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Bible Commentaries
Acts 16

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

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B. The extension of the church to Cyprus and Asia Minor 12:25-16:5

Luke recorded that Jesus came to bring deliverance to the Jews and to the whole world (Luke 4:14-30). In his Gospel, Luke told the story of Jesus’ personal ministry, primarily to the Jews. In Acts the emphasis is mainly on Jesus’ ministry, through His apostles, to the Gentile world. As the mission to the Gentiles unfolds in Acts we can see that Luke took pains to show that the ministry to the Gentiles paralleled the ministry to the Jews. He did this by relating many things that the missionaries to the Gentiles did that were very similar to what the missionaries to the Jews did. This demonstrates that God was indeed behind both missions and that they are really two aspects of His worldwide plan to bring the gospel to all people and to build a worldwide church.

The present section of text (Acts 12:25 to Acts 16:5) does more than just present the geographical expansion of the church into Asia Minor (modern western Turkey). Primarily it shows the legitimacy of dealing with Gentiles as Gentiles rather than through Judaism before and after their conversion. It becomes increasingly clear that the church and Judaism are two separate entities. God was not renewing the remnant in Israel and refreshing it with Gentile’s who believed in Jesus. He was creating a new body: the church. This section culminates in the Jerusalem Council (ch. 15) in which the issue of the Gentiles’ relationship to the church came to a head. The last verse (Acts 16:5) summarizes these events and issues.

6. The strengthening of the Gentile churches 15:36-16:5

Luke reported Paul and Barnabas’ efforts to strengthen the churches they had planted in Cyprus and Asia Minor to emphasize the importance of this phase of church extension. He also did so to set the scene for the next major advance of the church. Paul went next into the provinces around the Aegean Sea some of which were on what we now call the European continent.

Verse 1

Paul and Silas probably crossed the Taurus Mountains at a pass called the Cilician Gates (modern Gülek Bogaz). Alexander the Great had marched east through this pass to conquer the vast Persian Empire four centuries earlier. [Note: Blaiklock, p. 120.] This route would have led them into the kingdom of Antiochus that was west of Cilicia, to the south of Galatia, and to the east of Pamphylia. They proceeded on into Lycaonian Galatia, to Derbe, and then to Lystra.

At Lystra a young believer named Timothy impressed Paul. Many Bible students have assumed that Timothy was from Lystra and had trusted Christ during Paul’s first trip to that town (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:17). The text does not state these facts, but they are certainly strong possibilities. Mixed marriages between Jews and Gentiles were more common outside Palestine than within it. [Note: Bruce, Commentary on . . ., p. 322.] Timothy’s mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois were both sincere Jews and had instructed Timothy in the Hebrew Scriptures (2 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 3:15). [Note: See Levinskaya, pp. 12-17.] This young man now filled the place that John Mark had occupied on the first journey, before Mark returned to Jerusalem. Timothy was to become one of Paul’s closest friends and most faithful fellow workers.

"He [Paul] was always well aware of the necessity of training a new generation for the work and for the days that lay ahead." [Note: Barclay, p. 129.]

Verses 1-5

The churches of Galatia 16:1-5

Verse 2

"The preoccupation with character in those who assume Christian leadership is a marked feature of the story of the early Church ([Acts 16:2,] vi. 3, x. 22, xxii. 12)." [Note: Blaiklock, p. 120.]

Verse 3

Paul obviously did not circumcise Timothy because he believed that rite was necessary for his justification or sanctification (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:19). He did so because it was necessary for effective evangelistic ministry among Jews (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:20-22; Romans 14:13-15). Unbelieving Jews would not have given Paul a hearing if he had travelled with an uncircumcised Gentile even though Timothy was half Jewish (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:20). The Jews regarded an uncircumcised son of a Jewish mother to be an apostate Jew, a violator of the Mosaic Covenant. [Note: Bock, Acts, p. 523.] Paul was being culturally sensitive here.

Verse 4

Part of Paul’s ministry included acquainting the churches in Galatia with the directives formulated at the Jerusalem Council.

Verse 5

This fifth progress report concludes the section on the church’s expansion into Asia Minor (Acts 12:25 to Acts 16:5; cf. Acts 6:7; Acts 9:31; Acts 12:24; Acts 19:20; Acts 28:31). This part of its history was particularly crucial since in this phase of its expansion the church changed from predominantly Jewish to predominantly Gentile.

Verse 6

Phrygia was a geographical region, and Galatia was a Roman province. Phrygia was part of Galatia as well as part of the province of Asia that lay west of Galatia. The province of Asia was one of several Roman provinces that occupied the larger district of Asia Minor. Asia Minor was ancient Anatolia and modern western Turkey. Paul evangelized Asia later (Acts 18:19 to Acts 19:20). The time was not right for him to go there yet. Probably Paul intended to follow the Via Sebaste westward to Ephesus, the chief city and capital of Asia. Luke did not record how the Holy Spirit closed the door to Asia at this time. His emphasis was on the One who directed Paul, not how He did it (cf. Acts 13:1-3).

