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The Book of Acts Series
Acts, Chapter 16
Key Events in Acts - Chapter 16
1 – Paul in Lystra
Timothy joins Paul’s team
Paul ministers to the women at the riverside
Paul and the team stay with
3 - Paul calls the spirit out if the slave girl
Paul and Silas are arrested for unlawfully
leading people to worship a God other than
That night freed from Prison in an earthquake but they do not leave. When the jailer sees this, he accepts Christ.
The magistrate tries to free them the next day, but Paul insists that he apologize to them as they are Roman Citizens.
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.
visiting the churches in
Evidently, Lystra is Timothy’s hometown. He is a member of the church there and the disciples in Lystra and Iconium speak well of him. Many scholars write that Timothy was most likely converted as a result of Paul’s preaching on his first missionary journey, but there is no real evidence of that I Luke’s writing. In other places, Paul writes that Timothy’s mother and grandmother are also Christian believers (2 Timothy 1:5). Here, Luke records that Timothy’s mother is Jewish.
The young disciple, Timothy will become perhaps the most important of Paul’s associates in his mission to the Gentiles. Luke mentions his role several times in Acts (17:14-15; 18:5; 19:22; 20:4). In his letter to the Romans, Paul refers to Timothy as a "fellow worker" (Romans 16:21). Two New Testament letters are addressed to Timothy personally. In several, he is listed as an author alongside of Paul.
Paul has a special affection for Timothy, calling him "my son whom I love" (1 Corinthians 4:17). In Paul’s mind, there is no individual quite like Timothy, whose thinking is so much like his own (Philippians 2:19-20). Timothy remains a close confidant and friend up to Paul’s death. Paul even sees him as a successor who will continue his work. He is used on a number of occasions to help with Paul’s pastoral and gospel-preaching responsibilities (1 Corinthians 4:17; 16:10; Philippians 2:19; 1 Thessalonians 3:2, 6; 1 Timothy 1:3).
At some point, Timothy is ordained to the ministry. Perhaps it is at this time in Lystra. Paul says that Timothy was given a special divine ability, and the knowledge of it came as a result of divine revelation (1 Timothy 1:18). "Do not neglect your gift," Paul admonishes him, "which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you" (1 Timothy 4:14).
Timothy’s father is Greek
Because Paul wants to add Timothy to his missionary team, he must resolve a problem. Luke writes that while Timothy’s mother was Jewish, his father was Greek, probably pagan. Timothy was the product of a mixed marriage. Jews of that time had little sympathy toward such a situation, because it diluted Jewish identity.
Evidently, the father, who would have had authority over his household, did not allow Timothy to be circumcised, but we know from Paul’s references to Timothy’s upbringing that he did allow his wife to instruct the boy in the Hebrew Scriptures. The Jews know that Timothy is not circumcised. Since his mother is Jewish, Timothy is also considered a Jew. But because he is uncircumcised, he is considered an apostate Jew.
circumstance forces Paul to address a dilemma. In Paul’s mind, circumcision
is of no value in salvation (1 Corinthians 7:19; Galatians 5:6). The council
Paul evidently decides that in the case of Timothy, circumcision will be helpful, so he has Timothy circumcised before taking him on the journey (16:3). Paul will be preaching in synagogues, with Timothy as his helper. But Jews will not look favorably at someone regarded as an apostate sitting in their midst. Timothy is not circumcised as a condition of salvation or discipleship. It evidently was a way to assure his acceptance among those Jews with whom he and Paul will work (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
I have always seen Luke’s statement concerning Timothy’s parents as a terrible example of how children should be raised. Only once (here) is Timothy’s father mentioned. Lois and Eunice (timothy’s grandmother and mother are mentioned several times by Luke and Paul. What a shame to have so little influence on the spiritual life of a son that you die an unknown to history, with all that is ever mentioned is that you were 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. 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.
now joins Paul and Silas, and the team travels "from city to city".
