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Acts 16

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

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Acts 16:0


Timothy Accompanies Paul and SilasTimothy Joins Paul and SilasTimothy Joins PaulTimothy Goes with Paul and SilasLycaonia: Paul Recruits Timothy
Acts 15:41-3
Acts 16:1-5Acts 16:1-5Acts 16:1-5Acts 16:1-5
Acts 16:4
Acts 16:5
Paul's Vision of the Man of MacedoniaThe Macedonia CallThrough Asia Minor to TroasIn Troas: Paul's VisionThe Crossing into Asia Minor
Acts 16:6-10Acts 16:6-10Acts 16:6-10Acts 16:6-10Acts 16:6-8
Acts 16:9-10
The Conversion of LydiaLydia Baptized at PhilippiPaul and Silas in PhilippiIn Philippi: the Conversion of LydiaArrival at Philippi
Acts 16:11-15Acts 16:11-15Acts 16:11-15Acts 16:11-15Acts 16:11-15
The Imprisonment at PhilippiPaul and Silas ImprisonedIn Prison at PhilippiImprisonment of Paul and Silas
Acts 16:16-24Acts 16:16-24Acts 16:16-18Acts 16:16-22aActs 16:16-18
Acts 16:19-24Acts 16:19-24
Acts 16:22-24
The Philippian Jailer SavedThe Miraculous Deliverance of Paul and Silas
Acts 16:25-34Acts 16:25-34Acts 16:25-34Acts 16:25-28Acts 16:25-28
Acts 16:29-30Acts 16:29-34
Paul Refuses to Depart SecretlyActs 16:31-34
Acts 16:35-40Acts 16:35-40Acts 16:35-40Acts 16:35Acts 16:35-37
Acts 16:36
Acts 16:37
Acts 16:38-40Acts 16:38-40

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. This mission took much longer than the first journey, possibly lasting 3-4 years.

B. It focused primarily in Macedonia and Achaia, which is modern Greece.

C. Brief Outline

1. Barnabas and Paul split, Acts 15:36-40 (fight over John Mark)

2. Syria and Cilicia, Acts 15:41 (when and how these churches began is uncertain.)

3. Lystra and Derbe, Acts 16:1-5 (Timothy joins the team.)

4. Troas (Troy), Acts 16:6-10 (Paul receives a vision to turn west.)

5. Philippi, Acts 16:11-40

6. Thessalonica, Acts 17:1-9

7. Berea, Acts 17:10-14

8. Athens, Acts 17:15-34

9. Corinth, Acts 18:1-17

10. Back to Antioch of Syria, Acts 18:18-22


A. John Mark (John is a Jewish name. Mark is a Roman name, Acts 12:25.)

1. He grew up in Jerusalem. His mother's house is mentioned in Acts 12:12 as the place that the early church in Jerusalem met for prayer.

2. Many have asserted that his house was the site of the Lord's Supper and that the naked man of Mark 14:51-52 was John Mark. Both of these are possible, but they are only speculation.

3. He was the cousin of Barnabas (cf. Colossians 4:10).

4. He was the companion of Barnabas and Paul (cf. Acts 13:5).

5. He left the team early and returned to Jerusalem (cf. Acts 13:13).

6. Barnabas wanted to take him on the second journey, but Paul refused (cf. Acts 15:36-41).

7. Later Paul and John Mark were apparently reconciled (cf. 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 1:24).

8. He apparently became close friends with Peter (cf. 1 Peter 5:13).

9. Tradition says that he wrote the Gospel that bears his name by recording Peter's sermons preached in Rome. Mark's Gospel has more Latin terms than any other NT book and was probably written for Romans. This comes from Papias of Hierapolis, as recorded by Eusebius ' Eccl. His. 3.39.15.

10. Tradition says he is associated with the establishment of the Alexandrian Church.

B. Silas

1. He is called Silas in Acts and Silvanus in the Epistles.

2. He, like Barnabas, was a leader in the Jerusalem Church (cf. Acts 15:22-23).

3. He is closely associated with Paul (cf. Acts 15:40; Acts 16:19ff; Acts 17:1-15; 1 Thessalonians 1:1).

4. He, like Barnabas and Paul, was a prophet (cf. Acts 15:32).

5. He is called an apostle (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:6).

6. He, like Paul, was a Roman citizen (cf. Acts 16:37-38).

7. He, like John Mark, is also associated with Peter, even possibly acting as a scribe (cf. 1 Peter 5:12).

C. Timothy

1. His name means "one who honors God."

2. He was the child of a Jewish mother and a Greek father and lived in Lystra. The Latin translation of Origen's commentary on Romans 16:21 says Timothy was a citizen of Derbe. This is possibly taken from Acts 20:4. He was instructed in the Jewish faith by his mother and grandmother (cf. 2 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 3:14-15).

