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THE SECOND MISSIONARY JOURNEY (PAUL AND SILAS)—CONTINUED
1. Paul and Silas in Lycaonia; or, Meeting with Timothy (Acts 16:1-5).
2. Regions Beyond; or, the Vision of the Man of Macedonia (Acts 16:6-10).
3. Paul and Silas in Philippi; or, the Gospel carried to Europe (Acts 16:11-13; Acts 16:40).
4. A Sabbath in Philippi; or, the Conversion of Lydia (Acts 16:14-15).
5. The Cure of a Pythoness; or, the Slave-girl and the Apostle (Acts 16:16-18).
6. The First Pagan Persecution; or, the Imprisonment of Paul and Silas (Acts 16:19-39).
NOTE.—The whole critical school admits the credibility of everything in this chapter except the transactions represented as having taken place in the prison. The earthquake, shaking the prison doors and snapping the prisoners’ fetters, the jailor’s foolishness in proposing to murder himself before he knew what had actually happened, the unlikelihood of all the prisoners remaining in their cells when the doors stood open for their escape, and the hasty dismissal of the apostles, are all set down as “holy fable,” which received a colouring at least from the story preserved by Lucian of an innocent prisoner in Alexandria (A.D. 100), who disdained the opportunity of flight from prison which was offered him, and instead demanded the formal recognition of his innocence from the magistrates. But the story is not incredible, if the supernatural is not impossible; while in Lucian’s tale, compared with Luke’s narrative, is nothing more wonderful than this, that an innocent man fell upon the same course of action, as another did half a century before—which is surely not impossible or even uncommon.
Acts 16:1. Derbe and Lystra (see Acts 14:6) are now visited by Paul and Silas in reverse order to that followed in the first journey. There meant Lystra, not Derbe, as has been wrongly inferred out of Acts 20:4. The son of a certain woman, etc., should be, the son of a believing Jewish woman, whose name was Eunice, the daughter of Lois (2 Timothy 1:5), both pious females who instructed him in the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15), but of a Greek father, whoError! Hyperlink reference not valid. may have been a proselyte, and was certainly uncircumcised.
Acts 16:2. Well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium.—This may well have been if Timothy had been converted on the occasion of Paul’s first visit to the former city, and if since that he had been engaged in evangelistic labours both there and in Iconium.
Acts 16:3. Circumcised him.—Whether by Paul’s own hand (Meyer, De Wette), or by that of another (Neander) is immaterial. Any Israelite might perform the rite, though no heathen could (see Riehm’s Handwörterbuch des Biblischen Altertums, art. Beschneidung). On the seeming inconsistency of this act with Paul’s refusal to circumcise Titus (Galatians 2:3), see “Homiletical Analysis.”
Acts 16:4. The mention of the decrees confirms the historic credibility of chap. 15.
Acts 16:1-5. Paul and Silas in Lycaonia; or, Meeting with Timothy
I. The missionaries and the Churches.—
1. The Churches visited by the missionaries. Derbe, Lystra, and Iconium, which are mentioned in reverse order from that in which they were first introduced
(14), because on this occasion Paul and his companion approached them from Tarsus by travelling, most likely, through the Cilician gates. “And if indeed Paul and Silas took this route, and passed through the narrow gorge, under its frowning cliffs of limestone, clothed here and there with pine and cedar, which to the Crusaders presented an appearance so terrible that they christened it the Gates of Judas, how far must they have been from imagining, in their wildest dreams, that their footsteps—the footsteps of two obscure and persecuted Jews—would lead to the traversing of that pass centuries afterwards by kings and their armies” (Farrar, The Life and Work of St. Paul, i. 456).
2. The special work done by the missionaries. Twofold.
(1) Confirming the Churches (Acts 15:41), doubtless by preaching (see Acts 15:32; Acts 15:41).
(2) Delivering them the apostolic decrees (Acts 16:4), presumably with exposition and enforcement on the part of both Paul and Silas.
3. The result of their labours in the Churches.
(1) Intensive: establishment or strengthening in the faith, in the belief, love, and practice of the truth.
(2) Extensive: increase in number daily, first of believers and next of Churches.
II. Paul and Timothy.—
1. Details of Timothy’s history.
(1) His birthplace. Not Derbe (Neander), but Lystra (see Acts 20:4).
(2) His parentage. His father a Greek; whether living, or dead, and, if living, whether a proselyte, or a heathen, cannot be told. If alive and a proselyte, he was most likely uncircumcised. His mother a believing Jewess, by name Eunice, the daughter of Lois (2 Timothy 1:5), also a Christian disciple. Mixed marriages, condemned by Paul (1 Corinthians 7:0), “were far less strictly forbidden to women than to men” (Farrar).
(3) His character “well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium.” Supposing him to have been converted during Paul’s first visit to Lystra (Acts 14:8), he would at the time of Paul’s second visit be a disciple of three or four years’ standing, and during the interval may have given ample proof both at Lystra and Iconium of his interest in the cause of the gospel.
2. Paul’s desire to have him as a colleague in the ministry (compare2 Timothy 4:5; 2 Timothy 4:5). This may have arisen from a variety of motives. Paul may have
(1) considered him from his talents and graces eminently qualified for the work; or
(2) felt drawn towards him from the fact that he (Paul) had been the means of his conversion (1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Timothy 1:2; 1 Timothy 1:8; 2 Timothy 2:2); or
(3) recognised in his mixed Jewish and Greek descent, a circumstance calculated to be helpful in propagating the gospel in such mixed communities as were about to be visited; or
(4) wished to have a third companion in place of John Mark, as already he had Silas in room of Barnabas. (See further “Hints” on Acts 16:3.)
3. Paul’s conduct in causing him to be circumcised.
(1) The reason. “Because of the Jews that were in those parts; for they all knew that his father was a Greek.” In Paul’s estimation it would have hindered Timothy’s and perhaps his own usefulness among the Jews had he accepted as a colleague one of Jewish descent who was not circumcised. In other words, it would have looked strange that Paul should ask of Timothy (a half Jew) less of conformity to the law than was demanded of a heathen who became a proselyte of righteousness.
(2) The consistency. Paul’s conduct in circumcising Timothy—whether with his own hand or by that of another is uncertain—has been pronounced irreconcilable with his refusal to circumcise Titus (Galatians 2:3). Of course, if Titus was circumcised (Farrar, The Life and Work of St. Paul, i. 412–420), the subjection of Timothy to the same ritual requires no explanation; but if, as most hold, Titus was not circumcised, then no apology is needed further than to say, the circumstances were entirely different. To have yielded in the case of Titus would have been to concede the obligatory character of circumcision for Gentiles as well as Jews; to have left Timothy uncircumcised would simply have prevented him from finding access to the Jews. Paul acted on the principle laid down in 1 Corinthians 9:20.
4. Timothy’s ordination to the work of the ministry. Not mentioned in the Acts, this may be gathered from the pastoral epistles (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:14).
1. The value of a pious mother.
2. The advantage of early conversion.
3. The influence of a good name.
4. The duty of becoming all things to all men in order to gain some.
5. The benefit that flows from a peaceful disposal of controversies.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 16:1. A Certain Disciple named Timothy.
I. The son of a pious mother.—The advantage of being descended from godly parents. The influence of good mothers. The power of heredity in religion.
II. A student of the word of God.—Instructed in the Scriptures from his youth. Value of Bible education. The profit of beginning early.
III. A disciple of Jesus Christ.—Circumstances that favoured his conversion—his birth and education in a pious home. What presumably led to his decision for Christ—listening to Paul’s preaching, possibly witnessing Paul’s stoning (Acts 19:19). Advantages of early conversion—greater happiness, longer usefulness, higher advancement in grace.
IV. A preacher of the gospel.—A. fitting termination to Timothy’s career. The noblest occupation a young man can follow.
The Pious Mothers of the Bible.
I. Jochebed, the mother of Moses.
II. Hannah, the mother of Samuel.
III. Mary, the mother of Jesus.
IV. Salome, the mother of Zebedee’s children.
V. Eunice, the mother of Timothy.
I. Not permissible to Christians (2 Corinthians 6:14).
II. Seldom beneficial to either party. The Christian more likely to become unchristian than vice versâ.
III. Not to be dissolved, if formed before the conversion of either (1 Corinthians 7:10).
Acts 16:3. Paul’s Companions on the Second Missionary Journey.—
1. Silas, or “Silvanus, as Paul constantly names him, was an older man (than Paul), who had already made his appearance in foreign Churches as a prophet and teacher, and Paul constantly speaks of him as an associate of equal rank with himself. A prophet of the mother Church, who in the moment of general falling away steps manfully forward upon Paul’s side, must also have been an energetic and whole-souled man, of stronger tenacity than Barnabas and the others, and that Paul always speaks of him as a co-founder with himself of the Churches established in this period shows that he was to the apostle even more than an assistant. Then, if Silas was a sufficient compensation for Barnabas, who had departed to Cyprus, on the other hand Paul contemplated supplying the lack of John Mark through the taking with him of a younger man. For whilst the disciples of Jesus were accustomed to set forth two and two, Paul preferred, for various reasons suggested by the aim of his mission, that his travel company should consist of three. As he formerly journeyed with Barnabas and Mark, and on the present occasion travelled with Silas and Timothy, so worked he afterwards with Titus and Timothy in Macedonia and Achaia, and again with two, Luke and Aristarchus, sailed to Rome.”
2. Timothy. “The fresh young comrade whom the two older men now took with them was even then famed among the Christian Churches in Derbe, Lystra, and Iconium. Of no apostolic scholar is so concrete a picture handed down as of Timothy.… Through the pastoral epistles to Timothy we possess a complete tradition concerning Timothy which nevertheless may perfectly well include in itself elements of true history.… But in any case, out of Paul’s own letters (i.e., his acknowledged epistles), it is clear that Paul could entrust even difficult commissions to ‘the son of his heart, his beloved son in the Lord.’ Fixing our eyes exclusively on Paul’s own expressions concerning Timothy, we can see that modesty and even shyness were fundamental features in his character, so that Paul occasionally bespeaks for him a friendly reception that he might be able to appear amongst those to whom he is sent without fear (1 Corinthians 16:10). Forceful natures, like Paul, are often conscious of an inward attraction towards such quiet and gentle helpers; and just for this reason Paul rated the modest Timothy far above all his other fellow-labourers (Philippians 2:20). Nor was he deceived in him, since in persecution and bonds the younger disciple remained true to him when stronger natures fell away, and even after the apostle’s death he belonged to the best-known travelling preachers of the second generation (Hebrews 13:23). Tradition has endowed Timothy like another Achilles with eternal youth, so that in the epistles to Timothy, which, according to tradition, were composed towards the end of Paul’s activity, he appears the same youngling as he had been when first called by the apostle to the holy work (1 Timothy 4:12; 2 Timothy 2:22). Indeed, so high stood his reputation in the Church at this time, that his future career was said to have been pointed out by prophet voices (1 Timothy 1:18); whilst with great earnestness tradition asserted he had been a genuine scholar of Paul (1 Timothy 2:2).”—Hausrath, “Der Apostel Paulus,” pp. 258–260.
