God can save anybody. If you are a Christian, you know it's true. God can reach into any life and heal their brokenness and forgive their sin.
Often, though, what we know disconnects itself from how we act. We say God can save anyone, but do we believe it?
The way the church in Philippi started is a beautiful reminder for modern believers. We need to recall how grace can reach anywhere. Up, down, out, or in, the gospel of Jesus Christ is for all of humanity.
1. The Affluent And Succesful -- Lydia (Acts 16:11-14)
When Paul arrived in Philippi, he sought out the local synagogue. He was a "to the Jew first, and also the Greek" kinda guy, but this European town's Jewish population was too small to have a synagogue. Paul knew, though, that if there were any devout Jews at all in Philippi, they'd at least find a space in nature where they could gather. And by a riverside, Paul discovered them, a handful of Jewish women. After sharing the gospel with them, one woman in particular believed. She became Paul's first convert on European soil.
Lydia was a businesswoman who had great means. She was successful in her craft. Immediately, she opened her home and resources to the apostle and his missionary team. Her generosity set the tone for the future Philippian church, for they were the strongest financial backers of Paul's work.
An affluent and successful woman, Lydia became a devotee of Christ. Interestingly enough, Luke writes, "The LORD opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul" (Acts 16:14). She needed the sovereign hand of God to open her spiritual vision. Without divine intervention, her success and wealth might have blinded her from the message of the cross. Hearing the Messiah-Christ of Israel was crucified would have stumbled her (1 Corinthians 1:23).
The spirit of the age often globs onto the mood of the church. One message of our age is that people with means are somehow evil. Some think of wealth and success as evils to overcome. If we aren't careful, many believers might consider prominent people unworthy of the gospel. But we are all unworthy. And none will be saved without the miraculous hand of God. It is good for us to set our sights and prayers upon those who seem to have it all, for we know they don't. They are empty without Christ.
2. The Oppressed And Disadvantaged -- A Slave Girl (Acts 16:16-24)
As Paul and his team moved from the river into Philippi, a disruption occurred. A demonically oppressed woman began to cry out after the apostle and his team. Luke's description of her -- "a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling" -- is terrible. Owned by humans and possessed by devils, she was active in the demonic realm, telling fortunes.
She followed the disciples, saying, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation" (Acts 16:17). Her message was accurate, but she was the wrong messenger. After a while, Paul became irritated, so he turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her" (Acts 16:18). That very hour, the spirit came out of her. She was delivered.
When Jesus came to the world, he went to a region known for its spiritual darkness. The Galilee dwelt in darkness, but Jesus' light would blast forth into that shadow of death (Matthew 4:16). Christ knew he must run straight into the strongholds of hell to offer help to those enslaved and overwhelmed by evil. And wherever he went, like moths to the light, the demonic realm surfaced. Jesus was always available to help those bound in shackles of spiritual darkness.
We must, like Paul and Jesus, believe the message of the gospel can bring freedom and aid to those menaced by evil. We live in a broken world and age, and the lives of many have been ravished by wickedness. For many, they are a product of their environment. Life has dealt them a bitter hand, and the atrocities to which they've been privy have harmed them immensely. But the gospel can reach into any life, and change any soul.
3. The Powerful And Influential -- The Philippian Jailer (Acts 16:25-40)
The slave girl's masters didn't appreciate the deliverance Christ wrought for her, so they took it out on Paul, reporting him to the local authorities. Philippi was a Roman colony, so Roman laws ruled the day, and quickly Paul and Silas were arrested for advocating customs that were not lawful for Romans to accept or practice (Acts 16:21). With that charge against them, the men were thrown into prison, locked in the innermost dungeon with their feet in stocks. It was a sad state.
In the night, however, Paul and Silas sang. Prayers and hymns emanated from their cell. Soon, the earth shook, and the bars of the prison broke. Bonds unfastened and the gates opened. God was, once again, breaking out one of his apostles.
The jailer, who had been asleep, woke up just in time to see open jail cells. He assumed all the prisoners had fled. For him, this meant he would face the death penalty, so he decided to mete out his own justice and fall on his sword. But as he unsheathed his weapon, Paul called out, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here." The jailer asked for a light, ran down to Paul, and asked, "What must I do to be saved?" Paul told him to believe in the Lord Jesus. With that, a third member added to the Philippian church.
In a Roman colony like Philippi, a jailer would be a military (or ex-military man). He was an officer held in high esteem. He would have held a position of authority and influence. And his heart was opened to the gospel through Paul and Silas' singing, prayers, and submission to the governing authorities (they did not run, after all).
God can save men and women in the Philippian jailer's shoes today. He can reach into government officials, military and civic leaders, and people of influence with the message of the cross. They are humans, and humans are empty without the love of God. His love is found through the blood of Christ.
The story of the church in Philippi is compelling because it illustrates for us that no one is beyond the reach of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I resonate with it in a particular way because of the community I serve. The Monterey Peninsula is littered with wealthy and successful, oppressed and disadvantaged, and powerful and influential. We have military schools for both officers and enlisted, luxury and wealth beyond comprehension, and poverty and brokenness. It is good, in a community such as ours, to believe the gospel can reach all three groups.
There is nothing God cannot do. God asked Sarah, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" (Genesis 18:14). Perhaps he asks you the same. Do you believe he can save the affluent and successful? Do you believe he can save oppressed and disadvantaged? Do you believe he can save the powerful and influential? You should, for he can.