"The missionary journeys of Paul reveal an extraordinary combination of strategic planning and sensitivity to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in working out the details of the main goals. This is especially noticeable here." [Note: Longenecker, p. 456.]

"Paul may have had visions or dreams (cf. Acts 16:9; Acts 23:11), or inward prompting. Silas, a prophet (Acts 15:32), may have been moved to utter words of warning, or they may have had to change their plans by force of circumstances (e.g. Jewish opposition), which they afterwards recognized as the overruling intervention of Providence." [Note: Neil, p. 179.]

Verses 6-10

1. The call to Macedonia 16:6-10

Luke recorded Paul’s vision of the Macedonian man to explain God’s initiative in encouraging Paul and his companions to carry the gospel farther west into what is now Europe.

". . . this section [Acts 6:6-10] makes it overwhelmingly clear that Paul’s progress was directed by God in a variety of ways, so that the missionaries were led into new areas of work." [Note: Marshall, The Acts . . ., p. 261.]

"His [Luke’s] subject is the rapid extension of Christianity among the Gentiles, especially in three great provinces of the empire, Macedonia, Achaia, and Asia; and he describes the firm establishment of the church in their capitals, Thessalonica, Corinth, and Ephesus . . . These three great provinces embraced respectively the northern, western and eastern coasts of the Aegean Sea, and they were all members of one great Roman empire, and all enjoyed one great Hellenic civilization . . .

"The foundation of the churches of Macedonia, Achaia, and Asia was the work of S. Paul, and it was his greatest achievement. Ch. xvi 11-xix 19 is really the record of his life work. It filled a period of five years from 49 to 54; and in the composition of the book it corresponds to the ministry of the Lord in the Gospel (Lk iv 16 to xvii 10 or xviii 30) and of S. Peter in the church of Jerusalem in the first part of the Acts (ii 14-xi 26)." [Note: Rackham, p. 272.]

Verses 6-20

C. The extension of the church to the Aegean shores 16:6-19:20

The missionary outreach narrated in this section of the book took place in major cities along the Aegean coastline that major Roman roads connected.

Verses 7-8

Paul then turned his attention north and proposed to enter the province of Bithynia. It lay along the southern shores of the Black Sea and contained many Roman cities and Jewish colonies. Mysia was another geographical region such as Phrygia located in northwest Asia "through" (Gr. parelthontes, not "by," Acts 16:8) which Paul’s party passed to get to Bithynia. Again the Holy Spirit, whom Luke here called "the Spirit of Jesus" (cf. Acts 1:1-2), prevented their entering that province. This unusual title of the Holy Spirit highlights Jesus’ leadership in the mission. Other unidentified Christian missionaries evangelized Bithynia (cf. 1 Peter 1:1). [Note: See Blaiklock, p. 123.]

Consequently Paul turned west from where he was and proceeded to Troas. This city was a Roman colony, like Antioch of Pisidia and Lystra, located at a very strategic site. It was one of the main seaports from which travelers entered Asia Minor from the West and departed from Asia Minor for the Roman provinces farther west. It was about 25 miles south of ancient Troy and 585 miles from Antioch of Syria.

"To the Greeks, mountains protected but separated people, whereas the sea, while frightening, united people. Therefore Troas, at the mouth of the Dardenelles, was the pivotal port between the land masses of Europe and Asia Minor and the great waterways of the Aegean and Black seas." [Note: Longenecker, p. 458.]

Verse 9

This time God gave positive direction to Paul, and Luke recorded that He did it in a vision (cf. Acts 9:10; Acts 10:3; Acts 10:17; Acts 10:19; Acts 11:5; Acts 12:9; Acts 13:4).

"Paul could have recognized the man in his dream as a Macedonian from what he said; but it has been conjectured that the man might have been Luke himself, who indicates his presence at this point by changing the narrative from ’they’ to ’we’ in the following verse. If this were so, it would suggest that Luke, a Macedonian or of Macedonian ancestry, had encountered Paul at Troas, perhaps as a medical attendant, and pressed him to preach the Gospel to the Macedonians. In this case, his appearance in Paul’s dream would make him seem to be a God-sent messenger, and would clinch the matter. This is, of course, no more than an attractive speculation." [Note: Neil, p. 180.]

Macedonia was a Roman province that comprised roughly the northern half of ancient and modern Greece. Its name honored Philip of Macedon, Alexander the Great’s father.

Verse 10

Luke joined Paul’s party, which consisted of Silas, Timothy, and perhaps others, in Troas. This is clear because in his narration he changed from the third to the first person. This is the beginning of the first so-called "we" section in Acts, the sections in which Luke was travelling with Paul (Acts 16:10-40; Acts 20:5 to Acts 21:18; Acts 27:1 to Acts 28:16). [Note: For an evaluation of traditional, source critical, redaction critical, and comparative literary solutions to the problem of first person narration in Acts, see Susan Marie Praeder, "The Problem of First Person Narration in Acts," Novum Testamentum 29:3 (July 1987):193-218. See also Witherington, pp. 480-86.] Paul surrounded himself with a group of disciples, as Jesus had done.

