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Acts 16

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Verses 1-5

Act 16:1-5


Acts 16:1-5

1 And he came also to Derbe and to Lystra:—The journey of Paul on the second missionary tour appears to have been by land northward from Antioch around the northeastern point of the Mediterranean Sea and thence westward to Tarsus. Derbe was the last point that Paul and Barnabas had visited on their first missionary tour; Lystra was the place where they had stoned Paul and “dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead.” (Acts 14:19.) Paul and Barnabas had left Lystra and gone to Derbe, but Paul is not afraid to return to Lystra. Lystra and Derbe were cities of Lycaonia. Timothy, or Timotheus, one of Paul’s earliest converts (1 Timothy 1:2), was the son of a Jewess and a Greek (2 Timothy 1:5), who had been trained by his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois, in the Old Testament scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15). Timothy had been converted at Lystra and had been pressed into the service by the Christians there. (1 Timothy 1:18.) He had been given a gift by the elders of the church at Lystra and was now invited by Paul to accompany him on this tour. (1 Timothy 4:14.) Paul’s work took him among Jews as well as Gentiles, and the Jews would have looked upon Timothy as an apostate had he not been circumcised, so Paul, to avoid offense, circumcised the young man. Timothy afterward worked with Paul (Romans 16:21), and was his messenger to the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 4:17) and to the church at Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:2-6.) He was at Rome with Paul. (Philippians 1:1 Philippians 2:19; Colossians 1:1; Philemon 1:1.) Timothy suffered much for the truth with Paul. (Hebrews 13:23.)

2 The same was well reported of—“Well reported of” is from the Greek “emartureito,” and means “a continuous witness” ; Timothy had good witness of his Christian life in his hometown of Lystra and also in Derbe; he had exercised his gifts and graces for the ministry and had been commended by the brethren. The phrase used here to describe Timothy is the same as that used to describe Cornelius (Acts 10:22) and Ananias (Acts 22:12). Timothy had been silently preparing himself for his work in the world by his work at Lystra and Iconium. Probably four or five years had elapsed since Paul had preached the gospel in these cities.

3 Him would Paul have to go forth with him;—Paul saw that Timothy would be not only a good gospel preacher and a great help to him, but that he would be a help to Timothy. The apostles desired to train younger men who could carry on the work after they had passed away; the elders and older ones in the church today should train the young men to carry on the work of the Lord. Later Paul wrote to Timothy and said: “The things which thou hast heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2.) Silas had taken the place of Barnabas, and Timothy is to take the place of Mark. Paul took Timothy and circumcised him; anyone could perform this rite. Paul did not do this as a Christian act, for he had contended that it was not necessary to circumcise either Jew or Gentile in order to become a Christian. The decision at Jerusalem had made it clear that the Gentile could become a Christian without circumcision, and that a Jew did not have to cease practicing circumcision in order to be a Christian; circumcision had nothing to do with becoming a Christian or with living the Christian life. Timothy’s father was a Greek or a Gentile, and while his mother and grandmother were faithful in teaching him the Old Testament, yet he had not been circumcised. He had now been a Christian for four or five years, but had not been circumcised. The conduct of Paul here was an instance of his accommodation to Jewish prejudices, and did not involve any departure from his previous views of Christian duty and Christian liberty.

4 And as they went on their way through the cities,—Wherever Paul and Silas went they delivered “the decrees” which had been “ordained of the apostles and elders that were at Jerusalem.” This shows Paul’s loyalty to the church at Jerusalem and to the other apostles. However, Paul did this because it was the will of God that it should be done. The word “decrees” here is from the Greek “dogmata,” and that is from the Greek verb “dokeo,” which means “to give an opinion.” It is used of public decrees of rulers (Luke 2:1; Acts 17:7), and of the requirements of the Mosaic law (Colossians 2:14). Here it is used to designate the regulations or conclusions reached at Jerusalem. These “decrees” would encourage Gentile Christians, or encourage Gentiles to accept the gospel; they would also instruct the Jews as to the will of God on this question. Some claim that the word implies that Paul left copies of these “decrees” wherever he went.

5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith,—“Strengthened” is from the Greek “esterounto,” and means “to make firm and solid.” It is used here and in Acts 3:7 Acts 3:16—only three times in the New Testament. The blessings of God rested upon the work of Paul, Silas, and Timothy, and the churches increased “in number daily.” The number of churches and of members was increased, for both ideas may be contained in this verse. The results of the work of Paul and his company were that the churches were confirmed in the faith, established in the truth of the gospel, and the number of churches and members were daily increased.

Verses 1-40

Act 16:1-40



Notes For Lesson Fifteen:

The Second Missionary Journey - Part One

(Acts 15:36 to Acts 16:40)

After reaching a satisfactory way of dealing with the circumcision issue and related difficulties, Paul and Barnabas began to plan for their next mission tour. At the beginning, there were several ups and downs, but eventually the mission got underway, and would lead to many significant developments. This week’s lesson will cover the first part of this new mission journey.

Rough Beginnings of the New Mission (Acts 15:36 to Acts 16:10)

Things did not always go smoothly even for the apostle Paul. Before the new mission even began, a dispute with his long-time associate Barnabas led to them splitting up. Then, after finding other companions for his trip, he encountered a series of difficulties in discerning God’s will before it finally became clear what God had in mind for the mission. Eventually, though, this trip (which took place in approximately AD 50-52) would lead to many encouraging developments.