3. He was asked to join Paul and Silas' missionary team on the second journey (cf. Acts 16:1-5). He was confirmed by prophecy (cf. 1 Timothy 1:18; 1 Timothy 4:14).

4. He was circumcised by Paul in order to work with both Jews and Greeks.

5. He was a dedicated companion and co-worker of Paul. He is mentioned by name more than any other of Paul's helpers (17 times in 10 letters, cf. 1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 16:10; Philippians 1:1; Philippians 2:19; Colossians 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:6; 1 Thessalonians 3:2; 1 Timothy 1:2, 1 Timothy 1:18; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 3:14-15).

6. He is called an "apostle" (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:6).

7. Two of the three Pastoral Epistles are addressed to him.

8. He is last mentioned in Hebrews 13:23.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why is the Holy Spirit called the Spirit of Jesus?

2. Why did God allow the missionaries to encounter so much opposition and trial?

3. Why did Paul not accept the slave girl's testimony?

4. List the people saved at Philippi.

5. Why were only Paul and Silas imprisoned?

6. Why did the other prisoners not escape?

7. List the elements of salvation in this chapter. Are they different from those in other chapters in Acts?

8. Did this jailer have any background in Judaism or Christianity?

9. What does "his household was saved" mean?

10. Why did Paul make the city officials apologize in person?

Verses 1-5

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 16:1-5 1Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek, 2and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium. 3Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4Now while they were passing through the cities, they were delivering the decrees which had been decided upon by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem, for them to observe. 5So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily

Acts 16:1 "Derbe and to Lystra" These cities are located in the southern part of the Roman Province of Galatia (modern Turkey). Paul visited this area on his first missionary journey (cf. Acts 16:14).

"And a disciple was there" Luke uses the term idou to introduce this phrase. It was a way of showing emphasis. Timothy will become a major participant in Paul's ministry.

"the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek" From 2 Timothy 1:5 we learn that his grandmother was also a Jewish believer or a faith-oriented Jew. His grandmother was named Lois and his mother was named Eunice. His mother, and possibly grandmother, became believers on Paul's first mission.

Acts 16:2 "he was well spoken of" This is an imperfect passive indicative. People spoke well of Timothy again and again. One of the qualifications for a church leader was "no handle for criticism," within both the believing and unbelieving communities (cf. 1 Timothy 3:2, 1 Timothy 3:7, 1 Timothy 3:10).

"in Lystra" Timothy's hometown was Lystra. However, some Greek manuscripts of Acts 20:4 (and Origen's writings) imply that Derbe was his hometown.

Acts 16:3 "Paul wanted this man to go with him" Notice that Paul calls Timothy. This was not Timothy's choice alone (cf. 1 Timothy 3:1). In a sense Timothy becomes Paul's apostolic delegate or representative.

"had circumcised him" Paul wanted him to be able to work with Jews (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:20; Acts 15:27-29). This was not a compromise with the Judaizers because

1. of the results of the Jerusalem Council (cf. Acts 16:15)

2. he refused to circumcise Titus (cf. Galatians 2:3)

However, Paul's actions surely confused the issue! Paul's methodology of becoming all things to all men in order to win some (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23) makes people and their salvation priority!

"father was a Greek" The imperfect tense implies that he was dead.

Acts 16:4 Paul and Silas reported (i.e., imperfect active indicative) on the results of the Jerusalem Council (cf Acts 15:22-29). Remember these "essentials" were for two purposes:

1. fellowship within the churches

2. Jewish evangelism (as was Timothy's circumcision)

Acts 16:5 This is another of Luke's summary statements (cf. Acts 6:7; Acts 9:31; Acts 12:24; Acts 16:5; Acts 19:20; Acts 28:31). Paul had a heart for discipling (cf. Acts 14:22; Acts 15:36; Acts 15:5). Evangelism without discipleship violates the Great Commission (cf. Matthew 28:18-20) and results in "spiritual abortions"!

