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Bible Commentaries

Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books

Acts 16

Verses 1-5

Timothy Joins Paul and Silas

The stoning at Lystra might have discouraged some men from returning. However, Luke told Theophilus that Paul and Barnabas went back through the city as they were strengthening the churches at the end of their missionary tour.

Then, Paul returned again with Silas and discovered a young convert with great potential. Timothy, the son of Eunice, a Jewish convert, and a Greek father, was highly recommended by the brethren. Because Timothy had been raised as a Jew, Paul had him circumcised. This robbed any contentious Jew of at least one argument he might have thrown up in the apostle's face when he entered the synagogue to teach (compare 1Co_9:20 ).

Paul then left with Timothy and Silas to carry the message from the meeting at Jerusalem to all the churches with which the apostle had previously worked. In this way, he prepared them to fend off the potential attacks of the Judaizers. Luke reported that the churches were strengthened in the faith and continued to grow in number ( Act_16:1-5 ).

Verses 6-12

The Macedonian Call

Just west of the cities in south Galatia was the Roman province of Asia. At this time, Luke says Paul was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to enter that region to teach. This might have been done directly or through the agency of a prophet inspired by the Spirit (compare Act_20:23 ; Act_21:10-11 ). Later in Act_19:1-41 , Paul did get his opportunity to preach in Asia and the church grew there in a fine way, as is evidenced by the Lord's letters in Rev_2:1-29 ; Rev_3:1-22 . Apparently, Paul and those with him continued to work their way along until they came to Mysia, which was at the northern border between Asia and Bithynia. They would have gone into Bithynia, but the Spirit again forbade them to go, so they turned westward to Troas. Bithynia may have later heard the word through the preaching of Peter ( 1Pe_1:1 ).

Paul and his company determined, after a vision the apostle had in the night, that the Lord wanted them to preach in Macedonia. So, they immediately made arrangements and set sail from Troas to Samothrace, then Neapolis and, finally, Philippi ( Act_16:6-12 ), which Luke described as "the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony."

Verses 13-15

The Conversion of Lydia

It customarily took ten Jewish heads of households to form a synagogue within a community. In Philippi, there was just a group of Jewish women who met by the riverside for prayer. Paul's company joined the women on the Sabbath day and spoke to them. One of the women, Lydia, was a seller of purple. "An expensive purple dye, made of the murex shell, was one of the most valuable commodities of antiquity; and Lydia's engaging in trade of such a product surely indicates some considerable capital" (Coffman, p. 314). Lydia's home city was Thyatira, in the province of Asia. So, though Paul had been forbidden to go to Asia personally (verse 6), he got to teach one of its citizens.

This worshipper of God had her heart opened by hearing the words spoken by Paul. Lydia and other members of her household obeyed the spoken word by being baptized. She then pleaded with Paul and the others to come stay as guests in her house. Paul may have hesitated because she was a single woman, which seems to be indicated by reference to her house. However, when she prefaced her request by saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord," Paul yielded ( Act_16:13-15 ).

Verses 16-24

Paul and Silas Imprisoned

Luke reported that the group went for prayer, possibly daily. A slave girl who was demon possessed followed them crying out, "These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation." It might seem that such an occurrence would be very helpful in furthering the gospel, but Paul clearly did not think so. After all, the people believed this girl could foretell the future and her masters made considerable profit in the process. Further, as McGarvey notes, to accept the recommendation of demons would have been to lend credence to anything else the demon might have made her say, even lies. So, Paul cast out the demon by the authority of Jesus.

Her masters, seeing their profit potential ruined, grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities in the marketplace. They based their accusations on racial prejudice, which may have been heightened by the fact that Claudias had banished Jews from Rome ( Act_18:2 ). This may also explain why Luke, a Greek physician, and Timothy, whose father was Greek, were not also seized. Mob rule prevailed and the magistrates had Paul and Silas beaten, cast into the inner prison and their feet placed in stocks ( Act_16:16-24 ).

Verses 25-34

The Conversion of the Jailor

At midnight, while the other prisoners listened to Paul and Silas singing and praying, a great earthquake shook open all the prison doors and released all those bound in stocks. Believing his prisoners had escaped, the jailor prepared to kill himself rather than face the torturous Roman judgment. Paul stopped him by crying out that they were all there and he should not harm himself.

The jailor called for lights, leaped into the prison in trembling fear, fell before Paul and Silas, brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" The inspired response was, as in other cases ( Act_2:37-38 ; Act_22:10 ; Act_22:16 ), based on the current condition of the one asking the question. The jailor was told, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." Then, they spoke the word of the Lord to him so that faith could be produced ( Rom_10:17 ). The same hour of the night, he washed their stripes, which is clear evidence of repentance. Immediately afterward, he and all the members of his household were baptized. Then, and only then, "he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household ( Act_16:25-34 ).

Verses 35-40

Paul's Refusal to Depart Secretly

The next morning, the magistrates sent to the prison to quietly release Paul and Silas. The apostle refused to go quietly, likely because he wanted the authorities to realize even Roman citizens had believed in Jesus. A Roman could not be beaten and imprisoned without due process of law. Likely, Paul had tried to stop the previous day's actions by appealing to his citizenship but had been ignored. Now, he would only leave the jail if the magistrates personally escorted him! Then, instead of being run out of town, they were asked to leave. Before they continued on their journey, they returned to Lydia's house, encouraged the brethren and bid them farewell ( Act_16:35-40 ).

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Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Acts 16". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/acts-16.html. 2014.