A disagreement between Paul and Barnabas almost disrupted the next planned mission tour before it began (Acts 15:36-41). Sometime after fulfilling their commission to deliver the news from Jerusalem, the two missionaries decided to re-visit the towns where they had seen churches begun on their previous journey. After doing so, Paul and his associates would then make a tour of several new areas, as we shall see later. But before they could begin, Paul expressed disapproval of Barnabas’s desire to again bring with them John (Mark). On the first missionary journey, John had turned back in the middle of the journey, for reasons that Paul, at least, found unacceptable. Given the kinds of tense and often dangerous situations which they expected to encounter, one can understand Paul’s concern about relying on someone who might well turn back again if things got difficult. Yet Barnabas is also right in wanting to give the young man (who was also his cousin - see Colossians 4:10) a second chance. While both had their reasons, they were not able to come to an agreement, so Barnabas chose to take Mark with him and visit Cyprus, while Paul joined up instead with Silas, and headed out* to the inland cities where there were new churches.

Note that the rest of the church takes no position as to who was ’right’, since there was nothing to be gained by so doing. "Commended" in the NIV does not mean ’praised’, but rather that they ’committed’ Paul to God’s grace.

It is somewhat remarkable that such spiritual leaders were not able to reach an agreement on a fairly minor matter, not long after being part of a large-scale compromise in such a difficult and important matter. But God can work despite our stubbornness. Paul’s successful ministry is of course described in the rest of Acts. While Barnabas’s further work - like that of so many other faithful believers in the era - is not detailed in the Bible itself, we do see glimpses of his influence. Paul would later find John (or Mark) to be of great value, as suggested by passages such as Colossians 4:10, 2 Timothy 4:11, and Philemon 1:24.

While visiting the inland cities from the first mission tour, Paul made another important decision in adding Timothy to his traveling party (Acts 16:1-5). Timothy lived in Lystra, where such a tumult had occurred on Paul’s previous visit, and he was highly regarded by the Christians in the area. Since Timothy was of mixed parentage, he had never been circumcised, and so Paul faced this issue once again. He decided to stay on the safe side and have Timothy circumcised. This was not, of course, because he believed it was necessary for Timothy’s own sake, but to prevent it from becoming an obstacle in ministering to Jews. (Luke’s account suggests that Timothy and his family history were relatively well-known.) While this was most probably a decision made for the right reasons, the Scriptures do not actually indicate one way or another whether God wanted Paul to do this. After this, Timothy joined Paul and Silas as they traveled through the area to encourage the Christians and to communicate the decisions about the Mosaic law that had been reached in Jerusalem.

Having taken these preliminary steps, it was now time to move on to new areas, and a question of direction arose (Acts 16:6-10) . For reasons upon which we can only speculate, Paul had great difficulty perceiving where God wanted him to go. He led his group through Galatia and Phrygia, intending to go into Asia*, but Acts tells us that the Holy Spirit would not allow him to fulfill this plan. Likewise, when he then chose to go to Bithynia instead, the Spirit again prevented him. At last Paul had his famous dream of a man from Macedonia calling for help, and finally he understood where God wanted him to go. The trip to Macedonia meant Paul’s first trip to Europe, and would lead to the gospel being proclaimed in many new areas. This little paragraph is worthy of careful thought. We are never given the details of how God prevented Paul from going where he was not meant to go, nor are those details important, because God has many ways of accomplishing such ends. What we do know is that even Paul went through a period when he had trouble determining where God was leading him, and we also see that he continued to seek God’s will without complaint or impatience until things finally became clear.

Asia, in the Bible, does not mean the continent that we refer to today as Asia. In ancient geography, Asia referred only to one particular region, consisting of what is now western Turkey. Bithynia is one of the regions along the south shore of the Black Sea, in what today is northern Turkey.

For Discussion or Study: List the kinds of difficulties and decisions that Paul encountered during the first part of his second mission journey. Can we tell how some of these arose? What do we learn from the ways in which Paul and his companions dealt with them?

Eventful Ministry in Philippi (Acts 16:11-40)

Once Paul understood where God was sending him, positive results soon followed. His ministry in Philippi proved both eventful and fruitful. The Acts account contains two well-known conversion stories, that of Lydia and that of the jailer. Although the missionaries had to endure some hardships in Philippi, their time there also had some very encouraging results.

Having determined to go to Macedonia, Paul made Philippi his first major stop there, and his first mission stop anywhere in Europe (Acts 16:11-12). Philippi was one of the most important cities in Greece, as the Acts account suggests. It was an ancient town that had been renamed for Philip of Macedon (the father of Alexander the Great) in the fourth century BC. Octavian, the future Roman emperor Augustus, won an important battle there in 42 BC, and later made it a Roman colony, meaning that it became a settlement for retired Roman soldiers who received tax exemptions and other privileges. One of the interesting aspects of Acts is its accounts of the gospel coming to cities such as Philippi that had such illustrious human histories of their own.

The first success in Philippi was the conversion of Lydia (Acts 16:13-15). Paul and the others* met her by the river where they had gone to pray, and she proved an eager audience. She is described as a dealer in purple cloth, which would mean she was a prosperous and likely independent merchant, since purple dye was quite a luxury item at the time. She responds quickly to the gospel and is baptized, becoming a faithful believer and also, as we shall see below (verse 40) quickly became a valuable part of the church’s ministry.

