By Allen Webster- www.housetohouse.com
"Four Just One Soul"
God will move heaven and earth rather than allow a soul to miss heaven. A case in point is the providence involved in the conversion of Lydia of Thyatira (Acts 16).
Providence refers to “that continuous activity of God whereby He makes all the events (that happen in the world) work out His purposes.”1Paul wrote, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Kingdoms, lives, and events cooperated unwittingly to bring about human salvation (Galatians 4:4). Daily events are altered to reach people with the gospel. If we saw the circumstances around us as God sees them, we would doubtless admire His wisdom in working the spiritual world around the physical one (cf. Isaiah 55:8–9; Romans 11:33).
In this case, remarkably, four of God’s most important resources—Paul, Silas, Luke, and Timothy—were allocated to the task of winning one woman a continent away.
GOD’S PROVIDENCE IS SEEN IN CLOSED DOORS.It is not surprising that God opens doors. Jesus said, “I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it” (Revelation 3:8; cf. 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12). It might be surprising, however, that God closes doors (Acts 16:5–8).
God temporarily closed the whole west coast of Asia Minor to mission work. Paul’s team passed through Phrygia and Galatia, but they “were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia” (16:6). They went to Mysia and tried “to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them” (16:7). This must have baffled Paul.
Since the group had come from the east and could not go south or north, they continued west, eventually coming to Troas, near ancient Troy. “Go to Philippi,” said the Macedonian call (16:9). Why? A lady named Lydia is there.
GOD’S PROVIDENCE IS SEEN IN BRINGING LYDIA TO PHILIPPI.Lydia was not from Philippi; she lived in Thyatira, three hundred miles away. Why did she go there just when Paul was on a mission trip? Why go to Philippi, rather than Neapolis, Athens, or Corinth? Why had she not gone earlier in the year, sold out of purple stock, and returned home? We know not how long she had been there, nor how long she stayed, but she was there at the right time.
Thyatira was located in the area where the Spirit told Paul not to go; therefore, had Lydia been at home, she would have remained lost. How odd that she is from Asia, and Paul must not go to Asia; yet, when he comes to Macedonia, the first person who hears him preach is from Asia.
Why arrange for her conversion in Philippi? It would make more sense to us for her to stay home and send Paul there.
God sees things that we do not. What are some possibilities?
Paul’s modus operandi in any new place was to find a synagogue on the Sabbath to reason with Jews about Christ (Acts 17:1–3). For the first time in his missionary travels, Paul was told that there was no synagogue in the city. Instead, he found the Jewish service down by the riverside (16:13). The missionaries may have been the answer to the prayers they interrupted on that riverbank.
Henry C. Thiessen, Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology, Eerdmans, 1949, p. 177).
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