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Acts 16

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

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This chapter continues the history of Paul’s second missionary journey with its accompanying events, including the call to Macedonia, the conversion of Lydia, the healing of the girl possessed by a demon, the conversion of the Philippian jailor, and the departure from Philippi.

Verse 1

Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek:

Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: There must have been many painful memories to cloud the mind of Paul as he once again makes his way to the city of Lystra. It was here that he was stoned and left for dead on his first missionary trip (14:19). On this second trip, Paul will discover that his former efforts were very fruitful, particularly in the conversion of a young preacher named Timothy. (For a description of Derby and Lystra, see notes on 14:6.)

and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus: Here is the first introduction to the young man Timothy, a character who will play an important role in the furtherance of the gospel.

He had been baptized during Paul’s previous visit to Lystra; he had witnessed the stoning of Paul; had wept over his prostrate form; had seen him, as if raised from the dead, rise up and return into the city; and had seen him depart on the next day with unconquerable determination into another field of conflict for Christ (McGarvey, Vol. II 79).

It is this young man who will become Paul’s "son in the faith" (1 Timothy 1:2).

the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed: Timothy is blessed with a godly grandmother named Lois and a godly mother named Eunice. As a result of the influence of these good women, Timothy also has the "unfeigned faith" that will lead him in a life of service to God (2 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 3:15).

Influence is a frightening force. It is the one thing that lives on after one dies. The value of the influence of godly parents and grandparents cannot be overestimated. The effect of a good influence can be a vital factor in bringing about eternal good for children and grandchildren.

but his father was a Greek: The phrase "was a Greek" is used to express the idea that Timothy’s father is a heathen.

Verse 2

Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium.

This verse indicates the good reputation of Timothy is not confined to his hometown of Lystra, but he is also "well reported of" in the more distant city of Iconium. This verse also seems to indicate that Timothy’s being ordained to preach the gospel "with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery" has already happened (1 Timothy 4:14). (For notes on Iconium, see 14:1.)

Verse 3

Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek.

Him would Paul have to go forth with him: Paul immediately recognizes in Timothy those qualities that will make him a valuable asset as a missionary; therefore, Paul determines to take Timothy on this journey.

and took and circumcised him: The fact that Paul circumcises Timothy is not to make him a Christian as he is already a Christian. Paul has gone on record, in the previous chapter, to show emphatically that circumcision is not a requirement for entrance into the Christian fellowship; nor is this procedure performed to allow Timothy to attain to some higher calling in Christianity. The reason for the circumcision of Timothy is revealed in the next phrase.

because of the Jews which were in those quarters: Here is the reason for the circumcision of Timothy. Timothy is circumcised "because of the Jews." Paul, in an attempt to avoid future criticism and to prevent a certain source of contention from the Jews, circumcises Timothy as a matter of expediency.

There is some discussion as to whether Paul is inconsistent in refusing to circumcise Titus (Galatians 2:3) and then, shortly thereafter, circumcising Timothy. There is no need for misunderstanding. The two cases are entirely different. In the case of Titus, who is a full-blooded Greek, the effort to have him circumcised is an attempt to enforce circumcision as an act necessary for salvation. In the case of Timothy, who has been raised as a Jewish boy, the act is voluntary and for the simple purpose of expediency.

Those who insisted on the ceremony in the case of Titus were Christians, who were endeavoring to burden the Gospel with the yoke of the Law. Those for whose sake Timothy became obedient to one provision of the Law were Jews, whom it was desirable not to provoke, that they might be delivered from bondage. By conceding, Timothy (and Paul) furthered the cause of the Gospel and prejudice was conciliated. The results of yielding in the case of Titus would have been disastrous, and a serious compromise of the Gospel (Thompson, Studies in Acts 181).

Reese gives additional information about this apparent inconsistency in Paul’s dealing with the issue of circumcision:

Paul did all he could to win the Jews, short of compromising the Gospel. If Paul had circumcised Titus, men would have construed that as evidence of the necessity of circumcision for salvation. No one, however, would so misunderstand the circumcision of Timothy; in fact, uncircumcision in him would have been a stumbling-block especially to the Jews. (Timothy has long been a Christian, and thus no one would think that he now needed circumcision to be saved). The decree of the Jerusalem council has made it clear that circumcision had nothing to do with salvation. The Gentile did not have to begin practicing it, nor did the Jew have to cease practicing it, to be saved. In the Christian age, circumcision is one of the things that falls in the realm of Christian liberty (434).

"And unto the Jews I became a Jew that I might gain the Jews..." (1 Corinthians 9:20).

for they knew all that his father was a Greek: This is the reason given to explain why Timothy has not been circumcised, although he is raised with Jewish influences. He has not been circumcised because "his father was a Greek."