Note that beginning in verse 10 Luke has been using "we" to describe the group, suggesting that he joined them for this part of the journey.

After this initial encouraging development, Paul and Silas had a more unsettling experience that resulted in them becoming imprisoned (Acts 16:16-24). It began with an encounter with a slave girl who is described as having a kind of fortune-telling skill that was profitable for her ’masters". Recognizing that the girl had an evil spirit, Paul healed her, but this made her ’owners’ angry, because she no longer could make money for them. They take revenge on Paul by making false charges about his teachings, claiming that he was promoting customs that violated Roman law. As a result, the innocent missionaries are severely punished: stripped, beaten, flogged, jailed, and placed in the stocks. It is quite an unfair recompense for an act of kindness to a troubled girl.

Once they are in the jail, some interesting events occur (Acts 16:25-34). The well-remembered description of Paul and Silas singing in the jail is a testimony to the deep joy they felt in serving God despite their painful ordeal. Then, as the other prisoners listened to them, a sudden earthquake shook the prison, opened all of the doors, and broke off the chains of the prisoners. Evidently the prisoners were too stunned to escape, because when the terrified jailer came in, expecting to see his charges gone, Paul assured him that no one had escaped. The upheaval makes such an impression on the jailer that he makes an earnest plea to the missionaries, asking how he can be saved. He thus hears the gospel, and believes it along with his family, who are all baptized and share in the joy of salvation. Thus we see yet another kind of situation that God can use.

After all this, Paul and Silas were freed and asked to leave the city (Acts 16:35-40). It is rather interesting that at this point Paul objects to the way they have been treated, now claiming the rights of a Roman citizen, which (among other things) should have exempted him from arbitrary flogging. In one sense, they have endured a beating for nothing, but on the other hand, if Paul had asserted his rights earlier, the jailer and his family may not have heard the gospel, or at least would not have seen such strong reasons to believe. In any case, the authorities now turn friendly, and do what they can to send them away on positive terms. Before leaving, Paul and Silas spend some time with the new Christians in Philippi, meeting them at Lydia’s home, which had likely become their first meeting place.

For Discussion or Study: In what ways do we see God’s hand at work in Philippi? What general lessons can we learn from the events in this city?

- Mark W. Garner, June 2002

Verses 6-12

Act 16:6-12


Acts 16:6-12

6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia,—“Phrygia” at this time was a broken portion of Asia Minor, under the jurisdiction of three or four distinct governors; it was west of Antioch in Pisidia; its chief cities mentioned in the New Testament are Colosse, Laodicea, and Hierapolis. “Galatia” was a great midland district of Asia Minor, east of Phrygia, inhabited by the descendants of the Gauls, who invaded Greece and Asia in the third century B.C. It became a formal province of Rome in A.D. 26. Paul laid the foundation of the Galatian churches, to which he wrote his epistle to the Galatians on this missionary tour. While he was in Galatia he was attacked by sickness. (Galatians 4:13-14.) He was not permitted by the Holy Spirit to speak the word or preach in Asia on this trip. “Asia” represents the provinces of Lydia, Mysia, and Caria.

7-8 and when they were come over against Mysia,—The territories or provinces then were not very well defined or outlined ; hence, it is difficult to set the boundaries of these provinces. Luke here says that Paul had been hindered by the Holy Spirit from going west into Asia, but went northward so as to come in front of Bithynia; this journey would take him directly through Phrygia and the north Galatian country. “Bithynia” was a district on the Black Sea; Paul was not allowed to deviate from the course that led directly to Europe. It should be noticed that the Holy Spirit led Paul away from the scene of his former labors and into new fields. He had been warned not to preach in Asia, and he had taken this as a sign to continue in the peninsuala and to return to Galatia by Bithynia; he was checked again; he had now only one way to travel, and that was westward to the seacoast; so he and his companions went along the southern border of Mysia, and passing by that region he came to Troas.

9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night:—Troas bears the name of the ancient Troy which was a seaport on the Helles- point. This Troas was about four miles from the site of the ancient Troy. Paul and his company were led westward to this city, and here the Lord caused Paul to have a vision one night, and in this vision he saw a man of Macedonia, standing and “beseeching him” by saying: “Come over into Macedonia, and help us.” “Vision” is from the Greek “horama,” and includes something that is seen. We are reminded here of the vision of Peter and Cornelius. Some think that this “man of Macedonia” was Luke; we know that Luke joins Paul’s company at Troas. Paul was miraculously granted this vision, as he had been divinely prohibited visiting other places; he is now divinely guided to go into Europe. This vision does not come in the form of a command from Christ, but it comes in the form of a petition from man. Paul understood the vision and at once made preparation to go into Europe.

10 And when he had seen the vision,—Paul “straightway,” or immediately, “sought to go forth into Macedonia,” for he concluded “that God had called us to preach the gospel unto them.” Paul’s answer to the call was earnest and instant; he was a man of action and was ready to obey the call at once. Luke introduces himself into the narrative by the pronoun “we”; he was a physician (Colossians 4:14) and a Gentile (Colossians 4:11 Colossians 4:14); it is possible that this means that Luke had been preaching the gospel in those regions and that he was happy to join the company with Paul. Luke accompanied Paul into Macedonia, and was with him at Samothrace, Neapolis, and Philippi. The way Luke introduces himself with the pronouns “we” and “us” shows that he was a preacher of the gospel as well as a physician. The clause, “that God had called us to preach the gospel,” shows that he included himself with Paul, Silas, and Timothy as preachers of the gospel. Nothing is said here about their preaching the gospel in Troas, yet Paul makes reference to the church there in 2 Corinthians 2:12. Acts 20:6 shows that there was a church at Troas.

