Paul’s first European convert was a “God-fearing woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira” (Acts 16:14). Because there wasn’t a Jewish synagogue in Philippi, Paul and his pals found a group of women by the riverside, where they regularly met to seek God in prayer. Imagine the worshipper’s joy when Paul introduced them to the living and personal God who proclaimed, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Lydia was seeking. Maybe you could call her religious, but she longed for a relationship with the True and Living God! Lydia had never heard such Good News! By grace through faith, Lydia received eternal rest for her hopelessly weary soul!
Days later, on the busy byways of Philippi, Paul was being hounded by a demon-possessed woman. Luke writes, “As she followed Paul and us she cried out, ‘These men, who are proclaiming to you a way of salvation, are the servants of the Most High God’ ” (Acts 16:17) ... because “even the demons believe ... and they tremble in terror” (James 2:19, NLT).
Paul spoke directly to the evil spirit, saying, “ ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!’ And it came out right away” (Acts 16:18). Presumably, having been delivered from the clutches of the enemy by the power of Almighty God, she became a Christian. So, the second recorded convert on European soil was a once-demon-possessed slave girl, a psychic.
The slave girl, with her mysterious powers, had been a veritable gold mine for her owners. If she lived in the twenty-first century, she’d have a toll-free number and a late-night infomercial. “When her owners realized that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities” (Acts 16:19). They claimed that the missionary team was “seriously disturbing our city. They are Jews and are promoting customs that are not legal for us as Romans to adopt or practice” (Acts 16:20-21).
The mob-motivated authorities, “stripped off their clothes and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had severely flogged them, they threw them in jail, ordering the jailer to guard them carefully. Receiving such an order, he put them into the inner prison and secured their feet in the stocks” (Acts 16:22–24).
Stripped. Beaten with rods. Severely flogged. An ordinary victim of this treatment would have been knocking on Heaven’s door! With open and bleeding wounds, shackled, gripped with pain, Paul and Silas found God-given-strength and comfort. “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25).
The third recorded convert in Europe was an executioner, a violent and hard-hearted prison guard who was tasked with securing Paul and Silas in chains. He came to faith after asking, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul explained, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31). Wow! That’s all? A super-sinner, saved by grace?
“There is no one righteous, not even one... All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10, 23). In God’s great grace, He saved each... the seeker, the psychic, and the sinner.