ACTS CHAPTER 16.
Paul and Silas in Asia Minor. Acts 16. 1-10.
Timotheus, the Christian disciple: V.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; v.2. which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium. V.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. Paul and Silas had entered Asia Minor in the extreme southeastern corner, through the pass known as the Syrian Gates, or Beilan Pass, in Mount Amanus. From the Cilician lowland, where Paul may have passed through Mopsuestia, Adam, and Tarsus, the journey went up over the rugged and beautiful Taurus Mountains and through the pass known as the Cilician Gates to the great Lycaonian plain. Derbe being the nearest city to the Cilician frontier, the first stop was made here. But the apostle evidently did not tarry long in any city which he visited, since he had a definite plan in mind. For at Lystra, where he had spent some time on the first journey and had also been stoned by the mob, chap. 14, 8-20, there was a certain disciple by the name of Timotheus, one of those converted by Paul on the previous visit. His mother was a Jewess that had retained her faith, but his father was a Greek, and evidently not a proselyte. Marriages with heathen were forbidden by the Jewish law, Deut. 7, 3; Ex. 34, 16; Ezra 10, 2. But the prohibition was not strictly observed, especially not among the Jews outside of Palestine, where colonies had been established for many years, and where the Jews had accommodated themselves to, and accepted all but the religion of, their fellow-citizens. Here marriages of Jewesses with influential Gentiles were by no means uncommon. Timothy had been instructed in the Holy Scriptures from infancy, 2 Tim. 1, 5; 3, 14. 15, and. like many another true Israelite, had soon learned to know the proper application of the prophecies to Jesus Christ of Nazareth. And he was well spoken of, not only in his home 'town, Lystra, but even at Iconium, the brethren of the congregations all having the very highest opinion of his Christian character. These and other qualities recommended theyoung man very highly in the eyes of Paul, who wanted him to become a companion and an assistant on his journey. Young men that have a good reputation in the Christian, congregation for soundness of Christian character, and otherwise show ability and willingness for the work, are in great demand in the vineyard of the Lord. Having made the necessary arrangements by which Timothy was to accompany him, Paul first performed the rite of circumcision in his case. This was not necessary from a Scriptural standpoint; it had expressly been rejected at the meeting in Jerusalem and had not been done in the case of Titus, Gal. 2, 3. 4. But in this case Paul showed his tact and wisdom. The Jews in that entire region, knowing Timothy's parentage, would be apt to take offense at his preaching and ministering, and thus hinder his work there and elsewhere. Thus Paul became a Jew unto the Jews, a Greek unto the Greeks, in order that he might gain both Jews and Greeks, 1 Cor. 9, 20. 21. Wherever a Christian, and especially a Christian preacher or missionary, is able to remove a cause of offense without denying the truth of, the Gospel, he should do so by all means, for it may mean souls won for Christ.
Through Asia Minor to Troas: V.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. V.5. And so 'were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily. V.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, v.7. after they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia; but the spirit suffered them not. V.8. and they, passing by Mysia, came down to Troas. The zeal of Paul knew neither weariness nor rest; he was ever active for his Lord. As he traveled through the cities where congregations had been founded through his own efforts or those of disciples that had become missionaries, he and his companions delivered to them all the resolutions which had been fixed by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. All the congregations were admonished to observe these decrees, although they were directed only to the congregations in Syria and Cilicia. Uniformity of practice, especially in such important matters, is to be recommended very highly for churches of the same confession. In this way the congregations everywhere were established in the faith; the encouraging admonitions of the apostle and his companions strengthened their faith. And a second result of the visitation was that the churches increased in numbers day by day. Thus Paul made the rounds of the congregations in this entire district, which was racially Phrygian, but administratively Galatic: Iconium, Antioch, and all the stations that were connected with these cities, He may even have extended his labors into North Galatia, though recent investigations seem to oppose this assumption. 59) Many congregations sprang into existence under his labors in Galatia, 1 Cor. 16, 1, and he was always united with these disciples by the ties of a fervent love. Having carried out his missionary labors to the extent which he had intended in this province, Paul planned next to visit the province of Asia, a maritime province in southwestern Asia Minor, on the Aegean Sea. But he was hindered, prevented, from speaking the Word in this province by the Holy Spirit. This was done either by an inner revelation or by a prophetic intimation which permitted of no misunderstanding. So they journeyed to Mysia, into the borders of this province, west of Phrygia, and there made the attempt to turn northward into Bithynia, a province on the Black Sea. But again the Spirit of Jesus intervened and hindered them. Note: The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus Christ, Rom. 8, 9, as well as the Spirit of the Father, Matt. 10, 20. Nothing now remained for them to do but to travel due west to Troas, a seaport on the Aegean, opposite Greece. It is the Lord that directs and governs the course of the Gospel on earth. All the matters and circumstances are arranged by Him in such a way as to serve the Gospel according to His will.
