Acts 16 1 15 commentary

Acts 16 1 15 commentary DEFAULT

Acts 16:1-15
—Verse by verse

This page is a verse by verse study of Acts 16:1-15. These verses describe Paul’s second missionary journey as far as Philippi, and the conversion of Lydia.

Timothy joins Paul and Silas in Paul’s second journey.

Acts 16:1-15

¶“1Paul came to Derbe and Lystra. Behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy. His mother was Jewish and a believer. Timothy’s father, however, was a Greek. 2The brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium spoke very highly of Timothy. 3Paul wanted Timothy as a companion on his journey. So Paul took Timothy and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts; for they all knew that Timothy’s father was a Greek.” (Acts 16:1-3).

¶“4As Paul, Silas, and Timothy went on their way through the cities, they delivered the decrees which the Christians were to keep and which had been decided by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem. 5So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily.” (Acts 16:4-5).

¶“6When Paul, Silas, and Timothy had gone through the regions of Phrygia and Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7When they had reached a point opposite Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not allow them to go there either. 8So, Passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.” (Acts 16:6-8).

¶“9At Troas, a vision appeared to Paul in the night. There was a man of Macedonia standing, begging him, 'Come over into Macedonia and help us.' 10When Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go out to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to the people there. 11So we set sail from Troas; we made a straight course to Samothrace; and the day following to Neapolis; 12and from there to Philippi. Now Philippi is a Roman colony and a major city of Macedonia. We stayed some days in this city.” (Acts 16:9-12).

¶“13On the Sabbath day we went outside of the city to the riverside, where we supposed that people would meet for prayer. There we sat down, and spoke to the women who had come together. 14One woman was named Lydia. She was a merchant of purple fabric. She came from the city of Thyatira. Lydia was one who worshiped God. When she heard us, the Lord opened her heart to heed the things which were spoken by Paul. 15When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, 'If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and stay.' So she persuaded us.” (Acts 16:13-15).

1 Timothy Joins Paul and Silas

Verses 1-3

¶ "Paul came to Derbe and Lystra. Behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy. His mother was Jewish and a believer. Timothy’s father, however, was a Greek. The brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium spoke very highly of Timothy. Paul wanted Timothy as a companion on his journey. So Paul took Timothy and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts; for they all knew that Timothy’s father was a Greek."(Acts 16:1-3).


  • Timothy. This is the Timothy (or Timotheus) to whom Paul wrote the two letters that are included in our New Testaments. Timothy’s grandmother Lois, and his mother Eunice taught Timothy the word of God and faith in Christ (2Timothy 1:5,2Timothy 3:15). Luke gives us the origin of Paul and Timothy’s deep friendship (Acts 16:1-3), such that Paul calls Timothy his "beloved son" in the faith (2Timothy 1:2,cf 1Timothy 1:2).
  • Circumcised him. Circumcision was practised by Jews because it was a covenant God made with Abraham (Genesis 17:10).

Note —CIRCUMCISION: To circumcise means to cut around and remove the foreskin of the penis. This was a covenant God made with Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 17:9-14) so is practised by Jews as a religious rite.

Circumcision was not required by the gospel, because the gospel recognises an inward circumcision (Romans 2:25-29). When one becomes a Christian, one is enabled by Christ to put off the old person; the guilty conscience; the sinful desires. This is what counts.

  • Because of the Jews. Why, if the gospel doesn't require physical circumcision, did Paul want Timothy circumcised? After all, hadn't he refused to circumcise Titus who had accompanied him to Jerusalem (Galatians 2:3-5)? Jewish Christians would be inclined to circumcise their sons because circumcision was a covenant with the descendants of Abraham and didn't originate with Moses (John 7:22). Paul would by no means allow any precedent for requiring circumcision of a Gentile like Titus, who wasn't the offspring of Abraham. On the other hand, Paul thought it prudent that a half Jew like Timothy should be seen to follow his Jewish side in preference to the Gentile ways of his father.

2 Strengthening the Churches

Verses 4-5

¶ "As Paul, Silas, and Timothy went on their way through the cities, they delivered the decrees which the Christians were to keep and which had been decided by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily."(Acts 16:4-5).

  • The decrees. These were the decisions written in the letter from Jerusalem (Acts 15:22-29). Note that these decrees contradicted the teachers who said that Gentile Christians must be circumcised.
  • Strengthened in the faith. The result of the ministry of Paul, Silas, and Timothy was positive on two counts: they strengthened the churches spiritually and increased them numerically. I think it's no accident that Luke puts strength in the faith before increase in number. It is common today for ministers to weaken the doctrine so as to increase the numbers (2Timothy 4:1-5)."Contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints"(Jude 1:3).


With this progress report (Acts 16:4-5). Luke concludes his description of the spread of Christianity into Cyprus and areas south of Galatia. Paul has completed his first missionary journey and set out on his second. He has revisited churches in Syria and Cilicia. In the fifth section of Acts, Paul travels through Galatia. Paul is then directed by the Holy Spirit to go further afield, over into Macedonia and Greece.

3 Called to Macedonia

Verses 6-8

¶ "When Paul, Silas, and Timothy had gone through the regions of Phrygia and Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. When they had reached a point opposite Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not allow them to go there either. So, Passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas."(Acts 16:6-8).


  • The Spirit forbade them. Paul wished to go and preach in a logical progression westward from city to city. But God had other plans. So Paul, Silas, and Timothy found themselves at Troas, all the intended cities left untouched. Paul must have wondered why his plan had been frustrated by the Holy Spirit. But he soon got an answer.

Verses 9-12

¶ "At Troas, a vision appeared to Paul in the night. There was a man of Macedonia standing, begging him, “Come over into Macedonia and help us.” When Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go out to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to the people there. So we set sail from Troas; we made a straight course to Samothrace; and the day following to Neapolis; and from there to Philippi. Now Philippi is a Roman colony and a major city of Macedonia. We stayed some days in this city."(Acts 16:9-12).


  • Luke joins Paul, Silas, and Timothy. So far Luke’s narrative has been about what other people did. Here, for the first time, Luke uses the prounoun “we” to include himself. So now Paul, Silas, and Timothy have another companion in Luke.
  • Philippi. Philippi was a city founded by the Greek king, Philip II of Macedon, circa 356BC. It was now, as Luke tells us, a Roman colony. As such, it was not as multicultural as the cities Paul had previously evangelised. It had almost no Jewish community and no synagogue, so Paul did not have that convenience to start his work there.

4 Lydia Converted in Philippi

Verses 13-15

¶ "On the Sabbath day we went outside of the city to the riverside, where we supposed that people would meet for prayer. There we sat down, and spoke to the women who had come together. One woman was named Lydia. She was a merchant of purple fabric. She came from the city of Thyatira. Lydia was one who worshiped God. When she heard us, the Lord opened her heart to heed the things which were spoken by Paul. When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and stay.” So she persuaded us."(Acts 16:13-15).

  • Women together. Somehow Paul and his companions found out that on the Sabbath, along the bank of the river Gangas, they would find a prayer meeting. This turned out to be a group of women, among them Lydia from Thyatira in Asia who now lived in Philippi and ran her business. She was not a Jew, but worshipped God. Lydia was, apparently, Paul’s first convert in Macedonia.
  • The Lord opened her heart. The expression, "the Lord opened her heart"(Acts 16:14) is an acknowledgement of the presence, providence, and involvement of God in Lydia’s conversion. Unfortunately the expression is grasped by some as a proof that a person’s conversion is a special conviction of irresistable grace. This conviction arises soley from an unconditional choice made by God in favour of that person. This choice was made before the foundation of the world. This choice had no regard to any quality in the person. That's an awful lot to read into such a short and simple expression. God did not force Lydia’s heart open anymore than he forced her to go to the riverside to pray. He opened her heart with her co-operation and with Paul’s co-operation. Lydia thought of herself as "faithful to the Lord"(Acts 16:15), not as a puppet of the Lord.
  • When she was baptized. Lydia referred to herself as faithful to the Lord after she had been baptized. She teaches us that those who refuse baptism, neglect baptism, or delay baptism, are not being faithful to the Lord.

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Our series on Acts and the early church continues with the beginning of Paul’s second missionary journey.

So far, we’ve seen how the gospel has spread throughout Judea and Samaria, all the way up to modern-day Lebanon and Syria.  What’s more, Paul and Barnabus have traveled across the Mediterranean to the southern part of Asia Minor – southern Turkey today – and planted a number of churches there.  The question of whether or not the newly-converted Gentile Christians must first be circumcised has been resolved.  Now, the covenant of Abraham extends to all who confess Jesus as the Christ, no exceptions.

Paul is itching to go back to Asia Minor to see how the new Christians are doing and plant more churches, perhaps even claim the great Roman city of Ephesus for Jesus Christ.  So, taking Silas with him, he begins his second missionary journey.  Luke says,

“He went through Syria and Cilicia,
strengthening the assemblies. (Acts 15:41)

So far, so good.  The Christians rolled out the red carpet.  Their churches were healthy and growing.  It was everything he’d hoped for.  He was ready to move on.  From there, it was a straight shot to Ephesus.  He could hardly wait to get on the road.

But Paul had a problem: Luke says he was forbidden by the Spirit to speak in Asia.  Understand, Asia here does not refer to the continent of Asia, but to the region of Asia Minor containing Ephesus.  For whatever reason, the Spirit would not allow him to go there.

So, he went to Plan B.  Luke says that, having been forbidden by the Spirit to go to Asia, Paul went north through the regions of Phrygia and Galatia and, when he came opposite of Mysia, he wanted to go on to Bithynia, but, again, the Spirit stood in his way.  Having no other choice, he headed south to the port city of Troas.

We’ll pick back up with his journey in just a moment, but first, let’s ask: What does it mean that the Spirit forbade him to go to Asia, that the Spirit forbade him to go to Bithynia?

Have there been times in your life when you didn’t do what you wanted to do because the Spirit wouldn’t let you?  Have there been times in your life when you did something you wouldn’t have done otherwise because the Spirit told you to? What does it mean to be led by the Spirit?

For us rational-minded Presbyterians, this can be a stretch.  To be led by the Spirit sounds like mysticism – looking for signs, acting on instinct and intuition.  A lot of folks aren’t comfortable with that, and you may be one of them.  After all, we’re not into tarot cards and divining rods.

Personally, I’m a little uncomfortable when someone says, “This is what the Lord told me to do.” I’m like Dr. Fred Edgar.  Fred Edgar was pastor of the Oak Lawn United Methodist Church in Dallas years ago.  The story is that his wife died.  A few months later, one of the women of the church said the Lord had told her to drop what she was doing and devote her life to taking care of him.  Now, Fred was a diplomat of the old school, and in his most tactful manner, he replied, “I appreciate your offer, and when the Lord confirms this with me, I’ll let you know.”

To be led by the Spirit pushes our sensibilities.  Yet, there’s no denying it.  In his letter to the Romans, Paul says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are children of God.” (Rom. 8:14)  So, what does that mean in everyday language?

To begin with, I think it means to approach all things first by prayer.  It’s to live each moment of each day in the spirit of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Not my will, but yours be done.” (Lk. 22:42)  It’s to trust that, if God leads the way, we can expect great things to happen and, if not, whatever we may accomplish will be insignificant and short-lived.  The Psalmist said it best,

“Unless Yahweh builds the house,
those labor in vain who build it.” (Ps. 127:1)

To approach all things first by prayer is not to say God will always give us clear, concrete answers.  We still have to think and reason and, ultimately, decide what to do.  But God will lead and guide us, if we ask.  That’s the first step: “Lord, what would you have me to do?”  “Lord, show me the way.”

Through the voice of conscience, through the wise counsel of others, through the dissemination of cold, hard facts, God’s Spirit nudges us in one direction over another and leads us according to God’s will.

And you can never say for sure at any point along the way whether that it’s the Spirit leading you or your own desires.  To be led by the Spirit is to walk by faith, not by sight.  Only in retrospect is it clear, one way or the other.

Yet, the place to begin is with prayer.  If you sincerely pray for the leading of God’s Spirit and listen for God’s still, small voice speaking to you, you won’t go far astray.  That’s the first step.

The second step is to see God at work in all of life, not just the parts that happen to go your way. For example, some Bible scholars believe the reason Paul couldn’t go on to Ephesus or Bithynia was that he fell ill, that he went to Troas to wait for Luke, his personal physician, to arrive.

It makes sense.  We know that, throughout his life, Paul was plagued with some sort of physical impediment – a “thorn in the flesh,” as he called it. (2 Cor. 12:7)  Plus, if you were listening closely, just after Paul had his vision at Troas the pronoun changes to the first person plural:

“When he had seen the vision,
immediately WE sought to go out to Macedonia…”  (Acts 16:10)

Note the “we” in that verse. Since we know that Luke wrote the book of Acts, it only stands to reason that he joined Paul and Silas at this point in the story.

But this is only a theory.  Paul could’ve been prohibited from going to Ephesus because the Roman soldiers wouldn’t let him, or the road was impassable, or the weather had turned bad.  Any number of things could explain his change of plans.

The point is Paul understood that, whatever it was that stood in his way, it was God who was at work leading and directing his life.  As Luke says, “the Spirit forbade him.”  This is to say that, in one way or another, God uses common, everyday events to lead and guide us in the way God would have us to go.

It’s still a matter of faith, and it doesn’t change reality – Paul didn’t get to go to Ephesus – but it can change your attitude.  Believing that God is at work, both when you get what you want – and when you don’t – can give you a more positive perspective.

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As for Paul, he didn’t get to go to Ephesus.  Instead, he went to Troas, and that’s where he had the vision to go to Macedonia.  You could say God had much bigger fish for him to fry.  Just look what happened: The next day he set sail for Greece.  They landed at Neapolis and took the Roman highway north to Philippi.

The rest is history.  Little by little, he won the people’s hearts for the Lord and, from this meager beginning, the gospel spread across the face of Europe until it became the dominant religion of the civilized world.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes,

“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God,
to those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

If you believe this, then you’re able to trust that, whatever happens – however pleasurable or painful – God is with you, leading and guiding and using the events of everyday life to draw you closer to himself and help you fulfill his plan for your life.  You’re able to say with a straight face, “No, I didn’t get what I wanted; God had something better in mind.”