Verse 4

And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem.

And as they went through the cities: These cities, include such places as Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia where churches have been previously established.

they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem: These decrees are the conclusions arrived at during the meeting in Jerusalem (15:28-29). The essential teaching of these decrees is that the Gentile Christians are not to be burdened with the binding of remnants of the Law. Circumcision and other forms of law keeping are not requirements for salvation. Evidently, the young churches are provided with copies of these decrees so that they may have a defense against the Judaizing Christians.

Verse 5

And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.

Here is a continuation of a pattern that has been previously established (2:41; 4:4; 5:14; 6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 19:20). When error is exposed, discipline is enforced, and Christian men have the courage to stand for the truth, the Lord’s church always benefits. As a result of Paul’s stand against "those of the circumcision" and his rebuke of those who would sympathize with their erroneous doctrine, the church daily grows spiritually (in the faith) and numerically (see notes on 6:7)!

By no means is this the end of the assault by Judaizers upon the Lord’s church. Their influence is not removed from the first century church until the removal of the Jewish state itself with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 by the armies of Titus.

Even now, nearly two millenniums afterward, the Judaizers are still in business: (1) attempting to bind sabbath observance on Christians, (2) dragging instruments of music into worship (even though David himself was condemned for that), (3) devising daily "sacrifices," such as that of the Mass, (4) ordaining a "priesthood" separate from the "laity, " (5) the lighting of sacred candles, (6) the requirement of certain periods of official, formal fasts, and (7) the imposition of diet restrictions, etc., etc. (Coffman 307).

Verse 6

Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,

Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia:"Phrygia is a province of Asia Minor, inland. Once it seemed to include the greater part of the peninsula of Asia Minor, then it was divided into Phrygia Major and Minor... The country was fertile, and its rich pastures made it famous for its breeds of cattle" (Unger 863). The cities of Iconium, and Laodicea are situated in Phrygia.

and the region of Galatia:"The Roman Galatia was the central region of the peninsula of Asia Minor, ... It would be difficult to define the exact limits. In fact they were frequently changing" (Unger 385).

and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word: Luke does not tell exactly how the Holy Ghost communicates this information to the Apostle Paul. The information could have been delivered directly to Paul by the Spirit, or he could have received the message from one of the prophets as is the case with Agabus in Acts 21:10.

in Asia: The term "Asia" does not refer to the continent of Asia as it is known today but rather to the Roman province in Asia Minor of which Ephesus is the principal city. It is here that the "seven churches of Asia," as mentioned in Revelation, are located.

Verse 7

After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.

After they were come to Mysia: Mysia is yet another province of Asia Minor. It is located in the northwest corner of Asia Minor, separated from the continent of Europe by the Aegean Sea.

they assayed to go into Bithynia: Paul considers turning to the north to go to yet another province in Asia Minor, Bithynia."Assayed" is old English for "endeavored, attempted, tried" to go (Reese 437).

but the Spirit suffered them not: Again, the course chosen by Paul is vetoed by the Holy Spirit. Here is Paul’s dilemma: he is forbidden to go northwest toward Bithynia, and he has completed the work in the area to the east and southeast through which he has already passed. There is one direction left. Go west, Paul!

Verse 8

And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas.

And they passing by Mysia: Paul does not tarry in Mysia. Luke does not tell us the reason for the quick trip through Mysia. It is very possible Paul sees no opportunity for the preaching of the gospel. It may have also been the excitement generated by this mysterious leading of the Holy Spirit that is driving the apostle on. Surely the disciples are wondering to what fields of endeavor God is directing them.

came down to Troas: Troas is a major seaport on the Aegean Sea, located on the far west side of Asia Minor. Authorities agree that this city was located on or near the ancient city of Troy of Trojan horse fame. Troas will prove to be the door for the spread of the gospel to Europe.

Verse 9

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: The disciples are not left for long without instructions. Paul receives a "vision... in the night" perhaps while he is sleeping. This vision is not merely a dream but rather a means of supernatural communication. This is not an uncommon means of communication for Paul as will be noted later in Acts 18:9; Acts 23:11; Acts 27:23.

There stood a man of Macedonia: The subject in this vision is a man, in particular, a Macedonian.

Macedonia was the province north of Greece, and was famous in history from its conquering kings, Philip and his greater son, Alexander. Its boundaries were: on the north, the Haemus or Balkan Mountains; on the east, Thrace and the Aegean Sea; on the south, Achaia (Greece); on the west, the Pindus Mountains, ... (Hurlbut 118).

and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us: The message from this "man of Macedonia" is a plea for help. As will soon be noted, the help so desired is the preaching of the gospel. Conybeare and Howson make the following observation on this "Macedonian call":

It was the voice of the sick inquiring for a physician, – of the ignorant seeking wisdom, – the voice which ever since has been calling on the Church to extend the Gospel to Heathendom, –"Come over and help us" (244).