Presumably, Luke’s use of the word cities refers to villages in southern
One commentator pointed out an interesting juxtaposition of ideas in Verses 3 and 4 of Acts, Chapter 15. In verse 3 Luke shows Paul circumcising a half-Gentile and then in verse 4, he delivers decrees from the mother church saying that Gentiles do not have to be circumcised. Evidently Paul circumcised Timothy for expedience, so that his status as a Jew would not conflict with the essence of the gospel. It should be pointed out that
Timothy may have requested circumcision, and that Paul would have accommodated his request if that were the case.
and his team travel throughout
This is the fourth of Luke’s brief and general reports on the progress of the church (6:7; 9:31; 12:24). Besides these more sweeping progress reports, Luke also gives more specific updates regarding the church. Commentators have identified the following ones up to this point: Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4; 5:14; 6:1, 7; 8:25, 40; 9:31; 11:24-25; 12:24; 14:21-23.
then reports that "Paul and his companions traveled throughout the
region of Phrygia and
Luke’s report, Paul and the team have been moving steadily westward, perhaps along
the road known as Via Sebaste. The cities of Derbe,
Lystra, Iconium and Pisidian Antioch are all connected
to this important highway. Perhaps Paul intends to follow this road to
some dramatic occurrence interferes with his plans. Luke writes that the
missionary team is "kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in
the province of
this case, God causes events to occur in such a way as to prevent Paul from
entering the province of
and his party kept on traveling north. "When they came to the border of Mysia, they attempt to enter
Paul is also prevented from doing missionary work in
This is the only time that the expression "Spirit of Jesus" occurs in Acts. Here, Luke may be trying to tell his readers that Jesus continues to take an active role in directing the preaching of the gospel by Paul and his team.
Regardless, God has again intervened in the plans of the missionaries. He is directing Paul and his associates toward a historic new phase of the work. But for the moment, they are unaware of what is happening to them.
they can’t preach in Asia, nor in
is an important port, connecting the land masses of Europe (
God has placed Paul where he needs to be, because in Troas, Paul is in a
coastal city with nowhere to go except west across the
The Macedonian Vision
9A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia
was standing and appealing to him, and saying, "Come over to
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.
is a pivotal event, for Paul now understands that he is being given a divine
call to evangelize
An important change in pronoun usage tells us about a life changing event for Dr. Luke:
Many scholars have spent considerable time discussing Luke and his impact on Paul’s ministry. In later writings (Colossians 4:14), Paul calls Luke “the beloved physician” indicating that he is a medical doctor. Luke’s writings, which are full of medical references and his use of (Greek) medical words seem to support that identification.
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.
a clear mission to carry the Gospel to
Neapolis, which is modern day
does not say that Paul preached at Neapolis, but
instead takes the team to
had become part of the
The First Convert in
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.
begins his account of the events in Philippi with the conversion of a woman
usually goes to a local synagogue on the Sabbath, where he can preach the
gospel when he is asked to speak. But in
Jewish law requires that at least ten male heads of households should be available for regular attendance before a synagogue is formed. If the ten men minimum cannot be met, a place of prayer would be selected for an informal Sabbath gathering in some peaceful setting, either in a building or outdoors.
that is the situation Paul encounters at the "place of prayer" near
of the women listening to Paul is
dye and cloth was a luxury trade. Because of this,
any case, Luke centered on
his record, Luke says, "the Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s
message". Luke speaks of such "openings" elsewhere in his
Gospel. The disciples’ eyes (Luke 24:33), their understanding of Scripture (Luke
24:32), and their minds (Luke 24:45) are opened by Jesus after the
resurrection. Paul uses a similar form in his letter to the church in
18I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, (Ephesians 1:18 NASV)
Luke sees conversion as God’s action on human beings, opening their understanding to the message of salvation. In this he follows Paul, who says that people cannot believe the gospel because Satan darkens their minds (2 Corinthians 4:4). Their hearts have to be opened miraculously by the enlightening Spirit of God.
after responding to Paul’s message,
The Spirit Possessed Slave Girl
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. 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."
Luke’s next story concerns an event which happened to the missionary team as they daily went to their place of prayer. Luke tells us they encountered a slave girl who has "a spirit" and keeps bothering Paul and his group "for many days". In his story, Luke tells us the girl kept shouting, "These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved". The demonic spirit in the girl knows that the presence and power of God is with the missionaries. Some commentators point out that the demon’s shouting is probably done in mockery, and is intended to disrupt, not enhance, the preaching of the gospel.
In chapter 4 of his gospel, Luke reports a similar situation where Jesus encountered a demon who kept on shouting that Jesus is "the Holy One of God" (Luke 4:34). In fact, Jesus encountered a similar situation on several occasions (Luke 4:41; 8:28; Mark 1:24; 3:11; 5:7).
Paul finally becomes "so troubled" that he does what Jesus did on numerous occasions. He commands the demon to leave. Paul, of course, does it in Jesus’ name, and "at that moment the spirit left her".