I don’t know of a better illustration than this – I’m told it’s found on a plaque in the lobby of the Center for Rehabilitation Medicine in New York City – it reads:

“I asked God for strength, that I might achieve;
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for health, that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.

I asked for riches, that I might be happy;
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.

I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life;
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I had hoped for;
Almost in spite of myself, my unspoken prayers were answered,
And I am, among all men, most richly blessed.”

To be led by the Spirit is to begin with prayer; it’s to see God at work in all of life – the good and the bad – and finally, it’s to surrender your will to God’s good and perfect will for your life.  In his letter to the Galatians, Paul said,

“I have been crucified with Christ,
and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me.
That life which I now live in the flesh,
I live by faith in the Son of God,
who loved me, and gave himself up for me.” (Gal. 2:20)

Understand, this is not his obituary, it’s his birth announcement.  Paul’s life began when he gave up trying to do things his way and order life to his specifications and, instead, committed his life, wholly and completely, to the Lord Jesus Christ.

As long as you’re determined to do things your way, to have what you want when you want it, you’ll always be frustrated and come up short.  Life will never be quite as abundant and glorious as you’d hoped it would be.  Only when you let go and let God lead and guide you and use you to his glory will you experience life in all of its abundance.  John Wesley said it best:

“I am no longer my own, but Thine.
Put me to what thou wilt.
Rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing.  Put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low by thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty,
let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to thy pleasure and disposal …” Amen.

I’d like to end the sermon this morning with two questions that only you can answer:

• Where is the Spirit of God leading you at this moment?  What is it God would have you to do and be?  Are you willing to ask God to show you the way?  Are you willing to see God at work in both your successes and your failures?  Are you willing to humble yourself and choose God’s will over your own?

• And two, where is the Spirit of God leading us as a congregation?  What is it God would have us to do and be?  Are you willing to pray for the church and ask God to show us the way?

Know this: If the Spirit of God is leading us, we will grow.  As individuals, we’ll grow in faith, hope and love.  And, as a congregation, we’ll grow in outreach, mission and care for one another.

With that in mind, let us pray:

“Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me;
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me;
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me;
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.”

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

Copyright 2007, Philip W. McLarty.  Used by permission.

Scripture quotations are from the World English Bible (WEB), a public domain (no copyright) modern English translation of the Holy Bible. 

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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:

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Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers


(1) A certain disciple was there, named Timotheus.—We read with a special interest the first mention of the name of one who was afterwards so dear to the Apostle, his “true son in the faith” (1Timothy 1:2). On his probable conversion on St. Paul’s first mission in Lystra, see Notes on Acts 14:6; Acts 14:19. We have to think of him as still young; probably, as his youth is spoken of some twelve years later in 1Timothy 4:12, not more than eighteen or twenty; but in the six years that had passed since St. Paul’s departure he had been conspicuous for his devotion and “unfeigned faith.” He had been trained to know the sacred Books of Israel from his childhood (2Timothy 3:15); and the fact that he had obtained a good report from the brethren at Iconium as well as Lystra shows that he had been already employed in carrying on intercourse between the two churches. The way in which St. Paul writes to him, and of him, implies a constitution naturally not strong, and, in after life, weakened by a rigorous asceticism (1Timothy 5:23), emotional even to tears (2Timothy 1:4), naturally shrinking from hardships and responsibilities, yet facing them in the strength of Christ (1Corinthians 16:10). The name Timotheus was not uncommon. It is found in 2 Maccabees 12:21-24, as belonging to a general defeated by Judas Maccabeus, and appears in early Christian inscriptions in the Vatican Museum. Its meaning (“one who honours God”) made it a suitable name for the child of a proselyte.

The son of a certain woman.—Literally, of a certain woman, a faithful (or believing) Jewess. The adjective is the same as that used by Lydia of herself in Acts 16:15. 2Timothy 1:4, tells us that her name was Eunike, and her mother’s Lois. They were both devout, and had trained the child in the Law (2Timothy 3:15); and this makes it probable that the father was a proselyte of the gate. He naturally thought it sufficient that his child should grow up under the same religious conditions as himself, and they had either thought so, or had yielded to his will.

His father was a Greek.—Literally, of a Greek father. The adjective is used, as in the New Testament generally, to express the fact that he was a heathen. (See Notes on Acts 11:20; Mark 7:26.) It seems, on the whole, probable that he was still living.

Benson Commentary

Acts 16:1-3. Then — When he had passed through the regions of Syria and Cilicia; came he to Derbe and Lystra — At which places he had preached the gospel in his former progress. And a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus — As Paul (2 Timothy 3:10-11) speaks of Timothy as having been a witness of his sufferings at Lystra, and we read nothing of any remarkable sufferings which he endured in this his second progress through these parts, it is probable that Timothy was converted by him in his former journey, and was a spectator of what he then suffered at Lystra,

(see chap. Acts 14:19-20,) and that Paul then began to have some acquaintance with him. The son of a certain believing Jewess, but his father was a Greek— These circumstances are mentioned as worthy of note, because he afterward became a very considerable person in the church, as well as a faithful and useful friend to the apostle. Who was well reported of, &c. — Was spoken of; by the brethren at Lystra and Iconium — As an eminently serious and devout young man, who had been remarkable for his early piety, having been trained up by his good mother and his grandmother in an acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures from his childhood, 2 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 3:15. Him would Paul have to go forth with him — As an assistant in his work, being directed herein by the Holy Ghost, 1 Timothy 1:18; and, to qualify him for the office, he conferred on him the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, and had him solemnly set apart for the ministry by the presbytery, or eldership, of Lystra, 1 Timothy 4:14. For, in his former journey, he and Barnabas had ordained elders in every city. Withal, designing to employ Timothy in preaching to the Jews, he circumcised him; because he knew the Jews would not have respected him as a teacher, if they had taken him for an uncircumcised Gentile. This is that Timothy, whose teachableness and tears made such an impression on the apostle’s mind, that he never forgot them, 2 Timothy 1:4; who attended Paul in many of his journeys; and who, in respect of his love to Christ, and zeal for the advancement of the gospel, was like-minded with Paul, Php 2:20; so that he was his genuine son; and, as a son serveth with his father, so he served with the apostle in the gospel. On all which accounts, he was of such consideration among the disciples, and also so exceedingly esteemed by Paul for his knowledge and piety, that he allowed him to join him in some of those epistles which he wrote to the churches: while, at the same time, the apostle so greatly honoured him, as to write to him two most excellent letters, found in the canon of Scripture, which bear his name.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary

16:1-5 Well may the church look for much service from youthful ministers who set out in the same spirit as Timothy. But when men will submit in nothing, and oblige in nothing, the first elements of the Christian temper seem to be wanting; and there is great reason to believe that the doctrines and precepts of the gospel will not be successfully taught. The design of the decree being to set aside the ceremonial law, and its carnal ordinances, believers were confirmed in the Christian faith, because it set up a spiritual way of serving God, as suited to the nature both of God and man. Thus the church increased in numbers daily.

Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Then came he - That is, Paul in company with Silas. Luke does not give us the history of Barnabas, but confines his narrative to the journey of Paul.

To Derbe and Lystra - See the notes on Acts 14:6.

And behold, a certain disciple named Timotheus - It was to this disciple that Paul afterward addressed the two epistles which bear his name. It is evident that he was a native of one of these places, but whether of Derbe or Lystra it is impossible to determine.

The son of a certain woman ... - Her name was Eunice, 2 Timothy 1:5.

And believed - And was a Christian. It is stated also that her mother was a woman of distinguished Christian piety, 2 Timothy 1:5. It was not lawful for a Jew to marry a woman of another nation, or to give his daughter in marriage to a Gentile, Ezra 9:12. But it is probable that this law was not regarded very strictly by the Jews who lived in the midst of pagan nations. It is evident that Timothy, at this time, was very young; for when Paul besought him to abide at Ephesus, to take charge of the church there 1 Timothy 1:3, he addressed him then as a young man, 1 Timothy 4:12, "Let no man despise thy youth."

But his father was a Greek - Evidently, a man who had not been circumcised, for had he been Timothy would have been also.

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary



1-5. Then came he to Derbe and Lystra; and, behold, a certain disciple was there—that is, at Lystra (not Derbe, as some conclude from Ac 20:4).

named Timotheus—(See on [2032]Ac 14:20). As Paul styles him "his own son in the faith" (1Ti 1:2), he must have been gained to Christ at the apostle's first visit; and as Paul says he "had fully known his persecutions which came on him at Lystra" (2Ti 3:10, 11), he may have been in that group of disciples that surrounded the apparently lifeless body of the apostle outside the walls of Lystra, and that at a time of life when the mind receives its deepest impressions from the spectacle of innocent suffering and undaunted courage [Howson]. His would be one of "the souls of the disciples confirmed" at the apostle's second visit, "exhorted to continue in the faith, and" warned "that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Ac 14:21, 22).

the son of a certain … Jewess—"The unfeigned faith which dwelt first in his grandmother Lois" descended to "his mother Eunice," and thence it passed to this youth (2Ti 1:5), who "from a child knew the Holy Scriptures" (2Ti 3:15). His gifts and destination to the ministry of Christ had already been attested (1Ti 1:18; 4:14); and though some ten years after this Paul speaks of him as still young (1Ti 4:12), "he was already well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium" (Ac 16:2), and consequently must have been well known through all that quarter.

but his father was a Greek—Such mixed marriages, though little practiced, and disliked by the stricter Jews in Palestine, must have been very frequent among the Jews of the dispersion, especially in remote districts, where but few of the scattered people were settled [Howson].Acts 16:1-8 Paul having circumcised Timothy, and taken him for

his companion, passeth through divers countries,

Acts 16:9-13 and is directed by a vision to go into Macedonia.

Acts 16:14,15 He converteth Lydia,

Acts 16:16-18 and casteth out a spirit of divination.

Acts 16:19-24 He and Silas are whipped and imprisoned.

Acts 16:25-34 The prison doors are thrown open by an earthquake at

midnight: the jailer, prevented by Paul from killing

himself, is converted.

Acts 16:35-40 They are released by the magistrates.

Derbe and Lystra; of these cities see Acts 14:6.

Timotheus; who was known unto Paul from his childhood, 2 Timothy 1:5, and accompanied him in many journeys, 2 Timothy 3:10,11, and is called by him, his work-fellow, Romans 16:21.

A certain woman, called Eunice; being one of them that had believed in Christ in Judea, and had a holy woman to her mother, named Lois.

His father was a Greek: although it was not lawful for a Jew to marry a woman of another nation, yet some think that a Jewess might marry to a stranger, as Esther married to Ahasuerus.

A Greek; of Gentile extraction, and therefore not circumcised; yet he is accounted to have been a proselyte.

Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Then came he to Derbe and Lystra,.... Which were cities of Lycaonia, Acts 14:6after Paul had gone through Syria and Cilicia; in the last of these places, he had been stoned, and yet goes thither again; none of these things moved him from the preaching of the Gospel, and from the care of the churches, such zeal, courage, and intrepidity was he possessed of:

and behold a certain disciple was there: a converted person, a believer in Christ, one that had learned to know and deny himself, and understood the way of salvation by Christ, and was a follower of him; whether the apostle was an instrument of his conversion, when he was before in these parts, is not certain, though probable, since he often calls him his son; nor is it so evident whether he was at Derbe or at Lystra, though the latter seems most likely, since a report was given of him by the brethren there, and at Iconium, when no mention is made of Derbe, in the following verse:

named Timotheus; or Timothy, the same person to whom afterwards the apostle wrote two epistles: it is a name much used among the Greeks, and his father was a Greek; one of this name, who was an historian among the Greeks, is frequently mentioned by Laertius (r); and there was another of this name, the son of Conon, an Athenian general (s); and another that was a captain or general of Antiochus,

"Afterward he passed over to the children of Ammon, where he found a mighty power, and much people, with Timotheus their captain.'' (1 Maccabees 5:6)

"Now Timotheus, whom the Jews had overcome before, when he had gathered a great multitude of foreign forces, and horses out of Asia not a few, came as though he would take Jewry by force of arms.'' (2 Maccabees 10:24)

the name signifies one that honoured God, or was honoured by God; both were true in this disciple of Christ:

the son of a certain woman which was a Jewess, and believed; his mother was a Jewish woman, but a believer in Christ, her name was Eunice, 2 Timothy 1:5

but his father was a Greek; a Gentile, an uncircumcised one, and so he seems to have remained, by his sons not being circumcised.

(r) De Vit. Philosoph. l. 3. in Vit. Platon. & l. 4. Vit. Speusippi, & l. 5. Vit. Aristotel. (s) Aelian. Hist. Var. l. 2. c. 10, 18. & l. 3. c. 16, 47.

Geneva Study Bible

Then {1} came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a {a} Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek:

(1) Paul himself does not receive Timothy into the ministry without sufficient testimony, and permission of the brethren.

(a) Paul, in his second epistle to Timothy, commends the godliness of Timothy's mother and grandmother.


Meyer's NT Commentary

Acts 16:1-2. Δέρβ. κ. Λύστρ.] See on Acts 14:6.

ἐκεῖ] does not refer to bothcities, as Otto, Pastoralbr.p. 58, strangely assumes, but to the last named, Lystra.Here Timothy, whose conversion by Paul is to be referred to Acts 14:6f., was at that time residing (ἦν ἐκεῖ); probably it was also his native place,[46] as may be inferred from Acts 16:2(ἐμαρτυρεῖτο ὑπὸ τῶν ἐν Λύστροις) compared with Acts 16:3(ᾜΔΕΙΣΑΝ ΓᾺΡ ἍΠΑΝΤΕς Κ.Τ.Λ.). Usually(even by Olshausen and Neander, but not by de Wette and Baumgarten) Timothy is supposed to be a native of Derbe (on account of Acts 20:4; but see remarks on that passage); ἐκεῖis referred to ΔΈΡΒΗΝ(very arbitrarily), and Acts 16:2is explained to mean that, besides the (presupposed) good report of his native city, Timothy had also the good report of the neighbouring cities of Lystra and Iconium; a very forced explanation, which Theophilus and the other first readers certainly did not hit upon!