11-12 Setting sail therefore from Troas,—Samothrace was an island in the Aegean Sea on the Thracian coast, about sixty miles in a direct line from Troas. “Samothrace” is one of the most ancient names of the island of Samos, but in order to distinguish it from another Samos, in the sea, it was called by the come,” or “Samos of Trace,” it being not far from the country of Thrace. “Neapolis” was a seaport in Macedonia. Luke was familiar with terms of travel by water. On this trip they had the wind in their favor and were able to take a straight course. They went from Neapolis to Philippi, a distance of about twelve miles inland. Philippi was a Roman colony, and was the capital or chief city of Macedonia. They tarried at this place certain days.

Verses 13-15

Act 16:13-15


Acts 16:13-15

13 And on the sabbath day we went forth—Paul and his company wasted no time after arriving at Philippi; on the Sabbath day, the Jewish Sabbath, Paul’s company went “without the gate by a river side” and found some women who were accustomed to meeting there for prayer. It seems that there was no synagogue in Philippi and that these women went to this accustomed place for worship. The little river Gangites or Gargites was one mile west of the town. Philippi was a military outpost of the Roman government, and but few Jews lived there. It may be that Paul and his company had located this place of prayer before this time; they probably saw it as they entered Philippi. The rule of the rabbis required ten men to constitute a synagogue, but here had gathered only a group of women. Where the Jews had no synagogue they sometimes had a building or an open-air place near the river or sea; they needed the water for ceremonial washings. While in Babylon “by the rivers” they sat down. (Psalms 137:1; Ezra 8:15 Ezra 8:21.) Claudius had banished the Jews from Rome, and therefore from colonies (Acts 18:2), and it may be that this Roman city had obeyed that order. “We sat down, and spake unto the women” that gathered there. Sitting was the Jewish attitude for public speaking; it was not mere conversation, but more likely conversational preaching of an expository character. Luke uses the pronoun “we,” including himself, Paul, Silas, and Timothy, but Paul was the chief speaker.

14 And a certain woman named Lydia,—“Lydia” was a common name among the Greeks and Romans; it was itself a province in Asia Minor; she was born in Thyatira which was in Lydia. Thyatira was one of the seven churches of Asia mentioned in Revelation 2:18; it was famous for its purple dyes. Lydia was a seller of purple, either the coloring matter or the fabric already dyed. The purple color was esteemed very highly by the ancients. There was great demand for this fabric, as it was used on the official toga at Rome and in Roman colonies. The term “royal purple” is still used. (Luke 16:19.) Lydia was a woman of some means to carry on such an important business so far from her native city; some think that she was a free-woman, since racial names were often borne by slaves. Lydia “worshipped God”; she heard Paul and his company preach the gospel. She was either a Jewess or a proselyte to the Jewish religion. The Greek for “worshipped” is “sebomene,” and means “a God-fearer, or proselyte of the gate.” It may be that she had become a proselyte while in Philippi; she was only a sojourner in Philippi, for Paul writes a letter to the church at Philippi later, but does not mention Lydia, the first convert of the church there. “Whose heart the Lord opened” simply means that her mind was enlightened by the preaching of the gospel. “Opened” is from the Greek “dienoixen,” which means “to open up wide or completely like a folding door.” A person’s heart is said to be closed up against instruction when it is unwilling to hear it or to obey it. Jesus opened the mind of the disciples to understand the scriptures. (Luke 24:45.) God had led Paul and his company to Lydia, and they had preached the gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit to her, and caused her to understand; hence, in this way the Lord “opened” her heart. She gave “heed unto the things which were spoken by Paul.” Here Paul is made the chief speaker. “To give heed” is from the Greek “prosechein,” and means “to hold the mind on, or to keep the mind centered on” the things which were spoken by Paul, whose words gripped her attention.

15 And when she was baptized, and her household,—Both Lydia and all who composed her family received the truth which Paul presented; her household consisted of persons in her employ. The Gangites River was near, as this prayer meeting was held “by a river”; so Lydia was baptized in the river. “Household” is from the Greek “oikos,” and originally meant the building, and then it came to mean the inmates of the house. There is nothing here to show whether Lydia’s “household” included any others than “the women” whom she had employed. There is no evidence that her household included any infants, as the household of Cornelius, the jailer, and Crispus evidently had no infants in them. There is no evidence that Lydia even was married or had a husband or had children. There is no evidence here of infant baptism. After her conversion she persuaded Paul and his company to sojourn with her for a while. Peter’s reception at the house of Simon, the tanner, and the entertainment of Lydia are instances of the hospitality which was characteristic of early Christians.