Note that Luke used three terms to stress the fact that the triune God was leading these apostles by His Spirit. He first referred to the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:6), then the Spirit of Jesus (Acts 16:7), and then God (Acts 16:10) as leading them.

"Authentic turning points in history are few. But surely among them that of the Macedonian vision ranks high. Because of Paul’s obedience at this point, the gospel went westward; and ultimately Europe and the Western world were evangelized. Christian response to the call of God is never a trivial thing. Indeed, as in this instance, great issues and untold blessings may depend on it." [Note: Longenecker, p. 458.]

This passage has become popular because in it God gave Paul definite guidance concerning where He wanted him to minister. Anyone who wants to propagate the gospel has questions about this kind of guidance. Notice that Paul was actively ministering and was seeking to do what appeared to him to be the wise thing when God said no and yes to his efforts. In providing positive direction God brought new information to Paul that impressed the apostle with a particular need God wanted him to meet. It seems to me that we should not concern ourselves mainly with the methods God uses to guide people. These varied in Acts and were not Luke’s primary concern. We should, however, concentrate on where we can be of most use as the Lord’s servants. This was Paul’s dominant concern. If our choices for places of ministry are equally acceptable to God, He probably will not steer us away from any of them, as was true in Paul’s first missionary journey. We can go wherever we please. However if He does not want us in one or more of these places, I believe He will shut one or more doors for us as He did for Paul. God often guides us by bringing information to our attention that enlightens our judgment when we need to make decisions.

Verses 11-12

Travelling by sea from Troas the apostolic band made its way to the island of Samothrace. From there they sailed to Neapolis (modern Cavalla), the port of Philippi in Macedonia, a journey of 125 miles. Philippi was 10 miles northwest inland. This town, previously called Crenides (lit. Fountains), also received its newer name of Philippi from Philip of Macedon. It stood at the eastern end of another major Roman highway that connected the Adriatic and Aegean Seas, the Via Egnatia (Egnatian Road). Macedonia consisted of four parts or districts, and Philippi was the chief city of one of these four districts.

"After Mark Antony and Octavian defeated Brutus and Cassius, the assassins of Julius Caesar, near Philippi in 42 A.D., the city was made into a Roman colony. This gave it special privileges (e.g, [sic] fewer taxes) but more importantly it became like a ’transplanted’ Rome . . . The primary purpose of colonies was military, for the Roman leaders felt it wise to have Roman citizens and sympathizers settled in strategic locations. So Octavian (who became Caesar Augustus, the first Roman emperor, in 27 B.C.) settled more colonists (primarily former soldiers) at Philippi after his defeat of Antony at Actium, on Greece’s west coast, in 31 B.C." [Note: Toussaint, "Acts," p. 399.]

"Augustus" means "the august one" or "the revered one." The best modern equivalent might be "his majesty."

"Philippi’s importance during the NT period . . . resulted from its agriculture, its strategic commercial location on both sea and land routes, its still functioning gold mines, and its status as a Roman colony. In addition, it had a famous school of medicine with graduates throughout the then-known world." [Note: Longenecker, pp. 459-60.]

Luke’s mention of Philippi’s status as a Roman colony is unusual; he did not identify Roman colonies as such elsewhere. Other Roman colonies that feature in Acts, which Luke did not identify as colonies, were Pisidian Antioch, Lystra, Troas, Corinth, and Ptolemais. Probably he identified Philippi here as one because of the events that followed in Philippi that we can understand more easily with this status in mind. Another possibility is that he did so because of his personal interest in this town. He spent considerable time there. Some scholars conjecture that Philippi was Luke’s hometown or the town in which he lived before joining Paul’s party. This seems unlikely to me since Paul and his party stayed with Lydia when they were in Philippi (Acts 16:15). If Luke had a home there, they probably would have stayed with him. A Roman colony was a city that the imperial government had granted special privileges for having rendered some special service to the empire. All its free citizens enjoyed the rights of Roman citizens. Living in such a colony was similar to being in Rome away from Rome (cf. Philippians 3:20).

Verses 11-15

2. The ministry in Macedonia 16:11-17:15

Luke recorded Paul’s ministry in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea to continue his history of Jesus’ works in Macedonia.

The Macedonians were a distinct national group, though they had strong ties to the Greeks. They had offered the most stubborn resistance against Rome’s efforts to extend its influence. In an attempt to break down their strong nationalistic spirit of independence, Rome divided Macedonian territory into four districts each of which had its own local government under Rome. We see this stubborn character in the Macedonians’ reaction to Paul’s preaching. Nevertheless once won over, the Macedonian converts became just as loyal to Paul as they had been hostile to him at first.

Verses 11-40

Ministry in Philippi 16:11-40

Luke devoted more space to Paul’s evangelizing in Philippi than he did to the apostle’s activities in any other city on the second and third journeys, even though Paul was there only briefly. It was the first European city in which Paul preached the gospel. [Note: The ancients did not view the Dardanelles as separating Europe and Asia, as we do today. Luke’s original readers would have viewed Paul’s crossing the Hellespont as simply moving from one region to another within the Roman Empire.]

Verse 13

Normally Paul went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and this place of prayer may have been a synagogue. On the other hand, Philippi may have had too few Jews to warrant a synagogue. It only took 10 Jewish men to establish a synagogue. [Note: Mishnah Sanhedrin 1:6; Mishnah Pirke Aboth 3:6.] Whether or not this place of prayer was a synagogue, worshippers of Yahweh met beside the Gangites River one and one-half miles west of town to pray together and to do what the Jews did in a normal synagogue service. The Greek word proseuche describes both prayer and a place of prayer. [Note: See Levinskaya, pp. 213-25, "The Meaning of PROSEUCHE."] Sometimes this word for "a place of prayer" was used in Jewish writings as a synonym for "synagogue" since Jewish synagogues were essentially places of prayer. It was customary for Jews and Gentile God-fearers (sebomene ton theon, "worshipper of God," Acts 16:14; Acts 13:43; Acts 18:7) to meet in the open air by a river or the sea when a synagogue was not available. [Note: Josephus, Antiquities of . . ., 14:10:23. Cf. Psalms 137:1-6.]

"Where there was no Synogogue there was at least a Proseuche, or meeting-place, under the open sky, after the form of a theatre, generally outside the town, near a river or the sea, for the sake of lustrations [i.e., purification rites]." [Note: Edersheim, The Life . . ., 1:76.]

Evidently no men were there the day Paul found the place. Nonetheless Paul preached the gospel to the women assembled. That Paul, a former Pharisee, would preach to an audience of women reveals much about his changed attitude since the Pharisees commonly thanked God that they were not Gentiles, slaves, or women (cf. Galatians 3:28). This is hardly the picture of a woman hater that some have painted Paul as being.

"I wonder whether that prayer meeting had anything to do with Paul coming over to Europe and the vision of the man of Macedonia!" [Note: McGee, 4:583.]

Verses 14-15

At least one of the women was a lady who was in Philippi on business. She trusted Christ. Thyatira, her hometown in the province of Asia, was a city famous for its purple dye and cloth (cf. Revelation 2:18-29). [Note: See Richard S. Hess, Song of Songs, pp. 121-22.] During the Roman Period, laws restricted who could wear clothes dyed purple because it was the most precious of all colors. Thus Lydia undoubtedly dealt with an exclusive and affluent clientele. It had not been the right time for Paul to evangelize Asia (Acts 16:6), but God brought a woman who lived there to him in Macedonia. Her name, Lydia, may have some connection with the fact that her hometown stood in an area that was formerly part of the old kingdom of Lydia. Some scholars have even surmised that Lydia was not her name but only her place of origin. We owe coined money to the Lydian kingdom. King Croesus first produced uniform coins there in the sixth century B.C. Wealthy King Croesus may have been the person behind the legend of King Midas whose touch supposedly turned anything to gold.

Luke again emphasized God’s initiative in opening her heart to the gospel (Acts 16:14, cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4) and the hearts of those in her household (cf. Acts 16:33; Acts 11:14). Her "household" included servants as well as her family (cf. Acts 10:24; Acts 10:44; Acts 16:31; Acts 18:8; Romans 16:10-11; 1 Corinthians 1:16). Water baptism is in view (Acts 16:15). It followed her conversion immediately (cf. Acts 16:33; Acts 8:36; et al.).

Lydia offered her large home to Paul and his companions as their headquarters while they remained in Philippi. This was a common practice in the Roman world, especially among Christians, since public housing facilities were few and unpleasant (cf. Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9).

"Young people sometimes hear a fervent missionary from a distant field tell of the need of young men and young women for work in Africa or China or in some other country. They say, ’I must answer the call.’ They arrange to leave everything here and go out to the mission field, only to find that nobody wants them. And they say, ’Isn’t that queer? They were pleading that we come, and instead of wanting us they are ready, in some instances, to kill us.’ Was the missionary wrong? Did he give a false impression of conditions? Not at all! The heathen do not realize their need often until the preaching of the true God gives them a sense of their real condition, but it is that need, nevertheless, which calls for someone to help." [Note: Ironside, Lectures on . . ., p. 368.]

Verse 16

Luke probably recorded the conversion of three very different individuals in Philippi to illustrate the appeal and power of the gospel. The demon-possessed "slave-girl" (cf. Rhoda, Acts 12:13) who met the missionaries on their way to the prayer meeting (Acts 16:13) was a tool of her masters who used her to make money through fortunetelling. The demon (Gr. pneuma pythona) within her knew of Paul and announced through her who he was and what he was doing (cf. Mark 1:24; Mark 3:11; Mark 5:7; Luke 4:34; Luke 8:28).

"The Python was a mythical serpent or dragon that guarded the temple and oracle of Apollo, located on the southern slope of Mount Parnassus to the north of the Gulf of Corinth. It was supposed to have lived at the foot of Mount Parnassus and to have eventually been killed by Apollo (cf. Strabo Geography 9.3.12). Later the word python came to mean a demon-possessed person through whom the Python spoke-even a ventriloquist was thought to have such a spirit living in his or her belly (cf. Plutarch De Defectu Oraculorum 9.414)." [Note: Longenecker, p. 462.]

Verses 17-18

This girl’s screaming recalls the behavior of the demon-possessed people whom Jesus encountered. The title "Most High God" would have had meaning for Greeks, Romans, and Jews. All of these groups had some interest in a (not "the") way of salvation. The Greeks called Zeus the "Most High God." [Note: C. Roberts, T. C. Skeat, and A. D. Nock, "The Guild of Zeus Hypsistos," Harvard Theological Review 29 (1936):39-88.] However it is probable that those who heard this girl associated the Most High God with the God of the Jews. [Note: Levinskaya, pp. 98-100.] In any case the girl’s crying out would have aroused the interest of Greeks as well as Jews. Paul proceeded to take advantage of this situation. She seems to have appointed herself the apostles’ herald announcing them wherever they went. Paul did not want her to continue doing that, however. Her presence and public relations work implied that the missionaries were allies of the demon that people knew indwelt her (cf. Mark 1:24-25). Jesus working through Paul cast the demon out (Mark 9:14-29; Luke 4:33-35; Luke 6:18; Luke 7:21; Acts 8:9-24; Acts 13:6-12; Acts 19:13-20). Luke did not record whether this girl became a Christian, though she probably did. His interest lay in what happened as a result of this incident.

Acts 16:18 raises a question about Paul’s motivation in exorcising this demon. The text says that he became annoyed after the girl had accompanied the missionaries for many days. Why did he not cast the demon out immediately because he felt compassion for the girl? We can only conclude that God did not lead him to cast the demon out sooner because He used this witness to bring people to Himself. Undoubtedly Paul felt compassion for her since there is plenty of evidence elsewhere that Paul was a compassionate person. It was evidently the continued irritation that this girl created in Paul that God finally used to lead Paul to cast the demon out of her.

Verses 19-21

Clearly the actions of the girl’s masters against Paul and Silas, whom the people perceived as Jews, were prejudicial. They wanted to get even for causing them financial loss (cf. Acts 19:24-27), not for preaching the gospel. Normally only wealthy people took the risk of prosecuting someone in court since such action was very expensive. [Note: Witherington, p. 496.] This is the first formal indictment against Paul that Luke recorded in Acts. The market place was the agora.

"Often, if not always, the greatest obstacle to the crusade of Christ is the selfishness of men." [Note: Barclay, p. 135.]

Two magistrates (praetors) governed each Roman colony. [Note: F. J. Foakes-Jackson and Kirsopp Lake, The Acts of the Apostles, 4:194-95.] Recently the Emperor Claudius had expelled the Jews from Rome (Acts 18:2). Consequently anti-Semitism was running especially high throughout the empire and in Philippi, which had an unusually large military population. It was contrary to Roman law for local people to try to change the religion of Roman citizens, of which there were many in Philippi. The girl’s masters assumed that Paul and Silas were proselytizing for Judaism since the customs Paul proclaimed included worship of Jesus, a Jew, rather than the emperor.

"The accusation against Paul and Silas in Acts 16:20-21 is one of a series. In Acts 16-19 we find four scenes that feature accusations against Christians, and these accusations are parts of similar sequences of events. The sequence contains three basic elements: (1) Christians are forcefully brought before officials or a public assembly. (2) They are accused, and this accusation is highlighted by direct quotation. (3) We are told the result of this attempt to curb the Christian mission." [Note: Tannehill, 2:201-2.]

Verse 22

The crowd got behind the missionaries’ accusers. The charges against them seemed so clear the magistrates evidently did not even investigate them but proceeded to beat and imprison Paul and Silas (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:23; 2 Corinthians 11:25). Lictors (police officers) would have done the beating (caning; cf. Acts 16:35). Acts records only two instances in which Gentiles threatened or harmed Paul (cf. Acts 19:23-41). In both cases people were losing money in vested interests, and in both cases a Roman official vindicated Paul.

Verses 23-24

The jailer treated his prisoners as dangerous criminals. His treatment may have reflected his own attitude more than the seriousness of their alleged crimes.

"Jailers commonly were retired army veterans, who could be expected to follow orders and use their military skills as required." [Note: Longenecker, p. 464.]

"He was no mere turn-key, but the governor of the prison,-probably of the rank of a centurion, like Cornelius at Caesarea, of whose history there is much to remind us here." [Note: Rackham, p. 288.]

"If Lydia came from the top end of the social scale and the slave girl from the bottom, the Roman gaoler was one of the sturdy middle class who made up the Roman civil service; and so in these three the whole gamut of society was complete." [Note: Barclay, p. 136.]

