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Monday, July 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Acts 16

Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NTLuscombe's NT Commentary

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Verse 1

1 Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek.

1. We are now introduced to Timothy.

1. Paul wrote two letters to him - 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy.

2. His mother, Eunice, was a Jew.

3. His grandmother, Lois, is also mentioned in 2Ti_1:5 .

4. He becomes a travel companion with Paul.

5. His father was Greek (not a Jew).

2. We do not know if Paul converted Timothy on his first trip to Lystra and Derbe. It may be that Timothy's mother was converted and Timothy was later baptized. Some believe that Paul's reference to Timothy as his "son in the faith" indicates that he was a convert of Paul.

3. There is some dispute if Timothy is from Lystra or Derbe. We do not know which city is the home town of Timothy

Verse 2

2 He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium.

1. Timothy was quickly rising in the faith. He was highly recommended by the churches in this area.

2. Here Lystra and Iconium are mentioned as places that know of, and recommend, Timothy. Some believe this shows his home town was Derbe.

Verse 3

3 Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek.

1. Paul wanted to have Timothy travel with him as he continued his missionary journey.

2. It was Paul's "modus operandi" to enter a new city and go first to the synagogue and teach Jews.

3. In order for Timothy to be allowed into Jewish synagogues, it was necessary to have him circumcised.

4. Some added notes:

1. Remember this follows the conference at Jerusalem concerning the "necessity" of circumcision for salvation. NO! Circumcision is not necessary for salvation.

2. But it was important for Timothy to enter synagogues and be accepted and be more effective.

3. There is an important distinction to understand. Necessary? No. Expedient? Yes.

4. Many things are not "commanded" as necessary for our salvation, but we choose to do them as helpful, expedient, and permitted.

1. Communion is required. Multiple trays with individual, disposable cups are not required but expedient.

2. Baptism is required. Fiberglas baptistery with heated and circulated water is not required, but expedient.

Verse 4

4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem.

1. As Paul, Silas and Timothy begin to travel - they deliver the letter from Jerusalem in each church. Even if this was not a problem - it would prevent it from becoming a problem.

2. This letter was a "decree" - an edict - which had all the authority of the apostles and the Jerusalem elders. They were instructed to keep these commands.

Verse 5

5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.

1. When a problem is resolved - the church grows. The church grew:

1. After the problem of feeding widows in Act_6:1-15 .

2. After the persecution stopped with the conversion of Saul in Act_9:1-43 .

3. After the Jerusalem conference settled the doctrinal issue in Act_15:1-41 .

2. There were daily additions. Baptisms were a daily happening.

Verse 6

6 Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia.

1. They are now leaving the region where Paul preached on his first mission trip. He is now heading into new territory.

2. The region of Galatia, would later receive letter of Paul to the Galatians.

3. We do not spend a lot of time or energy trying to learn or understand this last part of this verse.

1. We often pray for God to "guard, guide and direct us" with little thought about HOW we anticipate God meeting our request.

2. Let me say clearly - I believe God does guard us, guide us, and direct us. God is not limited in what He can do or the resources available to Him.

3. God was directing Paul in a direction.

1. Paul could have ignored the barriers and obstacles.

2. I have had people tell me they prayed for God to help them with a decision - then crashed through every roadblock that was placed in their way.

3. Paul, on the other hand, saw the barricades as a way for God to send them in another direction.

4. Why would God forbid the preaching of the gospel in Asia?

1. We often have to make choices. When we choose A, we also choose not B.

2. When we decide to eat at one fast food place, this does not mean that we are opposed to the other choices.

3. God is not opposed to the preaching of the gospel - to anyone, at anytime.

4. It seems to me that God had a more important mission in mind.

5. There is a parallel here with Philip in Act_8:1-40 . He was preaching in Samaria and God sent him to meet the man from Ethiopia. This does not mean that Samaria was of no value. It simply means that God has another mission.

4. B. W. Johnson says, "No record is made here of the results of this tour, but as we elsewhere learn of numerous churches in Galatia shortly after this, we are justified in the inference that they were planted at this time."

Verse 7

7 After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them.

1. Here is barrier number two. They are not allowed to go into Bithynia.

2. We are not told how they were prevented from going into Bithynia.

1. It could be in some direct way - God speaking to Paul, in a dream or vision.

2. It could also be in some indirect way. This is often called providence. It is possible that some problem made going there unwise. War, civil strife, or some other activity in that area made it impossible to go there.

