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Acts of the Apostles: 29 - Acts 16

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Acts of the Apostles

29 - Acts 16

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Acts of the Apostles: 29 - Acts 16

MP4 Video - 720p (1.15 GB)
MP3 Audio (35.94 MB)

In this class, we will discuss Acts 16:1-38 and look at Timothy joining Paul and Silas in their travels, Paul's vision of the man of Macedonia, Lydia's conversion in Philippi and finally Paul and Silas in prison.


[Darris McNeely] Good morning, class. Welcome back to the book of Acts. Those of you that are watching online, we are into Chapter 16 of the book of Acts here today. Just a program note, again, for those of you that are watching these online at whatever point in time, these are being given during the ABC class here in 2023. So, any of my references to events that are current to the time, just under understand that. Also, appreciate the notes that I've received from many members and others watching these Acts classes. If you want to continue to send those in, I appreciate hearing how you are hearing them and how thoughts and input, but I appreciate all of that as well. It seems that a number of people are benefiting from these classes. So, I know for you guys here, it's a little bit different than the way I would present things. We're kind of stuck here within the camera, but it all works.

But at Chapter 16, we are into the second journey of the Apostle Paul, and this is moving into a few chapters here in this journey in the episodes of Chapter 16, 17, 18, and 19 that are, personally, these are my favorite passages within the book of Acts. They're wonderful stories. There's a great deal of instruction for the Church and understanding to gain from them. And it's just packed with, to me, just the essence of what the Church was like, and the mission work that Paul was doing, the evangelizing during that period of time in his ministry. We're going through, today, we're going to leap over into the continent of Europe and go to Philippi, and ultimately, he'll come back around to Ephesus. And then as the chapters progress, we will talk about what he did at Ephesus and that part of the story as well. And so, let's look at the story here in Acts Chapter16. Let me pull it up here in my scripture, make sure I don't omit anything here.

Acts 16:1 “When they came to Derbe and Lystra.”

Now, they are making their way back through the area of Asia, Asia Minor at the time. They started down here in Antioch, and they are working their way back. Remember that Paul and Barnabas wanted to visit the Churches, or at least Paul did. And then he and Barnabas had a dispute because Barnabas wanted to bring John, Mark along. Paul didn't. And so we wind up with two different teams going out, and Paul and Silas are now involved in this. And they retrace the steps. They come to Derbe and to Lystra. Remember, it was that Lystra that Paul was stoned in his first journey and dragged out of the city for dead, but got up and went on down to the city of Derbe. So, it is in Lystra, it says here in verse 1 of Chapter 16.

Acts 16:1-2 “That a certain disciple was there named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was Greek. He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium.”

Lystra and Iconium, you'll see on the map. Again, they were not that very far apart. And so it gives you an indication there was a bit of communication between the two groups of disciples that had been formed into a Church here in those two cities that Timothy had a reputation among both of them who were in these two areas.

His mother was Jewish. And when you get into the book of 1 Timothy, you will find that Timothy comes from a line, not only his mother but his grandmother were members, it seems, or at least they were not members of the Church, as we look at it, but they were Jewish, they were believers. And so this is the lineage. Timothy's mother married a gentile, and he was Greek. And so he is following along, let's say, in the path of his mother's teaching. And she must be very active in teaching him the scriptures, schooling him in the Jewish history, and the Old Testament scriptures from the synagogue and all there. But we don't hear anything about... We don't even have a name for the father. We assume that he is not in the picture in terms of a religious upbringing. We know nothing else about him. But the example of Timothy, and obviously, his faith and all commends him to Paul.

Acts 16:3 It says, “Paul wanted to go on with him and join he and Silas.”

It would become then kind of what we would term today a trainee, a ministerial trainee. And again, Timothy then becomes a full minister. And again, 1 and 2 Timothy are written to him when he is pastoring later at the city of Ephesus, the Church at Ephesus. So, keep that in mind. So, here is the drafting, if you will, into the ministry for a training period of Timothy.

Acts 16:3 Now, it says, “Paul took him and circumcised him.” And so he had a Jewish mother, but a Greek father. And so the father had not had him circumcised. And for whatever reason, the mother didn't prevail upon him to have that done. “But he does it because of the Jews who were in that region for they all knew that his father was Greek.” All right?

