Acts 16

Timothy Joins Paul and Silas, 1-5

Acts 16:1 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.

Acts 16:2 The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him.

Acts 16:3 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.

Acts 16:4 As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey.

Acts 16:5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

Paul’s Vision of the Man of Macedonia, 6-10

Acts 16:6 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.

Acts 16:7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.

Acts 16:8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.

Acts 16:9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

Acts 16:10 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.

‘Authentic turning points in history are few, but surely among them that of the Macedonian vision ranks high.’ (Longenecker)

The three “we” sections of Acts (so called because they are characterized by the use of that pronoun) are Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-21; 27:1-28:16.

Lydia’s Conversion in Philippi, 11-15

Discussion Starters, Acts 16:11-15

Lydia is described as a woman who ‘worshiped’ God, whose heart the Lord ‘opened…to respond to Paul’s message’.

(a) What do you think it meant for Lydia to have been a ‘worshiper of God’?  Who today might be similarly described, but has yet to hear and respond to the Christian message?

(b) Lydia’s experience of coming to Christian faith seems to have been quite calm and unspectacular.  Paul’s, on the other hand, had been much more dramatic.  What does this tell us about different experiences of conversion that people (including you!) might have had?

(c) Verse 14 tells us that when Lydia came to faith in Christ there was a divine enablement (‘the Lord opened her heart’) followed by a human response (she responded to Paul’s message).  Think of someone you know and care about who does not yet have faith in Christ.  What, in particular, would you like to ask God to do for that person, so that she or he might accept the message?  Why not ask God right now to do that?

Acts 16:11 From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis.

Acts 16:12 From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.

Acts 16:13 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.

Acts 16:14 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.

The Lord opened her heart – The gifts and skills of the preacher are not the only factors at work in the ministry of God’s word.  There is also the receptiveness of the human heart, and (crucially) the work of the Holy Spirit in opening that heart.

‘The soul’s strength to hear the Word is from God. He opens the heart to attend, Acts 16:14, yea, he opens the understanding of the saint to receive the Word, so as to conceive what it means. It is like Samson’s riddle, which we cannot unfold without his heifer. He opens the womb of the soul to conceive by it, as the understanding to conceive of it, that the barren soul becomes a ‘joyful mother of children.’ David sat for half a year under the public lectures of the law, and the womb of his heart shut up, till Nathan comes, and God with him, and now is the time of life. He conceives presently, yea, and brings forth the same day, falls presently into the bitter pangs of sorrow for his sins, which went not over till he had cast them forth in that sweet 51st Psalm.’ (Gurnall)

Thomas Watson on the means of the effectual call: ‘Every creature has a voice to call us. The heavens call to us to behold God’s glory. Psalm 19:1:Conscience calls to us. God’s judgements call us to repent. ‘Hear ye the rod.’ Mic 6:9. But every voice does not convert. There are two means of our effectual call:

(1.) The ‘preaching of the word,’ which is the sounding of God’s silver trumpet in men’s ears. God speaks not by an oracle, he calls by his ministers. Samuel thought it had been the voice of Eli only that called him; but it was God’s voice. 1 Sam 3:6. So, perhaps, you think it is only the minister that speaks to you in the word, but it is God himself who speaks. Therefore Christ is said to speak to us from heaven. Heb 12:25. How does he speak but by his ministers? as a king speaks by his ambassadors. Know, that in every sermon preached, God calls to you; and to refuse the message we bring, is to refuse God himself.

(2.) The other means of our effectual call is the Holy Spirit. The ministry of the word is the pipe or organ; the Spirit of God blowing in it, effectually changes men’s hearts. ‘While Peter spake, the Holy Ghost fell on all them that heard the word of God.’ Acts 10:44. Ministers knock at the door of men’s hearts, the Spirit comes with a key and opens the door. ‘A certain woman named Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened.’ Acts 16:14.’ (Watson, A Body of Divinity)

Acts 16:15 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.

She and the members of her household were baptized – In nine instances Luke represents baptism as the expected response to hearing and receiving the gospel. In four of these, kinsmen, close friends, or a household hear and respond. However, neither here nor in Acts 18:8 is it stated that the members of the households believed.

