Where did Paul first plant a church on European soil? Right... Philippi.
Paul visited the Roman city of Philippi on his second missionary journey. Earlier on that second missionary journey, he had visited the Galatian churches that were planted on his first journey, and then headed west. Though Paul wanted to evangelize Asia, modern-day Turkey, the Holy Spirit closed the door to his ministry and led him westward to the Aegean Sea and the city of Troas.
While in Troas, “during the night Paul had a vision in which a Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him, ‘Cross over to Macedonia and help us!’ After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:9–10). God’s invitation was crystal-clear, so immediately Paul set sail for northern Greece.
Paul wasn’t alone. Silas had been with him from the outset, from Antioch. Timothy had joined him in Galatia. And now, at Troas, Luke joined their ranks. Notice the pronoun “they” in Acts 16:6-8 changes to “we” and “us” in Acts 16:9-10.
Since there wasn’t a synagogue in Philippi to worship at on the Sabbath Day (Acts 16:13), Bible scholars conclude that there were few Jewish folks living in Philippi. So early on their first Sabbath, Paul and his buddies went down to the river to join some folks in worship. That’s where it began. “A God-fearing woman named Lydia” became the first European convert. Soon a church was planted, and the growing congregation began by meeting in Lydia’s home (Acts 16:14–15).
Years later, from a Roman prison, Paul penned his joy-filled epistle to the strongly established and faithful church of the Philippians. “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:1–2).
As I read the letter this morning, I found and underlined the word “rejoice” or “rejoiced” nine times. I found the word “joy” five times. Paul’s glad heart overflowed as he considered all that God had done in Philippi, and all that God was doing through Philippi. “I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Philippians 1:3–5).
Paul also referenced his difficult circumstances, his “imprisonment” (Philippians 1:7). Then he gave glory to God for the spiritual fruit that was being produced because of those challenging circumstances. “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually advanced the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is because I am in Christ. Most of the brothers have gained confidence in the Lord from my imprisonment and dare even more to speak the word fearlessly” (Philippians 1:12–14). Do you get the picture? While Paul was chained to an elite Roman soldier, the Apostle shared the Gospel with his captive audience! He told everyone about Jesus, his Lord and Savior, his Shepherd and Glorious King!
Will you read book of Philippians with me this week? It’s just four short chapters, but it’s packed with encouragement! Regardless of our present circumstances, let’s “rejoice in the Lord!” (Philippians 4:4).
All Scripture quotations, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.