Chardon church of Christ

Sermons from the Chardon church of Christ

He Opened Our Hearts

Posted on July 12th, 2021

Acts 15:35-16:15

INTRO: We are continuing our study of the Book of Acts this morning. We will pick up the story in Acts 15 at verse 35 and then on to 16 verse 15.

First though a story. An elderly man on the beach found a magic lamp.
When he rubbed it, a genie appeared and told him he would grant him any wish.
The man thought for a while and said, "My brother and I had a fight 20 years ago and haven't spoken since. My wish is that he would finally forgive me."
The genie clapped his hands, a bright light shot across the sky, and then he said, "Your wish has been granted."
Then the genie said, "You know, most people would have asked for wealth or fame, but you only wanted the love of your brother.
Is it because you are old and do not expect to live long?"
The man said, "No way!
My brother is, and he's worth $60 million."

I guess the point of the story is that not all people are purely motivated by love for their family.

We remember that the church as we find it here in Acts 15 is still in its infancy and to avoid a major division within the baby church, the apostles handled a particularly sensitive question concerning the Gentiles, their eating habits and their way of life.
They did it with the motivation and spirit of pure love for each other.

I. Lets start in our text with Acts 15:35-39 – “35. Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also. 36. And some days after, Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. 37. And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. 38. But Paul thought (it) not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. 39. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;” [KJV]

A. The apostle Paul knew the importance of continued teaching and encouragement for the young church. He understood what it was like to be a baby, and so to avoid leaving these young converts to look after themselves, Paul approached Barnabas about visiting the brethren in all the cities where they had previously preached.

1. If there is one lesson the church can learn from this, it’s young Christians need teaching and encouragement.
2. We all have witnessed too many young Christians who have been left to their own devices straight after their baptism and people wonder why they have fallen away.

B. They have fallen away because they are weak in their understanding. There is much they are missing and they haven’t received the next part which we see in Matthew 28:19-20.

1. Jesus says in Matthew 28:19-20 – “19. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” What is Jesus telling them? Look at the progression, Jesus says teach them, baptize them, and teach them more.
2. If you’re a young Christian, and I’m not necessarily talking age here, I would encourage you to allow the teachers of the congregation to teach you. You can be many things as Christian, but a strong Christian, a mature Christian, is not something you achieve without being taught. That’s one of the reasons why Paul wanted to go back to these young converts.

C. It seems from our text that Barnabas had a strong desire to take his cousin John Mark on the journey, but for some reason Paul did not want to go with John Mark. Exactly why that is, we’re not sure. Possibly it had something to do with Acts 13:13 where Luke tells us that John Mark left to return to Jerusalem for an unknown reason.

1. Both Paul and Barnabas were so firm in their opinions, even to the point of being provoked to anger that they decided to separate. I think we should just say a few words about this separation. Strong men with minds strongly made up often find disagreement between them. The one redeeming note in this otherwise unhappy and regrettable episode is that neither party to the dispute permitted it to hinder the work of God. Rather there was a beneficial result in that there were now two teams of missionaries on the field in the place of only one.
2. Many times when we fall out with our brethren, all we remember is the bad things about them. What do you remember about those brethren who have hurt you in the past? Why is it when we think of some people we seem to forget all the good things they have done and we choose to remember the one bad thing? I think the answer is in the word ‘choose’.
3. We choose to remember. Folks, in many ways our memories are a choice. Paul chose to remember the good about Barnabas. Paul later used Barnabas as a good example of one who worked to support himself while preaching the gospel. He says in 1 Corinthians 9:6 – “Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working?” [NKJV]
4. Paul also chose to remember the good about John Mark. He described John Mark as one who was useful in ministry, in 2 Timothy 4:11 – “Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.”
5. The point here is that despite this early dispute between them, neither of them allowed the dispute to hinder the work of God. God does not create disputes, but He can certainly use disputes to further His cause.

D. Luke tells us that God used the disagreement between these two great men of faith to produce two teams to go in different directions with the gospel. Barnabas went with John Mark to Cyprus which according to Acts 4:36 was his homeland. Then in Acts 15:40-41 – “40. And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God. 41. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.”
E. Paul took Silas who appears to be one of the leading men among the brethren at Jerusalem according to Acts 15:22, with him. Luke recorded back in Acts 15:22 – “Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren”

II. As Barnabas and John Mark were heading off in one direction with the gospel, Paul and Silas were moving in another direction. They went through Syria and Cilicia to southern Galatia and along the way they strengthened the churches.