"churches" See Special Topic at Acts 5:11.

Verses 6-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 16:6-10 6They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; 7and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; 8and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." 10When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Acts 16:6 "passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region" In this text Luke is speaking more of racial, linguistic groupings than of Roman political divisions or provinces. This idiom would refer to the unofficial boundary between these ethnic groups.

"having been forbidden" This is an aorist passive participle. It is a common term in the Septuagint and in the NT. The Spirit was intimately involved in the actions and decisions of the early church (cf. Acts 2:4; Acts 8:29, Acts 8:39; Acts 10:19; Acts 11:12, Acts 11:28; Acts 15:28; Acts 16:6, Acts 16:7; Acts 21:4; Romans 1:13). The modern church has lost the dynamism of the early church.

"in Asia" This refers to the Roman Province of Asia Minor, which was the western end of modern Turkey.

Acts 16:6, Acts 16:7 "the Holy Spirit. . .Spirit of Jesus" For the personality of the Spirit, see Special Topic at Acts 1:2. See Special Topic following.


Acts 16:7 "Mysia" This was an ethnic area in the northwest of the Roman Province of Asia Minor. It was mountainous with several major Roman roads. Its major cities were Troas, Assos, and Pergamum.

"Bithynia" This region was also in northwest Asia Minor, northeast of Mysia. This was not a Roman Province in Luke's day, but was combined with Pontus as one political unit. Peter later evangelized this area (cf. 1 Peter 1:1). We learn from Philo that there were many Jewish colonies in this area.

Acts 16:8 "passing by Mysia" In this context, it must mean "passing through" or "around" (cf. BAGD 625). Remember, context determines meaning and not lexicons/dictionaries.

"Troas" This city was four miles from ancient Troy. It was founded about 400 years earlier and remained a free Greek city until it became a Roman colony. It was the regular port of departure from Mysia to Macedonia.

Acts 16:9 "A vision appeared to Paul" God led Paul several times by supernatural means.

1. bright light and Jesus' voice, Acts 9:3-4

2. a vision, Acts 9:10

3. a vision, Acts 16:9, Acts 16:10

4. a vision, Acts 18:9

5. a trance, Acts 22:17

6. an angel of God Acts 27:23

"a man of Macedonia" How Paul knew he was from Macedonia is uncertain. Possibly it was because of accent, clothes, ornaments, or simply stated in the vision. Some commentators think the man was Luke (cf. Acts 16:10).

This was a major geographical decision. The gospel turns to Europe!

"Come over. . .help us" The first is an aorist active participle, used as an imperative, the second is an aorist active imperative. The vision was very specific and forceful.

Acts 16:10 "we" This is the first occurrence of the "we" sections in Acts. This refers to Luke's addition to the missionary group of Paul, Silas, and Timothy (cf. Acts 16:10-17; Acts 20:5-15; Acts 21:1-18; Acts 27:1-16). Some commentators have thought that the man Paul saw in Acts 16:9 was Luke, the Gentile physician and author of the Gospel and Acts.

"Macedonia" Modern Greece was divided into two Roman Provinces.

1. Achaia in the south (Athens, Corinth, Sparta)

2. Macedonia in the north (Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea)

"concluding" This is the term sumbibazô, which literally means to bring together or unite. Here it has the implication that all that happened was God's leadership to go to Macedonia.

1. the Spirit not letting them preach in Asia, cf. Acts 16:6

2. the Spirit closing off Bythinia, cf. v Acts 16:7

3. and the vision of Acts 16:9

"God has called" This is a perfect passive indicative. The Spirit's leadership was not for safety, but for evangelism. This is always God's will.

Verses 11-15

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 16:11-15 11So putting out to sea from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and on the day following to Neapolis; 12and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia, a Roman colony; and we were staying in this city for some days. 13And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled. 14A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. 15And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us.

Acts 16:11 "ran a straight course" This is one of many nautical terms used by Luke (cf. chap. 27). They took a direct ship sailing route vessel, not a coastal vessel. Luke knew sailing terms well or interviewed the sailors.

"Samothrace" This is a small rocky island rising out of the Aegean Sea about 5,000 feet. It was about halfway between Troas and Philippi.

"Neapolis" This is literally "new town." There were several cities in the Mediterranean with this name. This one was the seaport for Philippi, which was about 10 miles away. At this seaport the Ignatian Way, the major Roman road running east to west, ended its eastern trek.