Verse 8

8 So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.

1. Prevented from heading north, they headed west. They came to the seacoast town of Troas.

2. Troas is the city (and region) of the Greek Trojans.

3. Troas will be the place that we will learn about later as Paul travels there in Act_20:1-38 .

Verse 9

9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, " Come over to Macedonia and help us. "

1. While we are not told how the Spirit forbid them in going to Asia and Bithynia, we are told here that the direction and leading came in the form of a vision or dream.

2. Commonly known as the "Macedonian Call" - there is a man standing and pleading with Paul to come and teach them.

3. We often sing about this in a song, "Send the Light". The second stanza says, "We have heard the Macedonian call today, "Send the light! Send the light!"

Verse 10

10 Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.

1. There is no hesitation. Paul was prevented from going other directions. Now there is a new direction to go.

2. "When God closes a door, He opens a window of opportunity."

3. It is clear to Paul that this is where God wants them to be.

4. The team of missionaries begin to make their plans to travel to Macedonia.

5. They must take a ship and travel across the Aegean Sea.

Verse 11

11 Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis,

1. They sailed from Troas and made a straight course to Samothrace.

2. This means, this was not a tour trip with stops and the many islands along the way. This was not an excursion, it was a non-stop trip to get to the mainland of Europe.

3. Samothrace was a small island used for two purposes.

1. A port for ships because it was in deeper water.

2. The island was inhabited by felons. It was a prison island for fugitives and criminals.

4. For Paul, it was a landing port to head to the mainland.

5. The town on the coast is Neapolis. It is about 10 miles from Philippi.

Verse 12

12 and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days.

1. This city was rebuilt and repaired by the father of Alexander the Great, Philip.

2. It was the larger and better city in the region of Macedonia.

3. It was also a colony - a Roman colony. It was a Greek city, but was under Roman control and occupation.

4. It is still called Philippi, but the coins indicate that it was a Roman colony.

5. Philippi becomes a base of operation. They decide to remain here from some period of time and work from here.

Verse 13

13 And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there.

1. As Paul usually did, when the Sabbath day arrived, he would seek where Jews gathered. It appears that in Philippi there was no official synagogue.

2. Paul learned that some Jewish women met together to pray near the river.

3. Paul went there to meet with them.

Verse 14

14 Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.

1. So far the specific examples of conversion have been groups (Pentecost, Samaria) or men (Saul, Cornelius, Ethiopian). Here, we have an example of a woman convert.

2. Lydia - What do we know about her?

1. She is a seller of purple - meaning she sell expensive cloth. Garments for the wealthy. Purple was usually obtained from some shellfish. It was expensive, so only the richest or those in power could afford this material.

2. She is from Thyatira - This city (and church) would be addressed later in the book of Revelation. Thyatira is one of the seven churches of Asia Minor.

3. She worshiped God - We do not know for sure that she was Jewish. We know that she was not an idolatrous pagan. She worshiped God.

4. Her heart was opened - There is a lot of discussion about this phrase.

1. John Calvin taught that man is totally depraved and can only come to God when God operates on the heart. In some denominations this is called the direct operation of the Holy Spirit.

2. Others suggest that her heart was receptive, open and ready to receive the word. Just as a farmer prepares the soil to make it ready to plant the seed, so her heart was prepared to hear the gospel message.

3. Some suggest that some providence of God led her to be at this place, at this time, and in a place in life where she was searching for salvation.

Verse 15

15 And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, " If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay. " So she persuaded us.

1. We are not given the details of the message. It was the gospel.

2. She was ready to accept. She was ready to obey. She was baptized.

3. Her household - There are a few theories on who is included:

1. Since she is traveling, some have suggested that this is not her literal family (husband and children) but rather, her household would be those who travel with her to assist her in her making and selling her goods.

2. Others suggest that probably there was not husband (because he is not mentioned) but that her family (children) are with her.

3. One ancient version says that she was baptized along with "all her men" - implying the servants who tend the animals and cart, and other servants with her.

4. It is clear that whoever was included in the "household" it does not mean that infants were baptized. Those who were baptized - were ready to hear and believe.

5. B. W. Johnson comments, "Some have held that this implies the baptism of infants. It rather implies that her servants and friends also accepted the gospel. There is no ground for the inference that she was even married, or had children."

Verse 16

16 Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling.

1. As WE went to prayer - This is the first of the "WE" passages. When Luke, the author is along with Paul, he includes himself with them. When he remains behind, "they" go on to another city.