The vision: V.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. V.10. and after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the Gospel unto them. The reason for all this maneuvering now became apparent. During the night, apparently the same night after they had arrived in Troas, a vision appeared to Paul by which the Lord intended to communicate His will to the apostle. A man from Macedonia was standing before him, either in a dream or in a condition of ecstasy, addressing him in words of earnest pleading: Cross over into Macedonia; help us! When Paul had seen this vision, he and his companions, to whom Luke had now been added, at once made earnest efforts to leave for Macedonia, for they were firmly agreed that the Lord had chosen this method of calling them to preach the Gospel in Europe. The little company now consisted of Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke, one as anxious as the other to secure early passage on some boat that plied between the Aegean ports. Note: Whenever the directions of the Lord as to some work to be done are plain, all those that are concerned should be filled with the same anxiety to enter upon the work; for His business requireth haste.
Paul and His Companions at Philippi. Acts 16, 11-40.
The voyage to Philippi: V.11. Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia and the next day to Neapolis, v.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. V.13. And on the Sabbath we went out of the city by a riverside, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down and spake unto the women which resorted thither. In those days of active commercial intercourse between the various Aegean ports, it did not take long for them to find a ship upon which they could take passage. Paul and his companions therefore drew away, they set sail from Troas, being favored by a good stiff breeze from the south and east, which enabled them to make a straight run past the island of Imbros to that called Samothrace, one of the northernmost islands of the Grecian archipelago. Here they turned toward the west and sailed past the island of Thasus to the Macedonian port of Neapolis, the latter part of the journey taking only one day. Thus the voyage had been undertaken under unusually propitious circumstances and completed in an exceptionally short time. The missionaries did not remain in Neapolis, however, but pressed on to the larger city of Philippi, which was a Roman colony, both coins and inscriptions corroborating the words of Luke. 60) Near it was fought the great battle between Augustus and Antony on one side, and Brutus and Cassius, the murderers of Julius Caesar, on the other, the battle which decided that Rome would be an empire, and not a republic. In honor of this event Philippi had been granted the rights of a Roman colony, as the name “praetors,” used by Luke to designate the officials of the city, also shows. And Philippi was the first city in that district, or division, of Macedonia. For almost two Centuries before, Macedonia had been divided into four districts, whose general boundaries were still recognized, although they were no longer accepted by the government as political districts. That Philippi was the first, the most important city of that part of Macedonia was due to its location on the great Egnatian Way, the main Roman road between Europe and Asia. It was in those days what Byzantium, or Constantinople, later became, the gateway to the Orient. 61) The Roman province of Macedonia lay between Greece and the Aegean Sea, on the south, and the Balkan Mountains, on the north. In Philippi, then, where the East and the West met, these travelers from the Orient spent some time, anxious to gain some souls for the Lord. Since the Jewish population of the city at that time was not large enough to support a synagog, and the Jews had therefore the custom of gathering outside of the city gates, on the banks of a river, by the riverside, and of holding their meetings of prayer there, this site had become known as the place of prayer. To that spot, therefore, Paul and his companions also went on the Sabbath, to the river Gangas or Gangites. There was probably no formal worship, as in the synagogs, although there may have been leaders of the devotions. At any rate, Paul accommodated himself to the conditions. He sat down with his party among the worshipers and spent the morning talking to the women that had come together there. It seems, then, that the Jews and proselytes of the city consisted largely of women, many of whom occupied positions of considerable freedom and social influence, a fact which is fully borne out by careful historical research. Note: it may have seemed strange to Paul, after all the elaborate preparations, to find only a handful of women assembled, but God has His own ways of doing things and conducting the affairs of His kingdom, as the subsequent condition of the Philippian congregation shows.
