After God gave Paul a vision telling him to go to Macedonia (v.9,10), he went “straight” there (v.11). And he must have been examining his method of going from one small town to the next, and realized he’d never reach the world that way, because he went to the “chief city” of Macedonia to preach, knowing the gospel would radiate out from there. Ever after, he went to big cities like Thessalonica, Corinth and Athens.
History says that people in a Roman “colony” (v.12) were automatic citizens of Rome, so Paul picked the Philippians to talk about our conversation as citizens of heaven (Phil. 3:20). Two ladies in the church were quarreling (Phil.4:2), and that was no way for citizens of heaven to act!
It wasn’t even a good way for citizens of Rome to act. If Rome thought you disturbed the peace, they didn’t care who was right or wrong. They came down on you like a ton of bricks (cf. Acts 21:27-33). And God doesn’t care who’s right when we disturb the peace with our quarrels in the local church. He just expects us to restore the peace by forgiving. People think Christianity is a failure because we sing about Christ coming to bring peace on earth—and there is none! But there will be in the kingdom. And we can show God’s peace in the meantime amongst ourselves. You have a right to retaliate when wronged, but why not waive your rights like the Lord waived His right to live (IICor.8:9; Phil.2:2-8)?
The Philippians waived rights that Paul didn’t even ask them to waive. History says people in colonies didn’t have to pay taxes to Rome. As members of the Body of Christ, the Philippians also had a right not to have to pay the tithe tax to Israel. But the Lord waived His right not to pay it (Mt.27:24-27), and the Philippians did too. They were the Macedonians who gave the Lord more than ten percent (IICor.8:1-4).
The church in Philippi (Phil.1:1) grew out of this women’s prayer group (Acts 16:13). They must have been Jewish women, for they were meeting on the sabbath (v.13). Paul went there instead of going to Philippi’s synagogue because colonies were considered “little Romes,” and the king had ordered all Jews out of Rome (Acts 18:2). So all the Jewish men left town, and there was no synagogue!
Paul’s first convert was a businesswoman (Acts 16:14) who worshipped Israel’s God by keeping the sabbath. If she kept God’s other laws, it must mean He had no law against being a working mom with kids (cf.v.15). God opened her heart (v.15) by opening her understanding of the Scriptures (Isa. 6:10;Lu.24:45), causing her to “attend” to what Paul said (cf. Pr.4:1,20). But in Bible days, you had to do more than just attend to Scripture to be saved. You had to be baptized (v.15 cf. Mark 1:4). But there was a dispensational change with Paul, and now salvation is “by the washing of regeneration” (Tit.3:5), and not the washing of water baptism.
So why’d Paul baptize Lydia? God revealed the new grace program to him gradually (IICor.12:1), so at that time Paul didn’t yet know what he knew when he wrote ICorinthians 1:17). After he knew it, he never baptized anyone else.
But what had she done that would cause Paul to judge her “faithful” (v.15)? She believed the new grace message after believing the law—unlike other unsaved Jews Paul encountered. But if so, why’d she have to “constrain” Paul to stay with her? He wasn’t afraid of how it would look to stay with a woman, for they wouldn’t have been alone. She had children, and Paul had Silas, Timothy and Luke. It was because Paul was a Jew, and Jews couldn’t be in a little Rome. She’d been flying under Rome’s radar, but if she got caught harboring four more Jews, she’d be in big trouble. Paul knew that, and didn’t want to endanger her, but finally relented.
Women also showed more courage than men when the men forsook the Lord (Mt.26:56), but not the women (27:55).
A video of this message is available on YouTube: “The Apostle Paul Goes Straight” Acts 16:11-15