reading an article by Jack Hayford, one of the most respected Christian teachers of the 20th century, about women pastors and how he had come to the conclusion that women often led the home churches that were the norm for the early church of the first three centuries after Jesus hung on the cross. Sadly, I cannot find that article any more. If you have a copy or know where to find one, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org —it’s quite possible Lydia is one of the leaders Paul references in verse one.
Women in ministry?
What did Paul mean when he said in Galatians 3:28 that in the Kingdom of God there is not Jew nor heathen, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus?
Shortly after that Paul had the run-in with the fortune-teller and was tossed in jail. This is the miraculous story told in Acts 16: 19–40 where the jailer and his household become saved and baptized after a massive earthquake released Paul and Silas from prison.
The Lord used Paul’s status as a Roman citizen to make the event even more powerful. It’s quite probable that the Philippian church earned a little Roman protection because of his apostleship. Please notice that Paul went to Lydia’s before they left town. It seems obvious that she was the leader of the church.
Some rights of Roman citizenship
- To vote
- To stand for office.
- To make legal contracts and to hold property
- To have a lawful marriage with a Roman citizen
- To have the legal rights over the family,
- To have the children be Roman citizens.
- To preserve one’s level of citizenship upon relocation within the Empire
- The right of immunity from some taxes and other legal obligations
- To sue
- To a legal trial
- To appeal
- A Roman citizen could not be tortured, whipped, or receive the death penalty, except for treason
- To be tried in Rome if accused of treason
When you talk to older more experienced preachers, apostles,evangelists, and pastors, one of the normal things you hear are the wonderful stories of power in their ministry. Those things are never forgotten. It is clear that Paul never forgot and the story was told enough so that Luke used it in Acts. So, I think we can be assured that Paul had a special fondness for the Philippian church and this affection comes across clearly as the book opens.
Philippi was a Roman colony and all its citizens were Roman citizens so the church there had a powerful effect in the Empire. Roman citizens had benefits not known by outsiders and Paul could minister there in power partly because he was a citizen also. The Lord had chosen well when he picked Paul to go to the Gentiles, heathen, or non-Jews. This citizenship was a definite benefit as Paul spread the word about Jesus throughout the Roman Empire.