ΓΥΝΑΙΚ. ἸΟΥΔ. ΠΙΣΤ.] The name of this Jewish-Christian was Eunice.See 2 Timothy 1:5. Ἰουδαίαςis the adjective (John 3:22), as also ἝΛΛΗΝΟςand ΜΑΚΕΔΏΝ, Acts 16:9. Whether the father was a pure Gentile or a proselyte of the gate, the language employed (see on Acts 11:20) and the lack of other information leave entirely undecided.

ἘΜΑΡΤΥΡ.] as in Acts 6:3.

ἸΚΟΝΊῼ] see on Acts 13:51. What were the peculiar circumstances, which had made Timothy honourably known in Iconium as well as in the place of his birth, we do not know.

[46] With this Köhler also agrees in Herzog’s Encyk. XVI. p. 168; Huther and Wiesinger leave it undecided; but Wieseler, p. 25 f., endeavours to uphold the usual view. But see on Acts 20:4.

Expositor's Greek Testament

Acts 16:1. κατήντησε: only in Luke and Paul, nine times in Acts, four times in Paul, Acts 18:19; Acts 18:24, Acts 20:15, Acts 21:7, Acts 25:13, Acts 26:7, Acts 27:12, Acts 28:13, 1 Corinthians 10:11; 1 Corinthians 14:36, Ephesians 4:13, Php 3:11. But whilst in St. Paul it is used in a figurative sense, it is used eight times by St. Luke of arriving at a place and making some stay there, cf.2Ma 4:21; 2Ma 4:44. The fact that the verb is thus used frequently in the second part of Acts and not in 1–12 is surely easily accounted for by the subjects of the narrative (Hawkins, Horæ Synopticæ, p. 147).—εἰς Δέρβην καὶ Λ.: if we read εἰςbefore Λ., also (see critical note): “he came also to Derbe and to Lystra”. The purpose was implied in Acts 15:36, but here places mentioned in the inverse order of Acts 14:6since coming from Cilicia through the “Cilician Gates” St. Paul would visit Derbe first, see Hastings’ B.D., “Derbe” (Ramsay). The two places are grouped together as a regionaccording to the Roman classification (Ramsay, St. Paul, pp. 110, 179). The second εἰςbefore Λ. marks that while Derbe is mentioned as a place visited, Lystra is the scene of the events in the sequel.—καὶ ἰδού: indicating the surprising fact that a successor to Mark was found at once (so Weiss); whilst Hort still more significantly marks the form of the phrase by pointing out that St. Luke reserves it for sudden and as it were providential interpretations, Ecclesia, p. 179, cf.Acts 1:10, Acts 8:17, Acts 10:17, Acts 11:7: however disheartening had been the rupture with Barnabas, in Timothy Paul was to find another “son of consolation,” cf.Hort’s comment on 1 Timothy 1:18in this connection, u. s., pp. 179–185. It must not however be forgotten that there are good reasons for seeing in Timothy not the successor of Barnabas (this was Silas), but of Mark. It could hardly be said of one in the position of Silas that he was like Mark a ὑπηρέτης, on a mere subordinate footing, whereas on the other hand the difference of age between Barnabas and Timothy, and their relative positions to St. Paul would have naturally placed Timothy in a subordinate position from the first.—ἐκεῖ, i.e., at Lystra, most probably. The view that reference is made not to Lystra but to Derbe arises from supposing that in Acts 20:4the word Δερβαῖοςrefers to Timothy and not to Gaius, the truth being that Timothy is not described because already well known. Certainly the fact that his character was testified of by those of Lystra, as well as St. Paul’s reference to Lystra in 2 Timothy 3:11, seems to favour Lystra as being at all events the home of Timothy, if not his birthplace. There is no reason why the Gaius mentioned as of Macedonia, Acts 19:29, should be identified with the Gaius of Acts 20:4. Gaius was a very common name, and in the N.T. we have apparently references to four persons bearing the name. Blass however refers Δερβαῖοςin Acts 20:4to Timothy.—υἱὸς γυναικός τ. Ἰουδ. πιστῆς π. δὲ Ε.: such marriages although forbidden by the law, Ezra 10:2, were sanctioned under certain conditions, cf.Acts 24:24in the case of Drusilla, wife of Aziz, king of Emesa (see also C. and H., p. 203), who became a proselyte and actually accepted circumcision. In the Diaspora such marriages would probably be more or less frequent, especially if the husband became a proselyte. In this case even if he were ranked as one, it could only have been as a “proselyte of the gate,” otherwise Timothy would surely have been circumcised. We cannot argue from the fact that the boy had been trained in the Jewish Scriptures that his father was a proselyte, for the early training of the child was evidently, the work of the mother, 2 Timothy 3:15. But such a duty according to Jewish law rested primarily upon the father, and the fact that the father here is described as a Greek, without any qualifying adjective as in the case of the wife, indicates that he was a heathen, see Weiss, in loco; Edersheim, Jewish Social Life, p. 115. The mother, Eunice (on spelling see Hastings’ B.D.), may conceivably have been a proselyte, as the name is Greek, as also that of Lois, but Ἰουδ. seems to indicate that she was a Jewess by birth. Whether she was a widow or not we cannot say, although there is some evidence, see critical note, which points to the influence of some such tradition. On the picture of a Jewish home, and the influence of a Jewish mother, see Edersheim, u. s.—πιστῆς: Lydia uses the same term of herself in Acts 16:15. Both mother and son were probably converted in St. Paul’s former visit, and there is no reason to suppose with Nösgen that the conversion of the latter was a proof of the growth of the Church in the Apostle’s absence.

Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Acts 16:1-12. Paul revisits derbe and lystra, chooses Timothy for a companion in his mission, and circumcises him. They pass through Phrygia and Galatia, and come into Mysia and to Troas. By a vision Paul is called into Macedonia. He crosses the sea and remains some days at Philippi

1. to Derbe and Lystra] Thus beginning the revisiting spoken of in Acts 15:36. See notes on Acts 14:6.

was there] The verb does not make it certain that Lystra, to which ἐκεῖis most naturally referred, was the birthplace of Timothy, but only his home at the date of Paul’s visit. He must however have resided there a good while to have earned the favourable report of the people both of that place and Iconium.

named Timotheus] The Timothy to whom St Paul addresses two Epistles and who was the companion of his labours in this journey until his return into Proconsular Asia (Acts 20:4). He was the son of a Jewish-Christian mother, and his father was a Greek, whether a proselyte of the gate or not, we are not told. The mother’s name was Eunice (2 Timothy 1:4) and the grandmother’s Lois. Timothy is spoken of as a fellow-worker with St Paul (Romans 16:21). From 1 Corinthians 4:17we find that he was St Paul’s messenger to that church, and he is joined with that Apostle in the greeting of 2nd Corinthians. He also went to and fro between St Paul and the church in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 3:2; 1 Thessalonians 3:6) and must have been at Rome with St Paul, soon after the Apostle’s arrival there, for he is mentioned in the Epistles to the Philippians (Acts 1:1, Acts 2:19), to the Colossians (Acts 1:1) and to Philemon (Acts 16:1). An imprisonment which he underwent is alluded to (Hebrews 13:23), but we cannot be certain when or where it was. According to tradition (Eus. H. E. iii. 14) he was the first bishop of Ephesus, and is said to have suffered martyrdom at the hands of the populace (Niceph. H. E. iii. 11).

the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed] More strictly and according to the oldest texts, “the son of a Jewess which believed.” (So R. V.) Her earnest education of her son in the holy Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15) from his early youth marks the character of the woman, and makes it probable that the husband of such a woman was at least a proselyte of the gate. Timothy’s father is so little mentioned that it seems likely he had died early.

a Greek] i.e. a Gentile by birth. The word was used widely of all who were not Jews.

Bengel's Gnomen

Acts 16:1. [Μαθητής τις, a certain disciple) Paul already previously had preached the Gospel in that place.—V. g.]—Ἕλληνος, a Greek) There is not added, a believer.

Pulpit Commentary

Verse 1.- And he came alsofor then came he, A.V. and T.R.; to Lystrafor Lystra, A.V.; Timothyfor Timotheus, A.V.; of a Jewessfor of a certain woman which was a Jewess, A.V. and T.R.; whichfor and, A.V. For Derbeand Lystra, see Acts 14. and notes. This time St. Paul visited Derbe first, whereas before he came from Lystra to Derbe (Acts 14:6, 8, 21). Was there; viz. at Lystra (see 2 Timothy 3:11). A certain disciple; i.e. a Christian (Acts 11:26). From St. Paul's speaking of Timothy as "my own sou in the faith" (1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2), and from his special mention of Timothy's mother Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5), it is probable that both mother and son were converted by St. Paul at his first visit to Lystra, some years before (Acts 14:7). Timothy. It is a Greek name, meaning "one who honors God" (formed, like Timoleon, Timolaus, Timocrates, etc.). It was a not uncommon name, and occurs repeatedly in the Books of the Maccabees (1 Macc. 5:6; 2 Macc. 8:30, etc.). Another form is Timesitheos.Timothy is uniformly spoken of by St. Paul in terms of eulogy and warm affection (see, besides the passages above quoted, Romans 16:21; 1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 16:10; Philippians 2:19-22; and the general tone of the Epistles to Timothy). A Jewess; viz. Eunice(2 Timothy 1:5), also a Greek name (equivalent to Victoria), though borne by a Jewess. A Greek; i.e. aGentile (see Hark 7:26; Acts 14:1; Acts 17:4; Acts 19:10; Romans 1:16; Romans 2:9; 1 Corinthians 10:32, etc.; Colossians 3:11). Had his father been a proselyte, it would probably have been said that he was (Bengel). Acts 16:1


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Acts 16 - Part 1 (Laying Down Our Rights)

Acts 16 Bible Commentary

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Chapter Contents

Paul takes Timothy to be his assistant. (1-5) Paul proceeds to Macedonia, The conversion of Lydia. (6-15) An evil spirit cast out, Paul and Silas scourged and imprisoned. (16-24) The conversion of the jailer at Philippi. (25-34) Paul and Silas released. (35-40)

Commentary on Acts 16:1-5

(Read Acts 16:1-5)

Well may the church look for much service from youthful ministers who set out in the same spirit as Timothy. But when men will submit in nothing, and oblige in nothing, the first elements of the Christian temper seem to be wanting; and there is great reason to believe that the doctrines and precepts of the gospel will not be successfully taught. The design of the decree being to set aside the ceremonial law, and its carnal ordinances, believers were confirmed in the Christian faith, because it set up a spiritual way of serving God, as suited to the nature both of God and man. Thus the church increased in numbers daily.

Commentary on Acts 16:6-15

(Read Acts 16:6-15)

The removals of ministers, and the dispensing the means of grace by them, are in particular under Divine conduct and direction. We must follow Providence: and whatever we seek to do, if that suffer us not, we ought to submit and believe to be for the best. People greatly need help for their souls, it is their duty to look out for it, and to invite those among them who can help them. And God's calls must be complied with readily. A solemn assembly the worshippers of God must have, if possible, upon the sabbath day. If we have not synagogues, we must be thankful for more private places, and resort to them; not forsaking the assembling together, as our opportunities are. Among the hearers of Paul was a woman, named Lydia. She had an honest calling, which the historian notices to her praise. Yet though she had a calling to mind, she found time to improve advantages for her soul. It will not excuse us from religious duties, to say, We have a trade to mind; for have not we also a God to serve, and souls to look after? Religion does not call us from our business in the world, but directs us in it. Pride, prejudice, and sin shut out the truths of God, till his grace makes way for them into the understanding and affections; and the Lord alone can open the heart to receive and believe his word. We must believe in Jesus Christ; there is no coming to God as a Father, but by the Son as Mediator.

Commentary on Acts 16:16-24

(Read Acts 16:16-24)

Satan, though the father of lies, will declare the most important truths, when he can thereby serve his purposes. But much mischief is done to the real servants of Christ, by unholy and false preachers of the gospel, who are confounded with them by careless observers. Those who do good by drawing men from sin, may expect to be reviled as troublers of the city. While they teach men to fear God, to believe in Christ, to forsake sin, and to live godly lives, they will be accused of teaching bad customs.

Commentary on Acts 16:25-34

(Read Acts 16:25-34)

The consolations of God to his suffering servants are neither few nor small. How much more happy are true Christians than their prosperous enemies! As in the dark, so out of the depths, we may cry unto God. No place, no time is amiss for prayer, if the heart be lifted up to God. No trouble, however grievous, should hinder us from praise. Christianity proves itself to be of God, in that it obliges us to be just to our own lives. Paul cried aloud to make the jailer hear, and to make him heed, saying, Do thyself no harm. All the cautions of the word of God against sin, and all appearances of it, and approaches to it, have this tendency. Man, woman, do not ruin thyself; hurt not thyself, and then none else can hurt thee; do not sin, for nothing but that can hurt thee. Even as to the body, we are cautioned against the sins which do harm to that. Converting grace changes people's language of and to good people and good ministers. How serious the jailer's inquiry! His salvation becomes his great concern; that lies nearest his heart, which before was furthest from his thoughts. It is his own precious soul that he is concerned about. Those who are thoroughly convinced of sin, and truly concerned about their salvation, will give themselves up to Christ. Here is the sum of the whole gospel, the covenant of grace in a few words; Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. The Lord so blessed the word, that the jailer was at once softened and humbled. He treated them with kindness and compassion, and, professing faith in Christ, was baptized in that name, with his family. The Spirit of grace worked such a strong faith in them, as did away further doubt; and Paul and Silas knew by the Spirit, that a work of God was wrought in them. When sinners are thus converted, they will love and honour those whom they before despised and hated, and will seek to lessen the suffering they before desired to increase. When the fruits of faith begin to appear, terrors will be followed by confidence and joy in God.

Commentary on Acts 16:35-40

(Read Acts 16:35-40)

Paul, though willing to suffer for the cause of Christ, and without any desire to avenge himself, did not choose to depart under the charge of having deserved wrongful punishment, and therefore required to be dismissed in an honourable manner. It was not a mere point of honour that the apostle stood upon, but justice, and not to himself so much as to his cause. And when proper apology is made, Christians should never express personal anger, nor insist too strictly upon personal amends. The Lord will make them more than conquerors in every conflict; instead of being cast down by their sufferings, they will become comforters of their brethren.

