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Bible Commentaries

Bell's Commentary on the Bible

Acts 16

Verses 1-10

  1. TAKING TIMOTHY! (16:1-5)
    1. TAKING TIMOTHY! (1,2)
    2. Possible Paul led Tim to faith on 1st trip through. (many times refers to him as “my son”)
    3. It seems like God always has the right person ready at the right time, so be patient!
    4. Timothy is the only one in the NT to whom is given the old prophetic title “Man of God!” (1 Tim.6:11)
    5. CIRCUMCISING TIMOTHY! (3-5)
    6. Why? - Not because it would have been necessary for his salvation(saved 2 yrs)
      1. Reason was not theological but missiological.
      2. Paul would flex in whatever way was necessary to avoid offending the Jews.
    7. Yes to circumcision in Timothy’s case…but not Titus (Gal.2:3-5) Why?
      1. Timothy – ½ Jew; circumcised to reach Jews for Christ.
      2. Titus – Gentile; wasn’t circumcised because those insisting on the rite for non-Jews were believers who should have known better.
        1. Become all things to all men to win some; but never to appease legalistic believers!
  2. MISSING GOD’S WILL/VOICE/DIRECTION! (16:6-10)
    1. STRIKE #1 & STRIKE #2 (6,7)
    2. I love that Luke isn’t inhibited about telling us this story just like it is!
      1. I like how great heroes of the faith in the 1st century were capable of blowing it from time to time, as we are today.
      2. If Paul was perfect we couldn’t identify with him.
      3. But considering all his shortfalls, he was a faithful & productive servant of God, so, there is no reason I can’t be.
      4. Paul went through one of those experiences of missing what God was trying to say to him…not just once, but twice!!
    3. Story - A bishop of a century ago pronounced from his pulpit and in the periodical he edited that heavier-than-air flight was both impossible and contrary to the will of God. Oh, the irony that Bishop Wright had two sons, Orville and Wilbur! [Wright was wrong. Sure of himself…but wrong!]
    4. I am an advocate of hearing from God & acting on what we hear, but I also recognize that this procedure is misused, & can become presumption rather than providence!
      1. It is always better to say, “we sense that this is the direction God wants us to go.” Then if we miss it, we simply have to humble ourselves & admit that we happened to sense God’s leading inaccurately.
      2. I think the key is that he heard he wasn’t going the right way!
        1. Let’s give him credit for that! (How many times we keep on going rt toward the proverbial cliff)
    5. Understand, sometimes our well-laid human plans are sometimes changed by the Holy Spirit & other times they can be equally obstructed by the devil.
      1. 1 Thes.2:18 Therefore we wanted to come to you - even I, Paul, time and again - but Satan hindered us.
      2. Only by intimacy with the Father in prayer & maintaining the fullness of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives will we be able accurately to discern whether we should turn around & go back because God wants us to, or whether we should courageously push on ahead because the obstacle has been placed in our way by the enemy. (Ibid; pg.387.)
    6. He took steps, God closed doors, he waited; & then God showed him the way! (Warren Wiersbe; With The word; pg.718.)
    7. To know the will of God is the greatest knowledge! To do the will of God is the greatest achievement! (George W. Truett, quoted in “Toolkit,” Cell Church, Winter, 1996, p. 10.)
    8. The will of God never will lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you!
    9. Hey wait a minute, doesn’t God care about Asia & Bithynia? I thought He so loved the world? See 1 Pet.1:2
    10. OUT OF THE PARK! (8-10)
    11. Ok, after strike 1 & strike 2, he not only knocks it out of the park but out of the continent. (Asia to Europe)
    12. (8) Troas – when all else fails, go rent a condo at the beach & pray!
    13. To Europe with Power! – The beginning of missionary work on another continent.
      1. Alexander of Macedon who, 400 years before, had dreamed of 1 empire & 1 language, had “built better than he knew”, for the dispersion of the Greek language had made the spread of the gospel possible.
    14. Some would say, “Paul, what about the continuing need of Asia, what about the heathens at home? Why go across the seas?” (sound familiar?)
      1. Is imperfection here, reason for complete ignorance there?
      2. Wasn’t Christ’s plan in Acts 1:8 to go to the ends of the earth, or not?
    15. End Story - As the golfer approached the first tee, a hazardous hole with a green surrounded by water, he debated if he should use his new golf ball. Deciding that the hole was too treacherous, he pulled out an old ball and placed it on the tee.

      Just then he heard a voice from above say loudly: “USE THE NEW BALL!”

      Frightened, he replaced the old ball with the new one and approached the tee.

