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Words of Grace – The Work of Grace

Acts 16 is the record of the founding of the Christian church in Philippi, today Filippoi, Greece. What’s interesting about this account is that Luke the writer gives us a picture of God’s grace in the conversion of three individuals. Many people came to faith in Jesus in Philippi and when Paul and Silas left this city there was a congregation (v. 40). But Luke intentionally highlights three people, each showing us something of the work of God in the human heart.

Lydia is a business woman, an organizer with a hospitable spirit, and a worshipper of God. Everything we read about her points to a responsible and respectable lifestyle. Still, she needs to hear the word of Christ and have her mind opened by God to his truth.

A demon-possessed slave girl is being exploited by her owners who are making money from her fortune-telling ability. Under the control of this spirit of divination she becomes such a nuisance that Paul turns to her and commands the spirit to leave her. The young woman is delivered. Luke does not tell us that she was converted to Christ, but we can assume that she was not left empty of the demon without also being filled with the Spirit.

Next is an unnamed jailer. A working-class man with a family to feed. He is doing his job when he finds himself on the wrong side of the work of God. Paul and Silas have been beaten and thrown in jail for introducing Jesus to the city. The jailer is in charge of keeping them confined. When God opens the prison doors and unshackles Paul and Silas, the jailer fears that he will be held responsible for their escape. Intending to take his own life, he is instead presented with the opportunity to hear the gospel and believe in Jesus. The jailer confesses Jesus as Lord in the act of baptism.

When we read about other people’s experiences we naturally try to make connection points. With which of these three new Christians do we most identify? Let me suggest that we find ourselves in all three. Each shows us an element of conversion to Christ that is true of each Christian.

By God’s grace he opens our minds to the truth as he did for Lydia. He delivers us from whatever form of evil that binds our hearts, preventing them from belonging to Jesus, as he did for the slave girl. As with the jailer, God uses various experiences to lead us to faith and the profession of Jesus as Lord.

Pay attention to the new thoughts you are having about Jesus. Notice how things that once were so important to you are losing their power over you. Give glory to God for this work of grace in your mind and your heart and confess Jesus as Lord.

Take some time this weekend to read Acts 16 before Sunday worship at Grace.

– Scott

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