Verse 10

And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.

And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia: There is no hesitation in the disciples."Immediately, "apparently the very next morning, they make preparation to answer this "Macedonian call." It should be noted that here Luke uses the term "we" to describe the company of missionaries. By speaking in the first person (we) Luke includes himself with Silas and Timothy as traveling companions of Paul. To attempt to explain exactly when or where Luke joined Paul’s missionary expedition only winds up in speculation as the scriptures do not tell.

assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them: The uncertainty is now over. Through the leading of the Holy Spirit, the disciples now turn their attention to the west. The gospel will soon be preached to the Macedonians.

Verse 11

Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis;

Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia: There seems to be a special urgency to get the gospel to Macedonia. God certainly shows His hand in this effort; even the weather cooperates."With a straight course is a nautical term for sailing before the wind" (Vincent 529). McGarvey has the following to say:

The remark, "we made a straight course to Samothrace, "implies a favorable wind; for only with such a wind can a sailing vessel make a straight course. We have evidence, too, that this favorable wind was blowing a stiff breeze, which bore the ship along rapidly; for on a subsequent journey (xx. 6) five days were occupied in the same voyage (Vol. II 86).

"Samothracia was an island in the Aegean Sea off the Thracian coast, about sixty miles from Troas" (Reese 439). The island lay in a northwesterly direction from Troas. It was customary for those traveling by ship in those days to put into the nearest harbor at day’s end; thus, Samothracia provides the harbor at the end of the first day’s journey.

and the next day to Neapolis: After the next day of sailing, the party puts in at the city that serves as the harbor for Philippi, the city of Neapolis. The name "Neapolis" literally means "new town." "The town.... was in Thrace, about twelve miles from Philippi, ... It has been identified, on adequate grounds, with the modern Kavalla, where a Roman aqueduct, columns, and Greek and Latin inscriptions remain to attest the former importance of the city" (Plumptre 104). Without reservation one can now say the gospel has landed in Europe!

Verse 12

And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.

And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: Luke provides geographical and political information on the city of Philippi. De Welt gives the following comments:

The city of Philippi was a monumental record to two vast empires. It had been once an obscure place called Krenides from its streams and springs; but Philip, the father of Alexander, had made it a frontier town to protect Macedonia from the Thracians and had helped to establish his power by the extremely profitable working of its neighboring gold mines. Augustus, proud of the victory over Brutus and Cassius, won at the foot of the hill on which it stands, and on the summit of which Cassius had committed suicide, –elevated it to the rank of a colony which made it, as Luke calls it, if not the first yet certainly "a first city of that district of Macedonia" (216-217).

The Romans used the term"colony"to describe a city that had the special distinction of enjoying all the privileges of Imperial Rome. It is in this context that the disciples are about to encounter their first community of Roman citizens.

The colony was used for three different purposes in the course of Roman history: As a fortified outpost in a conquered country; as a means of providing for the poor of Rome; and as a settlement for veterans who had served their time. ... The idea of a colony was, that it was another Rome transferred to the soil of another country (Vincent 529).

and we were in that city abiding certain days: It seems there are a few days of delay before Paul actually enters into his work of preaching the gospel. It may be surmised that this time is necessary for the preachers to become acquainted with their new and substantially different environment. Also, it is apparent from the next verse that they are waiting for Saturday (the sabbath) to arrive in hopes of finding a gathering to preach to.

Verse 13

And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.

And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made: It had become the custom of the disciples to seek out the Jewish assembly on the sabbath, but it soon becomes apparent that there is no synagogue in Philippi. Lenski provides the following explanation:

At least ten men were required to organize a synagogue. No mention is made of Jewish men in Philippi, and it is a question whether any men were connected with the prayer-place beside the Gangites River. ... Only women had gathered there, and we have no idea how they conducted their worship. ... One reason that no men were present may be the fact that, when Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome, the colony city of Philippi had followed his example (655).

(For addition notes on meeting on the sabbath, see 13:14.)

and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither: Luke indicates that each of the preachers takes advantage of this opportunity to teach this gathering of religious women. Here is a great lesson for any preacher. Regardless of how large or how small the audience may be or the gender or socio-economic status, take advantage by doing the best job possible to preach the gospel. Great results often occur, as will happen here.

