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Acts Sixteen

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

Acts 16:1 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:

Timotheus. Timothy was probably a convert of Paul's from his previous missionary trip to Derbe and Lystra (note 1 Timothy 1:2). His mother and grandmother had trained him well in the Jewish Scriptures (see 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15), and evidently all three had accepted Christ. Timothy was no doubt aware of Paul's miraculous restoration after his stoning (Acts 14:20), and was ready and willing to take Mark's place with Paul when asked. Since his father was a Greek (whether a Christian or not is never stated), he had never been circumcised, and Paul deemed it expedient (even though not required) to have this done before taking him into the synagogues with him, hoping thereby to avoid giving unnecessary offense to the Jews.

Acts 16:2 Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium.

Acts 16:3 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.

Acts 16:4 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.

Acts 16:5 And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily.

Acts 16:6 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,

Acts 16:7 After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.

Acts 16:8 And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas.

Acts 16:9 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.

Acts 16:10 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.

we. The first use here of “we” in the narrative, instead of “they,” seems to indicate that Luke, the author of the book of Acts, joined the missionary party at Troas.

Lord had called us. The Lord's calling may become evident in different ways. One key principle is indicated here in the calling of Paul to Macedonia in Greece. He was already active, trying to preach in the province of Asia, then in Bithynia; he was not waiting idly at home, hoping to receive a call. The Holy Spirit in some very clear way closed the first two doors, but then opened another, by this special vision. It is sobering to think that if Paul had not been redirected to Philippi and Greece, he might never have gone into Europe and Christianity might have remained primarily an Asian religion. But God had other purposes.

Acts 16:11 Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis;

Acts 16:12 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.

Acts 16:13 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.

wont to be made. Paul normally went first to a local synagogue when he arrived in a new city, but apparently there was none in Philippi. Since a group of only ten active men was required to constitute a synagogue, there must have been only a very small Jewish population there. The only such religious activity on the weekly Sabbath was apparently a ladies' prayer meeting, so that was where Paul headed. Despite this unpromising beginning, this gathering became the nucleus of the first Christian church in Europe.

Acts 16:14 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.

Lydia. Lydia was not a Jewish woman but, as a native of Thyatira, had evidently attended the synagogue there and become one of the worshippers of God in their congregation. When she heard the gospel, the Lord opened her heart and she believed—another example where divine election and human freedom are naturally juxtaposed.

Acts 16:15 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.

her household. Lydia's “household” consisted apparently of her servants. There is no indication that she was either married or a widow.

Acts 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:

spirit of divination. The “spirit of divination” was actually a “pythonic spirit,” so named because of the legendary serpent slain by Apollo, who supposedly was the god of prophecy.

Acts 16:17 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.

the most high God. The continual harangue by the girl, referring to “the most high God,” designed to produce ridicule and resentment against Paul, showed that her “spirit of divination” was actually a demonic spirit. Compare the experience of Jesus, whom they recognized as God, with such evil spirits (e.g., Matthew 8:31-32; Mark 1:24).

Acts 16:18 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.

Acts 16:19 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,

Acts 16:20 And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city,

being Jews. The obvious prejudice against Jews displayed here by the citizenry and officials against Jews perhaps accounts for the minimal Jewish population in such a large city as Philippi.

Acts 16:21 And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.

Acts 16:22 And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.

Acts 16:23 And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:

Acts 16:24 Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.

Acts 16:25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.

Acts 16:26 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.

a great earthquake. This was a notable miracle of providence, as distinct from creation miracles such as Paul's restoration to life after stoning. There is nothing supernatural about earthquakes. However, the rate of occurrence of earthquakes in Philippian jails where Christian missionaries who had been unjustly imprisoned and beaten, yet were singing and praying and praising God at midnight, is very low! God—and no doubt His angels as well—can surely control the rate, timing and location of the processes of nature which He created.

Acts 16:27 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.

Acts 16:28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.

Acts 16:29 Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,

Acts 16:30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

what must I do. In such a city as Philippi, so thoroughly committed to pantheistic occultism and so antipathetic to Jewish monotheism, it would take a notable testimonial miracle to provide a breakthrough for the gospel among its Greek citizenry. The jailer immediately recognized that such a miracle had occurred, and that these men were, indeed, as the evil spirit in the damsel had proclaimed, “servants of the Most High God,” who could show him “the way of salvation.” Hence his question.

Acts 16:31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

and thy house. It is noteworthy that Paul promised the salvation, not of the jailer only, but also all his “house,” if he would believe on Christ. Similarly God long ago told Noah: “Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation” (Genesis 7:1). Paul proceeded to speak to the jailer “the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house” (Acts 16:32), and they all believed and were baptized. Even though each had to believe individually, they did believe, just as Paul had promised. In some way we cannot comprehend, God works in such a way that, when a father believes and faithfully obeys the Lord, sooner or later, his children will come as well.

Acts 16:32 And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.

Acts 16:33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.

Acts 16:34 And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.

Acts 16:35 And when it was day, the magistrates sent the serjeants, saying, Let those men go.

Acts 16:36 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.

Acts 16:37 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.

Acts 16:38 And the serjeants told these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans.

they were Romans. Paul's father in Tarsus evidently had been awarded Roman citizenship for services to the state, so Paul (and presumably Silas) had been born with such citizenship. This involved many privileges and protections established in Roman law.

Acts 16:39 And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city.

Acts 16:40 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.