What God Can Do Through a Woman
April 16th, 1978 @ 7:30 PM
WHAT GOD CAN DO THROUGH A WOMAN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-16-78 7:30 p.m.
We invite you, who are sharing with us this hour on radio to turn in your Bible to chapter 16, Acts chapter 16; and we shall read out loud together verses 9 through 15, verses 9 through 15. The sixteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, verses 9 through 15. In our preaching through the Book of Acts we are in 15 and 16. And the message tonight is entitled What God Can Do Through a Woman.
Acts chapter 16, beginning at verse 9, reading through verse 15. Now all of us out loud together:
And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.
And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.
Therefore, loosing from Troas we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis;
And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.
And on the Sabbath we went out of the city by a riverside, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.
And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshiped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.
And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.
At so many places in the Book of Acts do you come to great turning points, watersheds in human history. And we certainly stand at one of those continental divides as we read this story in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Acts.
Paul had it in his heart to turn eastward, always eastward, through Asia, through Mysia, through Bithynia, always eastward [Acts 16:7]. But the Holy Spirit forbade him [Acts 16:7], guiding him westward, and westward, and westward, until finally he came down to the Aegean Sea [Acts 16:8]. And in the nighttime there appeared to him this vision, a man of Macedonia standing, saying, “Come over the Hellespont and help us” [Acts 16:9]. And assuredly gathering that God had intended the gospel be preached to Europe, they crossed over into the new continent to bring the message of Christ to the people of the West [Acts 16:10].
Think of the turn in religious history and in culture and civilization in this directive of the Holy Spirit of God. Had Paul turned east, and east, and always east, it would have been Asia and China and India who were sending missionaries to the white savages in Europe and in America. But as it is, this Holy Spirit of God guided Paul and the three companions with him to preach the gospel to the West [Acts 16:7-10]. So, the whole turn of history is found in this brief story. And how silently, how unobtrusively, how unannouncedly does the story continue. No blare of the trumpets, no marching of a great army with banners, but just this quaternion of men, Timothy and Silas and Dr. Luke and Paul, coming to the city of Philippi [Acts 16:11-12].
And that unobtrusive appearance is of greater moment and importance and significance than all of the exploits of Philip of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great, for whom this town is named. It is called Philip, Philippi, and is called a Roman colony. That is, it was settled by a group of Roman soldiers—in this instance, the soldiers who had fought and marched under Augustus Caesar. And as their reward for their bravery and faithfulness, each one was given a part of land and helped to build this colonized city of Philippi.
It was a little miniature Rome. They had their own government, they were free from taxation, and they had built there a miniature of the eternal city. It was built by the side of a small stream; the contour of the wall followed that little river. And these Jewish people—proselytes, there were not enough Jews there to have a synagogue. Possibly there were no Jews at all. But they met there outside the wall on the side of the river for the lustrations and ablutions that accompanied that ancient Jewish ceremony.
So the story begins, and on the Sabbath day, gathered by the river, was this little group of women who were there in prayer and in worship [Acts 16:13]. But you say, “Preacher, you don’t understand. I can worship God at home just as well as I could at church. And I can pray at home. And I can read the Bible at home. I don’t need to go to church.”
I understand. There is private prayer, but there is also public prayer. There is private worship, but there is also public worship. There is private reading of the Word of God, but there is also public expounding and exposition of the Holy Scriptures. We need each other. The church is called a koinōnia, a commonality, translated in the Bible a communion and a fellowship [Acts 2:42].
And if we love God and He speaks to us in our hearts in private, the first and natural desire we have in our souls is to share the goodness and the glory and the greatness of our Lord with one another. We gather together in prayer. We gather together in song. We gather together in the opening of the Holy Scriptures. We gather together in intercession and worship. We gather together to make appeal for the faith of the Lord. And these who love God love to be together.
There is not a more beautiful passage in the Bible than in the third chapter of Malachi:
Then they that love the Lord spake often one to another:
and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and caused a book of remembrance to be written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name.
And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make them My jewels; and I will spare them, as a father spareth his own son that feareth him.