Acts 16:5. The Strength of a Church. Consists in—
I. The number of its members.
II. The enlightenment of their faith.
III. The cheerfulness of their obedience.
IV. The completeness of their organisation.
Acts 16:6. Phrygia and the region of Galatia should probably be, the Phrygian and Galatian region; but whether one or two distinct districts is intended is presently under debate. The commonly accepted interpretation (Hackett, Alford, Plumptre, Holtzmann, Zöckler, and others) holds that Paul and Silas, having visited the Churches in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, directed their steps first in a north-easterly direction towards Phrygia, and then turned north-west towards Northern Galatia, which was bounded “on the north by Paphlagonia and Bithynia, on the east by Pontus and Cappadocia, on the south by Cappadocia and Phrygia, and on the west by Phrygia and Bithynia” (Hackett), and inhabited by a Celtic population; but a different view (Zeller, Renan, Hausrath, Weizsäcker, Wendt, Ramsay, and others) considers the Phrygian and Galatian region to be the district alluded to in Acts 16:1-4, in which the above-named Churches were situated—viz., Southern, as distinguished from Northern Galatia. (See further in “Homiletical Analysis.”) That Paul again visited the Churches in this district, or these districts, at the beginning of his third journey is afterwards mentioned (Acts 18:23). Forbidden of the Holy Ghost.—Not through the exercise of ordinary prudence on the part of the apostles (De Wette), but by some special Divine intimation, as in Acts 13:2 (Alford), but whether conveyed by the Bath-Kol (Renan), or through some prophetic voice, as in Acts 20:23; Acts 21:11 (Holtzmann), cannot be determined. That this prohibition extended to preaching in Phrygia and Galatia is against the presupposition contained in Acts 18:23. Asia.—I.e., Proconsular Asia, or the western coastland.
Acts 16:7. Mysia was situated in the north-east corner of Asia Minor, Bithynia in the north and west of Mysia. Why they were prevented from preaching in Asia and Bithynia cannot be known, though Romans 15:20 and 2 Corinthians 10:15-16 may shed some light on the problem. Perhaps it should suffice to say that in this way the Spirit designed to turn their steps and faces westward in the direction of Europe. But see further in “Hints.” The Spirit.—The oldest authorities read, The Spirit of Jesus. As in the Filioque controversy at the Synod of Toledo, A.D. 589 neither party quoted this phrase, the inference is that by that time the text had been long corrupted.
Acts 16:8. Passing or having passed by Mysia.—Not “having passed along” the border of Mysia, but “having passed it by” so far as their work was concerned—i.e., having not stopped to preach in, but hastened through it. Troas.—Called Alexandria Troas, in honour of Alexander, founded by Alexander’s successors, and situated on the Hellespont. Now Eski-Stamboul. Visited twice again by Paul (Acts 20:6; 2 Corinthians 2:12). The home of Carpus, who perhaps acted as his host (2 Timothy 4:13).
Acts 16:9. Whether Paul’s vision in the night (compare Acts 18:9; Acts 23:11; Acts 27:23; 2 Corinthians 12:1) occurred in a dream or in an ecstasy cannot be decided. A man of Macedonia.—Paul would know this, if not from the man’s appearance, from his words “Come over.” Ramsay (St. Paul the Traveller, etc., pp. 202, 203) maintains that the man of Macedonia was Luke.
Acts 16:10. We.—The commencement of the “We” passages of this book (Acts 16:10-17; Acts 20:5-15; Acts 21:1-18 : Acts 27:1 to Acts 28:16), which shows that the writer of the Acts (Luke) joined Paul’s company at Troas. Tradition makes Luke to have been an Antiochian.
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 16:6-10
Regions Beyond; or, the Vision of the Man of Macedonia
I. The hindering Spirit.—
1. Who this was.
(1) The Holy Ghost. The third person of the Trinity, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son (John 15:26), and whom Christ promised to send after His departure from the earth (John 16:7), who came according to promise, on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4), and had ever since been guiding the development of the Church and the footsteps of its apostles and evangelists (see Acts 8:29, Acts 10:19, Acts 11:12, Acts 13:2; Acts 13:4).
(2) The Spirit of Jesus—i.e., the Spirit whom Jesus had sent. A valuable statement, the genuineness of which must be conceded (see “Critical Remarks”), confirming the well-known dogma of the Creed that the Spirit bears the same relation to the Son as to the Father.
2. When He interposed.
(1) After the two missionaries Paul and Silas had gone through the Phrygian and Galatian region, lying on the west and north of Lycaonia. The route pursued by them can only be conjectured. Probably from Lystra they proceeded to Iconium, and from that to Antioch in Pisidia, where Paul had on his previous journey founded a Church, after leaving which they would most likely cross the hills, and, merely touching Phrygian territory, enter the district of Galatia towards the north. (See, however, “Critical Remarks” and “Hints” on Acts 16:6.) Whether they evangelised any towns in Phrygia cannot be determined. Colossæ, situated in the south of Phrygia, it is not certain the apostle ever visited; but that he published the gospel to the Phrygians and made disciples seems the obvious deduction from Acts 18:23. That he preached in Galatia and founded Churches there himself declares (Galatians 1:2; Galatians 4:19). No Galatian cities are specially mentioned in connection with the spread of Christianity in this province; hence the inference that the Christian communities were scattered about the rural parts. Paul’s preaching in Galatia was, in a manner, brought about against his will, through an attack of bodily sickness which detained him in that province, when possibly he intended to push eastwards to Pontus. What this sickness was is not recorded, though most likely it was ophthalmia, and presumably had to do with his “thorn” or “stake in the flesh” (compare2 Corinthians 12:7-10; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 with Galatians 4:13-15); and see also Acts 13:14; “Homiletical Analysis” and “Hints”)
(2) Again when they assayed to go into Bithynia. This they did when they had come over against Mysia, which lay north of Asia, and, like it, looked out on the Ægean. Arrived thither, they contemplated turning north-east to Bithynia, a province located between Mount Olympus and the Euxine, when once more they were mysteriously arrested.
3. How He signified His will. This also can only be surmised. It may have been by an outward voice (Renan), such as probably directed Philip (Acts 8:20), or by an inward impression, such as Paul had already experienced (Galatians 2:2), by a dream or by a vision, by the voices of prophets, as in Acts 20:23, Acts 21:11 (Holtzmann, Nösgen), or simply, though less likely, by some natural occurrence, unrecorded, which rendered it impossible to carry out their intentions first of going into Asia and next of moving north into Bithynia. Paul’s rule (2 Corinthians 10:15-16) was not the hindrance. (See “Hints” on Acts 16:7.)
4. What course He appointed.
(1) That they should not speak the word in Asia. Politically considered, Asia meant the western portion of Asia Minor, which included Mysia, Lydia and Caria, Galatia, Phrygia, Bithynia, Cilicia, Pamphylia and Lycia, but, popularly viewed, it signified the territory situated west of Phrygia and south of Mysia. Why the missionaries were prevented from entering it can only have been that the hour was not yet arrived for its inhabitants to hear the gospel.
(2) That they should not pass into Bithynia. This seemed the natural direction for them to take, if their mission was not to cross the Ægean. But the Spirit, unconsciously to them, was conducting their steps towards Europe. Accordingly, once more stopped (at Mysia) and turned westward, they passed through but did not preach in (the meaning of “passing by”) the country, till they came down to Troas on the Hellespont, about four miles from the site of ancient Troy.
II. The midnight vision.—
1. The form it assumed. “A man of Macedonia” appeared before the eye of the apostle, “standing, beseeching him, and saying, Come over into Macedonia and help us.” The apparition and the voice were both supernatural (compareActs 11:12; Acts 11:12; Acts 10:30). Whether Paul recognised the man as a Macedonian by his appearance, dress, or speech is not related; but as Paul’s thoughts the day before had probably been much occupied with the Macedonian land which lay beyond the Ægean, and as the vision, though not created by, had been fitted to, his thoughts, it is not difficult to understand how his soul, lying in the hand of God, quickly leapt to the interpretation of the scene. The strange figure wore the aspect of a Macedonian man—perhaps, from his upright posture, a soldier (Farrar); the outstretched hands evoked a mute appeal for aid; the voice sounded like a summons to hurry over with that help which the men across the water greatly needed, not alone because of the corrupt and decaying civilisations in the midst of which they were perishing, but because of the magnificent potentialities for good which lay within them, notwithstanding their environment as members of the most advanced and active races on the face of the globe.
2. The inference it suggested. The apostles at once perceived the reason of that mysterious hindrance they had twice suffered, and, concluding that God had called them to preach the gospel in Europe, at once took steps to obey. “Straightway, we sought to go forth into Macedonia.” Like the good soldier of Jesus Christ that he was (2 Timothy 2:3), Paul always obeyed his marching orders with military promptitude and precision.
1. The real, though unseen, presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church and with the true servants of Jesus Christ.
2. The development of the Christian Church the proper care of the Holy Ghost.
3. The duty of Christian people, but especially of Christian ministers, to wait upon and follow the leading of the Spirit.
4. The certainty that guidance will never fail those prepared to accept it.
5. The loud call of the heathen world to the servants of Jesus Christ.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 16:6. The Region of Galatia.—The view that this was not Northern but Southern Galatia, the district in which lay the Churches of Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, has been recently championed by Professor Ramsay, who offers in its support the following consideration:—
I. The phrase, τὴν Φρυγίαν καὶ Γαλατικὴν χώραν, describes a single district, the land or territory which is both Phrygian and Galatian—a description which the professor maintains to be “strictly true,” and perfectly inapplicable to Northern Galatia, which could have been thought of had the discarded reading of the Textus Receptus, τὴν Φρυγίαν καὶ τὴν Γαλατικὴν χώραν, been retained.
II. Roman documents of the first century show that the district in which the above-named Churches were situated might be accurately described as Phrygian-Galatic. “In some inscriptions,” writes the professor, “the Governor of Galatia (in the larger sense) is called simply the Governor of Galatia, while in others he is styled Governor of Galatia, Pisidia, Phrygia, Lycaonia, Isauria, Pontus Galaticus, etc.”
III. No traveller from North Galatia to Bithynia could come to a point “over against Mysia,” still less “to the frontier of Mysia.” “A glance at a map (preferably a large map) will make this clear to all”; while everything is natural, if, after leaving Phrygian Galatia, the apostle was making for Asia when his course was arrested, and again was heading northwards to Bithynia, when he was a second time checked and turned westwards to Mysia and Troas.