Verse 14

And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

And a certain woman named Lydia: The character and occupation of this God-fearing woman are revealed in this verse. It is deduced that since there is no mention of Lydia’s having a husband, she is a single woman, perhaps a widow who is carrying on the family business. It is evident she is a successful business woman who has become very well-to-do by the purchasing of purple goods in her native Thyatira for resale elsewhere. The purple dye used to dye the goods, sold by Lydia, is very expensive and one has to have a considerable financial investment to trade in these goods. In spite of her active participation in this successful business, she does not neglect the opportunity to leave the hustle and bustle of the busy city to spend the sabbath day in prayer to God on the bank of the river.

a seller of purple: Lydia makes her living by selling a very costly dye. According to Unger:

This dye is a brilliant red-blue color prized by the ancients for dyeing garments (Proverbs 31:22; Jeremiah 10:9). The chief source of the famous Tyrian purple was the tiny mollusk (murex) found along the coast of Phoenicia and adjacent lands. ... Great labor was required to extract the purple dye and hence only royalty and the wealthy could afford the resulting richly colored garments (Luke 16:19 Revelation 17:4) (904).

of the city of Thyatira: Hurlbut gives the following description of the city of Thyatira:

Thyatira was a city in the province of Lydia, on the road from Pergamos to Sardis. It was founded by Alexander the Great, who planted it with people from Macedonia, which may account for the fact that "Lydia of Thyatira" was found by Paul at Philippi, in Macedonia. Although never a great city, it was a prosperous manufacturing town, and its scarlet cloth still has a reputation throughout the Orient. It is now a place with a population of from 17, 000 to 20, 000, and is called ak Hissar, "white castle" (131).

which worshipped God: In the midst of the pagan influences about her, Lydia desires to serve the only true and living God. She, like the devout centurion Cornelius of chapter ten, is a true proselyte of the gate, a "God-fearer" who will soon be introduced to her Savior, Jesus Christ. Lydia demonstrates religious character in her basic love for and desire to worship God. Sadly, this religious quality that brings one to God is lacking in most of today’s society.

heard us: This good woman of Thyatira listens to these men of God. The "power of God unto salvation" (Romans 1:16) is now at work in her mind; good things are about to happen. This "hearing of the word" will produce faith and obedience in her life (see also 2:38; 8:37, 38; Romans 10:17).

whose heart the Lord opened: The Lord opens Lydia’s heart with His gospel as preached by Paul. There is no reason to believe the Holy Spirit works in any way directly on Lydia. It is not the plan of God to save sinners by a direct operation of the Spirit, but rather sinners are saved by the preaching of the gospel. God opens Lydia’s heart in the same way he opens the heart of the Ethopian, by bringing a preacher to the right place at the right time (see notes on 8:29). Perhaps now we can better understand why Paul is not allowed to turn to the right or the left in his journey; there are honest hearts waiting for the gospel in Macedonia.

Following is a summation of the conversion of Lydia:

1. She first "heard" the gospel.

2. Her heart is "opened" by the gospel plea.

3. She "gave heed" ("attended unto") to the things "spoken of Paul."

4. She obeys–she is baptized (verse 15).

that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul: Vine defines the original Greek word here rendered "attended unto" as meaning "to give heed to." "It suggests devotion of thought and effort to a thing" (Vol. I 87). Lydia, upon serious consideration of the words of the gospel, obeys.

It has been noted that in the "vision" Paul experiences, he sees a "man of Macedonia," but upon arrival he meets a group of women. Here is the providence of God at work.

He had directed the journey of Paul by land and sea, and had timed the motion of the ship with reference to that weekly prayer meeting, as he had once directed the flight of an angel from heaven, and timed the steps of Philip with reference to movements of the eunuch’s chariot. Now, as in those instances, he answers the prayers of the unconverted, not by direct operations of the Holy Spirit within them, but by bringing to them the gospel on the lips of a living preacher; ... (McGarvey, Vol. II 89-90).

Verse 15

And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

And when she was baptized: Every conversion in the New Testament, without exception, concludes with the baptism of the subject. It must be understood that there is no remission of sin, thus no salvation, until the person is baptized (see notes on 2:38; 8:12). When Lydia obeys the word of her Lord in baptism, she becomes Paul’s first Christian convert in Europe.

and her household: Those who practice infant baptism depend upon this passage and some liberal reading "between the lines" to prove their practice. Indeed it takes a stretch of the imagination and much assumption to find babies in this account. The Bible account says Paul "spoke unto the women which resorted thither" (13). There is no reason to assume there are children or even men present. The word does not tell us that Lydia has children or even that she is married. The household here spoken of consisted of those adult females who accompany Lydia.

she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us: Hospitality is one of the outstanding virtues of the Lord’s people. There seems to have been some reluctance on the part of Paul to abide in the home of Lydia, but she constrained the preachers to enter into her house with this humble appeal: if they "judged her as faithful to the Lord," could they not accept her offer of hospitality?

