Acts 16


Timothy Joins Paul and Silas

16     He came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek. 2 The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him. 3 Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

Paul preaches against the circumcision group in the Book of Galatians and we just read in chapter 15 of the Book of Acts how the church clearly agreed that we are saved by grace and not by works.  Circumcision, a Jewish ritual, was not required to be a Christian.

 So why did Paul have Timothy circumcised?  Was he being inconsistent or adding to the Gospel?  No, Paul’s mission was to advance the Gospel and everything else was subordinated to that.  He realized that if Timothy was uncircumcised it could be a barrier to sharing the Gospel with Jewish people.  It wasn’t required for Timothy to be a Christian, but it was helping in spreading the Good News.

Paul’s Vision of the Man of Macedonia

6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

They received clear supernatural guidance on where to go and where not to go.  Yet other times Paul chose to pursue different ministry opportunities even though a door had been opened for him.  God can still work this way, though we must always test such things in light of scripture.  It is far too easy for us to think God told us something when it is really just what we wanted to hear.

Lydia’s Conversion in Philippi

11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis. 12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.

13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.

It appears that there was not a synagogue in Philippi, but Paul preached to women who had gathered to pray. 

Paul and Silas in Prison

16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.

19 When the owners of the slave girl realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”

22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family.

This is such a powerful story!  First, consider how Paul had an “open door” – literally and figuratively – to move on.  Yet he stayed! 

Knowing Paul, he had probably witnessed to the jailer over and over.  When Paul didn’t leave it was the jailer’s final proof that what Paul said was true. 

What a great witness: Paul and his companions were severely beaten and thrown in jail yet they were singing and praying to God.  That is convicting to me, especially when I think of all the blessings we have an how it is so easy to complain about little things or to want more.

And how was the jailer saved?  By believing in the Lord Jesus.  That’s it. 

I have heard this passage used to support infant baptism (“he and all his family were baptized”), but seems like a stretch to me. 

35 When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.” 36 The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.”

37 But Paul said to the officers: “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.”

38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. 39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. 40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them. Then they left.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

One thought on “Acts 16”

  1. v. 1 – Since Paul addressed Timothy as a young man some 15 years later (1 Timothy 4:12), he must have been in his teens at this time.

    v. 3 – This was different from Titus’s case (Galatians 2:3), where circumcision was refused because some were demanding it as necessary for salvation.

    v. 10 – did you notice the “we” mentioned in this verse? The conclusion is that Luke is informing the reader that he had joined the party at Troas.

    v. 12 – Philippi was a city in eastern Macedonia named after Philip II, father of Alexander the Great. Since it was a Roman colony, it was independent of provincial administration and had a governmental organization modeled after that of Rome. Many retired legionnaires from the Roman army settled there, but few Jews.

    v. 21 – If a religion failed to receive Roman approval, it was considered religio illicita. Judaism had legal recognition, but Christianity did not.

    v. 37 – Public beating for a Roman citizen would have been illegal, let alone beating without a trial. Paul and Silas were not asking for an escort to salve their injured pride as much as they were establishing their innocence for the sake of the church in Philippi and its future. Was Luke a roman citizen? It is unlikely that he was in Prison with Paul and Silas because the “we” section ends in verse 17 and doesn’t reappear until 20:5. He isn’t mentioned with the group either in verse 19.


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