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Matthew Henry :: Commentary on Acts 16

Chapter 16

It is some rebuke to Barnabas that after he left Paul we hear no more of him, of what he did or suffered for Christ. But Paul, as he was recommended by the brethren to the grace of God, so his services for Christ after this are largely recorded; we are to attend him in this chapter from place to place, wherever he came doing good, either watering or planting, beginning new work or improving what was done. Here is,

  • I. The beginning of his acquaintance with Timothy, and taking him to be his assistant (v. 1-3).
  • II. The visit he made to the churches for their establishment (v. 4, 5).
  • III. His call to Macedonia (after a restraint he had been under from going to some other places), and his coming to Philippi, the chief city of Macedonia, with his entertainment there (v. 6-13).
  • IV. The conversion of Lydia there (v. 14, 15).
  • V. The casing of an evil spirit out of a damsel (v. 16-18).
  • VI. The accusing and abusing of Paul and Silas for it, their imprisonment, and the indignities done them (v. 19-24).
  • VII. The miraculous conversion of the jailer to the faith of Christ (v. 25-34).
  • VIII. The honourable discharge of Paul and Silas by the magistrates (v. 35-40).

Act 16:1-5

Paul was a spiritual father, and as such a one we have him here adopting Timothy, and taking care of the education of many others who had been begotten to Christ by his ministry: and in all he appears to have been a wise and tender father. Here is,

  • I. His taking Timothy into his acquaintance and under his tuition. One thing designed in the book of the Acts is to help us to understand Paul's epistles, two of which are directed to Timothy; it was therefore necessary that in the history of Paul we should have some account concerning him. And we are here accordingly told,
    • 1. That he was a disciple, one that belonged to Christ, and was baptized, probably in his infancy, when his mother became a believer, as Lydia's household was baptized upon her believing, v. 15. Him, that was a disciple of Christ, Paul took to be his disciple, that he might further train him up in the knowledge and faith of Christ; he took him to be brought up for Christ.
    • 2. That his mother was a Jewess originally, but believed in Christ; her name was Eunice, his grandmother's name was Lois. Paul speaks of them both with great respect, as women of eminent virtue and piety, and commends them especially for their unfeigned faith (2 Tim. 1:5), their sincerely embracing and adhering to the doctrine of Christ.
    • 3. That his father was a Greek, a Gentile. The marriage of a Jewish woman to a Gentile husband (though some would make a difference) was prohibited as much as the marriage of a Jewish man to a Gentile wife, Deu. 7:3. Thou shalt no more give thy daughter to his son than take his daughter to thy son; yet this seems to have been limited to the nations that lived among them in Canaan, whom they were most in danger of infection from. Now because his father was a Greek he was not circumcised: for the entail of the covenant and the seal of it, as of other entails in that nation, went by the father, not by the mother; so that his father being no Jew he was not obliged to circumcision, nor entitled to it, unless when he grew up he did himself desire it. But, observe, though his mother could not prevail to have him circumcised in his infancy, because his father was of another mind and way, yet she educated him in the fear of God, that though he wanted the sign of the covenant he might not want the thing signified.
    • 4. That he had gained a very good character among the Christians: he was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium; he had not only an unblemished reputation, and was free from scandal, but he had a bright reputation, and great encomiums were given of him, as an extraordinary young man, and one from whom great things were expected. Not only those in the place where he was born, but those in the neighbouring cities, admired him, and spoke honourably of him. He had a name for good things with good people.
    • 5. That Paul would have him to go forth with him, to accompany him, to give attendance on him, to receive instruction from him, and to join with him in the work of the gospel-to preach for him when there was occasion, and to be left behind in places where he had planted churches. Paul had a great love for him, not only because he was an ingenious young man, and one of great parts, but because he was a serious young man, and one of devout affections: for Paul was always mindful of his tears,2 Tim. 1:4.
    • 6. That Paul took him and circumcised him, or ordered it to be done. This was strange. Had not Paul opposed those with all his might that were for imposing circumcision upon the Gentile converts? Had he not at this time the decrees of the council at Jerusalem with him, which witnessed against it? He had, and yet circumcised Timothy, not, as those teachers designed in imposing circumcision, to oblige him to keep the ceremonial law, but only to render his conversation and ministry passable, and, if it might be, acceptable among the Jews that abounded in those quarters. He knew Timothy was a man likely to do a great deal of good among them, being admirably qualified for the ministry, if they were not invincibly prejudiced against him; and therefore, that they might not shun him as one unclean, because uncircumcised, he took him and circumcised him. Thus to the Jews he became as a Jew, that he might gain the Jews, and all things to all men, that he might gain some. He was against those who made circumcision necessary to salvation, but used it himself when it was conducive to edification; nor was he rigid in opposing it, as they were in imposing it. Thus, though he went not in this instance according to the letter of the decree, he went according to the spirit of it, which was a spirit of tenderness towards the Jews, and willingness to bring them off gradually from their prejudices. Paul made no difficulty of taking Timothy to be his companion, though he was uncircumcised; but the Jews would not hear him if he were, and therefore Paul will humour them herein. It is probable that it was at this time that Paul laid his hands on Timothy, for the conferring of the gift of the Holy Ghost upon him, 2 Tim. 1:6.
  • II. His confirming the churches which he had planted (v. 4, 5): He went through the cities where he had preached the word of the Lord, as he intended (ch. 15:36), to enquire into their state. And we are told,
    • 1. That they delivered them copies of the decrees of the Jerusalem synod, to be a direction to them in the government of themselves, and that they might have wherewith to answer the judaizing teachers, and to justify themselves in adhering to the liberty with which Christ had made them free. All the churches were concerned in that decree, and therefore it was requisite they should all have it well attested. Though Paul had for a particular reason circumcised Timothy, yet he would not have that drawn into a precedent; and therefore he delivered the decrees to the churches, to be religiously observed; for they must abide by the rule, and not be drawn from it by a particular example.
    • 2. That this was of very good service to them.
      • (1.) The churches were hereby established in the faith,v. 5. They were confirmed particularly in their opinion against the imposing of the ceremonial law upon the Gentiles; the great assurance and heat wherewith the judaizing teachers pressed the necessity of circumcision, and the plausible arguments they produced for it, had shocked them, so that they began to waver concerning it. But when they saw the testimony, not only of the apostles and elders, but of the Holy Ghost in them, against it, they were established, and did not longer waver about it. Note, Testimonies to truth, though they may not prevail to convince those that oppose it, may be of very good use to establish those that are in doubt concerning it, and to fix them. Nay, the design of this decree being to set aside the ceremonial law, and the carnal ordinances of that, they were by it established in the Christian faith in general, and were the more firmly assured that it was of God, because it set up a spiritual way of serving God, as more suited to the nature both of God and man; and, besides, that spirit of tenderness and condescension which appeared in these letters plainly showed that the apostles and elders were herein under the guidance of him who is love itself.
      • (2.) They increased in number daily. The imposing of the yoke of the ceremonial law upon their converts was enough to frighten people from them. If they had been disposed to turn Jews, they could have done that long since, before the apostles came among them; but, if they cannot be interested in the Christian privileges without submitting to the Jews' yoke, they will be as they are. But, if they find there is no danger of their being so enslaved, they are ready to embrace Christianity, and join themselves to the church. And thus the church increased in numbers daily; not a day passed but some or other gave up their names to Christ. And it is a joy to those who heartily wish well to the honour of Christ, and the welfare of the church and the souls of men, to see such an increase.