2. Shortly after the conversion of Lydia, the group of Christians were meeting to pray.

3. A slave girl passed by. She was possessed with a spirit of divination.

1. This was the claimed power to - either communicate with the dead, or fortell the future.

2. Her owners were using her as a way to make money.

3. Luke does not say she could foretell the future, but the people thought she could.

Verse 17

17 This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, " These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation. "

1. She followed Paul - and us (showing Luke was present).

2. She was declaring that these men are the servants of God.

1. Sometimes we are honored by people that are not a help.

2. If the people think this girl is a psychic, then they will think Paul is a sorcerer of some kind.

3. This kind of publicity is not helpful to Paul.

3. She also told everyone that Paul was preaching the way of salvation.

Verse 18

18 And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, " I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. " And he came out that very hour.

1. If this were an isolated event - Paul could just ignore it.

2. But this went on for several days.

3. Paul was annoyed. The Greek word means - troubled, displeased, pained, offended.

4. Paul does not speak to the girl, but to the spirit that possessed her.

5. In the name of Jesus Christ. By the power and authority of Jesus, Paul orders the demon spirit to remove itself from this girl.

6. He came out. Jesus has power over demons.

Verse 19

19 But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.

1. The owners of this slave girl saw their gravy train coming to a halt. Their profit was gone. They would make no more money from this girl.

2. They seized Paul and Silas and brought them to the authorities - the city rulers.

3. Instead of rejoicing that this girl was healed, they were angry that their income was lost.

4. In Philippi, a Roman colony, there were councils of men to sit in judgment on civil matters.

Verse 20

20 And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, " These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city;

1. Paul and Silas are now before these rulers.

2. The charge -

1. These men are Jews.

2. They trouble our city.

3. The "trouble" is any problem, agitation, or disturbance.

Verse 21

21 and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe. "

1. They are teaching customs that are not lawful for us.

2. John Gill writes, "it was not lawful to receive, observe, and worship, a new or strange deity, without the decree of the senate."

Verse 22

22 Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods.

1. Now the rest of the population become involved.

2. The magistrates tear their clothes, a sign of grief, anger or distress.

3. Paul and Silas are beaten with rods.

1. This is one of three times Paul was beaten with rods. ( 2Co_11:25 )

2. Paul mentions this treatment in 1Th_2:2 .

Verse 23

23 And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely.

1. Many stripes - The Jews were limited to 40 stripes and usually gave 39 so they would be sure not to go over the limit. ( Deu_25:3 ) The Romans had no such restrictions. They could beat as many times as they desired.

2. Paul says, "in stripes above measure." ( 2Co_11:23 ) There were more stripes laid on Paul that he could count.

3. Roman jailers were under strict code. Guard the prisoners with your life. They escape, you die. Before this rule, many jailers were taking bribes to let a prisoner go free. Now, no bribes. Just keep them secure. No escapes.

Verse 24

24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

1. The inner prison means that there were multiple walls, doors, gates that had to be overcome to escape. Even if one were to free themselves from the stocks, they still had to get out of several layers of secured walls and gates.

2. Feet in stocks - Often the feet were spread apart, inserted through holes in a frame and then secured. The prisoner was immobile and secure. Others suggest that they were chained at the ankle and secured to the floor.

Verse 25

25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.

1. Prisons were dark, damp dungeons. But in the middle of the night, Paul and Silas were singing and praying. Not just in their thoughts. They were singing out loud. They were praying so others could hear.

2. The other prisoners were listening to them. They had no other choice. But they also were, I am sure, amazed that these men, who had been beaten and lock up for no major crime - were able to sing and pray.

Verse 26

26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone ' s chains were loosed.

1. Earthquake - Earthquakes were (and still are) common in this region. The fact that there was an earthquake seems to be taken in stride. There was no panic.

2. This was a strong earthquake. The prison doors opened and the chains that secured the prisoners to the floor were loosened.

3. Earthquakes don't loosen chains. This must have included some intervention by God's angel. (See Act_4:31 .)

Verse 27

27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself.

1. The jailer wakes up from his sleep. With the prisoners secured, the doors locked, and all the other guards in place, he was comfortable dozing off.

2. The earthquake, the open doors, the rattling chains, and the excitement of the prisoners causes him to awaken.

3. With chains off and doors open - it is natural to think that all have escaped. He knew that with all the prisoners gone, he would die. So he was ready to take his own life.

Verse 28

28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, " Do yourself no harm, for we are all here. "

1. Paul intervenes. There is no need for the jailer to kill himself. ALL the prisoners have remained. None have escaped.

2. How is is possible that all the chains are off, all the doors are open? Yet not one prisoner escaped!

3. Is it possible that the singing and prayers of Paul and Silas have had an impact on all in the prison? I believe that they did.

Verse 29

29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.

