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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Acts 16

 

 

Verse 1

1 Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek:

Ver. 1. But his father was a Greek] Both by nation and religion. This was an unlawful marriage, Exodus 34:10-17, Deuteronomy 7:1-5, and might be a means to humble the good woman, when once she came to a sight of her sin. David had his best children by Bathsheba, as Solomon, Nathan, of whom came Christ, &c. God can turn our sins to our good and comfort, as the skilful apothecary can make of a poisonous viper a wholesome treacle. {a}

{a} Old Pharm. A medicinal compound, orig. a kind of salve, composed of many ingredients, formerly in repute as an alexipharmic against and antidote to venomous bites, poisons generally, and malignant diseases. ŒD


Verse 2

2 Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium.

Ver. 2. Which was well reported of by the brethren] This is part of the reward of virtue, and follows it, as the shadow doth the body. {See Trapp on "Ecclesiastes 7:1"} {See Trapp on "3 John 1:12"}


Verse 3

3 Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek.

Ver. 3. Took and circumcised him] Paul circumcised Timothy, as a Gentile; in that, for a Jew to be circumcised was no yieldance. And those words, "they all knew his father to be a Greek" demonstrate, he went in estimation for a Gentile. Calvin refusing to administer the communion in Geneva, and to use therein unleavened bread or wafer cakes, was compelled to depart the city; and was not received thither again until he had allowed of the same kind of bread. De quo postea restitutus, nunquam contendendum putavit; minims tamen dissimulans quid alioqui magis esset probaturus. {a} {See Trapp on "Acts 15:28"}

{a} Beza in Vita Calvini.


Verse 4

4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem.

Ver. 4. They delivered them the decrees] Which were agreeable to the Scriptures. And if Gregory thought that the decrees of the four first general councils were to be received with like reverence and respect as the four holy Gospels, how much more these! But what a tyrant is the pope to obtrude his decretals, and the decrees of his councils (though directly opposite to the revealed will of God), upon the consciences of the misled multitude, to be observed, with a Non obstante! The Council of Constance (for instance) comes in with a Non obstante against Christ’s institution, withholding the cup from the sacrament; so for prayers in an unknown tongue, singing of psalms, ministers’ marriage. {a} When the pope sets forth any bulls, commonly he concludes thus, Non obstantibus et ordinationibus Apostolicis, caeterisque contrariis quibuscunque.

{a} Caranza Sum. Concil. sess. 13.


Verse 5

5 And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.

Ver. 5. Established in the faith, and increased in number] Some were converted by their ministry, others confirmed. This is still the fruit of faithful preaching, which is far more effectual hereunto than other ordinances; like as the rain from heaven hath a fatness with it, and a special influence, more than other standing waters, and as milk from the breast is most nourishing.


Verse 6

6 Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,

Ver. 6. And were forbidden, &c.] This was a heavier judgment upon those coasts than to be denied a harvest, or the light of the sun. Prize the preaching of the gospel as a singular privilege. They that are without a teaching priest are without God, 2 Chronicles 15:3. There were ambassadors sent out of Nubia in Africa to the king of Habassia, to entreat him for a supply of ministers to instruct their nation, and repair Christianity gone to ruin among them; but they were rejected. {a} Amos’s famine of the word is far more deplorable than Samaria’s famine of bread in that strait siege.

{a} Alvarez Hist. Aethiop, c. 137.


Verse 7

7 After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.

Ver. 7. But the Spirit suffered them not] The Spirit still lusteth against the flesh, and the flesh against, the Spirit, in the hearts of the regenerate, so that they cannot do what they would, Galatians 5:17. As they cannot do what good they would in regard of the flesh, so neither what evil they would in regard of the Spirit.


Verse 8

8 And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas.

Ver. 8. Came down to Troas] The relics of old Troy, called also Antigonia and Alexandria, as Pliny testifieth.


Verse 9

9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.

Ver. 9. Into Macedonia and help us] The ministers are those by whom God helpeth his perishing people, and pulleth them out of the devil’s danger. Hence they are called saviours, Obadiah 1:21, 1 Timothy 4:16; redeemers, Job 33:24; Job 33:28; co-workers with Christ, 2 Corinthians 6:1.