In the eyes of the Jews, Timothy was Greek. But in the eyes of the Greeks, Timothy was a Jew because he was following along with his mother. And Paul wants to remove any problem and point of discussion. He goes ahead and has him circumcised, and we assume he is a young man. This is a little bit different than doing it at eight days for an infant. He just settles the issue. It was socially expedient for Paul to do that but not legally required. This issue, remember, has been settled back in Chapter 15, but it would not be wrong to have had left him uncircumcised. And it is not, you know, violating any principle to have him circumcised. It's not backtracking whatsoever. So take that as you will from the example here. Luke notes it, is inspired by God to note this, but then Paul just did not want this to be of an issue because of the mixed parentage and the issue that had just been settled.

Acts 16:4 And so, “As they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep them, keep, which were determined by the apostles and the elders at Jerusalem.”

And this was what we read about at the end of Chapter 15. After the conference in Jerusalem settled the issue of circumcision, there were four items. Remember that the gentiles were admonished not to do to, what was it? Verse 29 of Chapter 15.

Acts 15:29 “They were to abstain from things offered to idols from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.”

Those were specifics dealing with the temple worship. Essentially they were told, “Stay out of the temple.” And these four things, which seemed to be, let's say, a temptation and a problem. But if they kept away from all of those, then everything else would follow. But they read all of this and reported on it to these Churches. And remember, these were the congregations that Paul had started on the first journey.

Acts 16:5 Tells us, “So, as a result of this, so the Churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in number daily.”

And so there's a period of growth. There is a period of excitement and activity that is taking place here, reminiscent of the early days of the Church in Jerusalem that we read about at the beginning of the story of Acts. And the efforts that are being made here are quite strong, and obviously quite valuable. And so at this particular point, in verse 6, it says…

Acts 16:6 “When they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia…”

I'm going to put this, if you are watching on the map on this screen, and you've got this map in your syllabus, but those of you online, this hopefully will pick up too. The region of Galatia is this southern part of Asia Minor here that he's already been through. And they're making their way up to Pisidian. Obviously, Pisidian, Antioch would no doubt be one of the stops that he's making, even though Luke does not mention this. And it says here that they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia at the end of Chapter 6.

Now, as we look at what is being referred to here as Asia, at one level, this entire area of what is today Turkey, an anciently Asia Minor. North, southeast, and west would be considered Asia, and certainly even regions, you know, further east. But for the intent of our story of the geographical range of the book of Acts here, given where Paul is, what I think we are being told here by Luke is that Paul's intent is to go from the area of Phrygia here at Pisidian and Antioch. And as it says, he probably wanted to go into the well-populated area of Western Asia, which would've put him over here in Ephesus. And all the other cities that we read about in Revelation 2 and 3 that are the seven cities where there were congregations and the messages of Christ to those Churches, including many, many other cities. It was quite a heavily populated region, very fertile, a lot of manufacturing, a lot going on. And Paul knew that. And he saw that there were Jewish synagogues. There was a presence and a very ripe area for preaching the gospel.

And so I think what is being said here they are forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the Word into Asia. Now, how are they forbid it? Luke doesn't say that Paul had a vision. He's going to later say that he did to go into Europe. There's no other voice, no other indication. You know, it could have been circumstances that arose that forbid them to go there. It could be that he had a vision, and Luke is just not led to record it. It just doesn't say. What it does tell us, though, is that it is God and Christ who are guiding and directing. And at this point in time, he doesn't go into that area. And so what he seems to do, it says in verse 7…

Acts 16:7 “They came to Mysia. They tried to go into Bithynia.” That would've put him, and the route turns north, Bithynia then would've put him over further east. But here's what it says, “The Spirit did not permit them.”

They tried. Maybe they couldn't get transportation. You know, there was something else going on, or something that stopped them from turning east and going into that area. Now, it's very obvious that God is guiding this journey, and He has a plan in mind. And it is not what Paul, and Silas, and now Timothy have in mind as good as their plan would be. And one reason that we can pretty well assume, I think, and it's a good logical assumption why they were not able to go further east into Bithynia and over into the area that is also called Pontis, is this is territory where Peter will be, and he probably already is. And there's somebody doing the work over there, Peter. God has other designs for Paul, and it is into, essentially, new territory that no one else has gone to before. And so what they do.

Acts 16:8 “They pass by Mysia and they come down to Troas.”