      Now the voice from above shouted: “TAKE A PRACTICE SWING!”

      With this, the golfer stepped backward and took a swing.

      Feeling more confident, he approached the tee when the voice again rang out: “USE THE OLD BALL!”

Verses 11-40

  1. Intro:
    1. I don’t think a Christian ever gets tired of hearing how someone was won to Christ! – Such great stories on how much grace God has shown; what God has pulled them out of; or how God pursued them. (examples)
    2. One of the outstanding characteristics of Christianity is its variety of methods in dealing w/mankind.
      1. It takes them as they are, & works with them in their individual temperaments & circumstances.
      2. The object is the same (salvation for the soul); but the means vary (taking different ways to same goal).
    3. Here we have 3 different kinds of sinners, or 3 hearts that are won to Christ:
      1. A business woman; a slave girl; & a man given jail duty.
        1. A soft heart; a blind heart; & a hard heart.
    4. Recap Macedonian call. [Destination, Europe Duty, to preach the gospel!]
      1. We picked up Luke(10)[“we” passages] Both Philippi narratives 16:10-17; 20:5-15
  2. 3 HEARTS, 1 SAVIOR! (11-40)
    1. A SOFT HEART! (11-15)
    2. (11) Sailing – On that ship were seeds of life for Europe.
      1. Later to become seeds that would sail to America.
    3. (12) Philippi - named after Philip of Macedon II (father of Alexander the Great)
    4. Colony – (not golf course on Jackson) It was a little Rome. Cities that followed Roman law & customs.
    5. (13) Riverside – obviously was not 10 Jewish men, needed for a synagogue.
    6. Sat down & spoke - What an insignificant way to open up a continent!
      1. Free, simple, informal, w/nothing set or elaborate about the service, just prayer & an opportunity of testimony for Christ! (Griffith Thomas; Outline studies in Acts; pg.322)
    7. (14) A business woman in Philippi from Thyatira. A Gentile God-fearer.
      1. 1st convert made in Europe.
      2. Thyatira – center of the purple dye business. Since purple goods were expensive, Lydia was likely a wealthy person. And traveled far more than most women of her day.
    8. The Lord opened her heart – Who?
      1. The heart = the center of our moral life. Including: Intellect(thinking); Emotions(feeling); Will(determining).
      2. It’s the essence of our whole being, our personality. It contains “the issues of life”.
        1. Prov.4:23 Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.
      3. From our heart proceeds evil thoughts; with it man believes unto righteousness; God offers man a new heart!
    9. Why does a heart close off to God? – because the sin in our nature(root) & the sin in our practice(fruit).
    10. The Lord opened her heart – not Paul.
      1. It’s the sun that makes the photograph not the artist!
        1. Explain w/o light. Long night exposure still picking up moon light.
      2. It’s God’s Son that makes the convert not the artist!
      3. The conversion & sanctification of every soul is God’s & God’s alone!
    11. Example: Closed rose bud. Try to open myself. Or, water & prep soil, & allow the sun to do its work.
    12. (15) In at least 2/3rds of the world, all important decisions are made by groups.
      1. Because only insignificant decisions are left to individuals, when missionaries come w/an individualistic gospel, it frequently seems as though it must be an unimportant issue to those they are trying to win. (Peter Wagner; Acts of the H.S.)
    13. She 1st opened her heart, then her home!
    14. Her salvation so quiet. Nothing startling. Just growing conviction that something deeper was missing.
    15. A heart so Soft it just needed more light!
    16. A BLIND HEART! (16-24)
    17. What a contrast to the 1st woman, who was used to making a profit; this young woman was used for profit.
    18. (16) Spirit of divination/a spirit of Python - [π ]{puthon} In Greek mythology it was the name of the Pythian serpent or dragon, and was said to have guarded the oracle at Delphi(Greek city), and been slain by Apollo.
      1. Oracle? – A religious institution focused upon an individual who had a satanically empowered gift of prophecy & who was sought out by many who wished to determine the will of the spirits.
        1. The oracle at Delphi was a priestess known as the Pythia because she was empowered by the Python spirit.
        2. She would only prophecy on the 7th day of the month.
        3. She would take a ceremonial bath, sacrifice a goat to Apollo, enter an underground chamber beneath the Temple sit on Apollo’s tripod. (Peter Wagner; Acts of the H.S.; pg.401,402)
      2. According to mythology, Python’s power was passed to Apollo, & through him to others.
      3. Paul encountered this same spirit in this slave girl.
    19. (17) Fallen angels are probably the finest imitators of holiness.
    20. (19) Their hope of profit was gone – No different today in someone getting saved & getting out of a gang; drug trafficking; (they know too much)