IV. South Galatia is favoured by the chronology of Acts.—“The process of preaching in the great cities of Galatia needed in any case a considerable time; an invalid, as St. Paul is supposed on the North Galatian theory to have been, would require a long time in that vast and bare country. But the period allotted on any of the proposed systems of chronology to this journey leaves no room for the evangelisation of Galatia. We may safely assume that Paul left Antioch on his second journey in the spring. No one who knows the Taurus will suppose that he crossed it before the middle of May; June is a more probable time. Say, he passed the Cilician Gates on the 1st of June. If we calculate his journey by the shortest route, allowing no detention for unforeseen contingencies, but making him rest always on the Sundays, and supposing a stay of two Sundays each at Derbe, Iconium, and Antioch, and of at least five weeks at Lystra (which is required to select Timothy as comrade, to perform the operation on him, and to wait his recovery), we find that even if he did not touch North Galatia, October would be begun before he reached Philippi. Eleven months may be fairly allotted to the events recorded at Philippi, Thessalonica, Bœrea, and Athens; and then Paul went to Corinth where he resided a year and a half. He would then sail for Jerusalem in spring. Thus three entire years are required as the smallest allowance for this journey, even if it was done in the way our theory supposes.
V. Paul’s sickness makes for the South Galatian theory.—“It is required by the North Galatian theory that St. Paul, stricken at Ancyra by the severe illness,” referred to in Galatians 4:13, “took that opportunity to make the long, fatiguing journeys needed in order to preach in Tavium and Pessinus. Those who know the bare, black uplands of Galatia, hot and dusty in summer, covered with snow in winter, will appreciate the improbability and want of truth to nature which are involved in the words ‘because of an infirmity of the flesh I preached unto you.’ ” Professor Ramsay thinks Paul’s infirmity was the fever which he caught at Perga, and which determined him to visit the highlands of Pisidia and Lycaonia.—The Church in the Roman Empire, chaps. 3, 4.
Acts 16:6-7. Forbidden to preach in Asia and Bithynia.—The reason suggested for this by Hausrath is that Paul’s visit to Galatia, and indeed his entire progress hitherto, had been one of controversy and struggle. “Controversy in Jerusalem, controversy at Antioch, controversy in Galatia: that had been the way which lay behind him. Perhaps it was just for this reason that in the year 53–54 the Spirit suffered him not to turn either west to Proconsular Asia, where Ephesus was already in the struggle with Jewish Christians, or to Bithynia in the north, where in the days of Pliny at least a strongly coloured Jewish Christianity prevailed, but called him by a vision to Europe, where a freer development of his own peculiar foundation principle was possible among the Jews of the Diaspora who were less closely bound up with Jerusalem” (Der Apostel Paulus, p. 266).
Acts 16:7. The Spirit of Jesus.
I. The personality of this Spirit.—
1. Implied in the actions here ascribed to Him—“suffering not,” “hindering.” Impossible to be explained as a merely human, moral spirit, or even as “the power of the true religion or of the fellowship in life which the human spirit has with God, which has proceded from Jesus Christ and continues to work in the Christian Church” (Pfleiderer, Grundriss der Christlichen Glaubens- und Sittenlehre, p. 163). Throughout Acts the Spirit is a Divine person.
2. Confirmed by other Scripture representations. John 14:26; John 15:26; John 16:7; John 13-15; Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 2:10-11; 2 Corinthians 13:14, etc. “With Paul the Holy Spirit is that Spirit which, according to its origin, is Divine, but in Christians is Divine human, as becoming the peculiar and permanent principle of the new man (Galatians 5:22; Galatians 5:25; Romans 5:5; Romans 8:1-15; 1 Corinthians 2:10-15). With John also the Holy Spirit, corresponding to and in consequence of the Divine Logos personality in Christ is definitely conceived of as a separate Divine being” (Ibid., pp. 159, 160).
II. The relation of this Spirit to Jesus.—
1. Equal in essence with Christ. This implied in His association with Christ in the baptismal formula (Matthew 28:19) and the Christian benediction (2 Corinthians 13:14). “As the principle of man’s life fellowship with God,” says Pfleiderer (Grundriss, p. 159), the Holy Spirit with Paul “is thought of at one time as of the same essence with God and Christ, at another time as distinguished from both as the gift of God intermediated through Christ.”
2. Distinguished in personality from Christ. This also involved in the biblical doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Yet the distinction in personality must not be so held as to contradict the unity of essence. The existence of such relations in the Godhead may transcend human reason, but is not on that account to be denied.
3. Proceeding forth from Christ. Not merely from the Father (John 15:26), but also from the Son. Though not so stated in the New Testament, this has been accepted by the Christian Church as the necessary consequence of the doctrine of the divinity of the Son, and therefore of the Son’s essential equality with the Father.
4. Dispensed by Christ. In the days of His flesh Christ claimed that after His glorification He would send forth the Spirit from the Father (John 15:26; John 16:7), and this promise He fulfilled at Pentecost (Acts 2:33).
5. Representative of Christ. That the Holy Ghost should be the personal vicegerent and plenipotentiary of Jesus after His departure from the world was likewise distinctly taught (John 16:16).
III. The functions of this Spirit in the Church.—
1. The creator and sustainer of its life. The new moral and spiritual nature which belongs to every individual member of the Church is a direct production of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in the soul of the believer (John 3:5; Ephesians 2:1; Ephesians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17).
2. The revealer and interpreter of its truth. Whatever spiritual understanding the believing soul attains to, he owes to the inward illumination of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13-14; 1 Corinthians 2:9-14; Ephesians 1:17; 1 John 2:20).
3. The inspirer and guide of its movements. As the footsteps of Paul and Silas were directed by the Holy Ghost, so are those of believers superintended by the same Divine leader (Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:16).
Acts 16:9. The Cry of the Heathen—Come over and help us.
I. The significance of the cry.—
1. The cry of a perishing humanity.
2. Which has begun to realise its danger.
3. For that succour which alone can relieve distress—viz., the salvation of the gospel.
II. The parties to whom it is directed.—To the Christian Church—i.e., to those
(1) who have that salvation in their possession;
(2) who themselves received it as a free gift; and
(3) who also have been commanded to make it known to others.
III. Reasons why the cry should be listened to.—Because
(1) it is urgent, and has been long sounding in the Church’s ear;
(2) those crying are the Church’s brethren, who, like themselves, belong to Jesus Christ;
(3) ordinary gratitude for mercy received, if not love to Jesus Christ, should impel the Christian Church to respond to it; and
(4) without the Church’s aid the heathen world cannot be recovered for Jesus Christ.
The Cry of the Nations.
I. All nations ignorant of the gospel need help.—Arising from:
1. Their ignorance
(1) of God, and the way in which He is to be worshipped;
(2) of the Saviour, and the manner in which He is to be approached.
2. Their condition, represented in Scripture as a state of
(1) darkness (Matthew 4:16; Ephesians 5:8);
(2) disease (Isaiah 1:6);
(3) bondage (Romans 6:17; Ephesians 2:2); and
(4) death (Ephesians 2:1).
II. All nations needing help utter the same cry as the men of Macedonia.—Evident from
(1) the knowledge we have of their condition;
(2) our connection with them in the way of commerce; and
(3) the political relations in which we stand towards them.
III. It is the duty of the Church of Christ to respond to this cry.—
1. God has done everything to facilitate our exertions.
2. He has committed the care of the inhabitants of the world to the Christian Church. 3. Christ commands us to “love our neighbours as ourselves” and to “preach the gospel to every creature” imply the obligation here referred to.
4. Reason and equity say we should send to others that which we ourselves received from others.—Bogue.
Acts 16:10. The Call to Macedonia.—The cause which led to the apostle Paul’s crossing from Asia into Europe, and the object which he had in view in coming here.
I. As to the causes which led to his coming.—While one is referred to in the text, you will find others mentioned in the verses which go before (Acts 16:6). Thus, even so far, Paul might have felt himself guided to this continent. But he was not left to judge of it merely in that way. It was so important a step, and such great consequences were to follow on it, that a vision was given him.
II. And for what object did they come?—They drew the conclusion, we are told, that the Lord had called them to preach the gospel in that place. This was the object for which all the journeys of the apostle Paul were undertaken.
What are the lessons which we may learn for ourselves from this history?
1. From the way in which the apostle Paul was more than once kept from going where he intended, kept from going into the province of Asia, and kept from entering into Bithynia, and was led on where he seems never to have intended to go, to accomplish a mighty purpose, we learn how God may disappoint His people now in regard to some plan of usefulness which they have in view.
2. Another truth which we are reminded of is, that as this vision was given to Paul, the man of Macedonia calling on him to help them, so there are calls of the same kind continually made upon all Christian people, which we need no vision to remind us of, because they are a reality with which we are acquainted.
3. And there is one other lesson closely connected with this, which we may learn from what we have been considering to-day—the exceeding value of the gospel. This was shown by Paul’s object in coming over to Macedonia.—M. F. Day.
Acts 16:12. The chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony.—Better, a city of Macedonia, the first of the district, a colony—i.e., of Rome. Macedonia was divided into four parts; but whether “the first” meant “the first arrived at” (Winer, Zöckler, Lightfoot Alford), not a very valuable observation; or the first in political importance (Farrar, Ramsay), which Philippi was, though Thessalonica was the capital of Macedonia, and Amphipolis of the province; or “the first to be made a colony” (Grotius, Meyer, Wendt, Overbeck), the distinction pointed out in the text; or “the first city on the frontier” (Wordsworth), is debated, and is not clear. Wordsworth’s idea derives support from the occurrence of a similar phrase in Xenophon (Anab., I. iv. 1): εἰς Ἰσσούς, τῆς Κιλικίας ἐσχάτην πόλιν. Dr. Hort thinks some early corruption has crept into the text, and that instead of μερίδος should be read Πιερίδος (M for II), for Philippi belonged to the Pieria of Mount Paragon, and might well be called “a chief city of Pierian Macedonia” (Westcott and Hort’s The New Testament in Greek, 2:97, Appendix.) Ramsay says: “The term ‘first’ was commonly assumed by towns which were or claimed to be chief of a district or province.”
Acts 16:13. By a river side.—Neither the Strymon nor the Nestos, which are both distant from Philippi, but the smaller stream Gangas close by the town. Where prayer was wont to be made; or, where we supposed there has as a place of prayer (R.V.). The received reading corrected thus, where a place of prayer was wont to be, has the support of good authorities. Josephus (Ant., XIV. x. 23) mentions the custom of making “prayer houses” at the seaside.