Act 16:6-15

In these verses we have,

  • I. Paul's travels up and down to do good.
    • 1. He and Silas his colleague went throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, where, it should seem, the gospel was already planted, but whether by Paul's hand or no is not mentioned; it is likely it was, for in his epistle to the Galatians he speaks of his preaching the gospel to them at the first, and how very acceptable he was among them, Gal. 4:13-15. And it appears by that epistle that the judaizing teachers had then done a great deal of mischief to these churches of Galatia, had prejudiced them against Paul and drawn them from the gospel of Christ, for which he there severely reproves them. But probably that was a great while after this.
    • 2. They were forbidden at this time to preach the gospel in Asia (the country properly so called), because it did not need, other hands being at work there; or because the people were not yet prepared to receive it, as they were afterwards (ch. 19:10), when all those that dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord; or, as Dr. Lightfoot suggests, because at this time Christ would employ Paul in a piece of new work, which was to preach the gospel to a Roman colony at Philippi, for hitherto the Gentiles to whom he had preached were Greeks. The Romans were more particularly hated by the Jews than other Gentiles; their armies were the abomination of desolation; and therefore there is this among other things extraordinary in his call thither that he is forbidden to preach the gospel in Asia and other places, in order to his preaching it there, which is an intimation that the light of the gospel would in aftertimes be directed more westward than eastward. It was the Holy Ghost that forbade them, either by secret whispers in the minds of both of them, which, when they came to compare notes, they found to be the same, and to come from the same Spirit; or by some prophets who spoke to them from the Spirit. The removals of ministers, and the dispensing of the means of grace by them, are in a particular manner under a divine guidance and direction. We find an Old-Testament minister forbidden to preach at all (Eze. 3:26): Thou shalt be dumb. But these New-Testament ministers are only forbidden to preach in one place, while they are directed to another where there is more need.
    • 3. They would have gone into Bithynia, but were not permitted: the Spirit suffered them not,v. 7. They came to Mysia, and, as it should seem, preached the gospel there; for though it was a very mean contemptible country, even to a proverb (Mysorum ultimus, in Cicero, is a most despicable man), yet the apostles disdained not to visit it, owning themselves debtors both to the wise and to the unwise,Rom. 1:14. In Bithynia was the city of Nice, where the first general council was held against the Arians; into these countries Peter sent his epistle (1 Pt. 1:1); and there were flourishing churches here, for, though they had not the gospel sent them now, they had it in their turn, not long after. Observe, Though their judgment and inclination were to go into Bithynia, yet, having then extraordinary ways of knowing the mind of God, they were overruled by them, contrary to their own mind. We must now follow providence, and submit to the guidance of that pillar of cloud and fire; and, if this suffer us not to do what we assay to do, we ought to acquiesce, and believe it for the best. The Spirit of Jesus suffered them not; so many ancient copies read it. The servants of the Lord Jesus ought to be always under the check and conduct of the Spirit of the Lord Jesus, by whom he governs men's minds.
    • 4. They passed by Mysia, or passed through it (so some), sowing good seed, we may suppose, as they went along; and they came down to Troas, the city of Troy, so much talked of, or the country thereabouts, which took its denomination from it. Here a church was planted; for here we find one in being, ch. 20:6, 7, and probably planted at this time, and in a little time. It should seem that at Troas Luke fell in with Paul, and joined himself to his company; for henceforward, for the most part, when he speaks of Paul's journeys, he puts himself into the number of his retinue, we went, v. 10.
  • II. Paul's particular call to Macedonia, that is, to Philippi, the chief city, inhabited mostly by Romans, as appears, v. 21. Here we have,
    • 1. The vision Paul had, v. 9. Paul had many visions, sometimes to encourage, sometimes, as here, to direct him in his work. An angel appeared to him, to intimate to him that it was the will of Christ he should go to Macedonia. Let him not be discouraged by the embargo laid upon him once and again, by which his designs were crossed; for, though he shall not go where he has a mind to go, he shall go where God has work for him to do. Now observe,
      • (1.) The person Paul saw. There stood by him a man of Macedonia, who by his habit or dialect seemed so to Paul, or who told him he was so. The angel, some think, assumed the shape of such a man; or, as others think, impressed upon Paul's fancy, when between asleep and awake, the image of such a man: he dreamt he saw such a one. Christ would have Paul directed to Macedonia, not as the apostles were at other times, by a messenger from heaven, to send him thither, but by a messenger thence to call him thither, because in this way he would afterwards ordinarily direct the motions of his ministers, by inclining the hearts of those who needed them to invite them. Paul shall be called to Macedonia by a man of Macedonia, and by him speaking in the name of the rest. Some make this man to be the tutelar angel of Macedonia, supposing angels to have charge of particular places as well as persons, and that so much is intimated Dan. 10:20, where we read of the princes of Persia and Grecia, that seem to have been angels. But there is no certainty of this. There was presented either to Paul's eyes or to his mind a man of Macedonia. The angel must not preach the gospel himself to the Macedonians, but must bring Paul to them. Nor must he by the authority of an angel order him to go, but in the person of a Macedonian court him to come. A man of Macedonia, not a magistrate of the country, much less a priest (Paul was not accustomed to receive invitations from such) but an ordinary inhabitant of that country, a plain man, that carried in his countenance marks of probity and seriousness, that did not come to banter Paul nor trifle with him, but in good earnest and with all earnestness to importune his assistance.
      • (2.) The invitation given him. This honest Macedonian prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us; that is, "Come and preach the gospel to us; let us have the benefit of thy labours."
        • [1.] "Thou hast helped many; we have heard of those in this and the other country to whom thou hast been very useful; and why may we not put in for a share? O come and help us." The benefits others have received from the gospel should quicken our enquiries, our further enquiries, after it.
        • [2.] "It is thy business, and it is thy delight, to help poor souls; thou art a physician for the sick, that art to be ready at the call of every patient; O come and help us."
        • [3.] "We have need of thy help, as much as any people; we in Macedonia are as ignorant and as careless in religion as any people in the world are, are as idolatrous and as vicious as any, and as ingenious and industrious to ruin ourselves as any; and therefore, O come, come with all speed among us. If thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us."
        • [4.] "Those few among us that have any sense of divine things, and any concern for their own souls and the souls of others, have done what can be done, by the help of natural light; I have done my part for one. We have carried the matter as far as it will go, to persuade our neighbours to fear and worship God, but we can do little good among them. O come come, thou over, and help us. The gospel thou preachest has arguments and powers beyond those we have yet been furnished with."
        • [5.] "Do not only help us with thy prayers here: this will not do; thou must come over and help us." Note, People have great need of help for their souls, and it is their duty to look out for it and invite those among them that can help them.
    • 2. The interpretation made of the vision (v. 10): They gathered assuredly from this that the Lord had called them to preach the gospel there; and they were ready to go wherever God directed. Note, We may sometimes infer a call of God from a call of man. If a man of Macedonia says, Come and help us, Paul thence gathers assuredly that God says, Go an help them. Ministers may go on with great cheerfulness and courage in their work when they perceive Christ calling them, not only to preach the gospel, but to preach it at this time, in this place, to this people.
  • III. Paul's voyage to Macedonia hereupon: He was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but followed this divine direction much more cheerfully, and with more satisfaction, than he would have followed any contrivance or inclination of his own.
    • 1. Thitherward he turned his thoughts. Now that he knows the mind of God in the matter he is determined, for this is all he wanted; now he thinks no more of Asia, nor Bithynia, but immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia. Paul only had the vision, but he communicated it to his companions, and they all, upon the credit of this, resolved for Macedonia. As Paul will follow Christ, so all his will follow him, or rather follow Christ with him. They are getting things in readiness for this expedition immediately, without delay. Note, God's calls must be complied with immediately. As our obedience must not be disputed, so it must not be deferred; do it to-day, lest thy heart be hardened. Observe, They could not immediately go into Macedonia; but they immediately endeavoured to go. If we cannot be so quick as we would be in our performances, yet we may be in our endeavours, and this shall be accepted.
    • 2. Thitherward he steered his course. They set sail by the first shipping and with the first fair wind from Troas; for they may be sure they have done what they had to do there when God calls them to another place. They came with a straight course, a prosperous voyage, to Samothracia; the next day they came to Neapolis, a city on the confines of Thrace and Macedonia; and at last they landed at Philippi, a city so called from Philip king of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great; it is said (v. 12) to be,
      • (1.) The chief city of that part of Macedonia; or, as some read it, the first city, the first they came to when they came from Troas. As an army that lands in a country of which they design to make themselves masters begin with the reduction of the first place they come to, so did Paul and his assistants: they began with the first city, because, if the gospel were received there, it would the more easily spread thence all the country over.
      • (2.) It was a colony. The Romans not only had a garrison, but the inhabitants of the city were Romans, the magistrates at least, and the governing part. There were the greatest numbers and variety of people, and therefore the most likelihood of doing good.
  • IV. The cold entertainment which Paul and his companions met with at Philippi. One would have expected that having such a particular call from God thither they would have had a joyful welcome there, as Peter had with Cornelius when the angel sent him thither. Where was the man of Macedonia that begged Paul to come thither with all speed? Why did not he stir up his countrymen, some of them at least, to go and meet him? Why was not Paul introduced with solemnity, and the keys of the city put into his hand? Here is nothing like this; for,
    • 1. It is a good while before any notice at all is taken of him: We were in that city abiding certain days, probably at a public house and at their own charge, for they had no friend to invite them so much as to a meal's meat, till Lydia welcomed them. They had made all the haste they could thither, but, now that they are there, they are almost tempted to think they might as well have staid where they were. But so it was ordered for their trial whether they could bear the pain of silence and lying by, when this was their lot. Those eminent and useful men are not fit to live in this world that know not how to be slighted and overlooked. Let not ministers think it strange if they be first strongly invited to a place, and then looked shyly upon when they come.
    • 2. When they have an opportunity of preaching it is in an obscure place, and to a mean and small auditory, v. 13. There was no synagogue of the Jews there, for aught that appears, to be a door of entrance to them, and they never went to the idol-temples of the Gentiles, to preach to the auditories there; but here, upon enquiry, they found out a little meeting of good women, that were proselytes of the gate, who would be thankful to them if they would give them a sermon. The place of this meeting is out of the city; there it was connived at, but would not be suffered any where within the walls. It was a place where prayer was wont to be made; proseucheµ-where an oratory or house of prayer was (so some), a chapel, or smaller synagogue. But I rather take it, as we read it, where prayer was appointed or accustomed to be. Those that worshipped the true God, and would not worship idols, met there to pray together, and, according to the description of the most ancient and universal devotion, to call upon the name of the Lord. Each of them prayed apart every day; this was always the practice of those that worshipped God: but, besides this, they came together on the sabbath day. Though they were but a few and discountenanced by the town, though their meeting was at some distance, though, for aught that appears, there were none but women, yet a solemn assembly the worshippers of God must have, if by any means it be possible, on the sabbath day. When we cannot do as we would we must do as we can; if we have not synagogues, we must be thankful for more private places, and resort to them, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, according as our opportunities are. This place is said to be by a river side, which perhaps was chosen, as befriending contemplation. Idolaters are said to take their lot among the smooth stones of the stream,Isa. 57:6. But these proselytes had in their eye, perhaps, the example of those prophets who had their visions, one by the river of Chebar (Eze. 1:1), another by the great river Hiddekel,Dan. 10:4. Thither Paul and Silas and Luke went, and sat down, to instruct the congregation, that they might the better pray with them. They spoke unto the women who resorted thither, encouraged them in practising according to the light they had, and led them on further to the knowledge of Christ.
  • V. The conversion of Lydia, who probably was the first that was wrought upon there to believe in Christ, though not the last. In this story of the Acts, we have not only the conversion of places recorded, but of many particular persons; for such is the worth of souls that the reducing of one to God is a great matter. Nor have we only the conversions that were effected by miracle, as Paul's, but some that were brought about by the ordinary methods of grace, as Lydia's here. Observe,
    • 1. Who this convert was that there is such particular notice taken of. Four things are recorded of her:-
      • (1.) Her name, Lydia. It is an honour to her to have her name recorded here in the book of God, so that wherever the scriptures are read there shall this be told concerning her. Note, The names of the saints are precious with God, and should be so with us; we cannot have our names recorded in the Bible, but, if God open our hearts, we shall find them written in the book of life, and this is better (Phil. 4:3) and more to be rejoiced in,Lu. 10:20.
      • (2.) Her calling. She was a seller of purple, either of purple dye or of purple cloth or silk. Observe,
        • [1.] She had a calling, an honest calling, which the historian takes notice of to her praise; she was none of those women that the apostle speaks of (1 Tim. 5:13), who learn to be idle, and not only idle, etc.
        • [2.] It was a mean calling. She was a seller of purple, not a wearer of purple, few such are called. The notice here taken of this is an intimation to those who are employed in honest callings, if they be honest in the management of them, not to be ashamed of them.
        • [3.] Though she had a calling to mind, yet she was a worshipper of God, and found time to improve advantages for her soul. The business of our particular callings may be made to consist very well with the business of religion, and therefore it will not excuse us from religious exercises alone, and in our families, or in solemn assemblies, to say, We have shops to look after, and a trade to mind; for have we not also a God to serve and a soul to look after? Religion does not call us from our business in the world, but directs us in it. Every thing in its time and place.
      • (3.) The place she was of-of the city of Thyatira, which was a great way from Philippi; there she was born and bred, but either married at Philippi, or brought by her trade to settle there. The providence of God, as it always appoints, so it often removes, the bounds of our habitation, and sometimes makes the change of our outward condition or place of our abode wonderfully subservient to the designs of his grace concerning our salvation. Providence brings Lydia to Philippi, to be under Paul's ministry, and there, where she met with it, she made a good use of it; so should we improve opportunities.
      • (4.) Her religion before the Lord opened her heart.
        • [1.] She worshipped God according to the knowledge she had; she was one of the devout women. Sometimes the grace of God wrought upon those who, before their conversion, were very wicked and vile, publicans and harlots; such were some of you,1 Co. 6:11. But sometimes it fastened upon those who were of a good character, who had some good in them, as the eunuch, Cornelius, and Lydia. Note, It is not enough to be worshippers of God, but we must be believers in Jesus Christ, for there is no coming to God as a Father, but by him as Mediator. But those who worshipped God according to the light they had stood fair for the discoveries of Christ, and his grace to them; for to him that has shall be given: and to them Christ would be welcome; for those that know what it is to worship God see their need of Christ, and know what use to make of his mediation.
        • [2.] She heard the apostles. Here, where prayer was made, when there was an opportunity, the word was preached; for hearing the word of God is a part of religious worship, and how can we expect God should hear our prayers if we will not hearken to his word? Those that worshipped God according to the light they had looked out for further light; we must improve the day of small things, but must not rest in it.
    • 2. What the work was that was wrought upon her: Whose heart the Lord opened. Observe here,
      • (1.) The author of this work: it was the Lord,-the Lord Christ, to whom this judgment is committed,-the Spirit of the Lord, who is the sanctifier. Note, Conversion-work is God's work; it is he that works in us both to will and to do; not as if we had nothing to do, but of ourselves, without God's grace, we can do nothing; nor as if God were in the least chargeable with the ruin of those that perish, but the salvation of those that are saved must be wholly ascribed to him.
      • (2.) The seat of this work; it is in the heart that the change is made, it is to the heart that this blessed turn is given; it was the heart of Lydia that was wrought upon. Conversion-work is heart-work; it is a renewing of the heart, the inward man, the spirit of the mind.
      • (3.) The nature of the work; she had not only her heart touched, but her heart opened. An unconverted soul is shut up, and fortified against Christ, straitly shut up, as Jericho against Joshua, Jos. 6:1. Christ, in dealing with the soul, knocks at the door that is shut against him (Rev. 3:20); and, when a sinner is effectually persuaded to embrace Christ, then the heart is opened for the King of glory to come in-the understanding is open to receive the divine light, the will opened to receive the divine law, and the affections opened to receive the divine love. When the heart is thus opened to Christ, the ear is opened to his word, the lips opened in prayer, the hand opened in charity, and the steps enlarged in all manner of gospel obedience.
    • 3. What were the effects of this work on the heart.
      • (1.) She took great notice of the word of God. Her heart was so opened that she attended to the things that were spoken by Paul; she not only gave attendance on Paul's preaching, but gave attention to it; she applied to herself (so some read it) the things that were spoken by Paul; and then only the word does us good, and makes an abiding impression upon us, when we apply it to ourselves. Now this was an evidence of the opening of her heart, and was the fruit of it; wherever the heart is opened by the grace of God, it will appear by a diligent attendance on, and attention to, the word of God, both for Christ's sake, whose word it is, and for our own sakes, who are so nearly interested in it.
      • (2.) She gave up her name to Jesus Christ, and took upon her the profession of his holy religion; She was baptized, and by this solemn rite was admitted a member of the church of Christ; and with her her household also was baptized, those of them that were infants in her right, for if the root be holy so are the branches, and those that were grown up by her influence and authority. She and her household were baptized by the same rule that Abraham and his household were circumcised, because the seal of the covenant belongs to the covenanters and their seed.
      • (3.) She was very kind to the ministers, and very desirous to be further instructed by them in the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: She besought us saying "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, if you take me to be a sincere Christian, manifest your confidence in me by this, come into my house, and abide there." Thus she desired an opportunity,
        • [1.] To testify her gratitude to those who had been the instruments of divine grace in this blessed change that was wrought upon her. When her heart was open to Christ, her house was open to his ministers for his sake, and they were welcome to the best entertainment she had, which she did not think too good for those of whose spiritual things she had reaped so plentifully. Nay, they are not only welcome to her house, but she is extremely pressing and importunate with them: She constrained us; which intimates that Paul was very backward and unwilling to go, because he was afraid of being burdensome to the families of the young converts, and would study to make the gospel of Christ without charge (1 Co. 9:18; Acts 20:34), that those who were without might have no occasion given them to reproach the preachers of the gospel as designing, self-seeking men, and that those who were within might have no occasion to complain of the expenses of their religion: but Lydia will have no nay; she will not believe that they take her to be a sincere Christian unless they will oblige her herein; like Abraham inviting the angels (Gen. 18:3), If now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away from thy servant.
        • [2.] She desired an opportunity of receiving further instruction. If she might but have them for awhile in her family, she might hear them daily (Prov. 8:34), and not merely on sabbath days at the meeting. In her own house she might not only hear them, but ask them questions; and she might have them to pray with her daily, and to bless her household. Those that know something of Christ cannot but desire to know more, and seek opportunities of increasing their acquaintance with his gospel.

Act 16:16-24

Paul and his companions, though they were for some time buried in obscurity at Philippi, yet now begin to be taken notice of.