The conversion of Lydia: V.14. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshiped God, heard us; whose heart the Lord opened that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. V.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. In the audience on the river bank, on that memorable morning when the first Christian service was conducted on European soil, was a certain woman, a merchant by the name of Lydia, the name by which she was probably known for business purposes, since she hailed from Thyatira in Lydia, a district of proconsular Asia. She was a dealer in purple, that is, in garments dyed with a very costly dye, and must therefore have been comparatively well-to-do. “Thyatira was noted for its dyeing. Madder root, with which they dyed a Turkey-red, grows abundantly in the neighborhood. As the ancients employed the names of colors with great laxity, this was often termed purple.” 62) Lydia was a God-fearing woman, that is, she was a Jewish proselyte, she believed in and reverenced the God of the Jews, whose worship had been taught her. She listened carefully to the entire discourse, and the Lord opened her heart fully to attend to the matters which were explained by Paul, the news that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah. So thoroughly was she and all the members of her household (she may have been a widow with a number of children, as well as a number of servants] convinced of the truth of the Gospel that she and they all confessed their faith forthwith and were baptized a fine nucleus for a congregation in whose welfare Paul always took great interest. The gratitude of Lydia for the blessings of which she had now been made a partaker prompted her to extend a cordial invitation to the missionaries to accept her hospitality. It was in the form of earnest pleading that she said to them: If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, since the fact that you baptized me seems to argue that you consider me a believer in the Lord, please come to my house and abide there. And she did not rest until she had persuaded them to come and be her guests. Such hospitality in return for the great spiritual gifts received is a proof for the change of heart produced by faith, and is well-pleasing to the Lord.
The encounter with the spirit of divination: V.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; v.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. V.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. Even in Philippi, although there was no synagog there, Paul and his companions continued to observe the hours of prayer. But as they were on their way to the place of prayer, presumably the bank of the river, they were molested by a certain slave girl, who, literally, possessed a python spirit. But she was not merely an artist in ventriloquism, as the word is often understood in secular accounts, but she had a spirit of divination, with prophetic power; she was possessed of a demon. This slave, who brought much gain, a great deal of money, to her owners and masters by her soothsaying, made it a habit, day after day, to meet the party of Paul and then follow closely at his heels, crying out meanwhile, with a loud voice: These men are servants of God the Most High, who also are proclaimers of the way of salvation to you. The girl was not mistress of herself in crying out thus. As one commentator has it, the girl at one time was overmastered by the evil spirit, who was her real lord; at another she felt a longing for deliverance from her bondage. The evil spirit in her was quaking at the sight of Christ’s servants and could not help but acknowledge the truth. But Paul was finally filled with annoyance, with grief, pain, and anger. The Lord does not want to be preached by evil spirits, as His conduct in the gospels shows. Besides, according to the meaning associated with the girl’s words by the multitude, they might believe the missionaries to be ministers of superstition or of magic. 63) Therefore Paul spoke, not to the slave, but to the evil spirit that possessed her, charging him in the name of Jesus Christ to come out from her. And in that same hour, according to the Greek way of speaking, in the same moment, according to ours, the spirit and her power left her. Note: The diviners, soothsayers, and fortunetellers of our days also make use of the name and the Word of God, but only for the purpose of deceiving the poor misguided souls that consult them, and thus of holding the souls all the more firmly in their doctrine and devilish tricks. It is our duty, therefore, to expose the evil intention and the deceit of the devil. For even if he makes predictions and performs acts which seem to be miraculous, they are-never done with the command and promise of the Lord and are always detrimental to the salvation of souls.