Verse 16

And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:

And it came to pass, as we went to prayer: It appears this place of prayer by the riverside becomes a regular gathering place for the disciples to teach the gospel.

a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination: After an unknown period of time, the apostles encounter a "young girl, a maid" (Vine, Vol. I 266), who has the terrible fate of being possessed with a demon. In Bibles with a marginal reading, the reader may note that the term "spirit of divination" could have been rendered "a Python spirit." Vincent has the following to say about such a spirit:

Python, in the Greek mythology, was the serpent which guarded Delphi. According to the legend, as related in the Homeric hymn, Apollo descended from Olympus in order to select a site for his shrine and oracle. Having fixed upon a spot on the southern side of Mount Parnassus, he found it guarded by a vast and terrific serpent, which he slew with an arrow, and suffered its body to rot in the sun. Hence the name of the serpent Python (rotting); ... The name Python was subsequently used to denote a prophetic demon, and was also used of soothsayers who practiced ventriloquism, or speaking from the belly. The word ventriloquist, occurs in the Septuagint, and is rendered having a familiar spirit (see Levit. xix.31; xx. 6, 27; 1 Sam. xxviii. 7-8) (531).

met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: This damsel in distress is a slave girl who is being used by her owners as a source of revenue. She is a "soothsayer" or a fortune teller. There is no reason to believe she really can foretell the future; but because of the demoniac crying of the girl, people believe her claims. Today there are modern day "soothsayers" who are willing to take advantage of the ignorance of those who want to believe in such foolishness as fortune tellers, palm readers, psychics, horoscopes, etc., and are willing to pay for it.

Verse 17

The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.

The same followed Paul and us, and cried: This poor tormented soul has made it a daily habit (verse 18) to follow the disciples as they go about their business. Several explanations may be presented for this behavior. Plumptre gives the following:

We lose much of the human interest of the narrative if we merely think of a demon bearing, as in mockery, his witness to the work of Christ, in order that he might thwart that work. That continual cry spoke, we may well believe, of the girl’s mind as longing for deliverance, and peace, and calm. She sees in the preachers those whom she recognizes as able to deliver her, as unlike as possible to the masters who traded on her maddened misery (106).

saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation: The declaration of this damsel that these men are servants of God who are teaching "the way of salvation," could have been a fact she learned by being in regular attendance at the place of prayer where the preachers taught. It is also possible that she gained this knowledge through her "spirit of divination" (Mark 1:24; Mark 3:11; Luke 4:41).

That she refers to "the most high God" is further proof of her demon possession. The evil spirits who dwelt in the man of the "country of the Gadarenes" also recognize "the most high God" (Mark 5:7).

Verse 18

And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.

And this did she many days: Paul is reluctant to do anything about the condition of this damsel for reasons that will become obvious. It is likely Paul delays any action because he has work yet to do in Philippi. When he finally does cast out the spirit, he has to leave the city (16:39-40).

But Paul, being grieved: Vincent says the word "grieved" is "not strong enough. Rather, 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" (532).

The question arises, why would Paul be "grieved" over one who is proclaiming the truth?

The answer can only be, that to have accepted demons as witnesses to the gospel would have convinced the people that there was an alliance between them and the apostles; and thus all the good repute of the apostles would have been reflected on the demons, and all the evil repute of the demons would likewise have been reflected on the apostles (McGarvey, Vol. II 96).

turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour: Paul finally acts upon the circumstances of the damsel. He rebukes the demon "in the name of Jesus Christ" (by the authority of Jesus Christ, (Mark 16:17) and the demon obeys immediately and comes out of the girl (see notes on 2:38).

What happens to the young lady who is now relieved of the demon that has tormented her must be left to speculation; but may we hope she claimed a share in "the way of salvation" proclaimed by the apostles.

Verse 19

And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers,

And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone: It is easily noted, in the priorities of wicked men, that one may insult their moral character, slander their name, impugn their ethics with little or no consequences; but, if one wants to avoid trouble, he does not touch their moneybag! The spirit of Demetrius the silversmith (19:24-32) is alive and well in Philippi, even as it is in our world today. Gone with the evil spirit is the potential for financial gain. Paul has certainly gored the sacred cow of these slave masters. Trouble will not be long in coming for the apostles.

they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers: Paul and Silas are quickly apprehended in a sort of "citizen’s arrest" and dragged into the "marketplace" or "agora." "The agora was the public square or forum where the people gathered for business and other purposes. The magisterial offices, courts, etc., were usually located at or near the market place" (Lenski 666).

For a reason that is not given, Timothy and Luke are spared this arrest and subsequent punishment. It may simply have been that Timothy and Luke are not as conspicuous as are Paul and Silas.

Verse 20

And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city,

And brought them to the magistrates: The term "rulers" as used in verse 19 and "magistrates" in verse 20 refer to the same two men.