So they turn west, and they come down to the coast, to the city of Troas. And here is where they, in a sense, stop. They might be thinking, “What do we do now? Where do we go?” Maybe from here, they could have easily gone south towards Sardis toward, eventually, you know, Ephesus being the leading city in the region at the time. But what happens here is a vision.

Acts 16:9 “A vision appeared to Paul in the night.”

So, here's a very explicit reference as to what happened. Again, we don't know what forbid him to go to other places other than God stopped it and guided his steps. I think sometimes, you know, you could say that perhaps circumstances over a period of time led Paul to conclude that by going to Philippi over into Macedonia, which is what is going to happen, he then concludes maybe some days, weeks, or even months later that God was guiding it. It could have been something a bit more to the moment, in the moment that he concluded, “Wait a minute, God's not wanting us to go in either of these directions.” Then he gets this vision and he knows where God wants to go. But at some point, it becomes very clear.

Acts 16:9 Is the very clear path because. “He receives a vision and he sees him as a man of Macedonia, stood and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’”

All right. Now, Macedonia is across the water here from Troas, and he'll take a boat and he's going to go up to Philippi, and he is in the region of Macedonia. We all know the famous personage who comes from Macedonia, don't we? We studied in the book of Acts. Who is that, or the book of Daniel, I should say. Alexander, the Great, Alexander of Macedon. He's the most famous one from antiquity there. And so this is what he does.

Acts 16:10 “After he had seen the vision, immediately, we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

Now, here in verse 10, the we pronoun is a definite indicator that Luke now joins the party. All commentators see and understand that Luke, as he writes this history, inserts himself. Now, at this point, he joins. Where does he come from? Some think that he is from Philippi. Some commentators try to think that maybe in the vision, the vision is of Luke. But we can't really conclude that. But Luke joins him here, and it's obvious that that is where they are to go. So now we have four in this party, Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke.

Acts 16:11-12 ”Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, and the next day came to Neapolis, the port, and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days.”

End of verse 12. So, they cross over into Macedonia, not only to Macedonia but to Europe, an entirely new continent. And this is really a turning point, and in the story in Acts and in history, a lot of commentators comment on what this means, because now the gospel is going out of Asia. It is now going to Europe, what will become Europe and an entirely different region. And Paul will in time go to various cities here and spend 18 months down in the city of Corinth and all on this particular journey. So, here's what I think is a big takeaway. There's many, but as I said, God was guiding Paul, and He didn't want him to go to Ephesus this time. Ephesus was on God's timetable, but not Paul's, not at that moment. He's going to spend nearly three years in Ephesus, but not now.

God's directing him to Macedonia, and he's going to have a number of experiences and adventures, as we will read about in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, and then Corinth. And it's going to be a very productive period of his ministry. We get several congregations here, two of which, three of which letters of the New Testament will be written to, Phillip, Thessalonica, the two letters to the Thessalonians, and then the two letters to the Corinthians. And so there's a lot of fruit here. And then there's actually, if you will, a base and a platform as Paul writes to them, these letters then become a part of the canon or the New Testament. And we read a lot of instruction and get a lot of information about the times and the situations that we're dealing with here at that point.

And so this is where God wants him to go. And, you know, whether it's in our own life or it's in the work of the Church, we have to always seek God's guidance and in a sense, you know, test the spirits, test the opportunities, make sure that what we might think is an open door isn't a trap door or leading to a trap door on the other side. In whatever, you know, a job, or a relationship, or a place that you may think that you need to move to, for whatever reason, always seek God's guidance, and use good judgment, use wisdom, and get good counsel on that.

When we consider our efforts of preaching the gospel and the endeavors that we get into in the Church, sometimes we can't go here, we can't go there, and time and circumstance show us that we’ve  got to go a different direction. And we don't always know why we can't go here or there, but we find out later why God was guiding us. And sometimes it might be several months, it might be even several years. I've experienced this on a personal level, and the Church has experienced it at their level as well. I've been transferred to locations in my field ministry career, I had no idea why somebody decided to send me someplace. And it was not until after I got there and time, and some cases, a few years went by that I finally realized God was behind this, even though I thought it was a bunch of men doing it, that it was God that was behind it. And I've seen that in my own life, and you will too. You will too. So, here, they come over to Philippi.

Acts 16:12 And it says in verse 12 that “It was a foremost city of that part of Macedonia and a colony.”