  • I. A damsel that had a spirit of divination caused them to be taken notice of, by proclaiming them to be the servants of God. Observe,
    • 1. The account that is given of this damsel: She was pythonissa, possessed with such a spirit of divination as that damsel was by whom the oracles of Apollo at Delphos were delivered; she was actuated by an evil spirit, that dictated ambiguous answers to those who consulted her, which served to gratify their vain desire of knowing things to come, but often deceived them. In those times of ignorance, infidelity, and idolatry, the devil, by the divine permission, thus led men captive at his will; and he could not have gained such adoration from them as he had, if he had not pretended to give oracles to them, for by both his usurpation is maintained as the god of this world. This damsel brought her masters much gain by soothsaying; many came to consult this witch for the discovery of robberies, the finding of things lost, and especially to be told their fortune, and none came but with the rewards of divination in their hands, according to the quality of the person and the importance of the case. Probably there were many that were thus kept for fortune-tellers, but, it should seem, this was more in repute than any of them; for, while others brought some gain, this brought much gain to her masters, being consulted more than any other.
    • 2. The testimony which this damsel gave to Paul and his companions: She met them in the street, as they were going to prayer, to the house of prayer, or rather to the work of prayer there, v. 16. They went thither publicly, every body knew whither they were going, and what they were going to do. If what she did was likely to be any distraction to them, or a hindrance in their work, it is observable how subtle Satan is, that great tempter, in taking the opportunity to give us diversion when we are going about any religious exercises, to ruffle us and to put us out of temper when we need to be most composed. When she met with them she followed them, crying, "These men, how contemptible soever they look and are looked upon, are great men, for they are the servants of the most high God, and men that should be very welcome to us, for they show unto us the way of salvation, both the salvation that will be our happiness, and the way to it that will be our holiness."
      • (1.) This witness is true; it is a comprehensive encomium on the faithful preachers of the gospel, and makes their feet beautiful, Rom. 10:15. Though they are men subject to like passions as we are, and earthen vessels, yet,
        • [1.] "They are the servants of the most high God; they attend on him, are employed by him, and are devoted to his honour, as servants; they come to us on his errands, the message they bring is from him, and they serve the purposes and interest of his kingdom. The gods we Gentiles worship are inferior beings, therefore not gods, but these men belong to the supreme Numen, to the most high God, who is over all men, over all gods, who made us all, and to whom we are all accountable. They are his servants, and therefore it is our duty to respect them, and harken to them for their Master's sake, and it is at our peril if we affront them."
        • [2.] "They show unto us the way of salvation." Even the heathen had some notion of the miserable deplorable state of mankind, and their need of salvation, and it was what they made some enquiries after. "Now," saith she, "these men are the men that show us what we have in vain sought for in our superstitious profitless application to our priests and oracles." Note, God has, in the gospel of his Son, plainly shown us the way of salvation, has told us what we must do that we may be delivered from the misery to which by sin we have exposed ourselves.
      • But, (2.) How came this testimony from the mouth of one that had a spirit of divination? Is Satan divided against himself? Will he cry up those whose business it is to pull him down? We may take it either,
        • [1.] As extorted from this spirit of divination for the honour of the gospel by the power of God; as the devil was forced to say of Christ (Mk. 1:24): I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. The truth is sometimes magnified by the confession of its adversaries, in which they are witnesses against themselves. Christ would have this testimony of the damsel to rise up in judgment against those at Philippi who slighted and persecuted the apostles; though the gospel needed no such testimony, yet it shall serve to add to their commendation that the damsel whom they looked upon as an oracle in other things proclaimed the apostles God's servants. Or,
        • [2.] As designed by the evil spirit, that subtle serpent, to the dishonour of the gospel; some think she designed hereby to gain credit to herself and her prophecies, and so to increase her master's profit by pretending to be in the interest of the apostles, who, she thought, had a growing reputation, or to curry favour with Paul, that he might not separate her and her familiar. Others think that Satan, who can transform himself into an angel of light, and can say anything to serve a turn, designed hereby to disgrace the apostles; as if these divines were of the same fraternity with their diviners, because they were witnessed to by them, and then the people might as well adhere to those they had been used to. Those that were most likely to receive the apostles' doctrine were such as were prejudiced against these spirits of divination, and therefore would, by this testimony, be prejudiced against the gospel; and, as for those who regarded these diviners, the devil thought himself sure of them.
  • II. Christ caused them to be taken notice of, by giving them power to cast the devil out of this damsel. She continued many days clamouring thus (v. 18); and, it should seem, Paul took no notice of her, not knowing but it might be ordered of God for the service of his cause, that she should thus witness concerning his ministers; but finding perhaps that it did them a prejudice, rather than any service, he soon silenced her, by casting the devil out of her.
    • 1. He was grieved. It troubled him to see the damsel made an instrument of Satan to deceive people, and to see the people imposed upon by her divinations. It was a disturbance to him to hear a sacred truth so profaned, and good words come out of such a wicked mouth with such and evil design. Perhaps they were spoken in an ironical bantering way, as ridiculing the apostles' pretensions, and mocking them, as when Christ's persecutors complimented him with Hail, king of the Jews; and then justly might Paul be grieved, as any good man's heart would be, to hear any good truth of God bawled out in the streets in a canting jeering way.
    • 2. He commanded the evil spirit to come out of her. He turned with a holy indignation, angry both at the flatteries and at the reproaches of the unclean spirit, and said, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her; and by this he will show that these men are the servants of the living God, and are able to prove themselves so, without her testimony: her silence shall demonstrate it more than her speaking could do. Thus Paul shows the way of salvation indeed, that it is by breaking the power of Satan, and chaining him up, that he may not deceive the world (Rev. 20:3), and that this salvation is to be obtained in the name of Jesus Christ only, as in his name the devil was now cast out and by no other. It was a great blessing to the country when Christ by a word cast the devil out of those in whom he frightened people and molested them so that no man might pass by that way (Mt. 8:28); but it was a much greater kindness to the country when Paul now, in Christ's name, cast the devil out of one who deceived people and imposed upon their credulity. Power went along with the word of Christ, before which Satan could not stand, but was forced to quit his hold, and in this case it was a strong hold: He came out the same hour.
  • III. The masters of the damsel that was dispossessed caused them to be taken notice of, by bringing them before the magistrates for doing it, and laying it to their charge as their crime. The preachers of the gospel would never have had an opportunity of speaking to the magistrates if they had not been brought before them as evil doers. Observe here,
    • 1. That which provoked them was, that, the damsel being restored to herself, her masters saw that the hope of their gain was gone,v. 19. See here what evil the love of money is the root of! If the preaching of the gospel ruin the craft of the silversmiths (ch. 19:24), much more the craft of the soothsayers; and therefore here is a great outcry raised, when Satan's power to deceive is broken: the priests hated the gospel because it turned men from the blind service of dumb idols, and so the hope of their gains was gone. The power of Christ, which appeared in dispossessing the woman, and the great kindness done to her in delivering her out of Satan's hand, made no impression upon them when they apprehended that they should hereby lose money.
    • 2. The course they took with them was to incense the higher powers against them, as men fit to be punished: They caught them as they went along, and, with the utmost fury and violence, dragged them into the marketplace, where public justice was administered.
      • (1.) They brought them to the rulers, their justices of peace, to do by them as men taken into the hands of the law, the duumviri.
      • (2.) From them they hurried them to the magistrates, the praetors or governors of the city, tois strateµgois-the officers of the army, so the word signifies; but it is taken in general for the judges or chief rulers: to them they brought their complaint.
    • 3. The charge they exhibited against them was that they were the troublers of the land, v. 20. They take it for granted that these men are Jews, a nation at this time as much an abomination to the Romans as they had long ago been to the Egyptians. Piteous was the case of the apostles, when it was turned to their reproach that they were Jews, and yet the Jews were their most violent persecutors!
      • (1.) The general charge against them is that they troubled the city, sowed discord, and disturbed the public peace, and occasioned riots and tumults, than which nothing could be more false and unjust, as was Ahab's character of Elijah (1 Ki. 18:17): Art thou he that troubleth Israel? If they troubled the city, it was but like the angel's troubling the water of Bethesda's pool, in order to healing-shaking, in order to a happy settlement. Thus those that rouse the sluggards are exclaimed against for troubling them.
      • (2.) The proof of this charge is their teaching customs not proper to be admitted by a Roman colony, v. 21. The Romans were always very jealous of innovations in religion. Right or wrong, they would adhere to that, how vain soever, which they had received by tradition from their fathers. No foreign nor upstart deity must be allowed, without the approbation of the senate; the gods of their country must be their gods, true or false. This was one of the laws of the twelve tables. Hath a nation changed their gods? It incensed them against the apostles that they taught a religion destructive of polytheism and idolatry, and preached to them to turn from those vanities. This the Romans could not bear: "If this grow upon us, in a little while we shall lose our religion."
  • IV. The magistrates, by their proceedings against them, caused them to be taken notice of.
    • 1. By countenancing the persecution they raised the mob upon them (v. 22): The multitude rose up together against them, and were ready to pull them to pieces. It has been the artifice of Satan to make God's ministers and people odious to the commonalty, by representing them as dangerous men, who aimed at the destruction of the constitution and the changing of the customs, when really there has been no ground for such an imputation.
    • 2. By going on to an execution they further represented them as the vilest malefactors: They rent off their clothes, with rage and fury, not having patience till they were taken off, in order to their being scourged. This the apostle refers to when he speaks of their being treated at Philippi,1 Th. 2:2. The magistrates commanded that they should be whipped as vagabonds, by the lictors or beadles who attended the praetors, and carried rods with them for that purpose; this was one of those three times that Paul was beaten with rods, according to the Roman usage, which was not under the compassionate limitation of the number of stripes not to exceed forty, which was provided by the Jewish law. It is here said that they laid many stripes upon them (v. 23), without counting how many, because they seemed vile unto them, Deu. 25:3. Now, one would think, this might have satiated their cruelty; if they must be whipped, surely they must be discharged. No, they are imprisoned, and it is probable the present purpose was to try them for their lives, and put them to death; else why should there be such care taken to prevent their escape?
      • (1.) The judges made their commitment very strict: They charged the jailer to keep them safely, and have a very watchful eye upon them, as if they were dangerous men, that either would venture to break prison themselves or were in confederacy with those that would attempt to rescue them. Thus they endeavoured to render them odious, that they might justify themselves in the base usage they had given them.
      • (2.) The jailer made their confinement very severe (v. 24): Having received such a charge, though he might have kept them safely enough in the outer prison, yet he thrust them into the inner prison. He was sensible that the magistrates had a great indignation against these men, and were inclined to be severe with them, and therefore he thought to ingratiate himself with them, by exerting his power likewise against them to the uttermost. When magistrates are cruel, it is no wonder that the officers under them are so too. He put them into the inner prison, the dungeon, into which none were usually put but condemned malefactors, dark at noon-day, damp and cold, dirty, it is likely, and every way offensive, like that into which Jeremiah was let down (Jer. 38:6); and, as if this were not enough, he made their feet fast in the stocks. Perhaps, having heard a report of the escape of the preachers of the gospel out of prison, when the doors were fast barred (ch. 5:19; 12:9), he thought he would be wiser than other jailers had been, and therefore would effectually secure them by fastening them in the stocks; and they were not the first of God's messengers that had their feet in the stocks; Jeremiah was so treated, and publicly too, in the high-gate of Benjamin (Jer. 20:2); Joseph had his feet hurt with fetters,Ps. 105:18. Oh what hard usage have God's servants met with, as in the former days, so in the latter times! Witness the Book of Martyrs, martyrs in queen Mary's time.

Act 16:25-34

We have here the designs of the persecutors of Paul and Silas baffled and broken.