A. It is while they are on this journey that we are introduced to a young man named Timothy. We are now in chapter 16. Acts 16:1-5 – “1. Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. 2. He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. 3. Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek. 4. And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. 5. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.”

1. If you recall from Acts 14:9-20, Lystra was the place where the apostle Paul was stoned almost to death. That alone might have discouraged some men from returning. However, Luke told Theophilus in Acts 14:21 that Paul and Barnabas went back through the city as they were strengthening the churches at the end of their missionary tour.
2. It’s now that Paul returned again, this time with Silas, and discovered a young disciple with great potential. His name is Timothy, his mother was a Jewish woman who believed and he had a Greek father, but more importantly he was highly recommended by the brethren. These verses reveal the good reputation of Timothy, not only in his home community of Lystra, but also in the more important city of Iconium as well. Paul was rewarded for his earlier efforts in Lystra by the emergence of a young convert who was destined to be a faithful companion of the great apostle.
3. The text tells us that Paul “took him and circumcised him”. Why did he do this? If circumcision in the flesh wasn’t important for salvation anymore, why did Paul have him circumcised?

B. With that question in mind let’s look at what Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 9:20-23 – “20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” [ESV]

1. The reason why Paul had Timothy circumcised was simply because this robbed any contentious Jew of at least one argument that might be thrown up in Timothy’s face when he entered the synagogue to teach.
2. I should mention here that there are those who have accused Paul of inconsistency in this, because of his adamant refusal to circumcise Titus as we find in Galatians 2:3. Those who do so have failed to discern the essential differences in the two situations. Titus, was a Greek, who had no Jewish connection and there was no excuse for circumcising him. Except the condition, as the Pharisee Christians demanded, of making his circumcision a precondition of salvation; and Paul never for a moment would have allowed that.
3. Paul then left with Timothy and Silas to carry the message from the meeting at Jerusalem to all the churches with which the apostle had previously worked. In this way, he prepared them to fend off the potential attacks of the Judaizers.
4. Paul avoided another possibility of division, the churches were strengthened in the faith and continued to grow in number. We see how over and over again, if we just think about what we’re doing first, and think of the consequences of our actions, we can avoid many troubles.

C. I do note however that Judaizers are still in business today. (1) attempting to bind sabbath-observance on Christians, (2) ordaining a "priesthood" separate from the "laity," (3) the lighting of sacred candles, (4) the requirement of certain periods of official, formal fasts and feasts, and (5) the imposition of diet restrictions, etc., etc.

III. Continuing now in Acts 16:6-8 – “6. Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. 7. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. 8. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.”

A. Just west of the cities in south Galatia was the Roman province of Asia. Luke says Paul was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to enter that region to teach.

1. This might have been done directly or through the agency of a prophet inspired by the Spirit. Paul says in Acts 20:23 – “... the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.” [KJV]
2. It also says in Acts 21:10-11 – “And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. And when he was come unto us, he took Paul's girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.”
3. How it happened that Paul was forbidden to go to Asia is not really important, but we do know that Paul going to Asia wasn’t a part of God’s plan at this point. As we will see later in Acts 19, Paul did get his opportunity to preach in Asia and the church grew there in a fine way, as is evidenced by the Lord's letters in Revelation 2-3.

B. In the meantime, Paul and those with him continued to work their way along until they came to Mysia, which was at the northern border between Asia and Bithynia.

1. They would have gone into Bithynia, but again the Spirit forbade them to go, so they turned westward to Troas.
2. It’s during this time that Paul received a vision. We are now looking at Acts 16:9-12 – “9. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us.'' 10. Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them. 11. Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis, 12. and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days.” [NKJV]
3. The group may not have understood why the Lord wouldn’t allow them to go to Asia.
4. They may not have even understood why the Lord wouldn’t allow them to go to Bithynia, but Paul and his company determined, after a vision the apostle had in the night, that the Lord did want them to preach in Macedonia.
5. I note the words “... concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.” Luke is including himself with those who preached the gospel.

IV. They immediately made arrangements and set sail from Troas to Samothrace, then Neapolis and, finally, Philippi, which Luke described as "the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony."

A. Its here we’re introduced to a woman named Lydia. Acts 16:13-14 – “And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.”