Verses 16-24

Act 16:16-24


Acts 16:16-24

16 And it came to pass, as we were going—Paul and his company continued to visit the place of prayer by the riverside in Philippi after the conversion of Lydia and her household for some days; we are not told just how long they continued to visit this place; they could get an audience there and hence preach the gospel to those who gathered there. One day while they were on their way to this place of prayer “a certain maid having a spirit of divination” met them; Luke is in the company, as he uses the pronoun “us.” This maid was a slave, and she was possessed with “a spirit of divination”; the Greek is “pneuma puthona,” which means the spirit of python. “Python” was the spirit that traditionally guarded Delphi. In Greek mythology Python was a dragon, which was slain by Apollo, who was called the Pythian Apollo; and as Apollo was the god of oracles, his priests were said to be inspired by him. This slave girl was owned by joint owners who used her powers as a source of revenue, and it appears that they made large sums of money from her unfortunate condition.

17 The same following after Paul and us—This maiden followed Paul, Silas, and Luke: Timothy may have been in the company. As she followed them she “cried out” to those who were in hearing distance that “these men are servants of the Most High God”; the heathen used this inscription for the Supreme Being; her testimony was like that borne by the demoniacs to Jesus as “Son of the Most High God.” (Luke 8:28.) Demons frequently bore testimony to the divinity of Jesus. (Matthew 8:29; Mark 1:24 Mark 3:11; Luke 4:41.) This maiden may have heard Paul preach about Jesus as “the way of salvation.” She knew the mission of Paul and his company; he preached Jesus to sinners as the way of salvation.

18 And this she did for many days.—She kept this testimony before the public by repeating her words for “many days.” Paul was not willing to receive the testimony of this “spirit of divination” ; he wanted the faith of people to be based upon the word of God, the testimony of the Holy Spirit, and not upon the testimony of demons. Paul, “being sore troubled” at the persistent testimony of this maiden, rebuked the spirit by saying: “I charge thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” Paul recognized the demon or evil spirit in her and spoke to it. He commanded the spirit “in the name of Jesus Christ,” or by his authority, to come out of her. This was according to the promise of Jesus. (Mark 16:17.) Paul did not want any evidence from this source, as he did not want the homage of the people of Lystra. (Acts 14:14.) The evil spirit obeyed immediately and came out of her.

19 But when her masters saw—When those who jointly owned her saw that the hope of their gain was gone, they were angry with Paul and Silas and seized them and “dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers." “The marketplace" was the Roman forum near which would be the courts of law as in our courthouse square. They were seeking for revenge; hence, they had Paul and Silas arrested and brought before the proper authorities for trial and punishment.

20-21 and when they had brought them unto the magistrates,—“Magistrates" is from the Greek “strategois," and literally means “leader of an army, or general"; but in civic life it means a governor. “Strategois" is the Greek rendering of the Latin “praetores," or praetors; the Roman praetors were accompanied by “lictors," who bore rods with which to punish those who were convicted. The joint owners of this slave girl attempted to prejudice the court before any evidence was given; they said these men, “being Jews," caused trouble in the city. They caused the trouble by setting “forth customs" which, they said, they were not according to law to receive, “or to observe," as Roman citizens. There is a sharp contrast between Paul and his company, “being Jews,” and those who were making the charge as Roman citizens. Roman magistrates would not pass sentence on abstract theological questions (Acts 18:15), but if the peace was disturbed or a secret sect was organized, the magistrates would pass sentence on these things. 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 the Roman law. The owners of this girl sought vengeance on Paul and Silas by thus bearing witness against them.

22 And the multitude rose up together against them:—There was no mob, as Paul and Silas were in the hands of officers, but a sudden and violent uprising of the people reinforced the charges that had been made against them; there was a strong appeal to race and national prejudice. This violent uprising had its influence on the “magistrates,” and they “rent their garments off them,” and commanded that Paul and Silas be beaten “with rods.” The magistrates did not tear their own clothes off themselves, but did tear the clothes off Paul and Silas that the lictors might beat their bare backs with their rods. The magistrates gave the orders that Paul and Silas be beaten with rods. Paul later said: “Thrice was I beaten with rods.” (2 Corinthians 11:25.) This may have been one of the times.

23 And when they had laid many stripes upon them,— “Many stripes” is from the Greek “pollas plegas” the Jewish law was forty stripes save one, or thirty-nine stripes. (2 Corinthians 11:24.) The Roman custom depended on the whims of the judge; it was a severe ordeal. It was the custom to inflict the stripes on the naked body. After Paul and Silas were beaten they were then put in prison and the jailer given strict orders to keep them safely. Luke does not include himself or Timothy in this punishment.

24 who, having received such a charge,—The jailer was given strict orders to put them in prison, and was given such strict orders that he thought he would put them in the safest place, so he “cast them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.” “The inner prison” was the third compartment of the prison. 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; (3) the tullianium, or dungeon, the place of execution or for one condemned to die. Not only were they put in the inner prison, but their feet were placed “in the stocks.” Usually the “stocks” were fixed so that the arms and legs, and even necks of the prisoners were confined; but here only the feet were placed in the stocks. “Stocks” was an instrument of torture as well as confinement, consisting of heavy pieces of wood with holes, into which the feet were placed in such a manner that they were stretched widely apart so as to cause the sufferer great pain. Paul and Silas were placed in such torture during this eventful night.

