There must have been dozens of people who came to faith in Philippi, but in Acts 16, Luke writes about only three, representing three types of people we find all around us—and showing us how can we engage them with the gospel.
Lydia: The Spiritually Interested
Lydia is a wealthy businesswoman—driven, respected, and well-known. She is religious (Paul meets her at a prayer meeting) but not a follower of Christ. In the U.S., many people still fit this profile. Sometimes they have a Christian background, sometimes not. But for whatever reason, they are open to having spiritual conversations.
How can we reach “the spiritually interested”? Expose them to the Bible. You may be surprised how many people are open to simply reading the Bible with you if you ask. So extend the invitation. The power of Scripture can convince your friends in ways you can hardly imagine. You just need to have the courage to take the initiative.
Slave Girl: The Spiritual Captive
The slave girl is the opposite of Lydia. Lydia has her life together, but this young, demon-afflicted girl has nothing. She is broken and taken advantage of. Paradoxically, she is both attracted to the faith (she follows Paul around) and antagonistic toward it (she shouts and creates distractions). People in captivity are torn like that: something about the gospel draws them, but they also have anger and mistrust seething within them. You might find them railing against the church, but listen closely, and you can also hear their souls cry for a redeemer.
How can we reach “the captive”? Just like Paul, we have to get involved in their lives. These people will not wander into our church buildings. So if they won’t come to us, we have to bring Christ’s love to them.
Jailer: The Skeptic
From outward appearances, the jailer is the most unlikely of the three converts. Older, hardened, and part of the ruling class, he is quite cynical toward these ordinary people trying to spread an extraordinary message. Unlike the previous two people, the jailer is categorically antagonistic toward Paul and Silas.
How can we reach “the hardened skeptic”? He’s probably not going to read the Bible with you, and we can’t expect him to come to a worship service because of the music. No, this man gets saved because he receives extravagant grace. Given the chance to turn the tables on his captor, Paul extends grace instead of vengeance. Even the most hardened cynic has to wonder where someone can get that kind of strength. Nothing puts the gospel on display like grace amid injustice.
Through the gospel, people from every background find a unity in Christ that cannot be found anywhere else.