Paul and Silas imprisoned: V.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, v.20. and brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, v.21. and teach customs which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. V.22. And the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. V.23. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely; v.24. who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. When the evil spirit went out of the slave-girl, the hope of gain of her masters also went out, as Luke notes, in a fine play upon the word. The income from this source was not only endangered, but was cut off entirely, a fact which touched them in their most sensitive spot. But when the owners of the girl realized this, they were filled with anger. Laying hold upon Paul and Silas, they half pulled and half dragged them to the market-place, to the forum, before the magistrates of the city. Here they became a little less turbulent in their behavior, leading their prisoners up to the praetors with some semblance of order and decency. The praetors were the chief authorities of the city, whose duty it was to try all cases of a political nature. The official title of the two men was duoviri, but they often styled themselves praetors. The charge of the masters of the slave was somewhat peculiar. They declared that Paul and Silas, Jews as they were, were not only creating a disturbance in the city, but were agitating the town by proclaiming such religious customs as would not be proper for them to accept and to exercise, since they were Romans. The complaint then was, in brief, that the apostles were upsetting the entire social and religious system of the city, a fact all the more to be condemned since the accused belonged to the despised Jews. The insinuation, which hinted at the introduction of prohibited religious customs of a particularly objectionable kind, as well as the fact that the men were Jews, was sufficient to rouse the multitude present in the forum, a mob which was easily incensed and swayed. Without so much as giving the prisoners an opportunity of defending themselves against the charges, the praetors led in the assault upon them by causing their clothes to be torn from their bodies and then commanding them to be beaten with rods, a grievous and degrading punishment. Only after many lashes had been laid upon Paul and Silas was the first fury satisfied. But then came the further indignity, according to which the praetors cast them into prison and gave the keeper of the jail the earnest charge to keep them safely with all diligence and rigor. This command the keeper interpreted in his own way, influenced possibly also by his own feeling in the matter, for he not only put them into the inner prison, with several walls between them and freedom and a minimum of light and air to cheer them, but he also secured their feet in the stocks, a wooden instrument of torture in which the feet were tightly clamped, holding them firmly in one position and thereby causing a good deal of pain. The clamping of the feet in the stocks interfered with the circulation and cramped the muscles, a torture which became more unendurable with every minute. Note: Every confessor of Christ and of the Gospel is liable to be treated in the same way, to become a partaker of the reproach of Christ. And those men especially that proclaim the way of salvation are considered disturbers of the peace and insurrectionists by the children of the world.
The earthquake at midnight: V.25. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God; and the prisoners heard them. V.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. V.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. V.28. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm; for we are all here. Peter had calmly slept in prison on the night before his execution was to take place, chap. 12, 6. And here these two disciples, with their backs aching and bleeding from the merciless whipping, with their legs cramped in the instrument of torture, and their minds smarting with the sense of injustice which they had suffered, were able to put all thoughts of the torture aside and to pray. And in prayer they even got the necessary strength to sing hymns to God, to praise Him in psalms. Paul and Silas were singing, and the other prisoners were listening with attentive interest. It was a service of praise and thanksgiving such as had been rarely seen in this world, the first one of many similar ones held by Christian martyrs in the dungeons. But suddenly a great earthquake rocked the prison, with such force as to shake its very foundations. And as a result of the shaking not only were all the doors opened at that same moment, but also the fetters of all the prisoners were loosened, taken off. The Lord of the Christians is stronger than the enemies that attempt to murder His servants. It is an easy matter for Him to save them that are His own. The jailer, awakened from his sleep by the shock, came to the full realization of the situation with one sudden shock. One glance sufficed to show him the open doors of the prison, and since he concluded that the prisoners must surely have escaped, he drew his sword from its sheath with the intention of committing suicide; for death was the penalty for allowing prisoners to escape. All this, of course, did not occur without some commotion and outcry, a fact which quickly informed Paul of the situation, who thereupon with a loud voice both hindered the proposed suicide and gave the jailer the reassurance which was most apt to restore his self-control: Do nothing of harm to yourself; all of us are here. Not one of the prisoners had made an attempt to escape, though there was nothing to hinder them. It was either that they were panic-stricken on account of the earthquake, or that the behavior of Paul and Silas had so deeply impressed them that they were lost in admiration of the courage exhibited by the two tortured prisoners. Many of them undoubtedly saw a connection between the prayer of the apostles and the earthquake, and were moved to admire the almighty power of God.