  • I. The persecutors designed to dishearten and discourage the preachers of the gospel, and to make them sick of the cause and weary of their work; but here we find them both hearty and heartened.
    • 1. They were themselves hearty, wonderfully hearty; never were poor prisoners so truly cheerful, nor so far from laying their hard usage to heart. Let us consider what their case was. The praetors among the Romans had rods carried before them, and axes bound upon them, the fasces and secures. Now they had felt the smart of the rods, the ploughers had ploughed upon their backs, and made long furrows. The many stripes they had laid upon them were very sore, and one might have expected to hear them complaining of them, of the rawness and soreness of their backs and shoulders. Yet this was not all; they had reason to fear the axes next. Their master was first scourged and then crucified; and they might expect the same. In the mean time they were in the inner prison, their feet in the stocks, which, some think, not only held them, but hurt them; and yet, at midnight, when they should have been trying, if possible, to get a little rest, they prayed and sang praises to God.
      • (1.) They prayed together, prayed to God to support them and comfort them in their afflictions, to visit them, as he did Joseph in the prison, and to be with them,-prayed that their consolations in Christ might abound, as their afflictions for him did,-prayed that even their bonds and stripes might turn to the furtherance of the gospel,-prayed for their persecutors, that God would forgive them and turn their hearts. This was not at an hour of prayer, but at midnight; it was not in a house of prayer, but in a dungeon; yet it was seasonable to pray, and the prayer was acceptable. As in the dark, so out of the depths, we may cry unto God. No place, no time, amiss for prayer, if the heart be lifted up to God. Those that are companions in suffering should join in prayer. Is any afflicted? Let him pray. No trouble, how grievous soever, should indispose us for prayer.
      • (2.) They sang praises to God. They praised God; for we must in every thing give thanks. We never want matter for praise, if we do not want a heart. And what should put the heart of a child of God out of tune for this duty if a dungeon and a pair of stocks will not do it? They praised God that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name, and that they were so wonderfully supported and borne up under their sufferings, and felt divine consolations so sweet, so strong, in their souls. Nay, they not only praised God, but they sang praises to him, in some psalm, or hymn, or spiritual song, either one of David's, or some modern composition, or one of their own, as the Spirit gave them utterance. As our rule is that the afflicted should pray, and therefore, being in affliction, they prayed; so our rule is that the merry should sing psalms (James 5:13), and therefore, being merry in their affliction, merry after a godly sort, they sang psalms. This proves that the singing of psalms is a gospel ordinance, and ought to be used by all good Christians; and that it is instituted, not only for the expressing of their joys in a day of triumph, but for the balancing and relieving of their sorrows in a day of trouble. It was at midnight that they sang psalms, according to the example of the sweet psalmist of Israel (Ps. 119:62): At midnight will I rise to give thanks unto thee.
      • (3.) Notice is here taken of the circumstance that the prisoners heard them. If the prisoners did not hear them pray, yet they heard them sing praises.
        • [1.] It intimates how hearty they were in singing praises to God; they sang so loud that, though they were in the dungeon, they were heard all the prison over; nay, so loud that they woke the prisoners: for we may suppose, being at midnight, they were all asleep. We should sing psalms with all our heart. The saints are called upon to sing aloud upon their beds, Ps. 149:5. But gospel grace carries the matter further, and gives us an example of those that sang aloud in the prison, in the stocks.
        • [2.] Though they knew the prisoners would hear them, yet they sang aloud, as those that were not ashamed of their Master, nor of his service. Shall those that would sing psalms in their families plead, in excuse for their omission of the duty, that they are afraid their neighbours should hear them, when those that sing profane songs roar them our, and care not who hears them?
        • [3.] The prisoners were made to hear the prison-songs of Paul and Silas, that they might be prepared for the miraculous favour shown to them all for the sake of Paul and Silas, when the prison-doors were thrown open. By this extraordinary comfort with which they were filled it was published that he whom they preached was the consolation of Israel. Let the prisoners that mean to oppose him hear and tremble before him; let those that are faithful to him hear and triumph, and take of the comfort that is spoken to the prisoners of hope, Zec. 9:12.
    • 2. God heartened them wonderfully by his signal appearances for them, v. 26.
      • (1.) There was immediately a great earthquake; how far it extended we are not told, but it was such a violent shock in this place that the very foundations of the prison were shaken. While the prisoners were hearkening to the midnight devotions of Paul and Silas, and perhaps laughing at them and making a jest of them, this earthquake would strike a terror upon them, and convince them that those men were the favourites of Heaven, and such as God owned. We had the house of prayer shaken, in answer to prayer, and as a token of God's acceptance of it, ch. 4:31. Here the prison shaken. The Lord was in these earthquakes, to show his resentment of the indignities done to his servants, to testify to those whose confidence is in the earth the weakness and instability of that which they confide, and to teach people that, though the earth be moved, yet they need not fear.
      • (2.) The prison-doors were thrown open, and the prisoners' fetters were knocked off: Every man's bands were loosed. Perhaps the prisoners, when they heard Paul and Silas pray and sing psalms, admired them, and spoke honourably of them, and said what the damsel had said of them, Surely, these men are the servants of the living God. To recompense them for, and confirm them in, their good opinion of them, they share in the miracle, and have their bands loosed; as afterwards God gave to Paul all those that were in the ship with him (ch. 27:24), so now he gave him all those that were in the prison with him. God hereby signified to these prisoners, as Grotius observes, that the apostles, in preaching the gospel, were public blessings to mankind, as they proclaimed liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison-doors to those that were bound,Isa. 61:1. Et per eos solvi animorum vincula-and as by them the bonds of souls were unloosed.
  • II. The persecutors designed to stop the progress of the gospel, that no more might embrace it; thus they hoped to ruin the meeting by the river side, that no more hearts should be opened there; but here we find converts made in the prison, that house turned into a meeting, the trophies of the gospel's victories erected there, and the jailer, their own servant, become a servant of Christ. It is probable that some of the prisoners, if not all, were converted; surely the miracle wrought on their bodies, in loosing their bands, was wrought on their souls too. See Job 36:8-10; Ps. 107:14, 15. But it is only the conversion of the jailer that is recorded.
    • 1. He is afraid he shall lose his life, and Paul makes him easy as to this care, v. 27, 28.
      • (1.) He awoke out of his sleep. It is probable that the shock of the earthquake woke him, and the opening of the prison-doors, and the prisoners' expressions of joy and amazement, when in the dark they found their bands loosed, and called to tell one another what they felt: this was enough to awaken the jailer, whose place required that he should not be hard to wake. This waking him out of his sleep signified the awakening of his conscience out of its spiritual slumber. The call of the gospel is, Awake, thou that sleepest (Eph. 5:14), like that of Jonah, 1:6.
      • (2.) He saw the prison-doors open, and supposed, as well he might, that the prisoners had fled; and then what would become of him? He knew the Roman law in that case, and it was executed not long ago upon the keepers out of whose hands Peter escaped, ch. 12:19. It was according to that of the prophet, 1 Ki. 20:39, 42, Keep this man; if he be missing, thy life shall go for his life. The Roman lawyers after this, in their readings upon the law, De custodia reorum-The custody of criminals (which appoints that the keeper should undergo the same punishment that should have been inflicted on the prisoner if he let him escape), take care to except an escape by miracle.
      • (3.) In his fright he drew his sword, and was going to kill himself, to prevent a more terrible death, and expected one, a pompous ignominious death, which he knew he was liable to for letting his prisoners escape and not looking better to them; and the extraordinarily strict charge which the magistrates gave him concerning Paul and Silas made him conclude they would be very severe upon him if they were gone. The philosophers generally allowed self-murder. Seneca prescribes it as the last remedy which those that are in distress may have recourse to. The Stoics, notwithstanding their pretended conquest of the passions, yielded thus far to them. And the Epicureans, who indulged the pleasures of sense, to avoid its pains chose rather to put an end to it. This jailer thought there was no harm in anticipating his own death; but Christianity proves itself to be of God by this, that it keeps us to the law of our creation-revives, enforces, and establishes it, obliges us to be just to our own lives, and teaches us cheerfully to resign them to our graces, but courageously to hold them out against our corruptions.
      • (4.) Paul stopped him from his proceeding against himself (v. 28): He cried with a loud voice, not only to make him hear, but to make him heed, saying, Do not practise any evil to thyself; Do thyself no harm. All the cautions of the word of God against sin, and all appearances of it and approaches to it, have this tendency, "Do thyself no harm. Man, woman, do not wrong thyself, nor ruin thyself; hurt not thyself, and then none else can hurt thee; do not sin, for nothing else can hurt thee." Even as to the body, we are cautioned against those sins which do harm to it, and are taught to hate our own flesh, but to nourish and cherish it. The jailer needs not fear being called to an account for the escape of his prisoners, for they are all here. It was strange that some of them did not slip away, when the prison-doors were opened, and they were loosed from their bands; but their amazement held them fast, and, being sensible it was by the prayers of Paul and Silas that they were loosed, they would not stir unless they stirred; and God showed his power in binding their spirits, as much as in loosing their feet.
    • 2. He is afraid he shall lose his soul, and Paul makes him easy as to this care too. One concern leads him to another, and a much greater; and, being hindered from hastening himself out of this world, he begins to think, if he had pursued his intention, whither death would have brought him, and what would have become of him on the other side death-a very proper thought for such as have been snatched as a brand out of the fire, when there was but a step between them and death. Perhaps the heinousness of the sin he was running into helped to alarm him.
      • (1.) Whatever was the cause, he was put into a great consternation. The Spirit of God, that was sen to convince, in order to his being a Comforter, struck a terror upon him, and startled him. Whether he took care to shut the prison-doors again we are not told. Perhaps he forgot this as the woman of Samaria, when Christ had impressed convictions on her conscience, left her water-pot and forgot her errand to the well; for he called for a light with all speed, and sprang in to the inner prison, and came trembling to Paul and Silas. Those that have sin set in order before them, and are made to know their abominations, cannot but tremble at the apprehension of their misery and danger. This jailer, when he was thus made to tremble, could not apply to a more proper person than to Paul, for it had once been his own case; he had been once a persecutor of good men, as this jailer was-had cast them into prison, as he kept them-and when, like him, he was made sensible of it, he trembled, and was astonished; and therefore he was able to speak the more feelingly to the jailer.
      • (2.) In this consternation, he applied to Paul and Silas for relief. Observe,
        • [1.] How reverent and respectful his address to them is: He called for a light, because they were in the dark, and that they might see what a fright he was in; he fell down before them, as one amazed at the badness of his own condition, and ready to sink under the load of his terror because of it; he fell down before them, as one that had upon his spirit an awe of them, and of the image of God upon them, and of their commission from God. It is probable that he had heard what the damsel said of them, that they were the servants of the living God, who showed to them the way of salvation, and as such he thus expressed his veneration for them. He fell down before them, to beg their pardon, as a penitent, for the indignities he had done them, and to beg their advice, as a supplicant, what he should do. He gave them a title of respect, Sirs, kyrioi-lords, masters; just now it was, Rogues and villains, and he was their master; but now, Sirs, lords, and they are his masters. Converting grace changes people's language of and to good people and good ministers; and, to such as are thoroughly convinced of sin, the very feet of those that bring tidings of Christ are beautiful; yea, though they are disgracefully fastened in the stocks.
        • [2.] How serious his enquiry is: What must I do to be saved?
          • First, His salvation is now his great concern, and lies nearest his heart, which before was the furthest thing from his thoughts. Not, What shall I do to be preferred, to be rich and great in the world? but, What shall I do to be saved?
          • Secondly, He does not enquire concerning others, what they must do; but concerning himself, "What must I do?" It is his own precious soul that he is in care about: "Let others do as they please; tell me what I must do, what course I must take."
          • Thirdly, He is convinced that something must be done, and done by him too, in order to his salvation: that it is not a thing of course, a thing that will do itself, but a thing about which we must strive, wrestle, and take pains. He asks not, "What may be done for me?" but, "What shall I do, that, being now in fear and trembling, I may work out my salvation?" as Paul speaks in his epistle to the church at Philippi, of which this jailer was, perhaps with respect to his trembling enquiry here, intimating that he must not only ask after salvation (as he had done), but work out his salvation with a holy trembling,Phil. 2:12.
          • Fourthly, He is willing to do any thing: "Tell me what I must do, and I am here ready to do it. Sirs, put me into any way, if it be but the right way, and a sure way; though narrow, and thorny, and uphill, yet I will walk in it." Note, Those who are thoroughly convinced of sin, and truly concerned about their salvation, will surrender at discretion to Jesus Christ, will give him a blank to write what he pleases, will be glad to have Christ upon his own terms, Christ upon any terms.
          • Fifthly, He is inquisitive what he should do, is desirous to know what he should do, and asks those that were likely to tell him. If you will enquire, enquire ye,Isa. 21:12. Those that set their faces Zionward must ask the way thither, Jer. 50:5. We cannot know it of ourselves, but God has made it known to us by his word, has appointed his ministers to assist us in consulting the scriptures, and has promised to give his Holy Spirit to those that ask him, to be their guide in the way of salvation.
          • Sixthly, He brought them out, to put this question to them, that their answer might not be by duress or compulsion, but that they might prescribe to him, though he was their keeper, with the same liberty as they did to others. He brings them out of the dungeon, in hopes they will bring him out of a much worse.
      • (3.) They very readily directed him what he must do, v. 31. They were always ready to answer such enquiries; though they are cold, and sore, and sleepy, they do not adjourn this cause to a more convenient time and place, do not bod him come to them the next sabbath at their meeting-place by the river side, and they will tell him, but they strike while the iron is hot, take him now when he is in a good mind, lest the conviction should wear off. Now that God begins to work, it is time for them to set in as workers together with God. They do not upbraid him with his rude and ill carriage towards them, and his going beyond his warrant; all this is forgiven and forgotten, and they are as glad to show him the way to heaven as the best friend they have. They did not triumph over him, though he trembled; they gave him the same directions they did to others, Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. One would think they should have said, "Repent of thy abusing us, in the first place." No, that is overlooked and easily passed by, if he will but believe in Christ. This is an example to ministers to encourage penitents, to meet those that are coming to Christ and take them by the hand, not to be hard upon any for unkindness done to them, but to seek Christ's honour more than their own. Here is the sum of the whole gospel, the covenant of grace in a few words: Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. Here is,
        • [1.] The happiness promised: "Thou shalt be saved; not only rescued from eternal ruin, but brought to eternal life and blessedness. Though thou art a poor man, an under-jailer or turnkey, mean and of low condition in the world, yet this shall be no bar to thy salvation. Though a great sinner, though a persecutor, yet thy heinous transgressions shall be all forgiven through the merits of Christ; and thy hard embittered heart shall be softened and sweetened by the grace of Christ, and thus thou shalt neither die for thy crime nor die of thy disease."
        • [2.] The condition required: Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. We must admit the record that God hath given in his gospel concerning his Son, and assent to it as faithful, and well worthy of all acceptation. We must approve the method God has taken of reconciling the world to himself by a Mediator; and accept of Christ as he is offered to us, and give up ourselves to be ruled and taught and saved by him. This is the only way and a sure way to salvation. No other way of salvation than by Christ, and no other way of our being saved by Christ than by believing in him; and no danger of coming short if we take this way, for it is the way that God has appointed, and he is faithful that has promised. It is the gospel that is to be preached to every creature, He that believes shall be saved.
        • [3.] The extension of this to his family: Thou shalt be saved, and thy house; that is, "God will be in Christ a God to thee and to thy seed, as he was to Abraham. Believe, and salvation shall come to thy house, as Lu. 19:9. Those of thy house that are infants shall be admitted into the visible church with thee, and thereby put into a fair way for salvation; those that are grown up shall have the means of salvation brought to them, and, be they ever so many, let them believe in Jesus Christ and they shall be saved; they are all welcome to Christ upon the same terms."
      • (4.) They proceeded to instruct him and his family in the doctrine of Christ (v. 32): They spoke unto him the word of the Lord. He was, for aught that appears, an utter stranger to Christ, and therefore it is requisite he should be told who this Jesus is, that he may believe in him, Jn. 9:36. And, the substance of the matter lying in a little compass, they soon told him enough to make his being baptized a reasonable service. Christ's ministers should have the word of the Lord so ready to them, and so richly dwelling in them, as to be able to give instructions offhand to any that desire to hear and receive them, for their direction in the way of salvation. They spoke the word not only to him, but to all that were in his house. Masters of families should take care that all under their charge partake of the means of knowledge and grace, and that the word of the Lord be spoken to them; for the souls of the poorest servants are as precious as those of their masters, and are bought with the same price.
      • (5.) The jailer and his family were immediately baptized, and thereby took upon them the profession of Christianity, submitted to its laws, and were admitted to its privileges, upon their declaring solemnly, as the eunuch did, that they believed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God: He was baptized, he and all his, straightway. Neither he nor any of his family desired time to consider whether they should come into baptismal bonds or no; nor did Paul and Silas desire time to try their sincerity and to consider whether they should baptize them or no. But the Spirit of grace worked such a strong faith in them, all on a sudden, as superseded further debate; and Paul and Silas knew by the Spirit that it was a work of God that was wrought in them: so that there was no occasion for demur. This therefore will not justify such precipitation in ordinary cases.
      • (6.) The jailer was hereupon very respectful to Paul and Silas, as one that knew not how to make amends for the injury he had done to them, much less for the kindness he had received from them: He took them the same hour of the night, would not let them lie a minute longer in the inner prison; but,
        • [1.] He washed their stripes, to cool them, and abate the smart of them; to clean them from the blood which the stripes had fetched. It is probable that he bathed them with some healing liquor, as the good Samaritan helped the wounded man by pouring in oil and wine.
        • [2.] He brought them into his house, bade them welcome to the best room he had, and prepared his best bed for them. Now nothing was thought good enough for them, as before nothing bad enough.
        • [3.] He set meat before them, such as his house would afford, and they were welcome to it, by which he expressed the welcome which his soul gave to the gospel. They had spoken to him the word of the Lord, had broken the bread of life to him and his family; and he, having reaped so plentifully of their spiritual things, thought it was but reasonable that they should reap of his carnal things, 1 Co. 9:11. What have we houses and tables for but as we have opportunity to serve God and his people with them?
      • (7.) The voice of rejoicing with that of salvation was heard in the jailer's house; never was such a truly merry night kept there before: He rejoiced, believing in God, with all his house. There was none in his house that refused to be baptized, and so made a jar in the harmony; but they were unanimous in embracing the gospel, which added much to the joy. Or it may be read, He, believing in God, rejoiced all the house over; panoiki-he went to every apartment, expressing his joy. Observe,
        • [1.] His believing in Christ is called believing in God, which intimates that Christ is God, and that the design of the gospel is so far from being to draw us from God (saying, Go serve other gods,Deu. 13:2) that it has a direct tendency to bring us to God.
        • [2.] His faith produced joy. Those that by faith have given up themselves to God in Christ as theirs have a great deal of reason to rejoice. The eunuch, when he was converted, went on his way rejoicing; and here the jailer rejoiced. The conversion of the nations is spoken of in the Old Testament as their rejoicing, Psa. 67:4; 96:11. For, believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory. Believing in Christ is rejoicing in Christ.
        • [3.] He signified his joy to all about him. Out of the abundance of the joy in his heart, his mouth spoke to the glory of God, and their encouragement who believed in God too. Those who have themselves tasted the comforts of religion should do what they can to bring others to the taste of them. One cheerful Christian should make many.

