Learning the Development of the Church.

We continue to follow Timothy's journey as he learns how God builds His church. The normative pattern we see in the book of Acts is not churches being grown around programs or a person. God's primary way to grow a church is through people getting saved as a result of believers interacting with the unsaved. A church grown around the Bible will have the desire to plant other churches, then network together to reach even more regions in the world.


Timothy traveled with Paul, Silas, and Luke to Philippi and witnessed the beginning of a local church in that town. He also witnessed how God develops His church in three specific ways:

  • Proclamation (verses 11-15). This is how God built the foundation for the church in Philippi, as we studied last week.
  • Persecution (verses 16-26). God develops the church through hardship.
  • Propagation (verses 27-40). How does the church continue on?

These three characteristics are all true of the church in any age. They are how we can tell if God is building a church or if human ingenuity is building its own club. This pattern should be true for us.


Lydia was well-known in Philippi. She was named after the town, as it was formerly called Lydia. She had become a prominent business-woman in the area, so when she and her family were converted, the news spread everywhere. Everyone knew that she had welcomed the visiting evangelists into her home. The next event that happened in Acts 16 increased their notoriety.

There was a young girl in the town who was known for having a "spirit of divination," or a spirit of the pagan deity Python, who spoke through her. She began following the missionary team around and declaring, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.” What she said was actually true, but the source was a demon speaking through her.

Paul demonstrated patience for "many days" but finally needed to speak the truth of the Gospel for the good of this little girl. Acts 16:18 uses strong wording to show that Paul was "greatly annoyed." It's okay to draw a strong line when dealing with darkness. He addressed the spirit who was in the girl. He had authority to do so in this apostolic setting, and the demon fled at the name of Jesus.

The church can find a wise caution in how Paul handled the situation. Not everyone who comes to a church and speaks truth can be assumed a Christian. Acts 20:29-30, 2 Peter 2:1, and 1 John 2:18-19 assure us that there will always be wolves masquerading among the sheep. This is another reason why personal discipleship is so important. It takes time to know a person's lifestyle and not just their words.

The merchants who had been making their living off this girl's prophecies were angry when they realized their profit was gone. Just imagine if someone the stature of Bill Gates was converted to Christianity and announced that he would give only to local church efforts from now on. That's the kind of volcanic uproar that was created in Philippi.

Paul and Silas, the chief speakers, were beaten severely. One commentator vividly described, "the evangelists' backs were reduced to a sticky, swollen mass of lacerated skin and dried blood." This they endured as a reaction to Lydia's changed life and for proclaiming light in darkness. Every true church will experience persecution, though it may be to a lesser degree, especially in our context. Change in our lives affects those around us, and sometimes they don't like it! But we often learn more in difficulty and grow closer together as a body of believers when times are tough.

Application Points

  • Have you read the book of Acts in one sitting? Make time to do it once this year. You will be blessed!
  • Have you experienced any degree of persecution for being a Christian? If so, rejoice that you have been counted worthy! (Acts 5:41) If not, are you hiding your lifestyle?
  • When times are tough, do you share your difficulty with fellow believers? This should be part of close discipling relationships. When we uphold and learn from each other through trials, this is one way God develops His church. Will you allow Him to do this through your openness?

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore:
  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – It's important for us to learn what Timothy learned so that we can also be faithful servants.
  • 1 Peter 4:3-4 – Unsaved friends you used to hang with will look to find one thing wrong with your new lifestyle.
A Hymn to Encourage: "I'd Rather Have Jesus"

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands,
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand.

Than to be a king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway,
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than world-wide fame,
I’d rather be true to His holy name.

He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
He’s sweeter than honey from out of the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs,
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead.