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Bible Commentaries

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible
Acts 16

 

 

Introduction

THE BOOK OF ACTS | CHAPTER 16a

OUTLINE AND COMMENTARY - MARK DUNAGAN

I. OUTLINE OF CHAPTER :

I. Timothy joins Paul and Silas:

II. Strengthening the churches:

III. God directing them to Macedonia:

IV. Events in Philippi:

A. Conversion of Lydia and her Household:

B. Their arrest after healing the slave-girl:

C. Earthquake and conversion of the Jailer:

D. Paul refuses to leave without amends from the Magistrates:

"The most notable feature of Paul"s second missionary expedition is that during it the good seed of the gospel was now for the first time planted in European soil. Of course there was in those days no line of demarcation between "Asia" and "Europe", and the missionaries sailing across the northern part of the Aegean Sea were conscious of traveling only from one province to another, not from one continent to another, since both shores of the Aegean belonged to the Roman Empire" (Stott p. 258). Paul"s second journey began in and will end at 18:22, during this journey churches will be established in major metropolitan areas, Philippi, Thessalonica and Corinth. This chapter also introduces us to Timothy (16:1-3) and the author Luke, who joins this preaching team somewhere around Troas, (notice the transition between 16:8 "they", and 16:10 "we".)

THE BOOK OF ACTS | CHAPTER 16b

I. OUTLINE OF CHAPTER

Erdman notes, "The first convert to be made in Philippi, and so the first in Europe, was Lydia. She was a woman of wealth, of intelligence, of wide experience, a seller of purple who had come from the city of Thyatira; moreover she was religious, godly, and prayerful. Yet this woman needed salvation, she needed Christ. Such persons are to be found in every land; but it is certainly not in accordance with Scripture to insist that they are saved without the gospel. Their moral, upright, prayerful lives are said by some modern teachers to indicate that they already have "the essential Christ", that they are already possessed of a spiritual life which is quite the same as that of professed Christians. The case of the first convert in Europe gives a different suggestion. Lydia however is not the common type of womanhood in heathen lands; their condition is pictured rather by the poor slave girl Such are either the toys or the tools of men. Their nameless agonies and anguish are the real "Macedonian cry"" (pp. 132,133). "If Lydia came from the top end of the social scale this slave-girl came from the bottom" (Barclay p. 134). A good modern parallel to this slave-girl and her masters are those women today in our society who are exploited by the pimps, pornographers, drug dealers and abusive husbands and or boyfriends.


Verse 1

Acts 16:1 "And he came also to Derbe and to Lystra: and behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewess that believed; but his father was a Greek"

"Derbe and to Lystra" "Lystra and Derbe were the last Galatian towns to have been visited on the first missionary journey. So now, as Paul approached them from the east, Derbe and Lystra were of course the first to be revisited" (Stott p. 254). Between 2 and 4 years have passed since Paul had first preached to these cities (Acts 14:6-23). In fact, in Lystra Paul had been stoned by an angry mob (14:19-20). To get to these cities, Paul would pass through Cilicia cross the Tarsus mountain range through a pass known as the Cilician gates. McGarvey notes the restraint of the writer, when he says, "Had he (Luke) been disposed to indulge in descriptions of scenery, which he never does, he might have given us a vivid picture of the Gates of Cilicia, the magnificent pass through the Tarsus mountains which opens a way from the lowlands of Cilicia to the uplands of Lycaonia" (p. 78). Lystra was situated some 18 miles SW of Iconium and Derbe was 30 miles SE of Lystra. "A certain disciple was there" In the last city mentioned, Lystra. "Timothy" The name means "dear to God". Timothy may have been in his late teens or very early 20"s at this time, seeing that some 16 years later he is still referred to as a young man (1 Timothy 4:12). Since Paul calls Timothy his "child in the faith" (1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2; 1 Corinthians 4:15-16), most believe that Paul had personally converted him, along with his mother and grandmother during the first trip to Lystra.

"Son of a Jewess that believed" His mother was a Jewish woman who had become a Christian. Later we find that her name was Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5), and apparently her mother Lois, had also been converted (2 Timothy 1:5). "But his father was a Greek" Not a Greek who believed or a Gentile who had become a proselyte, but a Gentile who was an unbeliever. From 16:3 it seems that his father had deliberately prevented Timothy from being circumcised, that is he was not a supporter of Timothy"s religious training, in fact had even put his foot down when it came to having Timothy circumcised. "The statement that Timothy"s Jewish mother had married a Gentile suggests that a less exclusive standard obtained in Asia Minor than in Palestine" (Bruce p. 322). In addition, we forget that this marriage may have been arranged, which means that Eunice may have had no choice in the matter. Reese notes, "What may have happened is that Eunice"s father, living a long way from Palestine where the law would have been strictly enforced, had relaxed the careful observance of this" (p. 564). Here we find a great example for people who feel that their poor, disadvantaged or abusive upbringing stands as a hurdle that they can never overcome. On the one hand Timothy was an outsider to everyone. The Jewish community would not accept him (not circumcised, from a mixed marriage), but neither would the Gentile community (his mother was Jewish). On the other hand what seemed like a disadvantage would greatly assist him in preaching, for he knew both worlds well. Notice that his mother had not given up. She continued to teach him the Scriptures (2 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 3:15). Others might have said, "It"s no use, your son will never be allowed to amount to anything." We may not be able to give our children every advantage, but we can prepare them to seize an opportunity. Timothy was a child caught between the conflicting values of two parents, yet Timothy"s mother continued to do what she could to train her son. She did not adopt the naive belief, "I do not want to prejudice my son with my convictions."


Verse 2

Acts 16:2 "The same was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium" That is, Timothy, not his father. "The fact that he was known as a fine Christian, not only in his home town but at the distant city of Iconium, suggests the fact that he had already been active as a preacher" (Reese p. 565).


Verse 3

Acts 16:3 "Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and he took and circumcised him because of the Jews that were in those parts: for they all knew that his father was a Greek"

"Him would Paul have to go forth with him" "He (Paul) was always well aware of the necessity of training a new generation for the work and for the days that lay ahead" (Barclay p. 129) (2 Timothy 2:2). Stott notes, "His Jewish-Greek parentage would give him an entree into both communities" (p. 254). "Circumcised him" Some have charged Paul with inconsistency at this point, because it has not been that long since Paul refused to circumcise Titus (Galatians 2:1-5); and he opposed those who insisted that Gentiles must be circumcised to be saved (Acts 15:1 ff). Yet most readers will note that the circumstances are very different. First, Paul refused to circumcise anyone when people were making it a matter of salvation (Galatians 5:1-4; Acts 15:5), but the case of Timothy was different. Luke realizes that Timothy is saved without being circumcised (16:1 "certain disciple"). Hence this circumcision has nothing to do with salvation or binding the O.T. upon Christians. The text actually gives us the reason, "because of the Jews who were in those parts". Paul knew that Timothy would be preaching to Jews, and his uncircumcised status could unnecessarily hinder his effectiveness, and being of Jewish ancestry, he had the national right to be circumcised. Nobody would get the idea that Paul thought circumcision was necessary for salvation in circumcising someone of the Jewish race, thus we see the principle applied that Paul defined in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23. Paul would always seek to respect the morally neutral customs in any society, so he could be more effective in teaching others. Thus we find that circumcision is a morally neutral custom for Christians (1 Corinthians 7:19; Galatians 5:6). McGarvey notes, "The Jews who were in those parts, like all other Jews, could not look favorably on a man of Jewish blood who was uncircumcised. He appeared to be repudiating his nationality" (pp. 79-80). Sometimes we forget that the first step in the door when it came to preaching to Jewish people was establishing the common ground that the OT was the Word of God and that in Jesus and the New Covenant the prophetic messages of the OT had found their fulfillment (Acts 17:2-3), yet an uncircumcised Jew would have no credibility, for it looked like he rejected the OT


Verse 4

Acts 16:4 "And as they went on their way through the cities, they delivered them the decrees to keep which had been ordained of the apostles and elders that were at Jerusalem"

"Through the cities" Through all the cities just mentioned (:1). "Delivered them the decrees to keep" That is the divine decision that had resulted from the Jerusalem Conference (Acts 15:23-30) "Some claim that the word deliver implies that Paul left copies of the decree wherever he went. A copy left with each congregation would give the brethren something to appeal to if Judaizers ever came and tried to force their doctrines on the brethren" (Reese p. 566). "At Jerusalem" Carefully note that this is not a decree from some "mother-church" or congregation viewed as an earthly headquarters. The apostles were inspired men (15:28). The origin of this decree was God. The place where this decision was made was Jerusalem, simply because most of the apostles still lived there.


Verse 5

Acts 16:5 "So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily" Repeatedly in the book of Acts we see the importance of helping new converts to grow and mature (Acts 14:22; 15:32; 41; 11:26; 2:42). Notice that such effort results in further growth ("increased in number daily"). One of the major keys towards church growth is taking very good care of those who already have been converted. From these verses and others (Hebrews 5:12-14; Matthew 28:20), every congregation needs to have a very well laid out plan for teaching new Christians. Also observe that congregations grow when issues (like the one in Chapter 15) even controversial issues, are clarified and settled.


Verse 6

Acts 16:6 "And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden of the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia"

"They" Paul, Silas and Timothy. "Region of Phrygia and Galatia" "Older geographies presumed that this meant a northern trip through Pessinus, Ancyra, and Tavium. Since the time of William M. Ramsey, however, it has been recognized that Lycaonia was a part of the province of Galatia, and that the Galatian journey was probably in the district of Derbe, Lystra, and Iconium rather than the Northern Galatian cities" "Galatia" Named for the Gauls who invaded this region some 300 years previous. "About 300 B.C. great hordes of Gauls left France and Germany and moved toward Asia Minor. After some years they were invited by the king of Bithynia to cross the Hellespont and help him in a war. After the war was over, they refused to go home, and settled instead in the hill country of central Asia Minor. This area in which they settled became known as Galatia" (Reese p. 568). The whole Roman province known as "Galatia" included Pisidia, Lycaonia, part of Phrygia as well as northern Galatian territory. "Having been forbidden" The most logical method of "forbidding" would have been God speaking directly to Paul, giving him instructions not to go into Asia. "The phrase in Asia suggests that the original plan in the mind of Paul had been to penetrate the Roman province of Asia, and evangelize the teeming cities of Colossae and Ephesus. Pisdian Antioch, the centre of the Phrygia region, was also very close to the border of the province of Asia. It was natural, therefore, that the missionaries" eyes should look south-west along the Via Sebaste which led to Colossae (about 150 miles) and then to the coast at Ephesus" (Stott p. 259). The evangelization of Asia will take place on the third journey (Acts 19:1 ff).


Verse 7

Acts 16:7 "and when they were come over against Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia; and the Spirit of Jesus suffered them not"

"Over against Mysia" "With the south-westerly route blocked, they turned north, until they reached the border of Mysia, which was not a Roman administrative region but an old name for much of Asia Minor"s north-westerly bulge" (Stott p. 259). Hence at this point they are probably on the eastern border of Mysia. The name "Mysia" is pronounced, "Miss ee uh". "Bithynia" Which is pronounced bih THIN ih uh). This region is "bounded on the north by the Black Sea, on the south and east by Phrygia and Galatia, and on the west by Mysia" (Nelsons p. 185). Bithynia was a logical choice, it included the towns of Nicea and Nicomedia and the province contained a large Jewish population. Peter"s First Epistle is addressed to Christians in this region (1 Peter 1:1). "The Spirit of Jesus" Again, apparently another direct communication from God. This expression may refer to Jesus Himself, or it may refer to the Holy Spirit through whom Jesus is speaking (John 16:7; John 16:14; Hebrews 1:2).


Verse 8

Acts 16:8 "and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas" "Having found the southwesterly and northerly roads obstructed, the only direction left open to them was north-west. So they went "through" Mysia or passed by it, which could mean either that they neglected it, in the sense that they did not stop to evangelize there, or that they skirted it because there was no main road straight through its territory to the coast" (Stott p. 260). "Came down" "Suggests they have come down out of the highlands to the seacoast" (Reese p. 571). Here Paul meets the barrier of the Aegean Sea. "Troas" (TROW as). "Whose full name was Alexandria Troas was founded at the end of the 4th century BC It was a regular port of call for vessels journeying between Asia and Macedonia" (Bruce p. 327). "The city bears the name of ancient Troy (the city of Trojan horse fame), but it actually was about four (some say ten) miles south of the site of that famous town" (Reese p. 570). Before we move on let us learn a valuable lesson from this section. A lack of opportunity or a closed opportunity may simply be an open opportunity next year or an open door for another Christian, and a closed opportunity may be telling us that God wants us to be teaching somebody else right now.


Verse 9

Acts 16:9 "And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: There was a man of Macedonia standing, beseeching him, and saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us"

"Man of Macedonia" -Possibly his dress or language led him to know he was a Macedonian. "In New Testament times what is modern Greece was two Roman provinces, Macedonia in the north, and Achaia in the south" (Reese p. 571).


Verse 10

Acts 16:10 "And when he had seen the vision, straightway we sought to go forth into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them"

"Straightway" "Presents a picture of a hurried trip to the dock the next morning, and inquiry being made as to what ship was sailing, bound for any port of Macedonia" (Reese p. 573). "Paul...he was a man of action and was ready to obey the call at once" (Boles p. 255). "We" Indicating that the writer, Luke has joined Paul, Silas and Timothy. Luke will shift back to the third person at the end of this chapter ( "they"), inferring that he stayed in Philippi with the young converts in that city after Paul, Timothy and Silas departed. Luke will join up again with Paul, when Paul comes through Philippi on his way to Troas at the end of his third journey (Acts 20:5-6). "Concluding" ""Bring together, put together in one"s mind", and so to infer something from a variety of data" (Stott p. 261). Paul put all the facts together, drew the necessary inference which was that Jesus wanted them preaching in Macedonia!


Verse 11

Acts 16:11 "Setting sail therefore from Troas, we made a straight course to Samothrace, and the day following to Neapolis"

"Straight course" "It is a nautical term for sailing before the wind" (Robertson p. 249). "The wind was favorable for the voyage across the north Aegean, and they finished it in two days (). The reverse journey for Neapolis to Troas, recorded in Ch. 20:6, took five days" (Bruce p. 329). "Samothrace" (SAM uh thrays). "A small island in the Aegean Sea, about 31 miles off the southern coast of Thrace" (Nelsons p. 943). About eight miles long, six across and very mountainous, with some of its peaks arising to 5000 ft., the island can be seen from both continents. "Neapolis" (nee AP oh lus). This was the port that served Philippi, and it is the same city as modern Kavalla. "From Neapolis they had a ten-mile walk inland to Philippi along the Via Egnatia, which ran right across the Greek peninsula from the Aegean to the Adriatic. Its massive paving stones can still be seen, worn down by the traffic of the centuries" (Stott p. 262).


Verse 12

Acts 16:12 "and from thence to Philippi, which is a city of Macedonia, the first of the district, a {Roman} colony: and we were in this city tarrying certain days"

"Philippi" "Built on a spur of the Pangaean mountain range, was named for Philip of Macedon, its conqueror (the father of Alexander the Great)" (Bakers p. 213). "First of the district" Amphipolis was the largest city and the capital of the province. NASV has a better rendering, "which is a leading city of the district." "A Roman colony" "On the plains below Philippi, the great battle of Augustus and Antony against Brutus and Cassius was fought in 42 BC In commemoration of the victory of Augustus, the city was designated a colony and regarded as a branch of Rome itself" (Bakers p. 213). "That is to say it was a little bit of Rome planted in a foreign land. In them Rome planted little groups of army veterans who had completed their military service. These colonists wore the Roman dress, spoke the Roman language and used the Roman laws. Nowhere was there greater pride in Roman citizenship than in these outposts of Rome" (Barclay p. 133). "A Roman colony was essentially a military position for the defense of the frontiers. A Roman colony enjoyed three things: (1) Self government. (2) Freedom from paying tribute to the Emperor, and (3) The rights of those who lived in Italy--including Roman dress, language, coinage, and holidays" (Reese p. 575). "Tarrying certain days" Days before the Sabbath mentioned in .


Verse 13

Acts 16:13 "And on the Sabbath day we went forth without the gate by a river side, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down, and spake unto the women that were come together"

"On the Sabbath day" As Paul"s custom was, he went looking for Jewish people to preach to (Acts 17:2). "Without the gate by a river side" Evidently no Synagogue existed in town. "There had to be at least ten family heads (ten Jewish men) in a community to have a synagogue. Where fewer Jews than this lived, they often had a meeting place near any body of water suitable for their many ceremonial washings" (Reese pp. 575-576). "River side" "The little river Gangites river was one mile west of the town" (Robertson p. 250). Reese notes, "Back of the information in this verse may be a fact of contemporary history. Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome (Acts 18:2), since Philippi was a colony, that expulsion order would likely have been honored there too. When the missionaries made inquiry, they would have been told, "There aren"t may Jews here anymore, but you might find some meeting out by the river side"" (p. 576). "The women that were come together" This is quite a compliment to these women, including Lydia, for despite the lack of any spiritually minded male Jews they did their best to remain true to what they knew about the Scriptures. Once again we are reminded of the truth that a person who really wants to serve God, will not let discouraging circumstances stop them. We see this in the case of Lydia, and we also saw it in the cases of Cornelius and the Eunuch. People who love the truth, find the truth, despite the obstacles (John 7:17).


Verse 14

Acts 16:14 "And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple of the city of Thyatira, one that worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened to give heed unto the things which were spoken by Paul"

"Lydia" (LID ih uh). The fact this she is said to be the "seller" of purple, and the household referred to is said to belong to her (), seems to suggest that she was carrying on this business by herself. "Seller of purple" "A most valuable color, obtained usually from shell-fish. One tiny drop of dye was obtained from each fish. Whether Lydia sold the dye, or the fabric was already dyed, is not certain. Concerning the fabric, when dyed with this purple dye--there was a great demand for it among the rich, for it was used as the official toga at Rome. The term royal purple is still used" (Reese p. 577). "As purple was a very costly dye, it was used on none but costly goods" (McGarvey p. 88). Considering the expensive dye or material she retailed it would seem to indicate that she was a woman of wealth. "Of the city of Thyatira" (thigh uh TIE ruh). A city of the province of Lydia in western Asia Minor, situated on the road from Pergamos to Sardis. "One that worshipped God" The above expression applies to one who was a proselyte of the gate. "Believing and behaving like a Jew without becoming one" (Stott p. 263). "Whose heart the Lord opened"

Seeing that the Bible claims that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16), we must interpret the above expression as meaning that God opened her heart through Paul"s preaching. Carefully note, the text does not say that God opened her heart to "listen" to what Paul was saying, for she was listening already (16:14). Rather Paul"s preaching the Word of God convicted her to the point that she "gave heed", that is obeyed and applied what he was saying. According to the Calvinistic doctrine often known as "a first work of grace", "direct operation of the Holy Spirit" or "irresistible grace"..."man is so totally depraved as a result of inheritance from Adam, that he cannot even want to do right (respond to the Gospel in this case) until God"s Spirit first, by an immediate and direct action on the heart of the sinner, makes the man capable or able to believe" (Reese pp. 577-578). But the above verses (which are supposedly some of the best evidence for the above doctrine) are far from teaching such. Remember Lydia is a very religious person prior to the above statement. She already believes in God and wants to do the right thing, despite the adverse circumstances, long before the Lord opens her heart. In fact McGarvey notes, "she was faithful in observing it (the Sabbath); that while the other dealers in purple goods were busy on that day, she closed her shop regardless of the demands of competition" (p. 89). She did not need any miraculous help to listen to Paul"s preaching. God opened her heart in the sense that it was His message that convicted her and moved her to obey the gospel. This opening of her heart involved her cooperation (Matthew 13:15).


Verse 15

Bakers Bible Atlas p. 212


Verse 16

Acts 16:16 "And it came to pass, as we were going to the place of prayer, that a certain maid having a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much gain by soothsaying"

"Going to the place of prayer" Acts 16:13. The first visit had proven successful, with the conversion of Lydia and her household. "They are still using this spot by the riverside as a schoolroom to teach men about Christ" (Reese p. 580). "Having a spirit of divination" The phrase spirit of divination literally means "a spirit of python". "The reference is to the snake of classical mythology which guarded the temple of Apollo and the Delphic oracle on Mount Parnassus. Apollo was thought to be embodied in the snake and to inspire "pythonesses", his female devotees, with clairvoyance" (Stott p. 264). "In the center of the temple at Delphi was a small opening in the ground from whence mind-bending fumes arose. The priestess breathed these, sat down and thence delivered the "oracles". Having breathed the fumes, the priestess became violently agitated, and spoke in a frenzied, ecstatic syllabication...A poet or priest standing by would then "translate" what the Pythoness (priestess) had said" (Reese p. 580). We should first note that in giving such a label (spirit of python), Luke is not suggesting that the story concerning Apollo and the serpent is true, because only one God exists (Acts 17:23-24; 1 Corinthians 8:6). Rather, Luke is pointing out that this woman behaved in the same way that the priestess in Delphi would act, that is "presenting phenomena identical with the convulsive movements and wild cries of the Pythian priestess at Delphi" (Vincent p. 531). Luke could be saying, "If you ever saw the priestess in Delphi perform her trade--this woman acted in the same way." Luke may also be telling us that the people in Philippi attributed the powers in this girl to the same spirit that guided the priestess at Delphi.

"Brought her masters much gain" "She had fallen into the hands of unscrupulous men who used her misfortune for their great gain" (Barclay p. 134). Notice, that all the gain went to those who owned her. "Brought" Indicating a steady source of income. "By soothsaying" "An old heathen word for acting the seer" (Robertson p. 254). "Her involuntary utterances were regarded as the voice of a god, and she was much in demand by people who wished to have their fortunes told" (Bruce p. 332). The Greek word that Luke here uses for "soothsaying", is only found here in the N.T. In the Greek translation of the O.T., it is the word always used of lying prophets or of divination contrary to the Law (Deuteronomy 18:10; 1 Samuel 28:9; Ezekiel 13:6; Micah 3:11).


Verse 17

Acts 16:17 "The same following after Paul and us cried out, saying, These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim unto you the way of salvation"

"These men are servants of the Most High God" In like manner those demon-possessed often cried out after Jesus (Luke 8:28; Mark 1:34; Mark 3:11). "The way of salvation" According to Robertson, this expression should be rendered "a way of salvation" (no article) (p. 255). If this is the case, then the demon in the girl was trying to confuse the issue and not clarify it. One of the doctrines of the devil is that Christianity is only "a" way of salvation, no better or no worse than others. In contrast, the Bible claims that it is the only way (Acts 4:12).

From the following evidence it appears that this girl was demon-possessed: 1. It was something that Paul could cast out and stop in her (). Hence she was not soothsaying by some natural talent or learned skill. 2. She was not doing this for her own gain (16:16). Whether this demon-possessed girl could really tell the future or not is an interesting question. The demon knew the true mission of Paul, Silas, Luke and Timothy, but again, any human being could of known the same thing, if they had simply listened to the preaching and observed the miracles. She brought her masters huge profits, but the same was true concerning many other fakes, including the oracle at Delphi. We do not really know how this fortune-telling operation was conducted. We know that she cried out after Paul, but is this the way that she always gave the fortunes? Or did her master"s interpret her frenzied actions--as was the case in Delphi? The terminology that Luke attaches to this case is the same terminology attached to trickery and fakes. I think most would concede that the oracle at Delphi was a fake. If this woman really could tell fortunes, it would appear that someone more influential would have purchased her. Hence, for the moment these considerations lead me to conclude that two shrewd and underhanded men, had bought a demon-possessed girl, and had convinced the community that her strange condition, words and actions were proof that someone like Apollo spoke through her and could foretell their future.


Verse 18

Acts 16:18 "And this she did for many days. But Paul, being sore troubled, turned and said to the spirit, I charge thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And it came out that very hour"

"Being sore troubled" "Worn out, both grieved at the sad condition of the woman, and thoroughly annoyed and indignant at the continued demonstrations of the evil spirit which possessed her" (Vincent p. 532). Her cries probably were also proving a hindrance to his teaching efforts. In addition, such testimony from a demon was not appreciated. Paul was trying to distinguish Christ from all the other religions in town and this testimony was linking the preaching of the gospel too closely with the occult. "If Paul had continued permitting her to tell about the missionary party, people would have begun to think, "They"re all alike! Birds of a feather flock together"" (Reese p. 582). Jesus did not appreciate the testimony of demons either (Mark 1:23-25). "It came out that very hour" "At that very moment" (NASV). This casting out was a far greater proof that these men were from God than the cries of the demon had been. Please note the "ease" at which the miracles were performed. Compare this case of "exorcism" which what is labeled as exorcism today. No long drawn out ceremony, no religious objects or symbols needed, and no repeated attempts.


Verse 19

Acts 16:19 "But when her masters saw that the hope of their gain was gone, they laid hold on Paul and Silas, and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers"

"Saw that the hope of their gain was gone" Which proves that the girl was not a willing participant in the business. They had been exploiting her sad condition, and not using some natural or learned skill that he had acquired. In that such a case, she could have always re-learned it, but this is something that was gone for good, or something that was clearly beyond their power to retrieve. "Luke makes a play on words, which is lost to the English reader. He says that when the evil spirit "went out" (exelthen), the masters saw that their hope of profit "went out" (exelthen)" (Reese p. 583). Or as Bruce expresses it, "for when Paul exorcised the spirit that possessed her he exorcised their source of income as well" (p. 335).

Consider the motives of these men. "The one thing that these men felt was not joy at a fellow-creature"s restoration to health and sanity but fury that their source of revenue was gone" (Barclay pp. 134-135). Note that there is absolutely no compassion on their part for the young lady who had already brought them a good living, and people question the concept of hell! Erdman notes, "there are men today who are willing to acquire wealth by the degradation of womanhood, and who resent as impertinent intrusion every attempt to deliver their victims from the power of sin" (p. 133). Those people today who try to hide behind the Constitution and oppose all attempts to restrict pornography, and so-called adult businesses are manifesting the same attitude as the owners of this slave-girl. At this point we should note that nothing is said concerning whether this girl became a Christian.

"Laid hold on Paul and Silas" "In that day men could do their own arresting" (Reese p. 583). We do not know why Luke and Timothy were not also arrested at this time. Possibly they were not viewed as the leaders of this group, or they might not have been present, but rather preaching in a different part of the community. "Dragged them" Indicating rough treatment. "Into the marketplace" "Luke"s account of what happened in Philippi accurately reflects the situation in a Roman colony. The slave owners dragged Paul and Silas into the agora, which was not only the market-place but the center of a city"s public life" (Stott p. 266). "The judgment-seat, on which the authorities sat to administer justice, and from orators made speeches, would have been located there" (Reese p. 583). "Rulers" The Greek term here is archon, "as Philippi was a Roman colony, its municipal administration was in the hands of two collegiate magistrates" (Bruce p. 335).


Verse 20

Acts 16:20 "and when they had brought them unto the magistrates, they said, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city"

"Magistrates" "The collegiate magistrates of a Roman colony were commonly called duumivirs, but sometimes they preferred the more dignified title of praetors--The Greek work rendered "magistrate" in the above verse is equivalent to the Latin praetor" (Bruce p. 335). "These men, being Jews" Notice that their real complaint against Paul and Silas is dropped and a false charge is issued instead. "Noting that were "Jews" appears to be an attempt to prejudice the court before any evidence was given" (Reese p. 584). Hatred against Jews was always near the surface in any Gentile community and especially one like this that was so "Roman". "Exceedingly trouble our city" Disturbing the peace and Rome frowned upon any disturbances in the provinces (Acts 19:40).


Verse 21

Acts 16:21 "and set forth customs which it is not lawful for us to receive, or to observe, being Romans"

"Set forth customs" "Proclaiming customs" (NASV). "Not lawful" "The Roman law forbade Romans to introduce or practice any new religion; they were required to worship their own gods and no others. The Jews were permitted to practice their own religion, provided they did not attempt to proselyte Roman citizens" (Boles p. 260). "The Christian religion was permitted in the Empire since it was thought of, in the first years, as being just another sect of Judaism" (Reese p. 584). These two men are very shrewd. Not only did they appeal to a natural prejudice against Jews, but they also appealed to Roman civic pride, and in such a colony as Philippi both of these (positive and negative prejudice) feelings ran very high.


Verse 22

Acts 16:22 "And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent their garments off them, and commanded to beat them with rods" The crowd demands a verdict. The people in the marketplace very quickly jumped on the anti-Jewish, and pro-Roman bandwagon. The feelings of the crowd evidently influenced the decision made by the magistrates. "Rent their garments off them" That is tore the garments from the bodies of Paul and Silas. "This was always done when the prisoner was about to be beaten with rods. In a Roman court, the criminal was usually stripped entirely naked" (Reese p. 585). "Beat them with rods" This was one of three beatings from non-Jewish authorities that Paul had suffered as of the writing of 2 Corinthians 11:25. "The Romans used a rod (similar in size to a present-day broom stick or hoe handle), and there was no limit to the number of blows that could be struck. Such treatment would leave a man lacerated and bleeding" (Reese p. 585).


Verse 23

Acts 16:23 "And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely" "The Roman custom depended on the whims of the judge; it was a severe ordeal" (Boles p. 261).


Verse 24

Acts 16:24 "who, having received such a charge, cast them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks" In response to the command from the magistrates, the jailer places Paul and Silas into what we might call "maximum security". Three compartments were usually found in most Roman prisons. First a room where prisoners had light and fresh air, then another room where prisoners were made secure behind iron gates. Finally, a dungeon, or room where there was no light and the only air came from underneath the door. This may have been a place of utter darkness, little air, filth and an incredible stench. "Made their feet fast in the stocks" "Two heavy pieces of timber would be opened, the legs of the prisoners stretched widely apart till their muscles began to hurt, and the timbers clamped shut. Clamped in such a spread-legged position they would be unable to walk, and they would be forced to lie with their backs or faces on the ground" (Reese p. 586).


Verse 25

Acts 16:25 "But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns unto God, and the prisoners were listening to them"

"Praying and singing hymns" Unable to sleep and find any physical comfort, they focused on spiritual things. "Listening" "Rare verb to listen with pleasure" (Robertson p. 260). "The double discomfort of the lictor"s rods and the stocks was not calculated to fill Paul and Silas with joy, but about midnight the other prisoners, as they listened, heard sounds coming from the inmost part of the jail--sounds, not of groaning and cursing, but of prayer and hymn-singing" (Bruce p. 337). Be amazed at the attitude found in Paul and Silas. There is no self-pity or questioning whether God still loves them. Here is a faith that praises God, no matter what the situation (Habbakuk chapter 3; Hebrews chapter 11). The devil"s accusation in the book of Job is again answered, "Yes a man will simply serve God out of love and more no other reason" (Job 2:3-5).


Verse 26

Acts 16:26 "and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison-house were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one"s bands were loosed" Here we learn that the earthquake mentioned in this verse was not an ordinary physical event, because the bands were not merely loosed from where they were attached to the wall, but from 16:29 it seems that Paul and Silas were standing or in some sort of upright position, inferring that the stocks had been released from their feet.


Verse 27

Acts 16:27 "And the jailor, being roused out of sleep and seeing the prison doors open, drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped"

"Roused out of sleep" The Jailer had not been kept awake by the singing and prayers of Paul and Silas. "It is noted that neither the groans nor singing hymns had kept the jailer from sleeping" (Boles p. 263). "Drew his sword" "Sometimes the word speaks of a large knife. Other times it speaks of a small, curved, and at times double-edged sword" (Reese p. 587). "Was about to kill himself" It was customary to hold the jailer 100% responsible for the safe keeping of his prisoners. If he allowed them to escape, he would suffer the punishment that had been decreed for his prisoners (Acts 12:18-19). "It was a very common thing, even considered to be an honorable thing, among the Greeks and Romans, for a man to commit suicide when he was encompassed with dangers from which he seemed to be unable to escape" (Reese p. 588). "Supposing" Seeing the doors opened (16:27).


Verse 28

Acts 16:28 "But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here" Notice Paul"s attitude. This Jailer had inflicted punishment upon them. Other men might have said, "It serves him right for mistreating me", or, "he"s getting what he deserves." Apparently enough light existed for Paul to see what the Jailer was about to do. Obviously, Paul was not a believer in suicide. "Paul, whose loud voice snatched him back, in the very nick of time, from the brink of eternity" (McGarvey p. 101). Unfortunately the advocates of suicide and euthanasia forget two very important facts, people tend to overreact and assume the worst (like the jailer), and Tthe vast majority of people are completely unprepared to meet God (like the jailer).


Verse 29

Acts 16:29 "And he called for lights and sprang in, and, trembling for fear, fell down before Paul and Silas"

"Called for lights" Torches, rags wrapped around a stick and soaked in a flammable liquid. He calls out to his assistants and quickly grabs one of the lights. "Trembling for fear" Possibly he makes a hasty investigation to confirm the truthfulness of Paul"s words. His fear was probably due to a number of things, first the fact that his life had just be spared. Second, the strange earthquake and other events, such as, none of the prisoners had attempted to escape, and finally the attitude, calmness of Paul and Silas. "Fell down" Probably being convicted of his sins, ashamed of his previous actions, and realizing that these men could put him in touch with the divine mercy he needed.


Verse 30

Acts 16:30 "and brought them out and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"

Since his physical life was not in any danger (all the prisoners were still secure in their cells), the question being asked by the jailer relates to the salvation of his soul. Possibly the jailer had heard the outcries of the demon-possessed girl (). This statement also refers that the jailer was not ready to die, and it alsoinfers that the jailer understood that the popular Greek or Roman religions were powerless to save him.


Verse 31

Acts 16:31 "And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house"

"Believe on the Lord Jesus" Unfortunately many people stop right here and assume that one is saved at the moment they believe that Jesus is the Son of God, such as the idea of salvation by faith alone. But the next verse reveals that the jailer needs to hear the gospel, before he can believe (Romans 10:17 "Faith comes by hearing"). In addition, the statement believe on the Lord Jesus, does not precisely tell us what we must believe about Jesus. McGarvey notes, "Those who catch at these words of Paul to the jailer, and draw the conclusion that salvation is by faith alone, leave the jail too soon. They should remain till they hear all---till they hear Paul tell the man to repent and be baptized, till the design of baptism is explained to him, till he is baptized, till he is found rejoicing greatly immediately after his baptism" (p. 103). "Thou and thy house" This salvation is also available to all the members of his household who are able and willing to believe.


Verse 32

Acts 16:32 "And they spake the word of the Lord unto him, with all that were in his house" He must be told what to believe about Jesus (Romans 10:17). Paul and Silas had mentioned the "Lord" Jesus. Well how did this Jesus come to be the "Lord"? What is He Lord over, and what does this Lord want to me do? The jailer could not believe for the rest of his family members. To be saved, each family member had to hear for themselves and respond.


Verse 33

Acts 16:33 "And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, immediately"

"Same hour of the night" The jailer found a place where he could quickly cleanse the wounds that had been inflicted upon the backs of Paul and Silas. "Washed their stripes" Which infers they had been thrown in prison without their wounds being attended. Repentance on the part of the jailer, he could not undo the past, but he was trying to do whatever he could to make up for the past. Note that Paul did not use the gift of healing to remove his own pain. "Was baptized" Notice that the baptism was not delayed. Here we have another example in which preaching the gospel involves teaching concerning baptism (Acts ,12; 35-38). The inference is that in teaching the Word of the Lord, baptism was taught as necessary for salvation, because the jailer does not rejoice until after he is baptized. Therefore, those who preach to people without telling them that baptism is necessary for salvation, are not teaching all the Word of the Lord. "He and all his" Lest someone try to argue that the statement infers that infants were baptized, let it be noted everyone in the household who was baptized believed (16:31). And everyone in the household that was baptized listened to the preaching of Paul and Silas (16:32). Both of those requirements exclude infants.


Verse 34

Acts 16:34 "And he brought them up into his house, and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, with all his house, having believed in God"

"Up into his house" After being baptized. "As a jailer he was not acting illegally, for while he was responsible for the prisoners, he was under no obligations to fulfill his duty in any particular way. Paul and Silas would not try to escape, and the jailer had confidence in them as servants of God" (Boles p. 266). "Set food before them" "Perhaps the prisoners have had nothing to eat for more than half a day" (Reese p. 592). "Rejoiced greatly" Notice that rejoicing is placed after baptism. "Having believed in God" Carefully note that the jailer and his family are not said to have believed in God until he was baptized. Prior to baptism, one has not really accepted everything God has said concerning what to do to be saved (Acts 2:38-41).


Verse 35

Acts 16:35 "But when it was day, the magistrates sent the sergeants, saying, Let those men go"

"Sergeants" "Lit., those who hold the rod. The Roman lictors. They had to inflict the punishment on the condemned" (Vincent p. 535). "Let those men go" "In some towns, undesirable characters are jailed on some insignificant charge, and when released, they are only too happy to move on and get away" (Reese p. 593). "It was thought that the prisoners, released thus early in the morning, would be glad to escape from the city, and no further agitation of the multitude would occur. The magistrates little knew the kind of men they were dealing with" (McGarvey p. 106).


Verse 36

Acts 16:36-37 "And the jailor reported the words to Paul, {saying}, The magistrates have sent to let you go: now therefore come forth, and go in peace". But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men that are Romans, and have cast us into prison; and do they now cast us out privily? Nay verily; but let them come themselves and bring us out"

"Men that are Romans" Indicating that both Paul and Silas were Roman citizens. Various laws had been passed since the founding of the Roman empire that exempted all Roman citizens from degrading forms of punishment. "It was a crime under Roman law to scourge a Roman citizen" (McGarvey p. 107). As to why this very important piece of information had not come out the day before, Bruce notes, "It may be that they did protest, but that no one paid attention to them in the excitement of the moment" (p. 340). Paul is upset that this rulers want to whitewash this situation and get rid of Paul and Silas in an underhanded way. "But let them come themselves and bring us out" "The acquittal should be as public as the condemnation" (Reese p. 595).

"Paul must have had the Philippian church in mind. The public disgrace to which they had been subjected could have a serious effect on the congregation, and on other"s willingness to accept the Gospel. It might even start a persecution against the Philippian converts. To insure that no dishonor was reflected on the Gospel, Paul demands that the magistrates themselves come and publicly declare them innocent by escorting them out of prison personally" (Reese p. 595). "Paul was not standing on his dignity for his own sake but for the sake of the Christians he was leaving behind in Philippi. He wanted it to be seen that they were not without influential friends" (Barclay p. 137). This example of Paul is helpful in interpreting Jesus" admonition to turn to other cheek (Matthew 5:39). Paul did not take that verse as meaning you let people walk all over you. Paul is not taking revenge, but he is insisting that people own up to what they have done.


Verse 38

Acts 16:38 "And the sergeants reported these words unto the magistrates: and they feared when they heard that they were Romans" They feared because they had been guilty of doing something illegal. "The colonists in Philippi would turn against the praetors if they learned the facts, proud as they were of being citizens" (Robertson p. 265). "If the prisoners pressed charges, the magistrates could be stripped of their office, and would never be allowed to hold office again. In 44 A.D., by order of the emperor Claudius, the people of Rhodes lost their own privileges of citizenship because they did not regard the fact that some prisoners they executed by crucifixion were Roman citizens" (Reese p. 595).


Verse 39

Acts 16:39 "and they came and besought them; and when they had brought them out, they asked them to go away from the city" "Did their best to conciliate them" (TCNT). "Their self-importance was very healthily deflated, as they went to the jail and requested Paul and Silas to leave Philippi" (Bruce p. 341). They could not command them. "Paul"s insistence on an official apology may have served to some degree as a protection to the members of the church" (Bruce p. 341). "A Roman citizen could not be expelled from a Roman city when he had been convicted of no crime...But cities in this part of the Roman world were notoriously weak in their ability to control the populace; and if Paul and Silas were as unpopular as yesterday"s crowd had made it seem, then the officials could not guarantee their safety" (Reese p. 596).


Verse 40

Acts 16:40 "And they went out of the prison, and entered into {the house} of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed" Evidently where Paul and his companions had been staying while preaching in Philippi. "Had seen the brethren" Probably others have been converted besides the two households mentioned in this chapter. Paul, Silas and Timothy depart, but Luke stays in Philippi and apparently remains and works with this congregation until Paul comes back through this region some 5-6 years later (Acts 20:5-6). This stay will cover the years 52-58 AD This chapter contains another evidence that it is scriptural for a congregation to have a full-time, located preacher working with it. From what looks like very humble beginnings (two household"s converted), the Philippian congregation in years to come will financially support Paul (Philippians 4:15-16), select qualified elders and deacons (Philippians 1:1), and contributed heavily for the collection headed to Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:1-3).

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Acts 16:4". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/acts-16.html. 1999-2014.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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