Act 16:35-40

In these verses we have,

  • I. Orders sent for the discharge of Paul and Silas out of prison v. 35, 36.
Acts 16:1-15 // Daily Devotions with Pastor Mike

Commentary on Acts 16:9-15

Just prior to the beginning of this text, Paul and his companions Silas and Timothy seem to be at a loss for where to go next with the gospel. 

They stumble around the region, running into one barrier after another set up by God. Barred by the Spirit from going south and west into Asia or from going north into Bythinia, Paul appears backed into a coastal corner at Troas by God’s strange and repeated “no.”

It is regrettable (but not beyond correction) that verses 6-8 are not included in this lectionary reading. They might remind the church that God is in charge of the mission, that the church often searches for God’s calling in mistaken directions and aborted attempts, and that God’s Spirit often speaks through frustrating and difficult discernment.

Thus Paul receives his vision in the night. One might think that getting a vision from God would make everything clear, but even a vision requires interpretation; more to the point, it requires the community of faith. Famously, this is the first point in Acts where the narrator seems to join the characters as a part of the story. Arguments continue over whether the “we” that enters the text at this point indicates an author who was an eyewitness and participant in the events, or whether this “we” reflects the use of some else’s diary woven into the story, or whether the use of “we” is simply a narrative technique.

We can let those questions go, and instead focus attention on the communal claim carried by this “we.” Paul received the vision, but verse 10 says that “we” concluded what it meant and what to do about it. The vision must be interpreted, and that task does not fall to Paul alone. The small community contained in “we” is involved in discerning that this is God’s call not just to an individual, but to “us”; that the “help” which is needed is the preaching of the gospel; that the call was for immediate action.

The mission doesn’t belong to Paul alone, even though at this point in Acts the other apostles are almost completely left behind. The mission, of course, doesn’t even belong to the church; it is God’s mission. Yet the church is called into the discernment of God’s mission at every turn. Where is the Spirit calling us, and doing so through those whom we might otherwise think are outside our circle of responsibility? What visions call us beyond the boundaries into ministry where we had not considered it before?            

It is worth noticing that Paul and his entourage do not stop in the lovely seaside town of Neapolis (modern Kavala), but immediately head for Philippi. Despite the notorious difficulty in translating the middle section of verse 12 (“a leading city of the district”, or “a city of the first district”?), perhaps the main point comes at the end of the sentence: “a Roman colony.” This is where the Empire was powerful and popular. This was the heart of the Empire’s project in this corner of the world, a place that lived like an extended section of Rome itself, intended to be an example of what Rome offers to the world.

Perhaps Paul heads straight there because a place like Philippi is where the gospel of the Lord Jesus is needed most clearly. And so, unlike the unsuccessful wandering that characterized the verses before the vision, here there is no hesitation and no meandering — it is straight to Philippi. In places just like that God planted (and still plants) the church to the community that says “no” to the ways of imperial power and offers a different way of life, a different story, and a different promise. This is what the church is still called to be and to offer in the face of different (and not so different) systems of power and oppression.

Though the team apparently wastes no time in getting to the city, the mission still requires patience. Not much happens for a while. They were there for “some days” (just how long was that?). The appeal in the vision is urgent, and the response to it is immediate; but the results are not seen right away. When God does begin to work in Philippi, it comes with a surprise. Paul’s vision had involved a Macedonian man. But the first to welcome the gospel in Philippi was a woman, and in fact a woman from the area that Paul had just left in the east. Any simple expectations about God’s mission are clearly going to be wrong. How odd, and grace-filled, that this woman from Thyatira, in Asia where the Spirit had forbidden Paul to go, is now met in Philippi and hears the gospel.

Lydia listens, but the Lord must open the heart to believe (verse 14). At this crucial point, Paul practically disappears from the story. It is not the charismatic personality of the pastor or preacher that has the power to create faith; it must come from God’s own merciful activity. From beginning to end, this text stresses that it is God who is in charge of the mission, God who sets its direction, and God who determines its results.

Lydia’s faith becomes immediately active: she is baptized along with her whole household, and she opens her home. Social and cultural barriers crumble, and this corner of the empire is beginning to be changed by God’s grace. The author says that Lydia “prevailed upon” (NRSV) Paul and his companions to stay with her and accept her hospitality. There is only one other place in the New Testament where this word is used: in Emmaus on Easter evening, as the two traveling disciples urged the risen Jesus to stay with them that night (Luke 24:29).

Perhaps the verbal echo is not accidental; by lives transformed and opened up in faithful discipleship, the fellowship of the risen Lord continues to extend into the world. Here near the end of the Easter season, we continue to experience and to live out that fellowship, “prevailing upon” the world to hear, and see, and know the mercy of God in the risen Christ.


Now discussing:

sermon: Learning From Lydia (Acts 16:11-15)

Posted on February 12, 2014 by Brian Evans

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Learning From Lydia

Acts 16:11-15


Last time we looked together and saw all the things God had put into place to direct the missionaries to Troas.  In some cases they were led ahead and in some cases they were hindered and even prevented.  We also closed last week by looking to various examples of how God had worked throughout the Book of Acts to send, guide, call and connect the Apostles to those who needed the Gospel.

I want to further drive this point home because if we are going to understand today’s text rightly we must see God’s hand guiding His people and even enabling His people to accomplish what He commands.  Jesus gave us the command to go into the entire world and make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to obey all He has commanded.  It is in our going coupled with God’s enablement to go and connect us to others and in Him causing faith to spring forth that anyone is saved.  Salvation is of the Lord.

We also saw last week the great mystery of how God works to cause us to do what He has decreed we will do.  So it is here in this passage and others to follow that we see the great mystery fleshed out before our eyes.

In our text today, notice with me…How God moved to convert Lydia.  It wasn’t Paul or his preaching that initial change but it was God who caused her to pay attention to the Gospel.

TT- Salvation occurs when God moves and opens the human heart to pay attention and believe.
Human need met by text

When we are led by God to speak to someone about Jesus Christ, we must realize that God is at work orchestrating the divine encounter.  He will help you to speak what He desires you to speak.  He will also be working in ways you may not see.  But He will be working.

Acts 16:11-15 (ESV)
11 So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis,
12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days.
13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together.
14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.
15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

1.  Favorable Winds

11 So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis,
12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days.
God gave the missionaries favor in their travel.

It’s important to note that Luke, if you remember, is now part of Paul’s missionary team.  His account is quite remarkable as he simply writes the place where they sailed to.  What’s remarkable is the ease at which they sailed and the wind being in their favor carrying them across the sea.  This journey only took two days.  Coming back, the commentators note, took five days.  God was with them carrying them along with the wind.

Leaving the port city of Troas, they sailed to the small island of Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis,
They stayed the night on Samathrace and them set sail the next morning to Macedonia, Neapolis being the port city leading into Philippi.

12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days.
The missionaries traveled from Neapolis on foot about ten miles to the north to Macedonia’s chief city, Philippi.

What’s important to note here is that even though Philippi was the leading city (literally, the city of chief importance), It didn’t have a synagogue.  Traditionally a city had to have ten Jewish men to start a synagogue.  Because it doesn’t, we see just how pagan the city of Philippi and also the region of Macedonia was.  Romans were by far the overarching majority, Philippi being inhabited by retired Roman soldiers and those very much loyal to Rome.

We remember that it was Paul’s normal practice to seek out a synagogue to get a hearing in to share the good news of Jesus Christ.  Here in Philippi, there were no synagogues.  Where would the team go to share the Gospel?

2. Favorable Message

13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together.
14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.
God gave the missionaries favor in their message.

There were no synagogues but there were a few worshippers.

Rome practiced toleration of religion.  When they conquered a people, they would allow the people the freedom to worship their gods if they agreed to also worship Caesar.  For Jews and for Christians this was not acceptable.  Sometimes Rome would allow exceptions if the religion was an established religion already being practiced.  That was the case with Judaism but not the case with Christianity.  It seems Philippi was different.  Most scholars believe that even Judaism was greatly frowned upon by the Romans in Macedonia, perhaps that is why the worshipers were found down by the river in a place outside the city limits.

So, they hear of some worshippers down by the Gangites River and Paul and the others head down to share the Gospel with these worshippers.  They arrive at the river and find a small group of women praying.

The women welcome Paul and the others and through the course of their conversation Paul begins an exposition of Scripture.  Perhaps he shares with them from the OT how Jesus is the Messiah.  He no doubt mentions the cross and the resurrection of Christ as was very typical for Paul to do.

Just as God’s favor was on their travel, His favor was on their message.  God moves and connects Paul’s words with the Holy Spirit then He excites faith within Lydia and she believes.

Luke describes Lydia as a businesswoman who dealt in purple cloth.  What made this cloth valuable was the fact that it was very much in high demand because purple was the color of royalty.  When queens and others were something then the common folks also want to be seen wearing similar things.  Much like today when an actress wears a certain band label or style then all America wants one.

Because purple was in fashion Lydia’s cloth was in high demand.  That was the first reason.  The second reason Lydia was very wealthy was that purple cloth was extremely rare because of the great cost involved to manufacture the die.  The purple dye came from shellfish living in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea.  It took approximately 8,000 mollusks to produce 1 gram of dye, the dye and in turn the cloth was extremely valuable.  This is what Lydia marketed.

At some point in her travels, she had been introduced to Israel’s God.  She, as Luke explains, was a worshiper of God.

Much like Cornelius, who also worshipped God, she had a good foundation of who God is from the OT that she had been taught.  So now, Paul explains the rest to her.  Even though she was categorized as a worshipper, she still needed to hear the Gospel of Christ in order to be saved.

The exalted Christ prepared Lydia through the synagogue teaching of the OT.  Now he sent Paul and the other missionaries to Philippi so that Lydia was able to hear the message of salvation.  Luke ascribes to the Lord, not to Paul, the act of saving Lydia.  Salvation, then, is not man’s work but the Lord’s.  Not the word itself, but the Lord himself (Luke 24:45), opens the human heart.  The result is that Lydia responds to Paul’s message and accepts the Lord as her Savior. [1]

It’s important that we pause and look a little deeper into what took place in Lydia’s heart in order for her to be saved.

3. Learning Providence from Lydia

We learned last week that Paul and the others were prevent from speaking and going to the regions of Galatia and Bithynia.  Remembered we all wondered why the Holy Spirit would not want Paul to preach the Gospel in those areas?  By the providence of God, Paul had another divine appointment.  He had to be at the river on that Sabbath.  It was, as Spurgeon writes, the hour of Lydia’s salvation.

Not only did Paul have to be there at that moment but Lydia too had to be there.  In God’s wonderful plan, she sold purple cloth.  It was the business of selling cloth that she was in Philippi from Thyatira.  It was by Divine Providence that they were together on the riverbank that day.

But this I know—God will shake Heaven and earth sooner than suffer one elect soul to miss the predestined moment.[2]

we supposed there was a place of prayer…Have you ever thought that the prayer meeting was interrupted by missionaries who were sharing the Good News which no doubt was the very answer to the prayers the worshippers were praying?  That’s why they were hindered and prevented and directed.  God wanted the Gospel to go to Thyatira through the woman who sold purple cloth.

The garments she sold were for royalty and that day on the riverbank she met King Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

There is one more act of Providence spoken of here in this passage; The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.
God had placed her at the right place at the right time, though she may have not even realized it.  Not only was she there at that moment but God also prepared her heart.  Almost like as Spurgeon comments, a plowed field waiting for the seed to be sown.  When Paul scattered the seed it found its way into Lydia’s prepared heart and it took root and sprouted and grew…the Devil did not snatch this seed away.  It immediately grew.

Did God know that there would be a prayer meeting on the river that day?  Did He know there would be a woman named Lydia who would pray for salvation?  Did God prevent Paul and then lead him to this riverbank?  Did God open her heart?  Isn’t the Providence of God astronomically amazing?  Isn’t His grace amazingly merciful?

Luke wants us to understand that it wasn’t the message of the Gospel that saved…it wasn’t the missionary that saved…It was the Lord who saved Lydia.  He opened her heart to believe.

You see, she could have been there and Paul could have preached the exact same message but is God had not worked; Lydia would have been condemned with the rest of the lost world.

4. Learning Conversion From Lydia

The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.

God is interested in full conversion.  It is the condition of the heart that God is seeking to change.

Until God worked to change Lydia’s heart, she was evil and wicked even though she may have done some seemingly good things.  You might be thinking that we’re told she was a worshipper of God and you’re right.  That happened only because God was already at work long before she met Paul.

When it comes to mankind God has one supreme focus.  He is in the process of forming for His glory worshippers.  Now if sinners are to be changed into worshippers then there is something God must change and that’s the human heart.

Psalm 84:1-2 (ESV)
1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!
2 My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God…
10 For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
This is what God is doing as He saves people.  That’s also why human sin and rebellion is captured by Paul when he writes…

Romans 1:24-25 (ESV)
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,
25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

The essence of sin and evil is worshipping in your heart something or someone other than God.
In your personal sanctification, it is imperative that we seek heart change over behavioral change.  In our children too we must seek to impact their hearts not just get them to behave correctly.  Good behavior is important but that is just on the surface.  Good behavior that pleases God flows from a changed heart.  Evil people can occasionally do good things.  So, behavior alone is not enough.  This is one mistake Christian parents make.  They think that when my child is acting and behaving like I want him to then everything is good.  We must go even deeper to the very heart of our children.

We have an example of right behavior with wrong heart attitude…

Isaiah 29:13 (ESV)
13 And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,
If God is going to save Lydia or anyone else for that matter then He first causes their heart to be affected by the message of the Gospel first, then their behavior follows.  So, the condition of our heart is foundational to our walk with Christ.  Once Lydia’s is changed notice what she does…her behavior falls in line with her heart attitude…

15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

The response she had once God had worked to convert her was to be obedient to Jesus’ command to get baptized.  Then her heart led her to open her home to the missionary team and she would not take no for an answer.

When God moves and opens or converts a heart the person is changed on the inside.  Their changed heart is what fuels godly behavior.

How is your heart attitude? 

How might you need to change the way you address your sanctification?

How might you need to change the way you teach and train your children?

Should you adjust your emphasis from right behavior to influencing them on a deeper level?

[1] Kistemacher, Simon New Testament Commentary: Acts. 590

[2] Spurgeon, Lessons from Lydia’s Conversion

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