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 16:11-13
Paul and Silas in Philippi; or, the Gospel carried to Europe
I. The journey to Philippi.—
1. From Troas to Samothraoia. No sooner had Paul and his companions, Silas, Timothy, and Luke, the beloved physician, who had now joined the apostle (see “Critical Remarks,” Acts 16:10, and “Hints” on Acts 16:11), understood the significance of the midnight vision than they proceeded to comply with the call of the Macedonian man. With the early dawn, having turned their steps towards the harbour, and found a ship about to sail for Europe, they engaged berths. As the vessel weighed anchor and shot into the deep “the sun rose and spread the day over the sea and the islands as far as Athos and Samothrace” (Conybeare and Howson). Running in a straight course, or, in modern nautical phrase, sailing before the (south) wind (see Acts 21:1, and compare Acts 27:16), the vessel would reach the island of Samothrace that day, anchoring for the night to the leeward of it. Samothrace, the present-day Samothraki, about half-way between Troas and Neapolis, contains the highest land in this part of the Ægean except Mount Athos.
2. From Samothrace to Neapolis. “A run of seven or eight hours would bring the vessel under the lee of the island of Thasos, and within a few miles of the coast of Macedonia” (Conybeare and Howson), which accordingly was reached next day. The harbour in which the four passengers disembarked belonged to the town of Neapolis, the modern Kavala, in Thrace, on the Gulf of Strymon, and about ten miles distant from Philippi, to which it served as a port. Hence the missionaries did not linger in Neapolis, but pushed on towards the capital of the district.
3. From Neapolis to Philippi. A short journey of not more than three hours would conduct them to “the chief city of that part of Macedonia,” or to “a city of Macedonia, the first of the district [see “Critical Remarks”], a Roman colony.” This city was Philippi, once an obscure place, called Krenides from its streams and springs, but erected into a frontier city against the Thracian mountaineers, and named after himself by the father of Alexander, and constituted a colonia by Augustus. It was “a fact of deep significance that the first city at which Paul arrived on his entrance into Europe was that colony which was more fit than any other in the empire to be considered the representative of Imperial Rome” (Conybeare and Howson, i. 267).
II. The stay in Philippi.—
1. How long it continued. Impossible to tell. Clearly two Sabbaths (Acts 16:13; Acts 16:16), and most likely some weeks were spent in the city (Acts 16:20).
2. What incidents occurred.
(1) The conversion of Lydia on the first Sabbath in a prayer-house by the river-side, through Paul’s preaching (Acts 16:13-15). See below.
(2) The cure of a Pythoness, or damsel possessing a spirit of divination, by the word of Paul who, in the name of Jesus, commanded the spirit to come out of her (Acts 16:16-18).
(3) The imprisonment of Paul and Silas by the town magistrates, who first commanded them to be beaten and then handed them over to the care of the town jailor (Acts 16:19-24).
(4) The conversion of the jailor, who was spiritually awakened by an earthquake which shook the foundations of the prison at midnight, and by Paul was directed how to find salvation (Acts 16:25-34).
III. The departure from Philippi.—
1. After liberation from jail. This took place:
(1) on the morning after the earthquake—“when it was day”;
(2) at the request of the magistrates, who had become alarmed at the situation, either in consequence of the earthquake which seemed like an interposition of the gods on behalf of the prisoners, or because on reflection they had grown convinced of the injustice of what they had done (Acts 16:35-36);
(3) after the remonstrance of Paul, who declined to be surreptitiously thrust out of bonds after having been publicly scourged, and that, too, while they were Romans, and who demanded that they should be honourably and openly liberated by the magistrates themselves (Acts 16:37); and
(4) by the hands of the magistrates, who, on learning that their prisoners were Roman citizens, feared what might happen to themselves for having so thoughtlessly violated the sanctity of Roman law, and, like evildoers generally who tremble when confronted with the consequences of their crimes, were exceeding glad to get them peacefully despatched beyond the city precincts (Acts 16:39).
2. After visiting the house of Lydia. Having resided there before arrest and imprisonment (Acts 16:15), they naturally returned thither on release from confinement. Not, however, to stay, but to exchange Christian greetings with, and address words of comfort to, the brethren there assembled, who, having been converted by their ministry, formed the nucleus of the Church to which afterwards the epistle to the Philippians was directed. This done, they departed, but not for ever (see Acts 20:6).
1. That the track of the gospel over land and sea has always been guided by God.
2. That Europeans have reasons to bless God for having so early sent the gospel to their shores.
3. That nothing befalls God’s people without His express permission.
4. That events which seem to hinder may eventually further the gospel.
5. That the gospel spreads by means of preaching.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 16:11. The Writer of the “We” Passages; or, Luke the Beloved Physician (see Introduction).—“Of Luke himself, beyond what we learn of his movements and of his character from his own writings, we know but little. There is no reason to reject the unanimous tradition that he was by birth an Antiochene, and it is clear (?) from St. Paul’s allusions that he was a Gentile convert, and that he had not been circumcised (Colossians 4:10-11; Colossians 4:14). That he was a close observer, a careful narrator, a man of cultivated intellect, and possessed of a good Greek style we see from his two books; and they also reveal to us a character gentle and manly, sympathetic and self-denying. The incidental allusion of St. Paul shows us that he was a physician, and this allusion is singularly confirmed by his own turns of phrase. The rank of a physician in those days was not in any respect so high as now it is, and does not at all exclude the possibility that St. Luke may have been a freedman; but on this, and all else which concerns him, Scripture and tradition leave us entirely uninformed. That he was familiar with naval matters is strikingly shown in his account of the shipwreck, and it has even been conjectured that he exercised his art in the huge and crowded merchant vessels which were incessantly coasting from point to point of the Mediterranean.—Farrar, “The Life and Work of St. Paul,” chap. xxiv.
St. Luke and St. Paul.—“It may be well to note the phenomena in the writings ascribed to the physician which, though they do not directly indicate his calling, at least fall in with it and are best explained by it.… Thus we find him noting specifically the special combination of fevers (πυρετοί, as in Hippoc., Aph., vii. 63, 64—the plural is obviously technical for feverish symptoms) and a bloody flux (δυσεντερία) from which the father of Publius suffered at Melita (Acts 28:8), and using in relation to the generous gifts which it called forth the special word “honour” (τιμή), which, like our “honorarium,” was applied to the payments made to those who practised a profession and not a trade (?). So, again, in the healing of the cripple in the temple (Acts 3:7), he records with a technical precision which our English Version but partially represents that “his feet” (not the common πόδες, but βάσεις—a word used by Hippocrates, p. 637) “and ankle-bones” (σφυρά) “were strengthened,” the previous crippled state being due to the congenital imperfect development of the bones and tendons of the feet.… So he stated that the paralysis of Æneas lasted eight years, and that for the whole of that period he had been bedridden (Acts 9:33); that from Saul’s eyes “there fell as it had been the scales” (ὡσεὶ λεπίδες) of the incrustation incidental to ophthalmia (Acts 9:18); and that the damsel at Philippi had “a spirit of Python,” or Apollo, “presenting phenomena identical with the convulsive movements and wild cries of the Pythian priestess at Delphi” (Acts 16:16); while as one whose previous studies had made him acquainted with the recorded cases of phthiriasis, such as those of Antiochus Epiphancs (2Ma. 9:9), Pheretima (Herod., iv. 205), and Sylla, and perhaps Herod the Great (Josephus, Ant., Acts 17:15), he would note with a special interest the addition of another instance in the death of Herod Agrippa as “eaten by worms,” σκωληκόβρωτος (Acts 12:23).—Dean Plumptre, in “The Expositor” (1876), iv., pp. 137–139.
Acts 16:13. An Ancient Prayer Meeting.
I. The place of worship.—
1. Outside the city. Rendered necessary because of the character of the city which, being large and heathen, was not much suited for devotion. Those who wish to pray should withdraw from both the world’s bustle and the world’s superstition and sin (Matthew 6:6).
2. By a river side. Jewish prayer-houses were usually erected on river-banks, or at places where water could be easily obtained for ceremonial lustrations. Suggestive of that inward cleansing which is required by all who would approach God in prayer (Isaiah 1:15-16; James 4:8).
3. In a prayer-house. Not an ordinary synagogue (Schürer), there being few Jews in the town; most likely an open space consecrated to Divine worship. Prayer may be offered anywhere. If Christians, for any reason, cannot obtain comfortable edifices in which to worship, rather than not worship at all they should betake themselves to river-banks, hillsides, district moors, dens, and caves of the earth.
II. The time of worship.—The Sabbath. Whether on other days is not clear (see Acts 16:16); but in any case the seventh-day worship was not neglected. Neither should the Lord’s-day worship be omitted by Christians (Acts 20:7; Hebrews 10:25).
III. The congregation of worshippers.—A few women; amongst them some converts to Judaism, like Lydia (see below). If no men were present before Paul and his companions arrived upon the scene, the intrusion of four male worshippers must have caused a sensation. Women have always been more devout than men (Acts 1:14, Acts 13:50).
IV. The acts of worship.—
1. Prayer. This the primary object of such gatherings.
2. Reading of the Scriptures. Though not stated, this may be assumed.
3. Exposition of the word. As in the synagogue by any capable person who might happen to be present (Acts 13:15).
Acts 16:13. The Opening of the Mission.
I. When was it that they had an opportunity of preaching? It was on the Sabbath day. The Sabbath was the great day on which he knew that his work was to be done.
II. Observe, then, the place at which he preached. It was by the river-side, “where prayer was wont to be made.” There appears to have been no synagogue at Philippi.
III. One other thing to be observed is, the persons to whom they preached. They “sat down and spake unto the women which resorted thither.”
Now, what are the lessons which we are to learn for ourselves from this account of the first preaching of the gospel at Philippi?
1. It is fitted to remind us of the great practical value of the Sabbath.
2. Another lesson which we learn from the history, closely connected with this, is the importance of meeting together for united prayer whenever we have the opportunity.
3. One other thing we are taught by this passage of history which we have been considering to-day, and that is, not to despise any means of doing good, however small it may be, which is put within our reach. We do not know what great results may follow it.—M. F. Day.
Acts 16:14. Lydia.—“Certainly a proper name, not a patronymic” (Zöckler). “She had probably become addicted to Jewish religious practices in her native city” (Ramsay). Thyatira.—A town in Lydia, famous for its dyeing.
Acts 16:15. Come into my house, and abide there.—Up to this time the four teachers may have supported themselves by their own labours, Paul as a tent maker, Luke as a physician, Silas and Timothy in ways unknown. That Paul was reluctant to accept Lydia’s invitation has been argued from the words, And she constrained us (compare Luke 24:29); and this he may well have been, not because of unwillingness to partake of the hospitality of others (see Romans 16:23), or to receive assistance from them when his circumstances required (Acts 24:23; Acts 28:10; Philippians 4:15), but because he wished to avoid the imputation of being actuated by mercenary motives (Acts 20:34; 2 Corinthians 12:17; 2 Corinthians 12:19).