Acts 16:12 "Philippi" The Greek is plural, probably denoting the unifying of several settlements into one united city. It was located on the famous Roman highway, the Ignatian Way. This city was originally called Kreinides (wells). Philip II of Macedon captured it because of its gold deposits and renamed it after himself.

NASB, NRSV"a leading city of the district of Macedonia" NKJV"the foremost city of that part of Macedonia" TEV"a city of the first district of Macedonia" NJB"the principal city of that district"

This phrase is very uncertain. Amphipolis was the "leading town of Macedonia." What Luke meant by this has been greatly disputed. It may have been an honorary title of significance.

"a Roman colony" In 42 B.C., Octavian and Mark Antony defeated Cassius and Brutus near this city. In memory of this victory, Octavian made Philippi a Roman colony and retired his troops there. In 31 B.C., after the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra at Attium, Octavian settled more troops there. Other Roman colonies mentioned in the NT are Pisidian Antioch, Lystra, Troas, Corinth, and Ptolema. They had all the privileges of cities in Italy:

1. self-government

2. no taxation

3. special legal perks

Paul often preached and established churches in these Roman colonies.

Acts 16:13 "on the Sabbath" There were apparently no synagogues in Philippi. This being a Roman colony, it probably did not have ten male Jews in the town, which was the minimum number required to have a synagogue. Apparently there were some God-fearers or proselytes (cf. Acts 16:14; Acts 13:43; Acts 17:4, Acts 17:17; Acts 18:7). Many women were attracted to the morality and ethics of Judaism.

"to a riverside" This seems to have been a common place of religious worship (cf. Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews 14.10.23).

"sat down" This was the typical rabbinical teaching position, but this is a Roman city and, therefore, probably has no significance. It is just another of Luke's eyewitness details.

Acts 16:14 "A woman named Lydia from the city of Thyatira" The Roman province of Macedonia had more opportunities for women than any other place in the first century Mediterranean world. Lydia was from a city in Asia Minor (cf. Revelation 2:17ff). It was known for its purple dye, made from mollusks' shells, which was very popular with the Romans. There was a synagogue in her hometown. Her name came from Lydia, the ancient province, where the city was located. She is not mentioned in Paul's later letters, therefore, she may have died.

"worshiper of God" This refers to God-fearers who were attracted to Judaism but had not yet become full proselytes.

"the Lord opened her heart" The Bible describes the relationship between God and humanity as a covenant. God always takes the initiative in establishing the relationship and setting the conditions of the covenant (see Special Topic at Acts 2:47). Salvation is a covenant relationship. No one can be saved unless God initiates (cf. John 6:44, John 6:65). However, God desires that all humans be saved (cf. John 3:16; John 4:42; Titus 2:11; 1 Timothy 2:4; 1 Timothy 4:10; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 2:1; 1 John 4:14); therefore, the implication is that God, on some level (natural revelation, cf. Psalms 19:1-6 or special revelation, cf. Psalms 19:7-14), confronts every person with their sin (cf. Romans 1-3) and His character.

The mystery is why some respond and some do not! I personally cannot accept that the answer is God's choice of some, but not others. All humans are made in God's image (cf. Genesis 1:26-27) and God promises to redeem all of them in Genesis 3:15.

Maybe it is not so important that we understand why, but that we faithfully present the gospel to all and let it do its work in the heart and mind of its hearers (cf. Matthew 13:1-23). Paul preached to Lydia and she and her household responded.

Acts 16:15 "her household had been baptized" This apparently refers to her family, servants, and workers (cf. Cornelius, Acts 10:2; Acts 11:14; and the Philippian jailer, Acts 16:33). Also, notice that she, like others in the NT, was baptized immediately. It is not an option! See Special Topic: Baptism at Acts 2:38.

The theological question which this verse raises is, "Were children involved in these examples of household conversions in Acts?" If so, then there is a biblical precedent for infant baptism in those "family salvations." Those who assert this as evidence also point toward the OT practice of including children into the nation of Israel as infants (i.e., circumcision at eight days of age, see James D. G. Dunn, pp. 175-176).