The conversion of the jailer: V.29. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, v.30. and brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? V.31. And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved and thy house. V.32. And they spake unto him the Word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. V.33. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. V.34. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house. In the excess of his first terror, the keeper of the prison had not even thought of a torch, being concerned only about the prevention of any escape on the part of the prisoners. But now he called to the guards to provide lights, and rushed into the inner prison, and in a state of the greatest emotion and terror, from anguish of conscience and the fear of the supernatural, fell down before Paul and Silas. He probably remembered now that Paul, who had called to him, had been preaching salvation in the name of Jesus, and he assumed that there must be some connection between the rocking of the earth and the calm assurance of the apostle. The jailer therefore led Paul and Barnabas outside and asked them what he must do to be saved, the most important question which a man may possibly think of in his whole life. And this question of troubled and terrified souls must always be met with the answer as here: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved and thy house. Paul and Silas did not accept the title “lords,” but pointed the inquirer to the one true Lord and Master over all, in whom alone there is salvation. Faith in Jesus Christ delivers from death, hell, wrath, and judgment, and brings eternal salvation. Having given the jailer the great central thought and doctrine of the entire Christian religion, the missionaries now explained the way of salvation more fully, telling him and proclaiming to him the Word of the Lord, together with all those that belonged to his household, children and servants, freedmen and slaves. It was a brief, but comprehensive instruction preceding baptism. And so deeply was the man’s heart moved by the events of the night and by the voice of God in these events that he took the two prisoners in that same hour of the night, -for he could not wait to fulfill this necessary duty till morning, -and washed off their stripes, both to remove the clotted blood and to ease the smarting of the blows. And Paul and Silas, in turn, gave to both the jailer and all the members of his household a washing to remove all the stains on their souls, by baptizing them all without delay. This Sacrament assured to the poor, harrowed man the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, which he needed so greatly on account of the feeling of guilt and damnableness which had come upon him with the realization of his sin. Now the jailer took both Paul and Silas into his house as honored guests; the table was set for them and a meal served altogether unlike that which they had gotten in prison. And the jailer rejoiced greatly, with intense, exulting gladness, in which all the members of his household joined him, that faith in God had been worked in their hearts. The fact that the Lord works faith in the heart of any person, and also makes him willing to give evidence of such faith in deeds of kindness and brotherly love, is a source of continual rejoicing to every Christian.
The release of the prisoners: V.35. And when it was day, the magistrates sent the sergeants, saying, Let those men go. V.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. V.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. V.38. And the sergeants told these words unto the magistrates; and they feared when they heard that they were Romans. V.39. And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city. V.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. In the morning a peculiar surprise came to the imprisoned missionaries. For hardly had the day dawned when the duoviri, or praetors, of the city sent the lictors to the prison with the order to dismiss the prisoners. The lictors were the police officers of the Roman magistrates, the insignia of their office being a bundle of rods tied around a hatchet. Whether the earthquake had caused the authorities to believe that they had offended some god on the day before, or whether on second thought their treatment of the apostles seemed to them too hasty and severe, or whether they believed that their purpose had been accomplished in silencing the clamor of the mob, cannot be determined from the text. Enough that the jailer informed the prisoners of the gracious order that the praetors had sent word to release them. And he was glad to give them their liberty and have them go forth in peace, without further molestation. The order of the duoviri had been given in haughty and contemptuous terms; as transmitted and paraphrased by the jailer, the words were a kind announcement and invitation to accept the gift of liberty. But now Paul refused to leave the prison, In the clamor and tumult of the assault on the previous day he had not gotten a chance to make himself heard, even if he had made the attempt. But now he makes a very serious charge against the magistrates of the city. Although he and Silas were Roman citizens, the praetors had both caused them to be beaten in public, not only uncondemned, but even without trial, without investigating the case, 64) and had also thrown them into prison. According to the laws of Rome, Roman citizens were exempted from stripes and torture, and the violation of the rights of citizens was regarded as treason and, as such, severely punished. And after all these outrages, which Paul might very well have repaid with a summary vengeance, if he had not been a Christian, Rom. 12, 19, the praetors proposed to turn them out of the prison secretly? Indeed not! The least the praetors must do was to come and lead them out, as one form of apology. When the lictors reported these statements to the praetors, the latter were thoroughly frightened, and with good reason, wherefore they lost no time in coming personally, in apologizing and earnestly entreating the apostles to be satisfied. They then conducted them out of the prison and begged them, courteously requested them, to leave the city of their own free will. Paul and Silas accepted the apology and got ready to leave the city, but without undue and suspicious hurry. They first went to the house of Lydia, which may have become a meeting-place of the disciples that had been gained. Here they saw the brethren, comforted and encouraged them, and then left Philippi. Note: It was not only the sense of justice which made Paul insist upon some form of public apology, but also the fact that the public disgrace to which he and Silas had been subjected might seriously hinder the spread of the Gospel-message, on account of the prejudice which many people might have against a man that had been beaten in public. In our days also we Christians should be perfectly willing to suffer wrong and shame, but under circumstances, especially if the course of the Gospel is endangered, it is altogether in accordance with God’s will that we insist upon our rights as citizens. We may find it imperative to insist upon recognition as honest and desirable members of the community.
Summary. Paul and Silas make a visitation and missionary trip through Asia Minor and are then directed by the spirit to Macedonia, where they begin their labors in the city of Philippi.