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 16:14-15
A Sabbath in Philippi; or, the Conversion of Lydia
I. The antecedents.—
1. Lydia’s settlement in Philippi. A native of Thyatira, on the confines of Lydia and Mysia, afterwards the seat of a Christian Church (Revelation 2:18); a seller of purple, for which the Lydians were celebrated, the guild of dyers at Thyatira, οἱ βαφεῖς, having left behind them an inscription which attests the accuracy of the sacred historian; Lydia, so called not from her native district, since the name was common among both Greeks and Romans, in prosecution of her calling had crossed the Ægean and settled in Philippi. Had she not done so, she might never have met Paul. But a good man’s (and also a good woman’s) footsteps are ordered by the Lord (Psalms 37:23).
2. Lydia’s conversion to Judaism. That like the Eunuch (Acts 8:27) and Cornelius (Acts 10:2) she had become an adherent of the Jewish faith, a proselyte, is the clear sense of the clause, “one that worshipped God.” Had she been been still a heathen she would not have been found in the proseuche, or place of prayer. An illustration of how God leads those who fear Him and seek the truth (Psalms 25:9).
3. Lydia’s presence in the house of prayer. Had she on that memorable day when Paul visited the proseuche been absent from any cause—ill-health, business, pleasure, or indifference—she had missed the blessing that was that day being prepared for her. A lesson for irregular attenders of the sanctuary. Compare the case of Thomas (John 20:24).
4. Lydia’s attention to Paul’s words in the meeting. Lydia listened—all worshippers do not this. Listening for Lydia proved the way to faith (Romans 10:17). A hint for careless hearers of the word.
II. The accompaniments.—
1. The opening of Lydia’s heart. By an inward work of grace performed thereupon by the Lord, i.e., Jesus Christ, through His Spirit. Man’s heart, naturally shut against the truth (1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 4:18; Revelation 3:20), can be opened only by heavenly influence (Matthew 11:25; Luke 24:45; 1 Corinthians 3:6-7).
2. The attention of Lydia’s spirit. This more than such hearing as the understanding gives. The language points to such inward marking of the truth, whether heard or read, as an awakened or opened spirit supplies, discerning the suitability of the truth to its needs and laying hold of the truth so discerned for the satisfaction of those needs.
3. The decision of Lydia’s will. Faith a voluntary act of the soul appropriating to itself the Lord Jesus Christ as presented in the gospel and a deliberate resting on Him for salvation (Galatians 2:20; 2 Timothy 1:12).
III. The consequents.—Confession.
1. By baptism. Necessary after faith in the case of adults (Acts 2:38). As to its bearing on the baptism of infants, see below. Whether Lydia was baptized at once or afterwards and whether immersed or sprinkled are points not determined.
2. By good works. She desired to attest the sincerity of her conversion and her gratitude to those through whose instrumentality it had been brought about by pressing on Paul and his companions the hospitalities of her roof.
1. That God’s hand is in every conversion.
2. That God’s grace alone can effect any conversion.
3. That without God’s word there can be no conversion.
4. That obedience to God’s commandments, ceremonial and moral, best attests conversion.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 16:14. The Church of Christ in Europe.
I. Commenced in the important town of Philippi.—The keystone of Rome’s greatness became the foundation-stone of Christ’s kingdom.
II. Planted by Divine direction.—God guided the steps of Paul and Silas to Macedonia.
III. Founded by the apostle of the Gentiles.—Paul’s preaching the instrument used to convert Lydia.
IV. Originated in a prayer meeting. The kingdom of God comoth not with observation.
V. Rooted among the humbler classes of society.—Not many wise, not many mighty are called.
VI. Begun with the conversion of a woman.—If first in the transgression, woman is oftenest first in repentance, faith, and salvation. “In Tinnevelly, in South India, where are now 120,000 converts, the first convert was a woman. Clarinda heard Schwartz preach, received light into her heart, was baptised, and by her efforts in obtaining a native evangelist and in building a church was instrumental in giving light to large numbers of her countrymen and countrywomen” (Zenana Mission Quarterly of the United Presbyterian Church, No. I., p. 4).
VII. Started with a representative of commerce.—Upon the bells of the horses should be holiness unto the Lord.
The First Convert.
I. Who was this person that was the first in Philippi to experience the saving power of the gospel?—We are told that it was “a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God.” In the account which is here given of her, I think there are several things which made it unlikely, beforehand, that she should be the first person converted to the faith of Christ. In the first place, she was a stranger in the country. She was not a native of Philippi, nor even of Macedonia. She was from Thyatira, a city of Asia Minor. When the gospel crossed over from Asia into Europe, we would expect that the first person to whom its preaching should be blessed should be some person of the country. Again, there was another circumstance connected with this woman which made it unlikely that she should be the first convert to the gospel. She was not a Jewess by descent; she was only a Gentile proselyte. This is what is to be understood by the expression that she “worshipped God.” It is almost the same as that made use of about Cornelius (Acts 10:2). There is one other circumstance mentioned concerning Lydia, which might also have made it unlikely that she should have been the first brought under the saving influence of the gospel. It was the busy trade in which she was engaged. Others there may have been in the group which Paul addressed, the mothers of families quietly occupied in their home duties, with such influences surrounding them as would draw out their minds in devotional and solemn feeling. It is not those whom we think the most likely or the most promising that are always brought to the saving knowledge of the gospel; but it is sometimes those whom we would judge the most unlikely.
II. And now we are to look at the manner in which she was converted.—It is very briefly, but at the same time very plainly told—“Whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.” I think it means first that she felt interested in them as a matter of personal concern. What we each want, what makes the saving difference in any individual case, is that God the Holy Ghost should open the heart to receive that truth which is heard with the outward hearing.
III. I can only just refer to what we are told of Lydia, in the next verse, after her conversion.—“She was baptised and her household.”—M. F. Day.
Lydia’s Heart Opened.—Look at this incident in the light which it casts on personal conversion.
I. We have the central faculty on which this change is wrought: the heart. The heart is the generic term in which primarily we include the entire phenomena of the animal and the spiritual man. Metaphorically it concentrates whatever distributively belongs to the physical, the emotional, and the intellectual nature. In popular speech it is the organ of vitality; the great arterial centre, the common ground and basis on which all the functions of life are dependent. In its Scriptural import the heart is the normal status that conditions man’s relations to God.… The heart, therefore, is the power in man that most of all needs to be changed. Individual tendencies, constitutional idiosyncrasies, even moral aberrations and vicious practices, can be arrested and are frequently mastered by culture. The heart never outgrows its inherent depravity.… To change the heart in man, then, whatever else it may mean, is not merely to amend the life; for the life may be superficially correct, while the heart is utterly false. For the same reason, it cannot be any mere intellectual change, such as a new way of thinking of God, of His claims, or of His worship; nor yet does does it consist in any quickened sensibility of the conscience in its outward reverence for the truth; all of which are perfectly congruous with the felt, ascendent alienation of the heart from God and goodness.… The new birth, as our Lord’s language implies, is the coming into life of that which did not previously exist.… Redemption through Christ is potentially the recreation of the lost Divine order in the soul. Its aim is not to awaken or to direct merely the religious instincts, but to renew the soul after the image in which it was created.
II. From the subject we pass to the method of this change.—Let us mark—
1. The supernatural source in which the charge originates. Regeneration is a supernatural work wrought by the exercise of a Divine power upon the soul. It is always this where it is real. It may not be miraculous, it probably is not; it would not be more real or superhuman for being miraculous; but it certainly is not the product of human nature. It may be simulated, but it cannot be fabricated by any art or device of man.
2. A second characteristic of this Divine power in conversion is in the variety of methods in which it operates. In the instance before us the work was done silently as the young spring bud is opened by the morning sun. It was the sublime serenity of a translation out of darkness into light. In the history of the jailor, the same work is done, not in silence, but in tumult; not in a translation, but in a resurrection. Instead of the gentleness of the budding leaf or the silence of the falling dew, there were the throes of the earthquake, shaking the prison walls, and turning into a storm of agony the soul of the man.… And this variety in the methods of the Divine working according to the constitutional differences in men unfolds to us in perp tuity, the mental difficulties with which the gospel has to contend and the different methods in which it proceeds in dealing with them. Uniform in its effects, it is yet multiform in its modes of action.
III. The reality of Lydia’s conversion was seen in its immediate fruits.
1. She attended unto the things which were spoken by Paul. If listless before, if curious only, if speculative, she is awake now.
2. She was baptised, and her household. She took upon herself and upon her home the professon of the Christian faith.—John Burton.
Acts 16:14-15, The Conversion of Lydia. (Another treatment.)—Remarkable as—
I. The conversion of a woman.—The first instance of such in the Acts. Others occurred afterwards (Acts 17:4; Acts 17:12; Acts 17:34). Relation of woman to Christianity. What the gospel has done for woman, and what woman can do for the gospel.
II. The conversion of a merchantess.—Again first example recorded in the Acts. Trade and religion not incompatible. Commerce might be the handmaid of the gospel. The gospel fitted to purify and ennoble commerce.
III. The conversion of a European. Or, at least, of one on European shores. Once more the first case mentioned in Luke’s narrative. Whether the gospel had before this found its way to Rome is uncertain. But in any case Lydia may be regarded as the beginning of the Church of Christ in Europe.
The Conversion of Lydia. (A third treatment.)
I. How occasioned.—
1. By attending a prayer meeting.
2. By listening to a sermon.
II. Through what effected.—
1. By Divine grace.
2. Through human faith.
III. By what followed.—
2. Good works.
Acts 16:15. Household Baptism.
I. The apostolic practice.—To baptise the entire household when its head became a believer, as in the cases of the jailor (Acts 16:33), Crispus (Acts 18:8), Stephanus (1 Corinthians 1:16), and no doubt others, in addition to that of Lydia.
II. The probable basis.—Not the faith of each individual baptised. If it cannot be argued that any of the households baptised contained children—though children in a household are the rule rather than the exception—it can as little be reasoned that all who were baptised, assuming them to be relatives, servants, grown-up sons or daughters, believed. In the case of the jailor and his household, it is not said that they, but only that he believed on God (Acts 16:34). Yet they as well as he received baptism, and probably on the following grounds.
1. The fact was recognised that children had been included in the Abrahamic covenant, and through circumcision were admitted into the Hebrew Church. From this the step was doubtless easy to argue that children of believing parents should be received into the Christian Church through baptism, which like circumcision partook of the character of an initiatory rite, and all the more that Christ had not enjoined their exclusion.
2. The language of Christ concerning children had declared that of such was the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:14); and from this the inference was not difficult to draw that, if children might without personal faith receive the substance of salvation, they might also on the same terms receive its external sign.
3. The instructions given to the apostles by Christ to baptise all nations, “teaching them to observe all things,” etc. (Matthew 28:20), might appear to them to warrant the deduction that “discipleship” might in certain cases, as for instance of children of believing parents, go before instruction and therefore before faith.