“I was glad when they said unto me: Let us go up into the house of the Lord” [Psalm 122:1]. And on the Sabbath day—to us a Christian Sabbath day—on the Lord’s day, on Sunday’s day, the little group is gathered together in prayer and in intercession [Acts 16:13]. And while they are there, behold, someone comes. Look at him. His name is Paul, and he is accompanied by three wonderful brethren [Acts 16:6, 11-13].
And in that little prayer meeting on the Sabbath day by the riverside in a little company of women, he meets one named Lydia. Now Lydia is from Thyatira, she is a seller of purple crimson goods [Acts 16:13-14]. She’s a seller of piece goods. She lives in a country that has been famous for its fabrics for a millennia.
Croesus was the king of that nation in the years gone by. Lydia—Homer speaks of the beautiful fabrics that were woven and dyed in Lydia. And Thyatira, then a part of Asia but at that time a part of Lydia, was no less famous because of the goods that were woven there and dyed there. And this woman, Lydia, is a businesswoman who is a seller of those piece goods that are manufactured and dyed in Thyatira [Acts 16:14].
She is also another remarkable kind of a woman. She’s not an idolatrous woman. She’s not a Greek pagan. She is, and the word here called “a woman who worshiped God” [Acts 16:14]; is the word for proselyte. She has turned aside from her pagan religion and her empty idolatry and has accepted the Mosaic legislation. She has come into the knowledge of the true God, and there in that pagan, heathen, colonized city of Philippi, she has gathered around her—at least in her household—a group of people, of women, who also call upon the name of the Lord [Acts 16:13-14].
A remarkable woman, Lydia, worshiping God in a strange and an unusual way in the midst of a world filled with idols and idolatry. Look at her again, she is there on the Sabbath day; that is, she has closed up her shop. And she is down there by the riverside with a company of women [Acts 16:13-14]. I wonder if Euodia and Syntyche, mentioned in the [fourth] chapter of the Book of Philippians [Philippians 4:2], I wonder if they belonged to her household. They are there worshiping the Lord God [Acts 16:13].
That’s one of the most marvelous things, in my humble opinion, that any businessman or any businesswoman can do, is to place God first in their lives. She has given herself to the eternities, not to the temporalities; to the unseen, not to the seen; to the spiritual, and not to the material. And as such, she is there calling upon the name of the Lord, closing up her business on the Sabbath day that she might share with others this period of worship and intercession [Acts 16:13-14].
Do you think God will bless a man who will do that? Place God first in his life, close up his business on Sunday, keep the day sacred for God? Would God bless a man who’d place the Lord first in his life?
I remember a young fellow who was a most attractive and successful salesman. He represented a great national packing company and had a clientele that was lucrative, affluent in the extreme. He was converted. God changed his heart and his life, and I baptized him. Oh, after he’d been a Christian two or three or four months, he came to me. And he said, “Pastor, I don’t know where to turn and I don’t know what to do. Something tragic is overwhelmed me in my life. In these days when I was not a Christian, and I called on my customers, my clients, I had a deck of cards in my pocket and we played poker. I had a flask in my other pocket, and we drank. And I had the biggest time in the world, and they were glad to see me come. And they gave me big orders, and I was making lots of money.”
But he says, “Now that I’m a Christian, it’s not right, I don’t think, for me to gamble. And it’s not right for me to drink. So when I’m invited to sit down with the cards, I refuse. And when I’m invited to drink or to serve liquor, I refuse. As such,” he says, “they don’t like me anymore. And they don’t buy from me anymore. And I’m having a hard time.”
And I said to him, “Young fellow, if God doesn’t see you through, and if God doesn’t bless you because of your dedication to Him, then I don’t believe there’s any God. Now, let’s pray.” And we knelt down and I asked God to strengthen him and to give him firm resolve and commitment in the life that he had found in Christ Jesus.
You know, the days passed, the months passed; and after a while he came back to see me a second time. And this is what he said. He said, “Pastor, you remember that conversation we had and that prayer of dedication in which you led?” He said, “I stood up from my knees and I said, `God, help me. I’ll be true to You if I starve to death and lose every client that I have.’” He said, “Do you know what has happened? It’s almost inexplicable, but this is the thing that has come to pass.”