"Magistrates" is from the Greek strategois, and literally means "the leader of an army, or general." In civil life this term was applied to the civic rulers, the duumviri (two men) who were the highest office holders in the colonies (Reese 446).

saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city: What are the charges? Is not the problem the fact that Paul has robbed these men of their livelihood when he casts the demon out of their slave girl? These cunning devils have skirted the real issue and have done what would be called playing the "race card" today. The real complaint is passed over in preference to blaming two Jews for a civil disorder. It would have been much more difficult to receive a favorable judgment on the charge of losing the services of a slave girl whom they are exploiting, but in this heathen city any charge against a Jew would prejudice the court. Lensky says, "The single word "Jews" was thrown out like a firebrand. The emperor Claudius had recently expelled all Jews from Rome (18:2), and it was the pride of every colonial city to become more or less a replica of Rome" (668).

Verse 21

And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.

These vengeful slave masters show their hypocrisy by the charges they present against the apostles. These worldly fellows are not the least bit concerned with religion, but it is the charge of introducing a new religion that they bring against Paul.

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. Hence, when Paul and Silas preached Jesus, they were preaching a new religion and were subject to prosecution and punishment according to Roman law. The owners of this girl sought vengeance on Paul and Silas by thus bearing witness against them (Boles 260).

Verse 22

And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.

And the multitude rose up together against them: It should be noted there is no formal trial for Paul and Silas. The general population is caught up in this nationalistic fervor to do something to these offending Jews, a sort of "lynch mob" attitude.

and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. These "honorable" leaders, whose duties are to keep order under these very types of circumstances, are swept along in a type of herd behavior. In a hysterical fury, these magistrates ripped the clothes off Paul and Silas and commanded that the apostles be beaten. What of Roman law? What of Roman justice? All concerns of law and justice are forgotten that these men of God may be made to suffer. This may be one of the incidents to which Paul later refers in 2 Corinthians 11:25.

Verse 23

And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:

And when they had laid many stripes upon them: Without the process of law, but rather at the will of a few greedy men and through the ignorance of a racially driven mob, these godly men are beaten without mercy. The Jews are forbidden to inflict more than thirty-nine stripes, as more than that often kills the prisoner; but this rule is not so with the Romans. When Paul and Silas are beaten, no one is counting the stripes; they receive "many stripes."

It is easy for us to read of such a beating in the insulated surroundings of our civilized lifestyles and not appreciate what really happened. Think of being stripped of all clothing and tied to the whipping post; then, at the hands of one who is an expert in this type of torture, being beaten with a bundle of rods (canes) until the flesh gapes in inflamed welts, blood pours from the wounds, the body cries out in excruciating pain, while the jubilant mob jeers. Three times the Apostle Paul is constrained to suffer thus for his Lord, Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 11:25).

they cast them into prison: The public humiliation of the whipping does not end the punishment; Paul and Silas are now confined in prison.

charging the jailor to keep them safely: Why all the precautions in keeping Paul and Silas safely confined in the prison is difficult to understand as there certainly is no charge of violence against them; but it provides a grand opportunity for a demonstration of the power of God as will be seen in subsequent verses.

Verse 24

Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.

Who, having received such a charge: The jailor takes this charge most seriously. He does his best to contain Paul and Silas. (See verse 27 for additional information on the responsibility of a Roman jailor.)

thrust them into the inner prison: Paul’s keepers do not trust minimum security to contain these prisoners; they are placed in maximum security. Paul and Silas are confined in the dungeon. "In a Roman prison, there were usually three distinct parts: (1) the communiora, or where the prisoners had light and fresh air; (2) the interiora, shut off by strong iron gates with bars and locks; and (3) the tullianium, or dungeon..." (Reese 448).

and made their feet fast in the stocks: To add to their misery, the apostles are placed in "stocks." The "stocks" are a wooden apparatus in which the feet are spread apart and locked into holes. This practice adds an element of torture to their confinement as they now have a very difficult time sitting up or lying down.

It may be assumed this pagan jailor is confident in the security of his charges, but he is about to see the power of God rock this prison to its foundation. Before morning’s light, Paul will be this man’s brother in Christ!

Verse 25

And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.

And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: It may have been the darkest hour of the night, but the darkness has not invaded the hearts of Paul and Silas. From their lips arise thanksgiving and praise to God.

and the prisoners heard them: This singing is bound to have been a different sound than is usually heard in a prison. Those who are also confined "listen attentively" (Vine, Vol. II 205) to these songs in the night.

Verse 26

And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.

And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: "Suddenly, " in the midst of this pitiful scene, the God of the universe rocks the foundations of the prison with a "great earthquake" (see notes on 4:31).

and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed: Under the hand of God, the earth trembles, the prison doors came open, and the confining shackles fall off every prisoner.