‘Advocates of infant baptism eagerly seize on this verse and similar ones (Acts 11:14; 16:33; 18:8; 1 Cor. 1:16) and argue that the possibility (and in some other cases the probability) that the households included small children is high. Their opponents point out that children, and in particular infants, are never expressly mentioned. In the present case, the fact that Lydia was engaged in business strongly suggests that she was single or widowed, and the members of her household would have included any servants or dependants whom she had living with her.’ (Marshall)

She invited us to her home – ‘The conversion of Lydia was immediately followed by her offer of hospitality to Paul and his party; she was thus quick not merely to follow the early Christian practice of being hospitable (Rom. 12:13; 1 Tim. 3:2; Heb. 13:2; 1 Pet. 4:9; 3 John 5–8), but also to share material goods with those who teach the Word (Gal. 6:6; cf. 1 Cor. 9:14).’

Paul and Silas in Prison, 16-40

Discussion Starters, Acts 16:16-40

(a) In the lead-up to this imprisonment, Paul deals with a slave girl ‘who had a spirit’. It is not immediately obvious that this was an evil spirit. Why might we suppose that this was indeed an evil spirit and that Paul was right to make it leave the girl?

(b) Paul’s (and his companion’s) visit to Philippi was in direct response to a vision from God (verses 6-10). But it led them into big trouble with the authorities, and to flogging and imprisonment. In what ways might we find that being obedient to God gets us into trouble with other people?

(c) In verse 16 the jailer asks Paul and Silas, “What must I do to be saved?” What exactly was on his mind? Are any of your friends are asking that kind of question? If not, why not? What kinds of questions are they asking (about God and the Christian faith), if any?

Acts 16:16 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.

A spirit by which she predicted the future is lit. ‘a spirit of python’, so-called after the region where where Delphi, the seat of the famous oracle, was located. Divination was roundly condemned in the OT, Deut 18:10-12.

Acts 16:17 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.”

Marshall comments: The story is told in a manner like that of the exorcism stories in the Gospels, in which the demon-possessed proclaim their knowledge of the identity of Jesus (Luke 4:34, 41; 8:28) as a means of showing their would be superiority over him. It seems likely that Luke attributed the girl’s knowledge to the supernatural insight of the demon-possessed. Elsewhere in the New Testament the lines between demon possession, mental unbalance, and charlatanry are equally hard to draw.’

Acts 16:18 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.

Acts 16:19 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.

Acts 16:20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar Acts 16:21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.”

‘The slave owners were very clever. They not only concealed the real reason for their anger, which was economic, but also presented their legal charge against the missionaries ‘in terms that appealed to the latent anti-Semitism of the people (“these men are Jews”) and their racial pride (“us Romans”)’ and so ‘ignited the flames of bigotry’.’ (Longenecker)

Acts 16:22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten.

Acts 16:23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully.

Acts 16:24 Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

Acts 16:25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.

Acts 16:26 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.

Acts 16:27 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.

Acts 16:28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

Acts 16:29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.

Acts 16:30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” – It is sometimes thought this this enquiry had little to do with what we call ‘salvation’; the jailer, it is said, was simply looking for a way of saving his skin.  But, (a) he may well have heard about the slave girls persistent testimony about Paul’s message about ‘the way to be saved’, v17; (b) he was clearly in awe of Paul and Silas and the dramatic miracle that had taken place that night; (c) Paul had already reassured him that none of the prisoners had escaped; (d) Paul’s reply in v31, together with the man’s response in vv32-34 indicates that ‘spiritual’ salvation (i.e. new life in Christ) was very much what this was all about.

Questions about salvation

1. The inquisitive question

Luke 13:23 – “Are only a few people going to be saved?”

Answer: it matters not if they are few or many, if you are not one of them.

2. The incredulous question

Matthew 19:25 – Who then can be saved?

Answer: God is able to save all, whoever they are.  Wealth is no aid, poverty no barrier.

3. The imperative question

Acts 16:30 – “What must I do to be saved?”

Answer: God delights to reply to such a person, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”

Quit quibbling about salvation and receive it.

(Pickering, 1,000 Subjects, slightly adapted)

Acts 16:31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.”

Acts 16:32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.

Acts 16:33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized.

Acts 16:34 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.

‘The account of the salvation of the jailer is full of irony: that he should receive wholeness at the hands of his prisoners; that he should get water and wash their wounds and they in turn use the water to baptize him; and of course the picture of a jailer inviting two prisoners into his house to set a meal before them is simply amazing.’ (NBC)

Acts 16:35 When it was daylight, the magistrates sent their officers to the jailer with the order: “Release those men.”

Acts 16:36 The jailer told Paul, “The magistrates have ordered that you and Silas be released. Now you can leave. Go in peace.”

Acts 16:37 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.”

Acts 16:38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed.

Acts 16:39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city.

Acts 16:40 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.