When Paul casts out the demon, he creates an immediate problem between himself and those who have a financial stake in the demon-possessed girl. Luke reports the basis of the problem is that she has "earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling".
When Paul casts the demon out from the girl, she can no longer tell fortunes, and a business is wiped out. The owners do not take kindly to the closing down of their enterprise. They grab Paul and Silas and drag them before the local magistrates and demand that they prosecute Paul and Silas.
The angry owners of the slave girl state their accusation against Paul and Silas in political terms: "These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice".
First of all, the angry owners claim that Paul and Silas are causing a public disturbance—"throwing our city into an uproar." This would be a timely "scare tactic" to frighten local officials who were charged with keeping the peace.
Secondly, the plaintiffs claim that Paul and Silas are promoting illegal customs. Here, Paul and Silas are charged with disturbing the Pax Romana and advocating an illegal religion – any religion that does not recognize the emperor as god.
Paul and Silas Imprisoned
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.
The case against Paul and Silas, driven by angry crowds, went downhill fast, when the magistrates order that Paul and Silas to be beaten with rods and thrown into the local jail. The jailer is ordered to "guard them carefully." And so he places the two missionaries "in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks".
Luke carefully notes these details about their imprisonment—that they are locked in the stocks of an inner cell that was carefully guarded. He does this to prepare his readers for a miraculous event that will occur shortly.
is not the only time Paul is thrown in prison and beaten. In later writings, Paul
recounts his many sufferings, including those at
tells us that in
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.
When the Jailer realizes that his life is not in jeopardy, he rushes into the cell and falls down before Paul and Silas, in great fear. "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" he cries out (16:30).
He is soon educated as to what must take place. Paul answers his question by saying, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household".
Our understanding is that there is more to being saved than simply uttering the words, "I believe in Jesus." Jesus himself said, "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). In this case "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved" is a summary confession of the Christian faith. "Believing on the Lord" is Luke’s shorthand statement for the faith as a whole. He has already used it several times (5:14; 9:42; 11:17).
faith in Jesus needs to be explained. Paul does this for the jailer and his
family. The two missionaries speak "the word of the Lord to him and to
all the others in his house" (16:32). No doubt they explain the gospel
of salvation in terms the jailer and his household can understand. They also
probably discuss something of what it means to have a new life in Christ.
Further instruction will come later within a church of believers organized in
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.
The jailer takes Paul and Silas into his quarters and washes their wounds. Then, he and his family are baptized—as in the case of Peter and Cornelius. The jailer is then "filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family"
Luke describes the conversion of the jailer in terms of believing in God. As a pagan Gentile, the jailer would be taught about the one true God. Paul has already told him that a person has to believe in Jesus to be saved. To believe in the one true God is to believe in Christ; to believe in Christ is to believe in God. As Jesus said, "When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me" (John 12:44).
Luke, in passing, gives two practical examples of the jailer’s new-found faith. He tends the prisoners’ wounds and brings them into his own house and feeds them. It’s doubtful that an army veteran would have shown compassion to prisoners in his prior life.
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.
It is interesting that after baptizing the Jailer and taking food with him and his family Paul and Silas apparently return to their prison cell. The next morning the magistrates send the police officers to the prison with instructions to release the two missionaries. Paul and Silas have paid the penalty for their suspected disturbance of the peace by being beaten and imprisoned overnight. Now they can be freed, and perhaps commanded to leave town.
But Paul surprises the officers by saying, "They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now do they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out". It seems that knowing he is a Roman citizen and that his rights have been violated in the way he was treated, what Paul wants is an act of apology from the magistrates.
the magistrates learn that Paul and Silas are Roman citizens, they are
alarmed (16:38). They come to the prison, escort the missionaries outside,
and plead with them to leave the city peacefully. If any officials appreciate
the value of Roman citizenship, it would be the magistrates of a Roman
colony. They would have known that a Roman citizen could travel anywhere
within Roman territory under the protection of
seems reasonable to wonder why Paul and Silas don’t appeal to their Roman
citizenship before they were beaten and imprisoned. Perhaps they did,
but in the heat of the moment no one paid any attention to them. At a later
any case, Paul insists on a public apology from the magistrates of
and Silas do not leave the city immediately, even though they were requested
to. This, too, makes a point with the authorities. Yes, Paul will leave, but
he will not scurry out of town in fear as though he had been guilty of a
crime. The missionaries return to
This ends Acts, Chapter 16
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