Verse 27

And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.

The ensuing commotion awakes the jailor to what might be considered the nightmare of all Roman jailors. The prison is conspicuously open, and it may be assumed that all the prisoners have escaped. It is Roman law to hold the jailor responsible for the security of the prisoners. Here this desperate jailor draws his sword and is preparing to commit suicide rather than to face a Roman court that would sentence him to torture and then death (see notes on 12:19).

Verse 28

But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.

Exactly how Paul knows the jailor is about to take his own life is open to speculation, but Paul’s care for souls and his compassion for his fellow man is obvious. In the nick of time, as the jailor prepares to die by the thrust of his own sword, the strong voice of Paul cries out; and the mind of the jailor is changed; he chooses life rather than death.

Verse 29

Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,

This jailor is not unlike people of today. When things are going well for him, he has no interest in these men of God or their message of salvation. But now that he has suffered the type of calamity that literally brought him to the brink of eternity, suddenly he is interested in things of a spiritual nature.

Verse 30

And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

The jailor is not asking how to assure his personal safety, but rather he is concerned about his spiritual condition. He now knows these men are preachers of salvation.

The following steps are absolutely necessary for the salvation of a sinner:

1. Believe in Jesus Christ (John 8:24).

2. Repent of past sins (Luke 13:3).

3. Confess that Jesus is the Son of God (Matthew 10:32).

4. Be Baptized for the remission of sins (2:38).

It will be noted in the following verses that the jailor is instructed to "believe" (31), and then he is "baptized" (33). The question is often asked why are different instructions given to those who desire the same thing, to be saved? The explanation as to why there are different answers to the same question involves the fact the gospel preachers simply tell the candidate for salvation what he needs to do, taking into consideration his religious background and the requirements for salvation that he has already met. There is no one place where all the steps of salvation are mentioned. Notice the following answers given to those desiring salvation:

1. "Men and brethren, what shall we do" (2:37)?
"Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins" (2:38).

2. "What doth hinder me to be baptized" (8:36)?
"If thou believest ... thou mayest" (8:37).
"... he baptized him" (8:38).

3. "Sirs, what must I do to be saved" (16:30)?
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ" (16:31).
He "was baptized" (16:33).

In the first example, the subjects for salvation are Jews, some of the same Jews who crucified Jesus. They are told to repent and they are baptized. There is no reason to tell them to believe as it is obvious they are believers; they interrupt Peter’s sermon with the question, "...what shall we do?" Peter does not tell them to confess that Jesus is the Son of God. It is the realization they have crucified the Son of God that makes them ask the question, "...what shall we do?"

In the second example, the candidate is a Jew who has traveled all the way to Jerusalem to worship God under the requirements of the Old Testament. He needs to believe in Jesus. Philip tells him to believe in Jesus (37). The Ethopian makes the confession, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (37), and then he is baptized (38). Philip does not mention repentance since it is obvious that this man is ready to change his life.

In the third example, the subject for salvation is a pagan. He is told to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (31), and then he is baptized (33). It is obvious he has repented. He is washing the stripes of the apostles. We can also be assured that he confesses Jesus as the Son of God as this is what he is instructed to believe (31).

It should be noted that not every person is instructed to believe since they may already be believers. Not everyone is instructed to repent since they may have already repented. Not every one is told to confess that Jesus is the Son of God because they may have already confessed Jesus. But please notice, on every occasion of conversion in the book of Acts, the candidate for salvation is told to be baptized. Why is that? It is because baptism is the one requirement that none of them has fulfilled.

Verse 31

And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

The directions given to this jailor are to "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." For more complete information on the jailor’s salvation, see notes on the verse above and notes on 10:43.

This is not a proof text for those who would baptize babies. The "household" here includes only those who are able to "believe"; this excludes infants.

Verse 32

And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.

It is here the disciples take advantage of the opportunity to give further instruction to both the jailor and those in "his house" who are able to understand and believe the "word of the Lord." These pagans need something to believe. They cannot believe in Jesus without first hearing about Him. There is no faith in Jesus where the word of God has not gone."Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17).

Verse 33

And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.

Luke tells us that two things happen the "same hour of the night":

1. The jailor shows he has repented by the new found compassion he demonstrates for Paul and Silas. He does what he can to relieve and comfort the disciples by"washing their stripes."

2. "He and all his"are baptized. There is no waiting until the end of the month or the first of the week or until Sunday or even the next day to immerse these believers. In every act of conversion when the element of time is mentioned, the subject is baptized"the same hour of the night, "immediately, straightway, forthwith (9:18; 8:38; 16:15, 33). The reason for this urgency is because one’s sins are not remitted until after he is baptized. Salvation does not come before baptism (2:38; Mark 16:16).