Verses 25-34

Act 16:25-34


Acts 16:25-34

25 But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying—“Midnight” was one division of the watches. Paul and Silas were suffering from stripes, loss of blood, hunger, and the stocks in which they were fastened. It seems that they had not slept any up to this time, yet in the midst of their suffering and inconvenience of position, they could pray to God and sing his praises. They were praying and singing simultaneously, and blending together their petition and praise. Their wounds were undressed, filth and vermin that infested prisons of that day added to their pain, while their position was one of torture, sleep was out of the question, but they had the privilege and comfort of prayer. Other prisoners heard their prayers and songs; they were “listening to them.” It was an unusual occurrence for prisoners to be praying and praising God; Paul and Silas sang the gospel, and men who would not listen to a sermon heard the gospel in song. Other prisoners were not the only ones who heard Paul and Silas; God and Christ, for whom they were suffering, heard them.

26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake,—Luke and Timothy were not in prison; we know not why they were not cast into prison with Paul and Silas; hence, Luke regards this “earthquake,” Greek “seismos,” or shaking of the earth as an answer to prayer. (Acts 4:31.) This was a very violent earthquake, for it even was felt down to the foundations of the prison walls and the doors were broken open, and the staples of the chains fell out of the walls. The opening of the doors and the loosening of the chains by the earthquake is difficult to understand unless one understands the construction of the prisons of that time. The quaking of the earth forced the door posts apart from each other so that the bar which fastened the door slipped from its hold, and the door swung open. The chains and stocks were detached from the wall which was shaken so that they were loose from the wall.

27 And the jailor, being roused out of sleep—Such an earthquake would naturally arouse the jailer and frighten all of the prisoners. It is noted that neither the groans nor singing of hymns had kept the jailer from sleeping; nothing but the terror of an earthquake could disturb him. When he saw that the prison doors were open, he naturally supposed that the prisoners had all escaped and, knowing that he would have to pay the penalty for their escape with his own life, he “was about to kill himself.” By the Roman law the jailer was subject to the same death as the escaped prisoners would have suffered; suicide was preferred by many to the death and torture that they would have to suffer. Sometimes jailers were selected from the lowest class, and sometimes from the criminal class (Acts 12:19 Acts 27:42), and were punished by death if the prisoners escaped. It appears that the prisoners were too frightened to escape, or did not have time to escape before the jailer made his appearance.

28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying,—Paul was master of the situation here as he frequently was at other times. He saw what the jailer was about to do, and checked him by crying with a “loud voice.” “Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.” The earthquake had loosened the staples of the chains which were fastened in the wall and then to the prisoners, and the bars of the doors had been loosened and the doors opened, but no prisoner had escaped; it may be that the chains were still on the prisoners and prevented a hasty escape; at any rate, none of them had escaped. Some have questioned the accuracy of Luke’s account by saying that Paul could not see what the jailer was about to do, as the jailer could not see that the prisoners had not escaped; however, there was enough light for Paul to see what was about to be done; the jailer saw the prison doors open without any other light, and so Paul could and did see what the jailer was about to do.

29-30 And he called for lights and sprang in,—When the jailer heard Paul’s assuring command, he called for lights and made a hasty investigation and found that Paul had spoken the truth to him; he then, “trembling for fear, fell down before Paul and Silas.” In some way he connected the earthquake and the safety of the prisoners with Paul and Silas. He may have known something of their miraculous power, and especially the cure of the slave girl for which Paul and Silas had been thrust into prison. It is very probable that the jailer first attended to his proper duties and secured all the prisoners before he came to Paul and Silas; his life was at stake, and he would promptly see that the prisoners were safe before he did anything else. It seems very unreasonable that he would neglect attention to the other prisoners and come and fall down at the feet of Paul and Silas. The jailer brought Paul and Silas out of the inner prison and probably into the court and asked: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” He left the other prisoners inside and realized that he must now deal with these men of whom he had heard something as servants of the “Most High God.” The jailer did not ask what he should do to be saved from the wrath of his superiors; he had nothing to fear from them, since the prisoners were all safe. Neither did he ask what he should do to save himself from the anger of heathen gods, for his appeal would not be to Paul and Silas, as they did not worship these gods. The answer that Paul gave implies the meaning of his question; he is asking what he must do to be saved from his sins.

31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus,—He had asked both Paul and Silas what he should do to be saved from his sins, and now both are included in the answer; “they said” is the expression that Luke uses. “Believe on the Lord Jesus” is the answer to this direct question. Faith in the Christ, personal trust in him as a Redeemer, is required. “And in none other is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12.) The answer is brief, simple, plain, and accurate; not only could he be saved through faith in Christ, but his entire household could be saved; in fact, everyone could be saved on the same terms of the gospel.

32 And they spake the word of the Lord unto him,—The answer was that the jailer should believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; but he cannot believe in Jesus as the Savior of the world, as his Savior, without evidence. “So belief cometh of hearing, and hearng by the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17.) He could not believe without first hearing the evidence of testimony concerning the Christ; hence, “they spake the word of the Lord unto him” and to all “that were in his house.” Paul and Silas preached the gospel to them so that he could obey their command to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul and Silas had sung the gospel to the prisoners, and they now preached it to the jailer and all that were in his house. As a heathen the jailer was ignorant of both the truths and commands of the gospel; these were taught him by Paul and Silas; hence, his faith would have a true foundation. They spoke the word of the Lord not only to the jailer, but to those who were in his house; this shows that the jailer’s household was composed of those who were capable of hearing and understanding the gospel ; hence, they were responsible if they did not hear and obey the gospel.