Verse 10

10 And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.

Ver. 10. Assuredly gathering] It was not therefore a bare vision, but set on upon their spirits by the testimony of the Holy Spirit, as all visions are that come from God. We read in the Roman history of a vision that Brutus had the night before that ill fated battle at Philippi, calling him into Macedonia too, but for his utter ruin. This was a vision from the devil, doubtless, that old man slayer. Cuthbert Simpson’s vision, and afterwards Mr Laremouth’s (who was chaplain to Queen Anne of Cleve), whereby they were comforted in and delivered out of prison, we may read of in the Book of Martyrs. Cardinal Cusan foretold, by some vision that he had, a reformation of religion that should occur A.D. 1507, which was over fifty years after his death. John Trithemius foretold the same A. D. 1508. Genius vero qui Trithemio haec dictavit, albus an ater fuerit, ego non facile dixerim. Merito suspectum est piis, &c., saith Bucholcerus. Who told him so much I cannot tell; but it was the devil in all likelihood. But what a strange conference was that which Luther had with the devil, by his own confession; whereby he was admonished of many abuses of the mass, which thereupon he wrote against. Is Satan divided against himself? Comes any good out of such a Nazareth? Need we not to prove the spirits, whether they be of God? How many have we today (our modern enthusiasts) that dream their Midianitish dreams, and then tell it for gospel to their neighbours as wise as themselves! that lead men into the lion’s mouth (that roaring lion, I mean), under pretence of a revelation; as that old impostor did the young prophet, 1 Kings 13:11-18.


Verse 11

11 Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis;

Ver. 11. We came with a straight course] Or with a speedy course. The straight way is the next way: {a} "How long wilt thou go about, O backsliding daughter?" Jeremiah 31:22. Impii ambulant in circuitu, saith the Psalmist, the wicked walk the round; so doth the devil, that great peripatetic, {b} seeking to circumvent, Job 1:7. But the righteous look straight before them, Proverbs 4:25, and make straight paths for their feet, Hebrews 12:13; so that they soon finish their course with joy, and live long in a little time.

To Samothracia] An island opposite Thracia; whereof see Pliny, iv. 11.

Neapolis] A city near Philippi, in the borders between Thracia and Macedonia.

{a} ευθυδρομηςUtrumquo significat, et recte et cito currentes. Lorin.

{b} Walking about or from place to place in connection with some occupation or calling; itinerant. ŒD


Verse 13

12 And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.

13 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.

Ver. 13. And on the sabbath] A day that God had sanctified to be a means to convey sanctity into the hearts of his hidden ones, as here of Lydia the purpurisse, {a} Ezekiel 20:12. It is his exchequer day, his market day.

Where prayer was wont to be made] Or where was a public oratory. So the synagogues are called by Philo in his embassy to Gaius the emperor, minus invidioso nomine.

Unto the women which resorted] St Paul (it may seem) at first had no other hearers but a few women at Philippi. But afterwards they became a flourishing Church. Nec minor ab exordio, nec maior incrementis ulla, saith Eutropius concerning Rome; so may we say concerning the Church of Christ.

{a} A kind of red or purple colouring matter, used by the ancients. ŒD


Verse 14

14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

Ver. 14. Whose heart the Lord opened] Man’s heart is naturally locked up and barricaded against God, till he, by his mighty Spirit, make forcible entrance, beating the devil out of his trenches, 2 Corinthians 10:4.


Verse 15

15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

Ver. 15. If ye have judged me to be faithful] Not else, upon no other condition doth she desire it; for hypocrites are the botches of society; as Augustus was wont to term his three untoward children, tres vomlcas, tria carcinomata, three mattery imposthumes or ulcerous sores. (Sueton. in Aug.)


Verse 16

16 And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:

Ver. 16. Possessed with a spirit, &c.] These the seventy seniors usually call εγγαστριμυθους, because the devil spake out of their bellies. For which cause also the Hebrews call them Oboth, or bottles; because the bellies of those women that were thus made use of by the devil were swelled as big as bottles. (Beza in loc.) In the year of grace 1536, a certain damsel at Frankfort in Germany, being possessed with a devil, and stark mad, swallowed down pieces of money with much gnashing of her teeth; which monies were presently wrung out of her hands and kept by various ones, &c. This is a true story, reported by Andrew Ebert, the minister of the place, who wrote the same to Luther, requesting his advice; which was, to pray hard for her, &c. (Bucholc. Chr.)