Verses 25-26

We can see that Paul and Silas were full of the Spirit by the way they reacted to the pain that resulted from their beating and from being locked in stocks (cf. Psalms 42:8). The other prisoners undoubtedly wondered who these men were and how they could rejoice. Perhaps some of them became Christians and members of the Philippian church. If so, Paul’s exhortations to rejoice in the Lord always in his epistle to the Philippians would have reminded them of his example on this occasion. Again God miraculously freed His servants (cf. Acts 5:18-20; Acts 12:3-11).

"This was the first sacred concert ever held in Europe . . .

"The world is watching Christians, and when they see Christians shaken by circumstances as they themselves, they conclude that after all there is very little to Christianity; but when they find Christians rising above circumstances and glorying in the Lord even in deepest trial, then even the unsaved realize the Christian has something in knowing Christ to which they are strangers." [Note: Ironside, Lectures on . . ., p. 381.]

Some ancient writers wrote that earthquakes were not uncommon throughout Macedonia and Greece. [Note: Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.782-83; 15.669-78; Lucian, Lover of Lies 22.]

Verses 27-28

"In Roman law a guard who allowed his prisoner to escape was liable to the same penalty the prisoner would have suffered (Code of Justinian 9.4.4)." [Note: Longenecker, p. 464. Cf. 12:19.]

This jailer was about to commit suicide and so avoid the shame of a public execution. He was certain his prisoners had escaped. God had restrained the other prisoners from escaping somehow, possibly out of fear or out of respect for Paul and Silas.

". . . were the other prisoners as terrified as the jailer at what they believed to be the magical power of two Jewish sorcerers which could bring about an earthquake? This might account for their failure to try to escape." [Note: Neil, p. 184.]

Whatever the other prisoners may have thought, Luke’s emphasis was on the love that Paul and Silas demonstrated for the jailer by remaining in prison when they could have escaped. It was primarily this love, I think, that won the jailer over.

Verses 29-30

Paul and Silas’ love for him, in contrast to the hatred they had received from the magistrates, the police, and the jailer, transformed the jailer’s attitude. Apparently the jailer had heard the gospel from Paul and Silas previously, or had at least heard what they were preaching (cf. Acts 16:17), but had hardened his heart against it (Acts 16:24). Now, because of his brush with death, he humbled himself and asked how he could be saved. Another possibility is that the jailer only wanted deliverance from his physical danger.

". . . if these were the jailer’s exact words they probably meant: ’How can I be saved from the consequences of having ill-treated two obviously powerful magicians?’ Paul uses the question as an opening for his Gospel message (Acts 16:31)." [Note: Ibid., p. 185. See Witherington, pp. 821-43, "Appendix 2. Salvation and Health in Christian Antiquity: The Soteriology of Luke-Acts in Its First-Century Setting."]

"The earthquake has presented him with irrefutable evidence that God is at work with Paul’s group. He wants to know whatever more Paul can offer. Is there a way to escape God’s reaction to the injustice in which the jailer has played a role? In the face of this evidence, the jailer does not want to be found on the opposing side." [Note: Bock, Acts, pp. 541-42.]

Verse 31

In this context, "Believe" refers to trusting the sovereign God’s power to deliver, which events had just pictured for the jailer. [Note: The NET Bible note on Acts 16:31.]

This verse raises the question of lordship salvation most clearly in Acts. Must a person make Jesus the Lord (Master) of his or her life to become a Christian?

Most evangelicals believe that to become a Christian one need only trust in the person and finished work of Jesus Christ. It is not necessary to submit to Him completely as personal Master to be saved. [Note: E.g., Lewis S. Chafer, Salvation, pp. 42-53; Ryrie, So Great Salvation; Hodges, Absolutely Free!; Toussaint, "Acts," p. 400; and Constable, "The Gospel . . .".] Some contend that the sinner must also yield his life completely to Jesus as Master as well as Savior to be saved. [Note: E.g., John Murray, Redemption-Accomplished and Applied, pp. 95-116; K. L. Gentry, "The Great Option: A Study of the Lordship Controversy," Baptist Reformation Review 5 (1976):49-79; John R. W. Stott, "Must Christ be Lord to be Savior? Yes," Eternity, September 1959, pp. 15, 17-18, 36-37; Marshall, The Acts . . ., p. 273.]

Those who hold the lordship view insist on the necessity of acknowledging Jesus as Master of one’s life in the act of receiving Him as Savior. According to them these are not two separate sequential acts or successive steps but one act of faith. A few expressions of the lordship salvation view are these.

"The astonishing idea is current in some circles today that we can enjoy the benefits of Christ’s salvation without accepting the challenge of His sovereign Lordship." [Note: John R. W. Stott, Basic Christianity, p. 114.]

"In most instances the modern ’evangelist’ assures his congregation that all any sinner has to do in order to escape Hell and make sure of Heaven is to ’receive Christ as his personal Savior.’ But such teaching is utterly misleading. No one can receive Christ as His Savior while he rejects Him as Lord. Therefore, those who have not bowed to Christ’s sceptre and enthroned Him in their hearts and lives, and yet imagine that they are trusting Him as Savior, are deceived." [Note: Arthur W. Pink, Studies on Saving Faith, pp. 12-13.]

