The Assembly at Philippi (2)

Its Planting (continued)

The assembly at Philippi was planted as a result of the operation of the Spirit of God working in genuine conversions to God. Some were saved quietly, like Lydia, and some were saved dramatically, like the Philippian jailor.

Lydia was a deeply religious woman who got saved at a prayer meeting. The jailor needed an earthquake to awaken him. His is a much more interesting story of conversion than Lydia’s, but Lydia was just as saved as he was! I do not know if the damsel out of whom Paul cast the spirit of divination got saved or not, but I am sure that sinners in the very depths of degradation can be wonderfully saved and delivered by responding to the gospel message. We can see that there were clear conversions to God as a result of the workings of the Spirit of God. God can still affect circumstances or even send an earthquake to accomplish His purposes.

I met Clifford Hope, commended to St. Kitts in the West Indies from Bristol, England in the late 50s, at Hardwick, Vermont. We exchanged true stories of the Lord’s goodness to us. When he first went to St. Kitts, he only saw women saved; the men wouldn’t come. He knew men were needed for an assembly, so he decided to have meetings for men only. He said to the women, “Tomorrow night you can’t come to the meeting but you can bring your men to the gospel hall.”

The next night, a good number of women brought their men to the street in front of the gospel hall, but not one of those men wanted to be the first one to go in. A big woman had a little man. She pushed him into the hall, and the other men soon followed. After six weeks, the native man helping him preached on the Philippian jailor. Then, Mr. Hope got up and said, “You men have been listening to the gospel for six weeks, and as far as we know, none of you have gotten saved. It took an earthquake to awaken the Philippian jailor, what will it take to awaken you men?” Immediately after he finished the question, the building shook. One of the men said, “Mr. Hope, that was an earthquake.” Mr. Hope said, “Yes, it was an earthquake, what are you men going to do about it?” About six of the men confessed Christ as Savior that night.

Those who were saved at Philippi were baptized. Two of the three households recorded as baptized in the New Testament are in Acts 16. In each of those households, there is evidence that each member of the household was a believer. Those of Lydia’s household are called brethren in Acts 16:40.

The Philippian jailor’s household was baptized as recorded in Acts 16:33. The next verse tells us that he “rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.” That clearly tells us that all in his house were old enough to believe. In 1 Corinthians 1:16, Paul says that he baptized the household of Stephanos. In 1 Corinthians 16:15, we find that each member of his household was old enough to give good evidence of divine life by addicting themselves to the ministry of the saints. That is the only good addiction of which I know!

The late F. G. Watson was traveling on a public conveyance with an exclusive brother who was trying to tell him that there were toddlers in the Philippian jailor’s household. Mr. Watson said, “Did you know that the jailor’s oldest son was a tentmaker who worked with the apostle Paul?“ The exclusive brother was very interested. “Where did you get that?” he asked. Mr. Watson replied, “from the same place that you got there were toddlers in the jailor’s household.” In other words, not from Scripture, but from your imagination.

We see that the beginning of the assembly at Philippi was not the result of division, self-will, or strife, but rather, the result of God working in salvation. It is significant that John was not guided by the Holy Spirit to instruct Gaius to start another assembly with Demetrius, even though Diotrephes was very wrong in his actions.

It is a greater honor, in the sight of God, to be born again and in fellowship in a Scripturally gathered assembly like Philippi, carrying out the Word of God, by the grace of God, than to be a US senator or to be in the President’s cabinet.

The Opposition of Society

Very often, when God is working and souls are being saved, opposition is aroused. Opposition quickly manifested itself at Philippi when financial interests were involved. The owners of the woman with the spirit of divination led the opposition against Paul and Silas when they saw that Paul had ruined their money-making scheme. However, they never said a word about their real reason when they complained to the magistrates. Paul and Silas had bleeding backs as others were being saved.

The late L. K. McIlwaine was a true pioneer. Often, after a gospel meeting, a crowd of men would gather to block the road leading to his lodging place. He told me that he was very careful going though the group of men never to give the men an excuse for a fight, so he would always look for an opening. Sometimes, the opening was so small that he had to go through sideways to avoid touching the men on either side. He would slip through and say, “Goodnight, boys.”

When I had part in 10 weeks of gospel meetings in Templeman, Newfoundland, 200 miles from the nearest assembly, the men with me who labored in NL could not understand why there was no opposition at first. The reason was that most (if not all) of the local preachers were on vacation. There was such an interest when they returned that most would not say anything against us. But one preacher, who was a man of the world, told his congregation, “Ever since these men came to Templeman, all we hear around here is getting saved, or being redeemed and Jesus Christ!”