Verse 17

17 The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.

Ver. 17. These men are the servants] Satan etsi semel videatur verax, millies est mendax et semper fallax. Mark 1:25; John 8:47.


Verse 18

18 And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.

Ver. 18. Paul being grieved] Paul took no joy in such a testimony. High words become not a fool. To be praised by a praiseless person is no praise at all.


Verse 19

19 And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers,

Ver. 19. Their gains were gone] εξηλθεν, was gone forth together with the devil. They that count all fish that comes to not, will in the end catch the devil and all. You are his birds, saith Bradford to such, whom when the devil hath well fed, he will broach you and eat you, chaw you and champ you, world without end, in eternal woe and misery.


Verse 20

20 And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city,

Ver. 20. Trouble our city] Faithful preachers have ever been by the wicked accounted trouble towns; these covetous caitiffs (wretches) had not so much ingenuity as the devil himself, Acts 16:17.


Verse 21

21 And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.

Ver. 21. Neither to observe, &c.] An ordinary thing to oppose the placits and devices of men to the truth of God.


Verse 22

22 And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.

Ver. 22. Rent off their clothes] i.e. the apostles’ clothes.

And commanded to beat them] What? before they had examined the matter? This was preposterous justice; like that of those that in the morning hang the offender, and sit upon him in the afternoon; or those spoken of by Aeneas Sylvius (cap. 20, Europ.), that hang up such as are suspected of theft, and three days after judge of the suspicion. Whereas, on the contrary, a judge is to retain the decency and gravity of the law, which is never angry with any man. Lex non irascitur, sed constituit. Alexander in his anger slew those friends of his, whom afterwards he would have revived again with his own life blood.


Verse 23

23 And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:

Ver. 23. Laid many stripes] These were those marks of the Lord Jesus which the apostles so gloried of, as an old soldier doth of his scars and wounds received in battle. Hoc sunt gemmae et pretiosa ornamenta Dei, These are the jewels and costly ornaments of God, saith Munster, concerning his ulcers whereof he died. So might Paul and Silas well say of their stripes, τα δεσμα περιφερω τους πνευματικους μαργαριτας, saith Ignatius in his Epistle to the Ephesians: I bear my bonds as so many spiritual pearls of price. It was with sweet briar, in some sense, that these apostles were whipped.


Verse 24

24 Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.

Ver. 24. Fast in the stocks] The word το ξυλον signifieth such a pair of stocks, as wherein they used to make fast feet and neck too, saith Beza out of Nonius. Various of our martyrs were thus stocked in the bishop of London’s coalhouse; as Mr Philpot, and that martyr that rejoiced that she might have her foot in the hole of the stocks in which Master Philpot had been before her.


Verse 25

25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.

Ver. 25. Sang praises unto God] 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 coalhouse," 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.


Verse 26

26 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.

Ver. 26. There was a great earthquake] See the great power of prayer. It shaketh heaven and earth, Luther saith; there is a kind of omnipotence in it.


Verse 27

27 And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.

Ver. 27. And the keeper of the prison] In whom the earthquake had wrought a heartquake, as it had also (though not to so good purpose) in the magistrates, Acts 16:35. {See Trapp on "Acts 16:35"} We read that the people of Antioch, though many of them gave their hands for Chrysostom’s banishment; yet, terrified by an earthquake, immediately they sent for him again.


Verse 28

28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.

Ver. 28. But Paul cried with a loud voice, &c.] We should likewise cry Cave miser, beware oh wretch, when we see a man busily cutting the throat of his own poor soul, by wilful wickedness, or pitched headlong into hell through despair of God’s mercy. "Of some have compassion making a difference" 1:22; and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire of hell, as the angel pulled Lot out of Sodom, and as God pulled Joshua the high priest as "a brand out of the fire," Zechariah 3:2; This Jerome calleth Sanctam violentiam, optabilem rapinam, a holy violence, a desirable ravage; and the law of God requireth not only our observation, but our preservation; to cause others to keep it, as well as ourselves.