    21. 2 women were the 1st European converts…Where was the man of Macedonia?
      1. And after vs. 24…was this what the great call to Macedonia was all about? [For a ladies prayer mtg? For a demon possessed slave girl? Lord, which one do you want to be the pastor & the assist pastor in this new church plant?]
    22. A heart so Blind it needed someone to remove the blindness!
    23. A HARD HEART! (25-34)
    24. (25) In spite of persecution & pain, these Christian prisoners prayed & praised.
      1. Tertullian wrote, “Legs did not feel, because souls were in heaven”.
      2. Lord teach me to praise instead of complain!
    25. What a contrast in the gospels where king Herod frets while sitting on his throne; while here, prisoners rejoice because their minds are at ease!
      1. Spurgeon, “A crust of bread from one heart brings a song, from another a thousand acres of ripening grain can produce no thanksgiving.”
    26. When you hurt, ask God to give you songs in the night! (Warren Wiersbe; With the Word; pg.718)
      1. Ps.42:8 The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, & in the night His song shall be with me - A prayer to the God of my life.
      2. Job 35:10 says God gives us songs in the night.
      3. Ps.149:5 Let the saints be joyful in glory; Let them sing aloud on their beds.
    27. (26) In 1 Kings 19:11,12 Elijah was told, Go out, and stand on the mountain before the LORD. And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
      1. I guarantee he was in this earthquake!
      2. It shook the foundations; opened door; & loosened the chains.
        1. There was some heaven-quake involved in this earthquake, lest how do you explain no one hurt.
    28. All I know is I’d be out of there, remembering what God did for Peter!
      1. Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty I’m free at last!
      2. Wait! Oh, it wasn’t to set them free, but to set another free!
    29. (28) Had Paul not called out we’d have a man dieing & slipping off to hell!
    30. (29) Trembling – The Jailer knew something was very wrong. His life was not right
      1. His post was in danger, but more importantly …his soul!
      2. Maybe remembered unnecessary cruel treatment of Paul & Silas?
        1. (24) Feet in stocks – (Greek/ /xoo-lon) wood, stocks. A Roman Instrument of torture w/more than two holes for the legs so that they could be forced widely apart unto apposition which soon became intolerably painful. [LKGNT; pg.304]
    31. (30) The greatest question for all mankind…What must I do to be saved?
    32. Saved – always in contrast with “lost”.
      1. Similar contrast to “Lost” (sheep,coin,son) with “found”.
      2. So salvation is the opposite of being lost, it’s being found; it’s the opposite of being in danger, it’s being safe.
    33. What about the 2nd most important question, What must I do to be lost?
      1. No elaborate answer, for it consist of just one wordnothing!
        1. See Jn.3:36,18.
    34. (32) At sometime his household enters the scene because they heard & received also. (nothing magical about & your household!)
    35. (33) I love that he not only felt bad for the beatings, but did something about it.
      1. Wash their wounds; then wash your sins away!
    36. The 1st recorded episode of an out-and-out pagan, becoming a believer in Jesus Christ! (i.e. no prior exposure to Judaism)
    37. A heart so Hard it needed a great earthquake to crack it open!
    38. CIVIL RIGHTS! (35-40)
    39. Paul did not use his roman citizenship here to protect himself from pain; but here he uses it to protect the new church.
    40. End:
    41. So we had: a religious business woman w/an open/soft heart; a slave girl with the Philippian-Python-possessed-heart; rugged roman soldier prison guard w/a hard heart.
      1. God has a thousand keys to open a thousand different doors in order to deliver His own. George MacDonald
    42. Whether your heart is soft; blind; or hard; the Lord wants to open it this morning!
      1. Ps.34:18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed(contrite) in spirit.
      2. A heart must be penetrated by God!
      3. A heart may be as thin as an egg shell, like the Philippian business woman Lydia;
      4. A heart may have a black veil over it, like the Philippian slave girl;
      5. A heart may be thick & needs an great earthquake to crack it, like the Philippian prison guard;
      6. But a heart must be penetrated by God!
    43. What help does mankind truly need? – Knowledge of God; Pardon of sins; Power for life; & Hope for the future! (Griffith Thomas; Outline studies in Acts; pg.318)
    44. So if salvation is the opposite of being lost, it’s being found; and it’s the opposite of being in danger, it’s being safe. – Do you want to be foundsafe?
      1. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ & you will be saved!!!
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Acts 16". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/acts-16.html. 2017.