"Where there is no clear knowledge, and hence no realistic recognition of the real claims that Christ makes, there can be no repentance, and therefore no salvation." [Note: J. I. Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, p. 73. Cf. pp. 71-73.]

"When we teach (whether it is Matthew, or Romans, or any other book in the New Testament-even in comparison to the Old Testament), we teach that when a person comes to Christ, he receives Him as Savior and Lord, and that genuine salvation demands a commitment to the lordship of Christ." [Note: John MacArthur Jr., Justification by Faith, p. 10. See also idem, The Gospel According to Jesus, and idem, Faith Works: The Gospel According to the Apostles, pp. 73-85.]

"’Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’ means ’Unless you who call yourselves Christians, who profess to be justified by faith alone and therefore confess that you have nothing whatever to contribute to your own justification-unless you nevertheless conduct yourselves in a way which is utterly superior to the conduct of the very best people, who are hoping to save themselves by their works, you will not enter God’s kingdom. You are not really Christians.’" [Note: James M. Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith, p. 427.]

There are many excellent evangelical scholars and expositors who believe it is not necessary to commit one’s life to Jesus fully when one trusts in Him as Savior to experience salvation. Some of their statements follow.

"The importance of this question cannot be overestimated in relation to both salvation and sanctification. The message of faith only and the message of faith plus commitment of life cannot both be the gospel; therefore, one of them is false and comes under the curse of perverting the gospel or preaching another gospel (Galatians 1:6-9)." [Note: Ryrie, Balancing the . . ., p. 170.]

"The Christian’s liberty to do precisely as he chooses is as limitless and perfect as any other aspect of grace." [Note: Lewis. S. Chafer, Grace, p. 345.]

"A faithful reading of the entire Book of Acts fails to reveal a single passage where people are found to acknowledge Jesus Christ as their personal Lord in order to be saved." [Note: Everett F. Harrison, "Must Christ Be Lord to Be Savior? No," Eternity, September 1959, p. 16. Cf. also pp. 14 and 48.]

"If discipleship is tantamount to salvation, then one must continue in the Word in order to be saved, for John 8:31 says, ’If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed.’ Continuance is absolutely demanded for discipleship. If discipleship and salvation are the same, then continuance is demanded for salvation. Yet the New Testament clearly teaches that salvation is by faith and it is a gift (Ephesians 2:8-9). You have eternal life at the point of faith (John 3:36). Continuance is not a requirement for salvation." [Note: G. Michael Cocoris, Lordship Salvation-Is It Biblical? p. 16.]

"It is an interpretative mistake of the first magnitude to confuse the terms of discipleship with the offer of eternal life as a free gift. ’And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely’ (Revelation 22:17), is clearly an unconditional benefaction. ’If anyone comes to me and does not . . . he cannot be my disciple’ clearly expresses a relationship which is fully conditional. Not to recognize this simple distinction is to invite confusion and error at the most fundamental level." [Note: Hodges, The Gospel . . ., p. 37.]

". . . I am not a lordship salvation person. I preach the importance of dedication to Jesus Christ. I talk about the works that follow faith. But I believe eternal life is a gift and that I receive it not by anything I do, or am, or promise to become. I take the gift that God offers." [Note: Charles Swindoll, "Dallas’s New Dispensation," Christianity Today, October 25, 1993, p. 15.]

When people trusted Jesus Christ in Acts, what did Luke record they believed about Him?

"In Acts 2, 10, , 16 -passages that present the most material about salvation in the Book of Acts-what one confessed was that Jesus was the Lord in that He was the divine Mediator of salvation with the total capacity and authority to forgive sins and judge men. He is the Lord over salvation because they have turned away from themselves or their own merit to the ascended Lord. He is the divine Dispenser of salvation." [Note: Bock, "Jesus as . . .," p. 151.]

Other New Testament passages corroborate this testimony (Acts 2:38-39; Acts 3:19-26; Acts 4:12; Acts 8:12; Acts 8:35; Acts 10:43; Acts 13:38-39; John 20:28; Romans 10:9-13; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 2 Corinthians 4:5; James 1:1; James 2:1; 1 Peter 3:15; 2 Peter 3:18; Judges 1:4; Judges 1:21; Judges 1:25; Revelation 19:16). [Note: See also William D. Lawrence, "The New Testament Doctrine of the Lordship of Christ" (Th.D. dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1968).] Submitting to Jesus’ total lordship is the responsibility of all people, but not even all Christians do it (Romans 6:12-14; Romans 12:1-2). It is therefore not biblical, and it is unrealistic, to make it a condition for salvation. [Note: S. Lewis Johnson Jr., "How Faith Works," Christianity Today 33:13 (September 22, 1989):21-25, compared the writings of Ryrie, MacArthur, and Hodges on the lordship issue. Thomas G. Lewellen, "Has Lordship Salvation Been Taught throughout Church History?" Bibliotheca Sacra 147:585 (January-March 1990):54-68, concluded it has not. See MacArthur, Faith Works, pp. 235-58, for his interpretation of the history of gospel preaching.]