Verse 29

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

Ver. 29. And sprang in] As John the Evangelist with like speed sprang out of the bath, when Cerinthus the heretic came into it, lest some evil, for his sake, should befall him. from heaven. ( εξηλατο του βαλανειου, Eus.)


Verse 30

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

Ver. 30. What must I do to be saved?] A reverend divine said once to a poor soul, that told him he was troubled about his salvation; I tell thee, said he, it is able to trouble the whole world.


Verse 31

31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

Ver. 31. Believe on the Lord Jesus] This is the condition on our part required; or rather a stipulation that God hath promised to work in us and for us.


Verse 32

32 And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.

Ver. 32. And they spake unto him] So Master Tyndale, during the time of his imprisonment, converted his keeper, together with the keeper’s daughter, and others of his household. Also the rest that were with him in the prison, said, That if Tyndale were not a good Christian man, they could not tell whom to trust. The word of God is not bound, saith Paul the prisoner, Philippians 1:13. His bonds were manifest in all Caesar’s court, and to all others. In the Book of Martyrs we read also of one Bowler, a perverse Papist, converted by Doctor Sands and Master Bradford, whose keeper he was for over twenty weeks; and afterwards became their son, begotten in their bonds.


Verse 33

33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.

Ver. 33. He and all his straightway] God’s work is of great importance, and must be presently done, whatever else is left undone. "If ye will inquire, inquire, return, come," Isaiah 21:12.


Verse 34

34 And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.

Ver. 34. And rejoiced, believing] A prick with a pin may and doth many times let out corruption as well as lancing. Some suffer more throes in the new birth, some less. But many meet with greatest trials find terrors after conversion. When men take little fines, they mean to take the more rent.


Verse 35

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

Ver. 35. The magistrates sent] In one ancient Greek copy there is this addition, "And when it was day, the magistrates met together in the market place; and calling to mind the earthquake that had been that night, they feared, and sent the sergeants, saying, Let these men go." See Acts 16:27.


Verse 36

36 And the keeper of the prison told this saying to Paul, The magistrates have sent to let you go: now therefore depart, and go in peace.

Ver. 36. And the keeper of the prison] As glad to be the messenger of such good tidings; for he knew well the misery of captivity; by which term, therefore, all that Job suffered is summarily set forth, Job 42:10.


Verse 37

37 But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.

Ver. 37. They have beaten us] A Roman, by the Valerian law, might not be bound; by the Porcian law, he might not be beaten or put to death, but by the Romans themselves, with the consent of the people. This privilege Paul pleads, and well he might; for the name of a Roman citizen was terrible to other nations. Though we may not return evil for evil, yet we may use all lawful means to right and secure ourselves.

And now do they thrust us out?] Doctor Fuller the chancellor came to William Wolsey the martyr, whom he had imprisoned, and said, Thou dost much trouble my conscience; wherefore I pray thee depart, and rule thy tongue, so that I hear no more complaint of thee; and come to church when thou wilt, and if thou be complained of, so far as I may, I promise thee I will not hear of it. "Master Doctor," quoth he, "I was brought hither by a law, and by a law I will be delivered," &c.


Verse 38

38 And the serjeants told these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans.

Ver. 38. And they feared when they heard, &c.] Their sin troubled them not, but their danger; for Irasci populo Romano nemo sapienter potest. It was not safe dashing against the rock of Rome’s power. Cicero tells us, that Haec vox, Civis Romanus sum, saepe in ultimis terris, &c. This one word, "I am a Roman," relieved and rescued many in the utmost parts of the earth, and among barbarians.


Verse 39

39 And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city.

Ver. 39. And they came and besought them] The matter is well amended since yesterday. How suddenly crest fallen are these grandees of Philippi, how bladder like do they shrivel to nothing, that erst swelled with the wind of pride and passion! So did the king of Sodom, Manasseh, Saul, &c.


Verse 40

40 And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.

Ver. 40. And departed] Yet so, as that St Paul soon after visited them with that golden Epistle to the Philippians.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Acts 16:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/acts-16.html. 1865-1868.

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the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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