Although it is surely possible that faith in Christ immediately affected the whole family (cf. Deuteronomy 5:9 and Acts 7:9) in this societal setting, the question remains, "Is this a universal truth to be practiced in every culture?" I would assert that the NT is a revelation about personal volitional choices related to the awakening sense of guilt. One must recognize his need for a savior. This leads to the further question of, "Are people born sinful in Adam, or are they sinful when they choose to disobey God?" Judaism allows a period of childhood innocence until a knowledge of the Law and a commitment to keep it; for males, age 13, for females, age 12. The rabbis do not emphasize Genesis 3:0 as much as the church.

The NT is an adult book. It asserts God's love for children, but its message is directed toward adults! However, we live in a democratic, individual-focused society, but the Near East is a tribal, clan, family society!

"If" This is a first class conditional, which is assumed to be a true believer from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes.

"you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord" The first verbal is a perfect active indicative. Lydia is asserting that she is now a believer. She was inviting these missionaries to use her house and resources for the gospel. This is in accordance with Jesus' message to the seventy when He sent them out on mission (cf. Luke 10:5-7).

"come into my house and stay" Lydia was an assertive personality type, a business woman! This first verb is an aorist active participle, used as an imperative; the second is a present active imperative.

Verses 16-18

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 16:16-18 16It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, "These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation." 18She continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!" And it came out at that very moment.

Acts 16:16 "It happened" Apparently this occurred on another day, possibly the next Sabbath. This was a chance encounter, but God was fully involved for His purposes, as He is in every event, every personal encounter, every day!

"a spirit of divination" There are two terms used in this sentence to describe this slave girl. The first, "divination" (found only here in the NT) has an OT background, but uses different Greek terms in the Septuagint (cf. Leviticus 19:31; Leviticus 20:6, Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:11; 1 Samuel 28:3, 1 Samuel 28:7; 2 Kings 21:6; 1 Chronicles 10:13). This was a demon-possessed person who, by chants, incantations, or the interpreting of natural phenomena (i.e., flight of birds, clouds, remains in a drinking cup, animal liver, etc.) could predict and, to some degree, affect the future.

In this Greek cultural setting the term is puthôn, which comes out of Greek mythology where a giant serpent is killed by Apollo. This myth became an oracle rite (i.e., Delphi), where humans could consult the gods. This site was known for its temple snakes (i.e., pythons) who would crawl over people who lay down in the temple and allowed the snake to crawl over them for the purpose of knowing and affecting the future.

"by fortune telling" This term (present active participle, feminine, singular) is used only here in the NT. The root term is common in the Septuagint for "diviner, seer, prophet," usually in a negative context. It means one who raves, thereby denoting the emotional trance which accompanies their prediction. Here it denotes one who predicts the future for profit. The contextual and lexical implication is that the girl was indwelt with an unclean spirit.

Acts 16:17 "Following after Paul. . .kept crying out" This is a present active participle and an imperfect active indicative. She continued to follow and kept on crying out (cf. Acts 16:18).

"These men are bondservants of the Most High God" Jesus would not accept demonic testimony (cf. Luke 8:28; Mark 1:24; Mark 3:11; Matthew 8:29) and neither would Paul because it could lead to the implication of demonic support.

The term "Most High God" (cf. Mark 5:7; Luke 8:28) is used of YHWH (i.e., El, Elyon) in Genesis 14:18-19; 2 Samuel 22:14 (see Special Topic at Acts 1:6), but it was also used in this culture of Zeus. This spirit was not giving testimony to glorify God, but to associate the gospel with the demonic.

" who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation" There is no article with "way" (cf. NRSV). She was possibly saying that they were one of several ways to the Most High God. This demon is not trying to help Paul's ministry. The purpose of this statement is

1. to identify Paul with divination

2. to present an alternative way, not the way of salvation (i.e., faith in Christ)

The NET Bible (p. 2022 #16) has a good discussion of the grammatical issues involved in translating "the way" vs. "a way." It prefers "the way."

The real issue is what the hearers in first century Philippi would have understood. In their cultural setting, "the Most High God" would have referred to Zeus, so the presence of absence of the definite article with "way" is not the exegetical issue.

Acts 16:18 "Paul was greatly annoyed" In this instance Paul acted, not out of love, but out of irritation. Paul was human too! This same strong verb is found in the Septuagint in Ecclesiastes 10:9, where it means hard labor. In the NT it is used only here and in Acts 4:2. It denotes someone who is completely worn out.