1. The jailer calls for a light. He wanted to see that all are still in place.

2. He also wanted to see Paul and Silas. Somehow he knew that they were, in some way, responsible for all the prisoners remaining.

3. Trembling - Frightened and terrified, this jailer almost died. Now he is alive.

Verse 30

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

1. "What must I do to be saved?" - The question is vital for all men.

2. Notice what Paul and Silas did NOT say:

1. They did not say - here is a long list of all the candles to light, prayers to repeat, incense to burn, passages to read and memorize, etc. They did not tell the jailer that salvation must be "earned" by doing many acts to merit salvation.

2. They did not say - Don't do anything. Salvation is all a free gift with no act of obedience or action on the part of man. Paul did not teach a salvation that is totally of God and with no requirement for man.

3. They did not say - Just wait to see if you are among the elect. If you are among the chosen of God then He will operate on your heart and save you.

4. They did not say - Just repeat the sinner's prayer and accept Jesus in you heart.

Verse 31

31 So they said, " Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household. "

1. They told the jailer to BELIEVE.

2. Some have suggested that baptism is not important because it is not commanded here.

3. Here is my response:

1. A family leaves from Michigan to go to Disney World, Florida - In Michigan they ask how far it is to Disney World - They ask again as they travel through Kentucky - They ask again near Atlanta, Georgia. Each time they get a different answer.

2. The reason for the different answers is - Each answer was given from where they family was at that moment.

3. If someone is already a believer - It is not necessary to tell them to believe. If they are already a repentant believer - the answer is different. If they are not a believer - this is where they must start.

4. Here was a Roman jailer. He had no knowledge, faith, background, or understanding of Jesus or God. This is where he must start. Believe.

5. Faith - living, active, obedient faith - saves. Are we saved by faith? YES. Not by faith alone. ( Jam_2:24 ) But a willing, obedient faith saves us.

Verse 32

32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.

1. Following this command to believe, Paul begins to teach him about Jesus. He spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all in his household.

2. Again, some have tried to include infants here. Not true. Those in the house were able to listen, understand, and obey the teaching of Paul.

Verse 33

33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.

1. Same hour of the night - I have baptized people at 7 in the morning, at midnight, at all hours of the day and night.

2. Salvation is at stake. Why wait?

3. This family was taught in the middle of the night and were baptized immediately.

Verse 34

34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

1. This verse proves that the household of the jailer did not include infants. "Having believed in God with all his household." All in his house were able to believe.

2. The jailer now becomes the host. He prepares food for them. He rejoices.

3. This jailer, so close to suicide a couple of hours ago, is now a believer, a Christian, and is rejoicing at how quickly his life has changed.

Verse 35

35 And when it was day, the magistrates sent the officers, saying, " Let those men go. "

1. Some time later, the sun begins to rise on a new day.

2. The city rulers have decided to release Paul and Silas.

3. It would appear that after the teaching, the baptism and the meal, Paul and Silas returned to the prison.

Verse 36

36 So the keeper of the prison reported these words to Paul, saying, " The magistrates have sent to let you go. Now therefore depart, and go in peace. "

1. The warden comes in to give the news to Paul.

2. As far as the keeper of the prison knows, Paul has been in prison all night.

3. Depart and go in peace - This phrase sounds like they were asking Paul to leave town. If you leave town and don't cause any more trouble, we will let you go.

Verse 37

37 But Paul said to them, " They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out. "

1. Now Paul makes a legal point.

1. Paul lets these men know that he is a Roman citizen.

2. Roman citizens have some special protections that were not given to Paul. They never asked about his citizenship.

3. A Roman citizen was not to be beaten until after a trial and conviction.

4. Now they come along and say we can leave town quietly, secretly.

2. So Paul says, We are staying here until the magistrates come and take us out - publicly.

Verse 38

38 And the officers told these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans.

1. Learning that Paul was a Roman citizen was a shock.

2. They were afraid of the repercussions. If word gets out, these magistrates could be in serious trouble.

Verse 39

39 Then they came and pleaded with them and brought them out, and asked them to depart from the city.

1. Now they come, not as high and mighty rulers, but humble, begging Paul not to sue them or pursue it to higher courts.

2. They escorted them out of the prison and to the edge of town.

Verse 40

40 So they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.

1. They left the prison and went to see Lydia, the first convert in Philippi.

2. They encouraged all the brethren. We do not know how many converts there have been. Remember they stayed several days after the conversion of Lydia.

3. Then they left Philippi and headed to their next destination Thessalonica.

Bibliographical Information
Luscombe, Manly. "Commentary on Acts 16". Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mlc/acts-16.html. 2021.
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