1. It was customary at the time for ten Jewish heads of households to form a synagogue within a community. Here in Philippi, there was no synagogue, but there was a group of Jewish women who met by the riverside for prayer. Paul's company joined the women on the Sabbath day and spoke to them. One of the women, whose name is Lydia, was a seller of purple.
2. This was an expensive purple dye, made from rock snails known by the name “murex” in ancient times, and it was one of the most valuable commodities of antiquity. I would think that Lydia's engaging in trade of such a product surely indicates some considerable capital.
3. Notice where Lydia’s home city is. Lydia's home city was Thyatira. You might wonder what’s so significant about that? Thyatira is in the province of Asia Minor. Even though Paul had been forbidden by the Lord to go to Asia personally, he actually got to teach one of its citizens.

B. All of us have read instruction labels on many products. Many of these instructions have made me wonder why they were written.

1. Instructions like these found on;

a. On a packet of airline peanuts: "Open and eat contents."
b. On a chainsaw: "Do not attempt to stop chain with hands."
c. On a container of milk: "After opening, keep upright."
d. On a steering-wheel lock: "Remove lock before driving."

2. Things most of us would call common sense. However apparently these instructions are necessary because not all people have common sense.

C. Common sense must be used when we read what Luke tells us next. Acts 16:14-15 – “ Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.'' And she persuaded us.”

1. Luke doesn’t go into the details of Paul’s message to Lydia, but common sense tells us, that the central message of the gospel was preached. Just as we see Paul reminded those in Corinth of his having preached to them the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 – “1. Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2. by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you unless you believed in vain. 3. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4. and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,”
2. Paul shared with Lydia the story about the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. After God had opened her heart by hearing the words spoken by Paul, Lydia and other members of her household obeyed the spoken word by being baptized. The obvious means by which God opened the heart of Lydia was the preaching the gospel. Since God gave the gospel, the results produced by it were properly said to be God's action.

D. What was it in Paul’s sermon that led them all to be baptized? Romans 6:3-5 – “3. Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4. Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,” “

1. Paul explained the importance of baptism in terms of being united with Christ. In Galatians 3:26-28 Paul says, “26. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
2. Paul tells the Galatian Christians that they were all children of God by faith. How did that happen to them? It happened because when they were baptized into Christ ,they entered by faith into Christ, and clothed themselves with Christ, so that there was no longer anything to separate them one from another.

E. In other words when Paul was preaching to Lydia, he explained the whole story about the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and he explained what she needed to do to be right with God.

1. Don’t let anyone tell you that baptism isn’t important for a person’s salvation. Every single conversion we have recorded in the Book of Acts has the person or the people humbly submitting to Christ in the waters of baptism.
2. If people have not died to self in the waters of baptism, if they haven’t been buried in the waters of baptism, if they have not been raised to a new life after coming out of the waters of baptism, then they are undermining and totally missing the importance of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ Himself.
3. Lydia understood how the old covenant worked in relation to sin but now she had her heart opened to the new convent, and she understood that to enter this new covenant with Christ, she needed to be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of her sins.

F. After Lydia and her household were added to the Lord’s church, she then pleaded with Paul and the others to stay as guests in her house. Paul may have hesitated because she was a single woman, which seems to be indicated by reference to her house. However, when she prefaced her request by saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord," Paul yielded.

CONCLUSION:
Folks, here we have the first convert to Christ from that part of the world we now call Europe. Lydia didn’t wake up one morning and think to herself, I’ll go down to the river and pray and I’ll become a Christian. No! God sent Paul to share the gospel message with her.

As Romans10:17 tells us, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” She heard the message of Christ through Paul and God opened her heart to respond to the message.

People do not suddenly decide with no information that “I’m going to become a Christian today.” No! God sends His people to share His message with them and then He opens their hearts to respond. For those of us that are members of the Lord’s body that is what He did with us. That’s what He did with me and that’s what He did with you. He opened Lydia’s heart, He opened my heart and He opened your hearts.

We should challenge ourselves to ask God help us see the opportunities to share His message about the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Ask God to open their heart to respond to that message by being united with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection in the waters of baptism.

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We learn from the New Testament how to be saved. We need to hear the word; believe in Jesus; repent of our sins; we must confess our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; and be baptized for the remission of our sins... If we follow these steps, the Lord adds us to His church.

Perhaps there is someone in the assembly today with the need to be buried with Christ in baptism. If you have never done these things, we urge you to do so today. If anyone has this need or desires the prayers of faithful Christians on their behalf, we encourage them to come forward while we stand and sing.
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Reference Sermon: Mike Glover

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