"to the spirit" Notice Paul does not address the slave girl, but the demon indwelling and controlling her. Paul's exorcism was couched in the same manner as other NT exorcisms (i.e., in the name of Jesus). See the Special Topics: The Demonic and Exorcism at Acts 5:16.

Verses 19-24

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 16:19-24 19But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities, 20and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, "These men are throwing our city into confusion, being Jews, 21and are proclaiming customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans." 22The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods. 23When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; 24and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

Acts 16:19 "saw that their hope of profit was gone" These "masters" did not care at all that a human being had been freed from the bondage to evil. They were distressed by the monetary loss (cf. Acts 16:16), much like the people in Luke 8:26-39.

"seized Paul and Silas" Why Luke and Timothy were not taken is uncertain.

Acts 16:20 "chief magistrates" This is the term praetors. Officially their titles were duumvirs, but we learn from Cicero that many liked to be called Praetors. Luke is very accurate in his use of Roman governmental officials' titles. This is one of several evidences of his historicity.

Acts 16:20, Acts 16:21 "being Jews. . .being Romans" This shows their racial pride and prejudice. Paul's time in Philippi may be close to Claudius' edict expelling the Jews from Rome, A.D. 49-50 (actually he forbade any Jewish worship practices). Roman anti-Semitism may be seen in Cicero's Pro Fiasco 28 and Javenal 14.96-106.

"proclaiming customs which it is not lawful for us to accept" Notice this charge has nothing to do with the slave girl's exorcism. It apparently refers to their preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Judaism was a legal religion in the Roman Empire, but as it became obvious that Christianity was destined to be seen as a separate and, therefore, illegal religion. It was illegal for Jews to attempt to proselytize Romans, and it was illegal for Paul as well.

Acts 16:22 "tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them" The verbal forms imply that the two Praetors, moved by the uproar of the crowd, tore the clothes off Paul and Silas themselves (aorist active participle, plural). This would have been highly unusual for them to be such active participants in a judicial event.

1. they tore off (aorist active participle)

2. they ordered to flog (i.e., an imperfect active indicative followed by a present active infinitive)

"to be beaten with rods" This type of punishment (i.e., verberatio, which was administered by the authority of a city court) was not as severe as Roman scourging. There was no set number for the blows. Paul was beaten like this three times (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:25). This is the only recorded one (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:2).

Acts 16:24 "inner prison" This means maximum security. There was a fear factor here (cf. Acts 16:29). Paul's exorcism got their attention.

"feet in the stocks" Most jails of that day had chains attached to the walls to which the prisoner was shackled. Therefore, the doors were only latched, not locked. These stocks would spread the feet wide apart and caused great discomfort and added security.

Verses 25-34

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 16:25-34 25But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; 26and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were unfastened. 27When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!" 29And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, 30and after he brought them out, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" 31They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." 32And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. 33And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. 34And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.

Acts 16:25 "about midnight" They probably could not sleep because of the pain of the beating and the stocks.

"praying and singing hymns of praise to God" It is possible that the theological content of these prayers and hymns caused the prisoners to trust Christ (i.e., "the prisoners were listening to them") because none of the prisoners escaped when the earthquake opened the doors (cf. Acts 16:26, Acts 16:28, "we are all here").

"the prisoners were listening" This is an imperfect middle (deponent) indicative, implying they listened continually to Paul and Silas. The verb epakroaomai is a rare word in the NT and the Septuagint. Its use in 1 Samuel 15:22 denotes an intense listening with joyfulness. These down-and-out prisoners eagerly heard and responded to a message of God's love, care, and acceptance!

Acts 16:26 "earthquake" This was a natural event, but with supernatural purpose, timing, and effect (cf. Matthew 27:51, Matthew 27:54; Matthew 28:2). God had delivered Peter from prison by means of an angel (cf. Acts 4:31), but here an event was chosen that gave Paul a chance to preach the gospel to both the prisoners and the guards.

Acts 16:27 "sword" This was the small, two-edged sword worn in the belt, which was shaped like a tongue. This was the instrument of capital punishment for Roman citizens. If a jailor lost prisoners, he suffered their fate (cf. Acts 12:19).

Acts 16:28 Paul and Silas' faith and the content of their prayers and songs made a powerful impact on the other prisoners (I think they, too, were saved)!

Acts 16:29 "called for lights" Notice the plural. There were other jailers.