III. The warrantable inference.—That infant baptism accords with Scripture. This seems borne out by the view the apostle takes of the children of believing parents or of parents of whom one only is believing (1 Corinthians 7:14). “What would Lydia have said” asks Besser, “if the preachers of the Lord Jesus had refused to baptise the little children of her house? She must have become doubtful of her own faith—the free gift of God.”
The Characteristics of True Faith.
I. Humble.—Submitting itself to the judgment of advanced Christians.
II. Learning.—Longing after further progress in knowledge.
III. Thankful.—Both to God, the prime author, and to man, the instrument (when he is so) of its existence.
IV. Active.—Working by love—“come to my house.”
V. Obedient.—She and all her house were baptised.
Acts 16:16. A certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination.—Better, a female slave (Galatians 4:22) having the spirit of a pythoness, or, according to superior authorities, a spirit, a python. “The python was the serpent worshipped at Dephi, as the symbol of wisdom, from which the Pythian priestesses and Apollo as succeeding to the oracular power of the serpent took their distinguishing appellative” (Plumptre).
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 16:16-18
The Cure of a Pythoness; or, the Slave-girl and the Apostle
I. The slave-girl.—
1. Her abject condition. A bond-servant, the property of several masters, who may have received her by inheritance (Alford), and who had an interest in her valuable gift, a supposed power of divination.
2. Her reputed power. That of divining or prophesying, which caused her to be regarded by the people of Philippi as a python—i.e., as a person inspired by Apollo, like the priestess at Delphi.
3. Her real character. Not a ventriloquist (Augustine, Holtzmann), though Plutarch asserts the term python was frequently employed to describe such, but a demoniac whose insane ravings were palmed off by her crafty owners as inspired utterances.
4. Her truthful ejaculation. “These men are servants,” etc. Not to be supposed she merely uttered words of the apostles either heard by herself or reported to her by others. Her cry an involuntary because a supernaturally inspired testimony to the character and work of the apostles, similar to that borne to the Saviour by the demons whom He encountered (Matthew 8:29; Mark 3:11; Luke 4:41; Luke 8:28).
II. The apostle.—
1. His sore trouble.
(1) If Paul’s grief took the form of indignation, as in Acts 4:2, then its object was not the woman, who was an involuntary victim of the demon, or her saying which was true, but either her inhuman masters who made gain of her misery, or the evil spirit which had enthralled her and maliciously designed by her utterance to hinder the work of the apostles.
(2) If of sympathy, then it was directed exclusively towards the suffering girl whose sad case he pitied.
2. His delivering command.
(1) To whom spoken? To the evil spirit in the girl. Paul unmistakably recognised the personal existence of evil powers.
(2) In whose name? That of Jesus Christ (compareActs 3:6; Acts 3:6), who had come to destroy the devil and his works.
(3) In what terms? Come out of her: in imitation of his Master’s language (Mark 1:25; Mark 5:8; Luke 4:35; Luke 8:29).
(4) With what effect? Immediate healing. “It (the evil spirit) came out that very hour.”
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 16:17. The Dignity and Duty of Christian Ministers.
I. Their dignity.—Servants of the most high God.
1. By creation. Formed by His grace.
2. By purchase. Through His Son’s blood (Isaiah 43:21; 1 Corinthians 6:20).
3. By dedication. As the result of their own con secration (Psalms 116:16).
II. Their duty.—To proclaim unto men the way of salvation as:
1. Divinely provided.
2. Clearly revealed in Scripture.
3. Humanly easy. By faith instead of works (Romans 3:28). Positively certain. “He that believeth shall be saved” (John 6:47); Absolutely exclusive—in fact, as the only way (Acts 4:12).
Acts 16:18. Satan’s Devices.
I. We are told here that as they went to prayer—probably in the same place by the river-side where they originally met—a young woman, a female slave, possessed by an evil spirit, who brought her master much gain by fortune-telling, met them, and cried after them continually. It appears by this that the power which evil spirits were permitted at that time to exert over men was not confined to the land of Judæa, but was known in other countries also. It shows us the power of the devil directly in connection with the idolatry of the ancient world, that he was working in this way, and in others, to keep mankind in bondage, at a distance from the living God.
II. We are told in the next place after what way this woman, under the influence of the evil spirit, acted towards the preachers of the gospel—“The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation.” It was not, we may be sure, with any friendly object that such a declaration was made. The very appearing in this way to praise its preachers might be in itself a means of drawing them into disrepute.
III. We have related to us finally in the text the way in which St. Paul dealt with this interference to which he was exposed. He bore with it for a considerable time—“This did she many days.”
And now, what lessons may we learn for ourselves from this history?
1. It teaches us, in the first place, to recognise the power of Satan as working in the various false religions and forms of error which are prevalent in the world. But Satan’s power in supporting false religion has been exerted not only in heathenism, but in the corruptions of Christianity. When the apostle Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:0) is foretelling the coming of the man of sin, he describes him (Acts 16:9) as one “whose coming is after the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and lying wonders.”
2. We learn also, from what has come before us to-day, a device which Satan, through his agents, sometimes employs for the hindrance of the gospel, and that is, leading them outwardly to join with it. Men would have said, “There is one of Paul’s converts,” and they would have classed all together as one band of fanatics and hypocrites. But that was not one of Paul’s converts at all. That was a distinct work of Satan, stirred up to do him injury. The one is never to be confounded with the other.
3. There is one other lesson which we are to learn, and it is a most happy one, from the way in which St. Paul is described as expelling this evil spirit in the text, saying, “I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.” We learn this from it, that the name and power of our Lord Jesus Christ is the one force by which the power of the devil is to be overcome. It is said (Revelation 12:0) concerning the contest which Christians carry on against him—“They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb.” There is no plea but that even to the very last; but that is all-sufficient. Again, to meet the temptations of the devil, when he would lead us into sin, the name of Jesus Christ is the effectual defence.—M. F. Day.
Acts 16:19. The rulers, ἄρχοντες, were the town magistrates (Luke 12:58).
Acts 16:20. The magistrates, στρατηγοί, were the two chief civic authorities (dunmviri) in a Roman colony town, and were usually styled prætors.
Acts 16:20-21. Being Jews—i.e., belonging to the despised race, whom Claudius had shortly before banished from Rome (Acts 18:2); and being Romans—i.e., in proud contrast to the hated sons of Abraham. “The distinction between ὑπάρχων and ὤν seems to be that the former is used of something which the speaker or narrator wishes to put forward into notice, either as unknown to his hearer or reader, or in some way to be marked by him for praise or blame; whereas the latter refers to facts known and recognised and taken for granted by both” (Alford).
Acts 16:22. Rent off—by ordering the lictors to remove—their clothes. The customary mandate was: Summore, lictor, despolia, verbera. Commanded—lit., were commanding—to beat them, the imperfect showing that the whole process of scourging went on under the narrator’s eye.
Acts 16:23. The inner prison.—“In a Roman prison there were usually three distinct parts—
(1) the communiora, where the prisoners had light and fresh air,
(2) the interiora, shut off by strong iron gates, with bars and locks, and
(3) the tullianum, or dungeon. The third was a place rather of execution or for one condemned to die” (Conybeare and Howson, i. 280, note 4).
Acts 16:27. Would have killed himself.—Because he would certainly have been put to death had his prisoners escaped (see Acts 12:19; Acts 27:42).
Acts 16:28. Do thyself no harm.—As the prison was dark Paul may have learnt from some exclamation of the jailor that he meditated suicide, or, if ordinary means sufficed not to acquaint him with the keeper’s purpose, supernatural revelation may have discovered it to him.
Acts 16:29. A light should be lights.
Acts 16:30. Brought them out.—Not into his house (see Acts 16:34), but into the outer or common prison or other room belonging to the prison, where they were joined by the jailor’s family.
Acts 16:34. Believing in God with all his house, should be, he rejoiced with, or over, all his house, having believed in, or having believed, God.
Acts 16:35. The serjeants were the rod bearers or lictors.
Acts 16:37, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, etc.; or, having beaten us publicly uncondemned, they cast us into prison.—It was against the Valerin law passed A.U.C. 254 to inflict stripes or torture on any Roman citizen until an appeal to the people had been decided. The Porcian law, passed A.U.C. 506, forbade stripes and torture absolutely. From this passage it appears that Silas as well as Paul was a Roman citizen. That they did not appeal to their Roman citizenship may have been due to the haste with which proceedings had been taken against them. Of the three times Paul was beaten with rods (2 Corinthians 11:25) this was one; the other two are not recorded.
Acts 16:38. They, the magistrates, feared when they heard that they, the apostles, were Romans.—Because, according to Roman law, “Facinus est vinciri civem Romanum; scelus verberari; prope parricidium, necari” (Cicero, In Verrem, v. 66).
Acts 16:40. The use of the third person shows that Luke remained behind in Philippi, where he was afterwards rejoined by the apostle and his company (Acts 20:5).
HOMILETICAL ANALYSIS.—Acts 16:19-34
The First Pagan Persecution; or, the Imprisonment of Paul and Silas
I. Before the magistrates.—
1. The prosecutors.
(1) Their persons. The masters of the girl. Their hostility formed the first instance of persecution raised against the apostles by pagans. Hitherto the adversaries of the apostles had been their own countrymen.
(2) Their motive. Because they saw that through the exorcism of the evil spirit from the afflicted maid their gains were gone. Their conduct as well as that of Demetrius of Ephesus (Acts 19:23-31) show that it is always dangerous to touch a man’s pocket, and that even religion has little chance when it comes into competition with love of gain. “The first way,” says Professor Ramsay, “in which Christianity excited the popular enmity outside the Jewish community was by disturbing the existing state of society and trade, and not by making innovations in religion” (The Church in the Roman Empire, p. 130).
(3) Their violence. Having arrested Paul and Silas as the principal persons in the company, or perhaps because Luke and Timothy were at the moment out of the way, they dragged those into the market-place where the magistrates—in this case the Roman police-executive, the duumviri or prætors, as distinguished from the city rulers (see “Critical Remarks”)—were sitting.
2. The accusation. “These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, and teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, being Romans” (Acts 16:20-21). That is to say, they were indicted, not for the crime of observing their own form of worship, which by Roman statute was a religio licita, but of doing what Roman statute did not permit, endeavouring to persuade Romans to forsake their own religious customs and embrace those of (as it seemed) the Jews. If the charge was in appearance true, since the apostles’ preaching was undoubtedly being attended by conversions, and the Philippians could not then distinguish between Judaism and Christianity, it was still in reality false, since the real head and front of the apostles’ offence was not the publication of a new religion about which, like other easy-going tolerant pagans, the girl’s masters “did not care two straws” (Ramsay), but the interference of his preaching with their unholy profits, about which they were extremely sensitive, and more especially the destruction by his miracle of their stock-in-trade, for which they could perceive no chance of compensation.