33 And he took them the same hour of the night,—“He took them” implies that he took them away from one place to that of another; we are not informed as to where he took them, but we know that he took them to a place where there was much water, for he “washed their stripes.” This shows that he not only believed the words that had been preached to him, but that he was penitent of his sins, and was willing to do everything that he could for the comfort and ease of Paul and Silas. He “was baptized, he and all his, immediately.” There was no delay in his doing what he was commanded to do. In giving the commission Jesus had said: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.” (Mark 16:16.) The jailer had heard the gospel, he believed it, was penitent of his sins, and is now baptized; on these conditions and obedience to them, he could claim remission of sins. All who had heard the gospel in the jailer’s household, and all who believed it, were baptized. It is worthy of note that there was no delay in their being baptized; no one deferred baptism by the instruction of an inspired guide, but, on the other hand, in every case of their hearing, believing, repenting of their sins, baptism was attended to immediately.

34 And he brought them up into his house,—The jailer now does all that he can for Paul and Silas. As a jailer he was not acting illegally, for while he was responsible for the prisoners, he was under no obligations to fulfill this duty in any particular way. Paul and Silas would not try to escape, and the jailer had confidence in them as servants of God. The jailer must be responsible for the safekeeping of his prisoners, and he now feels safe about Paul and Silas. After bringing them “up into his house” he “set food before them, and rejoiced greatly.” He had occasion to rejoice. We note the contrast between the jailer’s joy and the dread of the magistrates. (Acts 16:38.) A great change had taken place within a short time in the jailer’s house. It is very likely that the trouble and arrest of Paul and Silas took place at the third hour of the day, or nine o’clock in the morning, and they had probably been fasting for nearly twenty-four hours. We do not know who this jailer was, but some have suggested he was Stephanas. (1 Corinthians 1:16 1 Corinthians 16:15 1 Corinthians 16:17.) Lydia and her household were the first converts in Europe and at Philippi; the jailer and his household were the next; hence, the nucleus of the church at Philippi was the households of Lydia and the jailer. Later Paul wrote a letter to this church.

Verses 35-40

Act 16:35-40


Acts 16:35-40

35 But when it was day, the magistrates sent—The magistrates or praetors and lictors knew nothing about what had taken place during the night, but they surely had learned something about the earthquake and its effects. All that Luke has related took place in the night, so the next morning early the authorities sent the lictors or sergeants and commanded them to “let those men go.” There had been no further inquiry as to the charges against Paul and Silas, no regular trial, but the magistrates were uneasy. No reason is given for the change of mind of the magistrates ; the jailer received orders to release Paul and Silas.

36 And the jailor reported the words to Paul,—No doubt the jailer received the words with joy, because he was now in sympathy with Paul and Silas and would be glad to see them go without further trial or punishment. He even invited Paul and Silas to “come forth, and go in peace.” Paul and Silas had not taken advantage of the jailer simply because they were preachers of the gospel; although they had baptized the jailer and his household, yet they asked no favors of him that would involve him in any way with the authorities. Paul and Silas knew a better way, and did not obey the orders of the jailer.

37 But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us publicly, —The reply of Paul is very full of brevity and energy, and brings a serious charge against the magistrates. He charges the authorities with the following: (1) beating them publicly; (2) beating uncondemned men; (3) beating with rods men that are Roman citizens; (4) after beating them they had been cast into prison. These four charges were serious; Paul knew that they were, and he does not hesitate to prefer these charges. The magistrates had done so much publicly, and they now sought to release Paul and Silas privately; they attempted to evade the charges and escape

any punishment that was due them. Paul rightly demanded vindication; he demanded that they acknowledge their mistakes and correct them. They were too eager to cast Paul and Silas into prison, and they are now too eager to dismiss them; they have prisoners on their hands with whom they must now reckon. If Paul and Silas had gone away secretly, a stain would have rested on their reputation, which would have reflected dishonor on the gospel they preached. Paul’s reply was that they publicly declared them criminals by the treatment given them, and now they must publicly declare their innocence. They had violated the Roman law in beating Roman citizens before they were condemned; they had done this openly; that is, publicly; they had put them in prison without a fair trial; these were all serious charges.

38 And the serjeants reported these words—The “serjeants” were the lictors, whose duty it was to carry the rods and scourge those who were sentenced to punishment. The sergeants were sent by the magistrates to release or have released Paul and Silas. When the magistrates heard that Paul, and probably Silas, were Roman citizens, they “feared” because they had scourged and imprisoned Roman citizens without a fair trial. Paul submitted to scourging by his own countrymen five times (2 Corinthians 11:24), but never claimed the rights as a Roman citizen to the Jews. The magistrates did not know that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, as Lysias did not know it. (Acts 22:27.) No one challenged Paul’s claim as a Roman citizen at any time; it was a grave offense to make a false claim to Roman citizenship. To violate the Roman law with respect to Roman citizenship subjected a magistrate to the danger of being summoned to Rome to answer for his offense; the punishment for this crime was death and confiscation of goods. This accounts for the fear that these magistrates had when they heard of Paul’s Roman citizenship. Death was the penalty for making a claim to Roman citizenship when it was false; seldom did anyone make a false claim because of the severe penalty; hence, they believed Paul’s statement.