Verse 34

And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.

And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced: What begins as a nightmare for this jailor ends up being the best day of his life. The prison doors once again are shut, all the prisoners are secure, and this jailor only a few hours earlier a heathen, is now a son of God. Truly all is well. He now attends to the needs of the disciples as he "rejoices" over his salvation. Obedience to the word of God produces joy in the heart of the obedient (8:8, 39).

believing in God with all his house: There is no infant baptism here. All those who are baptized in this household are also believers.

Verse 35

And when it was day, the magistrates sent the serjeants, saying, Let those men go.

And when it was day: Apparently some of these "magistrates" are having second thoughts about their treatment of Paul and Silas. It is entirely possible they have lost some sleep over the matter because of the hasty actions taken against these men without a formal trial. It could have been because of the earthquake, or it may have been rumored that these men are Romans. Whatever the reason for their uneasy feelings about the matter, as soon as "it was day," they attempt to resolve the matter as quickly as possible by giving the order to "Let those men go."

the magistrates sent the serjeants, saying, Let those men go: The magistrates attempt to distance themselves from the apostles by sending their henchmen, "the serjeants, "to give the orders for the disciples’ release. By these men the "many stripes" had been laid on Paul and Silas the day before.

The word translated "serjeants" means, literally, "those having the rods, the lictors."These were the public officials who were in attendance wherever magistrates met to transact business. These men carried as symbols of their office bundles of rods, with an axe inserted among them, denoting the magistrates’ right to inflict corporal and capital punishment (Reese 455).

Verse 36

And the keeper of the prison told this saying to Paul, The magistrates have sent to let you go: now therefore depart, and go in peace.

The very fact that Paul and Silas are going to be released must have been a happy thought for this one-time pagan, now Christian jailor. He admonishes his new brothers in Christ to"go in peace."Little does he understand the character of Paul. These magistrates are soon to eat their portions of"humble pie."

Verse 37

But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.

Paul will not allow these civil rulers to commit a flagrant breach of Roman justice without paying the consequences. How interesting! The accusers have now become the accused! Paul charges them with publicly beating and throwing into prison Roman citizens without a trial. These charges will strike fear into the hearts of these magistrates (verse 38). Paul demands that since they were punished openly, they must also be released openly. He calls for these Roman officials to come to the prison and personally escort him and Silas to freedom!

Verse 38

And the serjeants told these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans.

Paul’s message is dutifully carried back to the magistrates, and they quickly learn their problem has not just left town. Instead, upon learning that Paul and Silas are Roman citizens, they fear the consequences the disciples might extract for their abuse. These men know they have committed an illegal act; and that greater men than they have suffered drastic penalties for exactly what they have done.

The question is often raised, "Why do the disciples not declare their Roman citizenship before they are beaten as Paul does on another occasion (22:25-29)?" The answer is they probably do; but in the mob’s fury to inflict hurt on a couple of Jews and the magistrates’ desire to please public opinion, the information is either not heard or not listened to or the magistrates are not informed. One can believe these men take a little more time in ascertaining the facts before they beat the next hapless soul that falls into their jurisdiction.

Verse 39

And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city.

The"worm has certainly turned."These magistrates whose duty it is to keep the peace are now trapped by their own ineptitude. They have personally escorted the preachers out of the prison and now are literally begging the disciple’s pardon for the wrongs they have committed against them. The Amplified Bible says:

So they came themselves and – striving to appease them due to the fact that Paul and Silas are Roman citizens the magistrates have no right to command or demand that they leave the city, but they asked them as a favor. Paul and Silas are going to honor the request to leave the city but they will do so after due deliberation thus avoiding all appearances of being ran out of town.

Verse 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.

It must be concluded that Paul has accomplished his purpose in Philippi. The Lord’s word has won another victory over the hearts of man. A staunch group of young Christians now compose the church at Philippi. But before leaving, Paul once again returns to the home of Lydia to partake of the hospitality of this godly woman and to comfort the brethren. Who needs comforting the most, the brethren or Paul and Silas?

There is something astounding about this. Those men who had been so shamefully treated, abused, beaten, illegally cast into prison, suffering the torture of stocks in the inner dungeon – those men comforted the brethren! How noble, unselfish and beautiful is that scene in which men whose backs were still raw and bloody from the scourge are cast in the role of comforters for young Christians..." (Coffman 323).

It is also notable that Luke here begins to use the third person "they" in his narrative, thus indicating he does not leave Philippi with Paul and Silas. Bible evidence seems to indicate that Luke stays in Philippi until Paul’s return journey when once again Luke indicates he is in the company of Paul (20:5).

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Acts 16". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/acts-16.html. 1993-2022.
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