3. The multitude. The marketplace mob, composed doubtless for the most part of idlers, out-of-work and loungers (Matthew 20:3; Acts 17:17), having heard the accusation, and having been incapable of understanding a defence, even had it been offered, like other eager and tumultuous rabbles, raised a yell of indignation against the apostles and demanded their punishment (compareActs 19:28; Acts 19:28; Acts 19:34; Acts 21:30; Acts 22:22; Luke 23:18).
4. The magistrates. Yielding to the popular cry, without hearing from the prisoners a word of explanation, far less putting them on trial, the two prætors, representatives of Roman law and justice, who should have studied equity and afforded their prisoners at least an opportunity of speaking in self defence (Acts 25:16), proceeded to act in flagrant violation of Roman law.
(1) Without troubling themselves to conduct even the smallest or most formal investigation, they commanded the apostles to be scourged, in accordance with the customary formula ordering the lictor to remove the prisoners’ clothes, if not, in blind fury doing this with their own hands, that on the backs of the apostles thus bared might be laid ignominious stripes by means of rods—though sometimes more severe instruments such as whips, loaded with lead, were employed for the infliction of this degrading punishment. That this was one of the three occasions on which Paul tells us he endured this indignity (2 Corinthians 11:25) there can be no doubt; and should it be inquired why, as afterwards in the castle of Antonia, he did not, in this instance, protect himself by making known his Roman citizenship (Acts 22:25), it may be answered either that both Paul and Silas may have done so, though their voices, if raised, were drowned in the general din, and the fast-falling blows of the rods” (Lewin), or that in the agitation of the moment caused by the suddenness of the inhuman proposal it did not occur to them in this way to rescue themselves, or that if it did they may have preferred to suffer, thinking that by so doing they would more effectively promote the cause they had at heart.
(2) Not content with having publicly beaten the apostles, the magistrates cast them into prison, as if they had been convicted of a heinous crime, handing them over wounded and bleeding to the tender mercies of the town jailor with instructions to keep them “safely,” either in case further proceedings should require to be instituted against them, or perhaps lest some attempt at rescue should be made by their friends.
II. In the inner prison.—
1. Their degradation. The town jailor, having perfectly understood what his master wanted, thrust his supposed criminals into the inner prison, the interior ward of a Roman cell, probably a damp, cold chamber, shut off with bolts and bars, iron gates and locks, and totally excluded from fresh air and light (compareActs 12:6; Acts 12:6; and see “Critical Remarks”). In addition, improving most likely on his instructions, he made their feet fast in the stocks, which were pieces of wood drilled through with holes, into which the feet were thrust, and sometimes so far apart as to cause the stocks to become an instrument of acute torture. Compare the treatment of Joseph in the Round House at Heliopolis (Psalms 105:18).
2. Their occupation. So far as can be gathered from Scripture, this was Paul’s and Silas’s first experience of a jail, Yet neither of them yielded to despondent thoughts. Their solitary hours were enlivened, and their pains alleviated by the hallowed exercises of religion, in which they prayed and sang praises to God, doubtless finding appropriate expression for their mingled emotions in well-known words from the Hebrew Psalter (compareLuke 1:46-55; Luke 1:46-55; Luke 1:68-79; Luke 2:29-32; Colossians 4:2). That they could thus pass the hours of their incarceration, forgetting the pains of their lacerated bodies and tortured limbs in the inward joyfulness of their spirits, was a signal testimony both to the sustaining grace of Him who had given them “songs in the night” (Job 35:10), and to the power of that religion they professed and proclaimed to elevate the soul above all life’s ills, as Tertullian finely says, “The limbs do not feel the stocks when the heart is in heaven.” Nor were their prison devotions without eager listeners on earth, as none can doubt they found delighted hearers in heaven (Psalms 102:19-20). The inmates of the outer or common cell of the prison had never before heard such melodies proceeding from the inner or from any ward of a Roman jail, and kept listening, it can well be imagined, with wonder and amazement.
3. Their deliverance.
(1) Effected by an earthquake, which cannot be successfully explained as a natural occurrence (Baur, Zeller), which might indeed have shaken the prison’s foundations, but could hardly have unlocked the barred doors or unloosed the prisoners’ fetters. That the writer distinctly intended to describe a supernatural interposition on behalf of Paul and Silas can hardly be questioned, even by those who decline to accept the narrative as true history; and that the other prisoners partook of the same gracious visitation was as obviously designed to arrest, impress, and if possible save them, if not from earthly, at all events from spiritual bondage and condemnation. “When we reflect,” say Conybeare and Howson (i. 282), “on their knowledge of the apostles’ sufferings” (for they were doubtless aware of the manner in which they had been brought in and thrust into the dungeon); “and on the wonder they must have experienced on hearing sounds of joy from those who were in pain, and on the awe which must have overpowered them when they felt the prison shaken and the chains fall from their limbs; and when to all this we add the effect produced on their minds by all that happened on the following day, and especially the fact that the jailor himself became a Christian, we can hardly avoid the conclusion that the hearts of many of those unhappy bondmen were prepared that night to receive the gospel, that the tidings of spiritual liberty came to those whom, but for the captivity of the apostles, it would never have reached, and that the jailor himself was their evangelist and teacher.”
(2) Accompanied by a trophy of Divine grace in the person of the jailor who, through the earthquake, was awakened to more than a sense of his temporal danger, even to a realisation of his spiritually lost condition. For this he may have been in some measure prepared by his acquaintance with the character of the apostles’ preaching, of which he had doubtless heard; though he could hardly have been affected by their praying and singing, since during the time they were engaged in these holy exercises he was sleeping. In answer to his cry of distress—“Sirs! what must I do to be saved?”—an utterance which cannot be explained as signifying less than genuine soul concern—he was first directed to the one and all-sufficient method of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”; and afterwards along with the inmates of his household, who by this time had appeared upon the scene, the jailor’s house being not necessarily above (Meyer), but on a higher level than the prison (Acts 16:34), more fully instructed in the way of the Lord, with the happy result that he believed and was baptised, along with all his house, rejoicing in God.
III. In the jailor’s house.—
1. Before they entered it, while yet in the prison court underneath, the jailor took them, his lacerated prisoners, and washed their stripes. A beautiful indication that sympathy, repentance, and gratitude—three emotions to which, probably, he had been long a stranger—had begun to dawn within his soul. “The jailor,” says Chrysostom, “washed them, and he was washed himself. He washed them from their stripes, and he in his turn was washed from his sins.”
2. When they were within it, he set meat before them. “His former cruelty was changed into hospitality and love” (Conybeare and Howson). “The two sufferers may well have needed food.… They were not likely to have made a meal, when they were thrust into the dungeon” (Plumptre). Doubtless by such hospitality the jailor hoped to compensate in some degree for his previous unkindness, and to evince the grateful affection he now entertained towards his benefactors.
3. How they left it. With a triumphant acknowledgment of their innocence on the part of the magistrates (see preceding homily), who, having learnt that their prisoners were Romans, became alarmed for their own safety, because of having violated the sanctity of Roman law in scourging two uncondemned citizens, and with all haste caused them to be fetched from the prison, entreating them at the same time to leave the city. This they agreed to do, but not before they had visited the house of Lydia, and comforted the brethren, amongst whom, doubtless, henceforth the jailor took an honoured place.
1. That natural men as a rule, and occasionally spiritual men, as an exception, prefer their businesses to religion.
2. That Christ’s ambassadors need hardly expect to escape persecution of some sort.
3. That when Christ’s servants suffer God their maker can give them “songs in the night.”
4. That no prison doors or bars can keep out God when He wants to be in, or keep in God’s servants when He wants them out.
5. That conversions can occur in the most unlikely places, and pass on the most unlikely persons.
HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Acts 16:20. Preachers of the Gospel, Citytroublers. Because they—
I. Interfere with men’s sinful gains—being teachers of morality.
II. Expose men’s intellectual delusions—the gospel bringing the light of truth to the understanding.
III. Change men’s irreligious customs—substituting for the worship of idols that of the true God.
IV. Turn men’s thoughts towards salvation—men not caring to be reminded of their lost condition.
Acts 16:24. Fast in the Stocks.
I. A verification of Christ’s promise.
II. A testimony to the efficiency of the apostles’ work.
III. A trial of the sincerity of their faith.
IV. A means of helping on the cause of the gospel.
Acts 16:25. Singing in Jail.
I. Not easy.—Requires great grace.
II. Perfectly possible.—Grace can make a Christian do all things.
III. Eminently comforting.—To those who are imprisoned innocently for conscience’ sake.
IV. Occasionally useful.—May lead to the conversion of the prison inmates.
A Strange Religious Service.
I. The unusual hour of prayer—midnight.
II. The singular temple—a prison.
III. The remarkable conductors—Paul and Silas in the stocks.
IV. The strange congregation—the prisoners in their cells.—Gerok.
Songs in the Night.
I. The singers.—Paul and Silas.
1. Their character.
(1) Servants of the most high God.
(2) Missionaries of the cross.
(3) Benefactors of their race.
2. Their condition. In the night.
(1) In the darkness of a Roman cell.
(2) In the painfulness of bodily suffering.
(3) In the sadness of disappointed hopes.
II. Their songs.—
1. The giver of them: God, whose servants they were (Psalms 19:8); Christ, for whose name they had been cast into prison (John 16:33; John 17:13); and the Holy Spirit, in obedience to whose leading they had come to Philippi (Ephesians 5:18-19).
2. The burden of them.
(1) Thankfulness that they had been counted worthy to suffer for the name of Christ (Acts 16:40).
(2) Prayerfulness for grace to sustain them while suffering, and for a happy issue to their trial in the furtherance of their mission.
3. The hearers of them. Doubtless the angels in heaven, but also the prisoners on earth. Christians when at their devotions are more frequently than they suspect observed by others.
4. The effect of them. If they comforted the singers, they most likely helped to convert the listeners.
Acts 16:25. Singing in Jail.—“His presence turns a prison into a palace, into a paradise.” “From the delectable orchard of the Leonine prison”—so the Italian martyr Algerius dated his letter to a friend. “I was carried to the coal-house,” saith Mr. Philpot, “where I with my fellows do rouse together in the straw as cheerfully, we thank God, as others do in their beds of down.” “Philip, Landgrave of Hesse, being a long time prisoner under Charles V., was demanded what upheld him at that time. He answered that he felt the Divine consolations of the martyrs” (Trapp). (See on. Acts 23:11, “Hints.”)
Acts 16:26. Opened Doors and Loosened Bands.