39 and they came and besought them;—It is very probable that the magistrates made due amends for the wrongs they had done to Paul and Silas. They now urgently besought them to leave the city. “They asked” them to leave the city. “Asked” is from the Greek “eroton,” and means that they kept on begging them to leave the city for fear of further trouble The magistrates had no right to command or demand that they leave the city, but they asked them as a favor and as a means of preventing any further trouble. Paul and Silas were willing to go, but not secretly; Paul would not desert the young converts nor bring a scandal on the name of Christ by a secret departure; they departed leisurely in such a way as to clear their own names of any blame or shame that might be attached to their imprisonment. Paul and Silas were vindicated, and they could now leave the city.

40 And they went out of the prison,—When they left the prison they went to the house of Lydia where the disciples assembled there to greet them. “The brethren” here include Luke and Timothy, the jailer and those who were baptized with him, and others who were converted in Philippi. Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke were all guests of Lydia before Paul and Silas’ imprisonment. (Verse 15.) It is very likely that the church at Philippi first met in the house of Lydia. Paul and Silas “comforted” the brethren. Who needed comforting more than Paul and Silas? Yet they comforted others. After comforting the brethren Paul and Silas “departed”; Luke and Timothy did not accompany them, but remained at Philippi; some think that Luke remained until Paul returned to Philippi. From Luke’s use of the pronouns “we” and “us,” we learned that he was with Paul and Silas from Troas to Philippi. He uses a different mode of expression in this verse; namely, the use of the third person, “they”; this shows that the writer did not accompany Paul and Silas from Philippi; he continues to use the third person in his narrative until he comes to Acts 20:5, where the use of the first person is resumed. By a study of these passages and of Acts 20:6, it appears probable that Luke remained in Philippi until Paul returned to this city on his way to Asia Minor and to Jerusalem. Luke mentions Timothy in Acts 17:14, and from that passage we learn that he was afterward at Berea with Paul and Silas. Paul left him there with Silas when he himself went to Athens; hence, we conclude that Timothy was left with Luke at Philippi, while Paul and Silas went through Amphip- olis and Apollonia to Thessalonica.

Questions on Acts

By E.M. Zerr

Acts Chapter 16

  • · What was Paul’s first stop?

  • · Tell whom he found at this place.

  • · Explain his nationality.

  • · What was his reputation?

  • · State what Paul wished him to do.

  • · What did he do to him first?

  • · Harmonize this with previous chapter.

  • · As they journeyed what did they deliver?

  • · Where had these been ordained?

  • · State the progress made by the churches.

  • · What restrictions were made on them by the Holy Ghost?

  • · To what city did they finally come?

  • · What appeared to Paul?

  • · State the call made on him.

  • · What assurance did Paul have now?

  • · Name their first important stop.

  • · What colony was here?

  • · To where did they go on the Sabbath day?

  • · Tell what often took place here.

  • · Who were resorting here?

  • · Name one of Paul’s hearers.

  • · Was she a religious woman?

  • · How much of her family was baptized?

  • · What request did she make?

  • · Who met Paul on the way to prayer service?

  • · State the use her masters made of her.

  • · Repeat her statement about Paul and Silas.

  • · Was this the truth?

  • · Why should Paul object to her?

  • · What fact angered her masters?

  • · To what place did they draw the preachers?

  • · State the accusations lodged against them.

  • · Was any part of them true?

  • · What was first done to Paul and Silas?

  • · State the charge given to the jailer.

  • · How did he arrange to observe this charge?

  • · Where and when was the next prayer service?

  • · Was it a secret prayer?

  • · What happened then?

  • · Did this release Paul and Silas?

  • · Explain action of the jailer in the 27th verse.

  • · How were the preachers released?

  • · Repeat the inquiry of the jailer.

  • · Why was he told only to believe?

  • · What was further spoken unto him?

  • · Who were baptized?

  • · When was it done?

  • · Was it done in the house?

  • · What act of hospitality did the jailer show?

  • · Show that no infants were baptized here.

  • · Give the magistrates’ orders in the morning.

  • · Why would Paul go?

  • · How was Paul a Jew, abo a Roman?

  • · How did this fact impress the magistrates:

  • · Describe their conduct toward Paul and 8ilas..

  • · Into what house did they enter?

Acts Chapter Sixteen

Ralph Starling

In Lystra they met a young man, Timotheus.

His father was a Greek, his mother Jewish.

He was highly respected with a good reputation,

Paul desired his company but found complication.

He father a Greek, Timothy was not circumcised.

His work among the Jews would be criticized

Arrangements were made and the operation was done,

And the decrees from Jerusalem were made known.

At Troas Paul had a vision for him to decide

To go to Macedonia the gospel to supply.

They arrived in Philippi on a Sabbath day,

And found some women meeting to pray.

As they listened to what Paul had spoken,

One of them, Lydia, her heart was opened,

And she and her household were baptized,

And to her house they were invited.

Later they faced another situation.

A girl possessed with a spirit of divination.

Crying “these men are from God to show us salvation.”

Her masters quickly brought opposition.

They were strapped, beaten and bound in braces,

But at midnight they prayed and sang praises.

Suddenly the doors were opened by an earthquake

And the jailer just knew they had escaped.

When the jailer saw they were O.K.

He asked, “What must I do to be saved?”

When he was told he was quite satisfied,

The same hour he and all his were baptized.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Acts 16". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/acts-16.html.
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