"In many places in the Acts it is impossible to distinguish whether Lord stands for Jehovah or the Christ: see Introd. p. lxxii." [Note: Rackham, p. 462, n. 1.]

The Philippian jailer now believed that Jesus had the power to protect and deliver His own. He saw Him as the One with adequate power and authority to save. Note that he had previously appealed to Paul and Silas as "Sirs" (lit. "Lords," Gr. kyrioi, Acts 16:30). Now Paul clarified that there was only one Lord (kyrion) that he needed to believe in, namely, Jesus.

"The word ’Lord’ in the phrase, ’Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,’ is no different than a modern equivalent such as, ’put confidence in President Reagan.’ The term ’President’ is his title. It indicates his position and his ability to follow through on promises. In a similar fashion, the term ’Lord,’ when applied to Jesus Christ, indicates His position as God and thus His ability to save us and grant us eternal life." [Note: Cocoris, Lordship Salvation . . ., p. 15. Cocoris’ unpublished critique of John MacArthur’s The Gospel According to Jesus entitled "John MacArthur Jr.’s System of Salvation" is very helpful.]

Paul did not mean that the jailer’s whole household would be saved simply because the jailer believed. Other members of the jailer’s household believed and were saved as he believed and was saved (cf. Acts 16:15; Acts 8:36). Personal salvation always depends on personal belief (John 3:16; et al.).

Note also in this verse, as in the rest of Scripture, that faith logically precedes regeneration, not the other way around. [Note: See René A. López, "Is Faith a Gift from God or a Human Exercise?" Bibliotheca Sacra 164:655 (July-September 2007):259-76.]

"Paul and Silas did not say to the Philippian jailer, ’Be saved, and you will believe on the Lord Jesus Christ’! They said, ’Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved’!" [Note: Hodges, Absolutely Free! p. 219.]

Verse 32

Paul went on to explain the gospel more fully. The only condition for salvation was trust in Jesus Christ. As elsewhere, references to household members trusting Christ presuppose the ability to do so. Those who were old enough and capable enough to believe did so.

Verses 33-34

The jailer proceeded to wash Paul and Silas’ wounds. Then they washed him with the water of baptism. He did not have to keep his prisoners under lock and key, only to deliver them at the required time. He believed they would not try to escape, so he brought them into his house and treated them as loved brothers rather than as law breakers.

"One of the evidences of true repentance is a loving desire to make restitution and reparation wherever we have hurt others." [Note: Wiersbe, 1:469.]

"The conversion of the jailer is not just one more of the many conversions in Acts but the conversion of a member of the oppressive system that is punishing Paul and Silas." [Note: Tannehill, 2:204. Cf. Acts 10.]

Verses 35-36

The policemen (Roman lictors) returned to the jailer the next morning with orders to release Paul and Silas. Lictors carried bundles of rods with axes attached to symbolize their authority. Evidently the magistrates only intended to teach them a lesson for disturbing the peace, not incarcerate them and bring them to trial.

Verse 37

The Roman government guaranteed its citizens a public trial and freedom from degrading punishment such as beatings. [Note: A. H. M. Jones, Studies in Roman Government and Law, p. 54. Cicero, Pro Rabirio 12.] Paul was now able to use his citizenship to advantage. He may have tried unsuccessfully to communicate his citizenship earlier during his arrest, or he may have waited for the right moment to do so. Apparently the magistrates did not challenge Paul’s claim (cf. Acts 22:27).

"How would one be able to demonstrate that he or she was a Roman citizen? Though Acts does not mention it, it is possible that Paul carried a testatio, a certified private copy of evidence of his birth and citizenship inscribed on the waxed surface of a wooden diptych, in a stereotypical five-part form . . ." [Note: Witherington, p. 501.]

People who made a false claim to having Roman citizenship suffered death. [Note: Robertson, 3:264.] Paul’s claim here resulted not only in his own protection from mistreatment but in the authorities looking on his fellow believers with favor rather than abusing them. Paul undoubtedly demanded what he did for the progress of the gospel, not for personal glory or revenge (cf. Philippians 1:18).

Verses 38-39

Roman officials charged with mistreating Roman citizens faced the danger of discipline by their superiors. These magistrates meekly appealed to Paul and Silas not to file a complaint. They also wanted them to leave Philippi since popular opinion was still hostile to them because Paul had healed the slave-girl. Furthermore the local magistrates did not want to have to protect Paul’s party of foreigners from irate local residents.

Verse 40

Paul did not leave Philippi immediately. First, he encouraged the Christians. This group formed the nucleus of the church in Philippi that forever after was a source of joy to Paul and a source of encouragement to other believers (cf. Philippians 1:3; Philippians 4:10-16).

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Acts 16". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/acts-16.html. 2012.
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