I. A miracle of power.—Even if explainable as the result of the earthquake, the earthquake itself was the work of God.
II. A symbol of grace.—
1. Of the message of the gospel, which proclaims liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.
2. Of the influence of the Spirit, which breaks the fetters of sin from the soul and opens the heart to receive the truth.
3. Of the work of providence, which opens doors of usefulness for Christ’s servants and gives them ability to enter in.
III. A prophecy of glory.—Of the opening of the prison-house of the grave and the unloosening of the bands of death.
Acts 16:30-31. The Way of Salvation.
I. The jailor’s question.—
1. Important. Concerning the salvation of the soul, the most momentous of human concerns.
2. Personal. Concerning individual salvation. Salvation a personal affair.
3. Urgent. No time for delay in this concern of the soul’s salvation.
II. The apostle’s answer.—
1. The simplicity of it. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Nothing needful but faith.
2. The certainty of it. “Thou shalt be saved.” No peradventure.
3. The sufficiency of it. “And thy house.”
Acts 16:23-34. The Story of the Jailor; or, the Moral and Spiritual History of a Soul.
I. A spiritual sleeper.—
1. Unconscious of his moral degradation (Acts 16:24).
2. Insensible to his danger (Acts 16:27).
II. An awakened sinner.—Roused from his bodily slumber by means of the earthquake, he instantly realised the peril in which he stood—
(1) bodily and temporarily (Acts 16:27), and
(2) spiritually and eternally (Acts 16:30).
III. An anxious inquirer.—Manifested by his exclamation, “Sirs! what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30), which referred exclusively to his deliverance from the spiritual alarm which had seized upon his soul.
IV. An eager listener.—This followed of necessity from his soul agitation and the sincerity of his exclamation. Anxious souls always hear the gospel with avidity (Acts 16:32).
V. A humble penitent.—Evidenced by his gentle and affectionate treatment of the apostles (Acts 16:33).
VI. A rejoicing believer (Acts 16:34).—As faith cometh by hearing, so does joy spring from believing. Not joy is the source of faith, but faith is the source of joy.
VII. A baptised Christian.—“He and all his were baptised” (Acts 16:33), and so incorporated in the Church of Christ.
Acts 16:19-34. The Jailor at Philippi.
I. “Do you, jail keeper of Philippi, believe in being scared into religion? An earthquake—pardon the suggestion—is a shaky foundation for a religious resolve. Now do you believe in religion which begins in fear?” “The question is stated offensively, although in a popular form,” such is the jailor’s reply; “but I do believe that fear is a proper motive to religion and in religion. In my case it worked well. I came into the kingdom moved by fear, as the history plainly tells you. Other motives were present, but fear was foremost. The absence of fear would have been stolidity. It is the part of wisdom to be taught by events. In them God is the Teacher, and when events are fearful we ought to fear.” It is worth while to listen to the testimony of the jailor upon this point, because current religious thought of a superficial and sentimental sort hesitates to find a place for fear amongst the motives to religion. Fear “which takes counsel of the reason and not of the imagination” is a proper motive to religion and in religion. Noah was not playing the part of a craven in a truly courageous world when he, “moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house.” An apostle made no ill-judged appeal to fear when he said to impenitent men, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” And now let us give to fear its true place amongst religious motives. Do the great hopes of the gospel fill and sway our hearts? Then away with fear! Does the love of God, like a summer’s atmosphere full of sweet odours, enfold our spirits in its warm embrace? Then away with fear! Does gratitude, the sense of infinite indebtedness to Him who loved us and gave Himself for us, stir our hearts, so that to lay our powers and possessions at his feet is only a grateful and easy task? Then away with fear. Is the sense of duty so dominant in our hearts that we are always ready to make payment of our dues to God? Then away with fear. But if none of these higher motives have control, then, as we love our souls, we ought not to allay our fears in any other way than by seeking the grace of God to save us from the danger which occasions fear. It is conceivable that the jailor might have reasoned with his fears until all apprehension vanished, but in so doing he would have lost his soul.
II. If we were permitted to make further inquiries of the jailor, a second query would arise. We should be disposed to say: “You were upon that night of the earthquake plunged into the greatest excitement. You were well-nigh beside yourself. Of a sudden, the record tells us, you whipped out your sword to take your own life. This therefore is our question, Do you believe in emotional religion?” “My own religious life began in a sudden and tidal sweep of the emotions,” is the reply. “They were emotions which I did not stop to analyse or question, and which I could not control. Confused, tumultuous feelings rushed and crowded in upon me. The sudden manifestation of the power of God, His marvellous interference in behalf of the prisoners, His no less wonderful interposition to prevent the escape of the prisoners; in some way there came to me suddenly and with overwhelming power the feeling that I was a lost soul; that I could not repress this feeling was my salvation. And besides this, it is to be remembered that no life is unemotional.” If a fervent religions experience seems to any one the commitment of life to the control of the emotions, be it remembered that irreligious experience has its controlling emotions also. The publican who smote upon his breast was an emotional man no doubt, but he was not more under the power of emotion in his penitence and humility than the Pharisee was emotional in the self-complacency which prompted his useless prayer; only a Pharisee’s emotion was narrower and meaner, an emotion occasioned by thought of self, while the publican’s higher emotion grew out of his thought of God. “I thank Thee that I don’t believe in emotional religion.” It is wise to turn over the pages of the Bible, and to review the lives of God’s chosen ones, the master-workmen of all time, to see whether or not their religion was emotional. The record will tell us of Elijah’s tempestuous emotion in the wilderness and before the prophets of Baal. The religion which God honours and loves and uses is one which not only convinces the intellect, but which powerfully sways the heart. In thoughtful communities the Church of these last times is in as little danger of undue emotion as the North Sea is in danger from the blasts of the sirocco, a wind which never blows north of Italy. A philosophic calmness in religion may proceed from a dim apprehension of what it is to be under condemnation for sin and a feeble gratitude to our Redeemer. God is in holy emotions; cultivate them by increasing your knowledge of Him. Follow them loyally. Do not think the Christian heart that never sings or weeps is the better therefor.
III. Were we permitted further to interrogate the jailor, we should be interested to seek answer to a third question. It is this: “Do you believe in sudden conversion? You will pardon us of these last times whose habits of thought are evolutionary, if we look upon character as a slow and steady growth. It results from education and training and habit and circumstances. What character is to-day is the result of what it was yesterday. To-morrow grows up out of to-day. Now, can any man be changed at once in the spirit and purpose of his life?” “That such a change is possible,” such is the jailor’s reply, “my own experience is the sufficient proof. I was converted suddenly and thoroughly; within an hour’s time I was convicted of sin, found peace with God, and did the first works of love. In that hour of visitation from the Spirit of the living God I was transformed. That midnight hour was the pivot upon which my life turned, the hour of destiny when by faith in Christ I laid fast hold upon the grace of God.”
IV. There is a final inquiry which we should place before the converted jailor, if he were present and willing to entertain our interrogations. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” It is of this answer that we wish to ask: “Is not this a narrow gospel? Are there not broader conceptions of the way of life? Is nothing to be said, when this great question is answered, of civilisation, of orderly, law-abiding life, of good citizenship, of morality, of neighbourly kindness, of a human endeavour and resolve to keep the commandments? Surely salvation must mean good character. Is not the command too narrow for the diversified conditions of the good and the bad, the wise and the ignorant, the cultured and the uncouth?” “The command is narrow,” is the courteous answer, “but not narrower than the way of life. Its adaptation to the diverse conditions of human experience each man must determine for himself. I can only bear testimony that it was marvellously fitted to my needs. I needed a power within to calm the tumult of my spirit, to quiet a guilty conscience, and that power came to me by faith in Jesus. I needed to learn the lesson of human pity and kindness, and having received faith in Jesus I arose and tenderly washed the stripes of Paul and Silas, and set before them the choicest food my house could furnish. Narrow? In my case it turned out to be the one duty out of which came a dutiful life.” If the command seems to be narrow, we have only to obey it to find it exceeding broad. It touches all character and truth.—W. G. Sperry.
Acts 16:35. Let those Men go!
I. An order of fear.—The Philippian magistrates to the prison serjeants. Those who wrong their fellows are commonly delighted to be relieved of the presence of their victims; like Ammon, who, having humbled Tamar, hated her exceedingly, and said, “Arise, be gone!” (2 Samuel 13:15).
II. A command of love.—Jesus to His captors in the garden: “If ye seek Me, let these go their way” (John 18:8). A signal mark of Christ’s affection for His own, in whose behalf He was going forward to condemnation and death.
III. A sentence of justice.—God to believers, in whose room and stead Christ has suffered the penaly of sin: “There is no condemnation to them who are in Christ” (Romans 5:1). “He that believeth is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24).
IV. A proclamation of power.—The glorified Christ when He speaks over the graves of His people, as He did at Lazarus’s tomb (John 11:44): “Loose them, and let them go!” “The hour is coming,” etc. (John 5:28-29).
Acts 16:40. The Brethren in Lydia’s House; or, the Church at Philippi.
I. Its original members.—
1. Lydia. That this lady is not mentioned in the epistle to the Philippians may have been due to her having died or returned to her native city before the epistle was written, unless the unlikely supposition be adopted that she was either Euodia or Syntyche. Had the epistle been a forgery she would most probably have been named.
2. The jailor. The same difficulty presents itself with regard to this early disciple, who also is passed over in silence, which shows how dangerous it is to draw conclusions from the omissions of a composer.
3. Euodia and Syntyche. Two Christian females (Philippians 4:2), who appear to have been somewhat estranged from one another at the time when Paul wrote to the Church in Philippi, unless the suggestion be adopted (Farrar) that Paul was only alluding to their “joint wrestlings for the gospel.”
4. Zyzygus and Clement. The former term, meaning “yoke-fellow,” has been taken as designating an individual of that name whom the apostle playfully addresses (Meyer, Farrar, and others)—an interpretation in support of which much can be advanced; but doubt remains whether, after all, it is not Epaphroditus (Philippians 4:18), to whom the apostle refers under this appellation (Hutchison). Of Clement, whom tradition reports to have been the third bishop of Rome, Paul’s letter affords no clue to the identification, resting satisfied with describing him as a fellow-worker, whose name, along with those of others, was written in the Book of Life.
II. Its original character.—Whatever it may have become in later years, when Paul wrote to it, its members were distinguished by several delightful features.
1. Steadfast faith. Firm adherence to the gospel (Philippians 1:5), even in the face of persecution (Philippians 1:28-30).
2. Joyful confidence. Exulting in Christ (Philippians 2:17-18), and in their personal experience of his salvation.
3. Tender sympathy with the apostle in his labours and afflictions (Philippians 4:14).
4. Generous liberality in contributing to the apostle’s needs (Philippians 4:15).
5. Laborious activity, working together for the advancement of the gospel (Philippians 1:27; Philippians 4:3).
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Acts 16". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26