July 9, 2021
What could the Apostle Paul possibly have in common with a traveling saleslady, a former fortune teller, and a jailer? They were all part of the church at Philippi, and members of the same family—the family of God. They had in common the Lord Jesus. They became brothers and sisters in Christ.
Paul said of the church in Philippi: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the Gospel” (Philippians 1:3-5).
Fast-forward 2,000 years: You can be in God’s family because of one person, Jesus. Together we love Him. When we come together in worship, in fellowship, in the oneness of the Gospel, we are the Church, the family of God. Formed by Jesus Christ, the Church is the grandest organization on Earth.
Yes, we have faults, failures, and foibles—those are inevitable in any group that includes people! But understand that the Church is called “the bride of Christ.” Jesus loves His bride. The Church is the family of God.
We need to understand three truths about the family of God:
I don’t build a church, you don’t build a church. It’s not ours to build. Jesus said, “I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail [be victorious] against it” (Matthew 16:18). He’s doing the building. It’s supernatural. The Holy Spirit does this through both His restraint and His release.
An old folk hymn says it well: “All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down.” Satan laughs at our schemes, mocks at our organization, but fears the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, building His Church.
How did a church come to be in Philippi in the first place? Acts 16 tells us that Paul, Silas, and Timothy were traveling together throughout the known world, led by the Spirit, preaching the Gospel and planting churches. But at the moment they started to go to Asia, the Holy Spirit restrained Paul. (See Acts 16:6-7.)
God is very strategic. Asia needed the Gospel as much as any other place, but God had a plan and He said, “No, Paul.” Understand this: we don’t choose our place of service. Before we can learn God’s “go,” we have to recognize God’s “no.”
Psalm 37:23 says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord,” but you might also say the stops of a good man are ordered by Him as well. Paul wasn’t out of the will of God; he was in the will of God. Paul wanted to know God’s will and was under the restraint of the Spirit. Therefore, the Holy Spirit could steer him. It’s hard to steer a ship that’s not moving.
Paul said, “I want to go to Asia.” The Holy Spirit said, “No, you can’t go.”
Many people are going willy-nilly, following their own plans, then asking God to rubber-stamp them. Their mental horsepower has outrun their spiritual brakes, and they’re causing wrecks wherever they go. We shouldn’t expect God to tell us “Go” when we don’t stop when He says “No.”
When we follow His guidance, incredible blessings can result. For instance, when our church had outgrown its space downtown, we tried everything we knew to buy additional property to expand there. But we were stymied at every turn. I was perplexed, asking God what to do next.
One night, the Holy Spirit said, “Adrian, you’re going the wrong way. That’s not My will. I want you to go a different direction.” God then opened up 400 acres alongside one of the busiest Interstate highways in America. I’m so glad God didn’t give me what I wanted because God gave greater things than I ever dared dream.
I learned a long time ago: If God doesn’t give you what you want, He will give you something better than you want. That’s the way God is. You can be sure of that. God wasn’t just trying to stop Paul, He was guiding Paul. (See Acts 16:9-10.)
The Holy Spirit redirected Paul, and what followed was the opening not only of Asia but all of Europe to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus builds His Church when we obey Him. Paul, Silas, and Timothy kept moving forward. When Paul had a vision in the night—a man from Macedonia pleading, “Come help us,”—immediately they went to Macedonia’s capital city, Philippi. There on the Sabbath, they encountered a prayer meeting by the riverside and met Lydia, a traveling saleslady, a worshiper of the true God, an influential woman whose heart was opened. She and her whole household were baptized.
God must open the heart. It’s supernatural. Soul-winning and preaching take on a new dimension when the Holy Spirit opens hearts. Without the Holy Spirit, preaching is like pouring water on a rock.
Salvation began to spread: a girl being used and controlled by evil men, possessed by a fortune-telling demon, was next. The demon harassing Paul and his companions was cast out. That got them thrown into jail—the girl’s handlers were put out of business—but because Paul listened and followed the restraint and guidance of the Spirit, Lydia was saved, the girl was saved, and Philippian jailer is about to get saved (Acts 16:25-34).
They throw the evangelists into prison, thinking they’ll quash what’s happening, but God has other plans.
Paul and Silas, beaten and in the stocks in the lowest, slimy, filthy prison, are nevertheless singing, worshipping God. He miraculously intervenes with an earthquake. Every prisoner comes out of his chains. When the jailer starts to kill himself and save the authorities the trouble, Paul says, “Hold on—we’re all here.” Paul now has another new pulpit. The jailer and all his household get saved. The church is growing as revival breaks out in Philippi.
When the Holy Spirit moves, the supernatural happens. Doors open; miracles take place as Jesus builds His Church. Now the Philippian church is established and spreading to surrounding areas.
Paul, a world-traveled Jew of the highest order, fluent in many languages, a mighty intellect, has fellowship with a former fortune-teller, a saleslady, a jailer, and his family. These are the kinds of people the Church is made out of. What brought them together? Jesus.
This is the supernatural formation of the Church and the fellowship in the Gospel. When Jesus works, He turns the superficial to the supernatural. People don’t understand this. We are a family—the family of God.
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he thanks God for the fellowship [Greek: koinonia] they had in the family. (See Philippians 1:4-5.) Fellowship is more than church suppers, punch, and cookies. It’s sharing, partnership, a common life, a common Lord, a common love. We’ve been born of the Spirit. He loves us, we love Him, and therefore we love one another.
Are you hungry for fellowship? Everyone is. One of the deepest needs on Earth is to love and to be loved, to have true oneness, true fellowship. The Bible never teaches a “Lone Ranger” Christianity. God has “set the solitary in families” (Psalm 68:6), and put us together as the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, “from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Ephesians 3:15).
You’ll find fellowship in the body of Christ through the following:
Find another servant of the Lord and link up to go out to win souls. There’s no sweeter fellowship than out there in the streets, winning people to Christ.
Get a prayer partner and pray together. Fellowship of the Spirit is not where we’re wired together by organization or tradition, but melded together by the Holy Spirit. Two people seeking God will be united in the fellowship of prayer.
Do you know someone who’s hurting? You won’t need to look far. Go hurt with him. Go to the hospital and pray for someone. Visit someone who’s sick. Come alongside someone who’s lost a loved one and love that person. Show the love of Jesus Christ. Two people who hurt together now have an inseparable bond, a koinonia, that’s different from anything else in the world.
The oneness we have in the Lord Jesus Christ makes being a part of this family so wonderful.
Remember, “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
We have a wonderful future because the family of God had a wonderful start. Jesus began it, and Jesus is going to accomplish it.
Some people start but fall away. When you’ve been drawn by the Holy Spirit, Hell itself won’t be able to tear you away from the Lord Jesus, because it was His Spirit who convicted you of sin. He is both our comforter and our convictor.
Have you ever started something you couldn’t finish? I have many times, but Jesus never did. He said, “I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
Jesus began a good work in you, and He will see it all the way through. His plan is first that you be saved, then become part of a fellowship of a Bible-preaching, Christ-honoring local church.
That’s God’s supernatural formation of His family. He built it and said the gates of Hell would not prevail against it.
The time is drawing near when Jesus is going to call His bride home. I’m so grateful to be a member of the family of God. We’re Heaven-born and Heaven-bound. In His family, you are predestined for glory.