He said, “The men begin to call one another and to say to one another, `You know that young fellow? He tells you the truth. You can count on what he says. And when he describes the product that he’s selling us, it will be exactly as he says it is. He doesn’t lie to you. He doesn’t deceive you. He tells you honestly. He’s a Christian, and you can count on him.’” He says, “Pastor, you know what? I have more business now than I’ve ever had in my life. I have more customers now than I can attend to. And I have never been so blessed in my life as I have been in these last several months.”
Do you believe that? Do you believe God can do that for a man, and with a man? I do. I don’t think a man ever lost in his life when he gave his heart to Jesus and it is known he’s a Christian man. He’ll tell you the truth. It’s exactly as he describes the product to be. That’s Lydia. That’s any businessman or any businesswoman who will do right by God and leave the result to Him. On the Sabbath day, she closes up her shop and is down with her women praying, and interceding, and worshiping God [Acts 16:13-14].
Do you know what? When I was in India, the thing I missed the most in India out of all the things that aren’t there, what I missed most was Sunday. They don’t have any Sunday. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, every day of the week—it is all the same. They don’t have a day of worship. And they don’t stop, and everything continues on just the same.
Oh, I did not realize what a Sunday, a Christian Sabbath does to the heart and what a difference it makes in culture and life and civilization! On Sunday, on the Jewish Sabbath day, she was there worshiping God with the women who were gathered round her [Acts 16:13-14. You can’t help but think about a woman like that. Over here in the Book of 2 Kings, in chapter 4, it says that Elijah passed by Shunem where was a great woman, and she constrained him to come in and to eat bread, and they built for him a little prophet’s chamber [2 Kings 4:8-11]. And that phrase “where was a great woman” [2 Kings 4:8], think of that in the Bible, “a great woman.”
I think of Miriam, and then of Deborah, then of Ruth, then of Hannah, then of Abigail, who in her wisdom guided David. I think of Elizabeth and Anna, I think of Mary and Priscilla. I think of Phoebe, and Lois, and Eunice. And there are a thousand times that Christianity seemingly would have gone under had it not been for a great and noble woman. “And a certain woman was there named Lydia” [Acts 16:14].
Now, do you see something here in the Bible? Let me point it out to you, lest in our fast moving in the story we’ve overlooked it. A vision appeared to Paul in the night. There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, “Come over into Macedonia, and help us” [Acts 16:9]. So Paul, assuredly gathering that God had called them for to preach the gospel to the Europeans, crossed the Hellespont and went over there to answer that Macedonian call of this man [Acts 16:10]. So he’s there and he’s looking for that man, and he goes outside of the city looking for him, and what he finds is instead, a woman. He saw in the vision a man of Macedonia, saying, “Come over and help us” [Acts 16:10, 13-14]. And when he crosses into Europe to preach the gospel unto them, what he finds is a woman [Acts 16:10, 13-14].
What do you think about that? How would you interpret that? I can imagine Paul—had he been somebody else—I can imagine Paul when he sees this woman, not a man, a woman. And he registers unmitigated, unbidden disappointment. And he says in his heart, “I’m going back to Mysia, and to Asia, and to Bithynia; a woman! I had a vision of a man.” Is that what he did?
[tape ends here]
CAN DO THROUGH A WOMAN
I. A turning point in all history
A. Paul seeking to turn
eastward, the Holy Spirit guides him westward
B. Philippi a Roman
colony, built along small stream
enough Jews there to have a synagogue
II. These faithful women meet on the
A. Some say “I don’t
need to go to church”
1. There is
private prayer and worship
2. There is also
public prayer and worship
is a communion, fellowship – koinonia(Malachi
3:16-17, Psalm 122:1)
A. A Lydian – Thyatira
a part of the Lydian kingdom
B. A seller of purple
C. A proselyte of the
IV. Paul and the man of Macedonia(Acts 16:9)
A. Looking for a man,
finds a woman – is he disappointed?
1. No, this is
God’s appointed work
B. Jesus and the
Samaritan woman by the well
Christianization began in a woman, Lydia
Lord opened her heart, and she attended unto the things spoken by Paul (Acts 16:14, Romans 10:17, Isaiah 55:3)