Acts 16:30 "Sirs, what must I do to be saved" This reflects mankind's (1) fear of the supernatural and (2) search for peace with God! He wanted the peace and joy that Paul and Silas had exhibited, even in these unfair and painful circumstances. Notice this man, as so many, knew there must be some kind of human response (cf. Luke 3:10, Luke 3:12, Luke 3:14; Acts 2:37; Acts 22:10).

Acts 16:31 "'Believe in the Lord Jesus'" The verb (aorist active imperative) pisteuô can be translated "believe," "faith," or "trust." See Special Topics at Acts 2:40, Acts 3:16, and Acts 6:5. It is primarily a volitional trusting response (cf. Acts 10:43). Also notice that it is trust in a person, not a doctrine or a theological system. This man had no Jewish background (i.e., Ninevites in Jonah). Yet the requirements for complete salvation are very simple and just the same! This is the most succinct summary of the gospel in the NT (cf. Acts 10:43). His repentance (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16, Acts 3:19; Acts 20:21) was shown by his actions.

"you will be saved, you and your household" In the ancient world the religion of the head of the house was the religion of all its members (cf. Acts 10:2; Acts 11:14; Acts 16:15; Acts 18:8). How this worked out on an individual level is uncertain, but apparently it involved some level of personal faith on each individual's part. Paul subsequently preached the full gospel message to the jailer and his household (cf. Acts 16:32).

In this instance, not only his household but his prison also!

Acts 16:32 "the word of the Lord" There is a variant involving this phrase.

1. "The word of the Lord" is in MSS P45,74, אi2, A, C, D, E. The UBS4 gives it a "B" rating (almost certain).

2. "The word of God" is in MSS א*, B

In context the issue is to whom does "Lord" refer?

1. Jesus, Acts 16:31

2. YHWH (cf. Acts 16:25, Acts 16:34; Acts 13:44, Acts 13:48; it is an OT phrase cf. Genesis 15:14; 1 Samuel 15:10; Isaiah 1:10; Jonah 1:1)

Acts 16:33 "and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household" This shows the importance of baptism. Acts mentions it over and over. See SPECIAL TOPIC: BAPTISM at Acts 2:38. Jesus did it (cf. Luke 3:21) and commanded it (cf. Matthew 28:19) and that settles it (cf. Acts 2:38). It also is consistent with other examples in Acts that baptism occurred immediately after their profession of faith (cf. Acts 10:47-48). In a sense it was their visible and verbal public profession of faith in Christ (i.e., Romans 10:9-13).

Acts 16:34 "and rejoiced greatly having believed in God with his whole household" The two verbs are singular referring to the jailor. However, the adverbial phrase implies the inclusion of the man's extended family and servants.

The verb, "believed" is a perfect active participle, implying a settled state. Notice the change in tense from Acts 16:31.

Verses 35-40

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Acts 16:35-40 35Now when day came, the chief magistrates sent their policemen, saying, "Release those men." 36And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, "The chief magistrates have sent to release you. Therefore come out now and go in peace." 37But Paul said to them, "They have beaten us in public without trial, men who are Romans, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they sending us away secretly? No indeed! But let them come themselves and bring us out." 38The policemen reported these words to the chief magistrates. They were afraid when they heard that they were Romans, 39and they came and appealed to them, and when they had brought them out, they kept begging them to leave the city. 40They went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia, and when they saw the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.

Acts 16:35 "policemen" This is literally "rod-bearer" (hrabdouchosta lictor). This refers to those involved in official discipline (cf. Acts 16:20). The Italian "fascist" party got their name from this term. A bundle of these rods (from Latin fasces) was the symbol of political authority.

Acts 16:37 "men who are Romans" Philippi was a Roman colony with many extra legal privileges which could be in jeopardy from Rome if this unfair treatment of Roman citizens was reported. Beating Roman citizens was a serious violation of their colonial legal status (cf. Acts 16:39; see Livy, "History" 10.9.4 or Cicero, "Pro Rabirio 4.12-13).

Acts 16:39 The purpose of Paul's protest was possibly to protect the fledgling church at Philippi and to achieve a certain recognized status for them. The leaders, by their actions, imply that gospel preaching was not illegal! The door was open for future evangelistic efforts in Philippi.

Acts 16:40 "and departed" Luke apparently stayed behind. We find him still here in Acts 20:5-6.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Acts 16". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/acts-16.html. 2021.
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