What it was, was a Roman colony. Philippi has a rich history. It takes its name from Philip, who was the father of Alexander the Great, Phillip of Macedon. All right? And so that's where we get Philippi, Philippi. It also has a rich history. It was a location of a battle during the civil wars of Rome between the armies of Octavian, who becomes Augustus. And at that time, Mark Anthony was aligned with him, and they defeat the assassins of Julius Caesar at Philippi in a battle in the second or the first century BC. And so that is a significant event that takes place there. In subsequent years, Philippi becomes a place where there are a number of Roman soldiers who when they leave the legions, they settle here. They've been settled here. So, like we saw down in Antioch and Pisidian when we went there, that was also a place where Augustus retired a lot of his soldiers. Philippi's the same place. And we'll understand that when we come to one of the characters in the story here.

And so it was a Roman colony administered by a Roman government and had a lot of retired Roman soldiers there and that influenced the city quite a while here. Now, Paul is going to do something here then that is his custom, as we move along through the story. They were there for a few days. For some days, it says. And so we would take that within... I would take that less than seven days because verse 13 says…

Acts 16:13 “On the Sabbath day, we went out of the city to the riverside where prayer was customarily made. And we sat down and spoke to the women who were there.”

And so this tells us that there's not a synagogue in this city. The other locations, Paul's gone to the synagogue because there was a large enough Jewish population. In Philippi, it's mostly Roman, and there's not enough men. I think you had to have 10 men as a quorum to form a Jewish synagogue in that period. So, that tells us there weren't even 10 Jewish men there. And so very small Jewish population. And yet, there are people who go on the Sabbath, and it's a group of women who are on down by this river on the Sabbath day.

Now, how does Paul know that? Well, he just probably asks around. He finds out there's not a synagogue. He probably talks to some people in the agora, which is the marketplace, the open-air marketplace. And Paul was not bashful to inquire and find out if were there any believers. Were there any God fearers here? If there's not enough for a Jewish synagogue, then what's going on? Anybody in that city, and a group of women, who were known to go down to the river on the Sabbath day to pray, would have caught the attention of other people in the city and the tongues would've been clacking and people would've talked, but they knew that. And so Paul was led somehow to find out what was going on. And so that's where they go. And here is where we are introduced to a certain woman in verse 14 named Lydia.

Acts 16:14 “Who heard us.” So, Paul begins to teach here. “And she was a seller of purple.”

So, there must be a large, let's say, a large group of women, among whom was Lydia. And it tells us that she was a seller of purple from the city of the Thyatira. Where have we heard about the Thyatira? One of the Churches of Revelation, the fourth message, the fourth Church referenced there, the one right in the middle, the longest message of the seven messages in Revelation. And when we talked about Thyatira in our class in Revelation, we talked about the fact that the Thyatira was a place where purple was manufactured, this dye. And so Lydia, very likely, was from Thyatira, but she's now in Philippi. Why is she in Philippi? Because she's a seller of purple. She got the franchise for the purple franchise in Philippi, and it's very lucrative. And she was probably driving around in a purple Cadillac, not a Cadillac but maybe a purple chariot. All right? Okay. Because she was probably pretty successful. We're going to find, she's got a household and a place where Paul and his company can stay. And so it must have been a substantial house. She was probably doing quite well.

The purple that was sold was sold to the upper classes, and primarily the royalty. In the Roman world to wear the purple was a designation of the Caesar. Most people wore a white toga. If you were a senator, you might have a colored band that went across that designated a particular status or class that you were in. But if you wore purple, you were at the top of the heap. And so the purple was in a sense reserved for them. There's a great story, I'll tell you when we come to Revelation 13, about the wearing of the purple as it pertains to a story out of Revelation 13. But we'll keep going here with Lydia, who's a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira. Now, beyond being obviously a woman and let's say a businesswoman, she's obviously successful.

And keep in mind, in the Greek world, in the Roman world, the Greco-Roman world, she's standing out. Women didn't normally rise to independent status like she evidently has. And so she's an anomaly, an outlier in the world at this time. There are some inscriptions in other cities, I believe in Ephesus and in Sardis. They have found pillars, tablets with inscriptions of people's names and the prominent people of the cities. And on two places, they have found the name Lydia. And it's in connection of a group of names that we know are of a prominent class of people in those cities. And so where we have seen the name Lydia found it from archeological evidence it is of prominent people within the city. So, maybe that's also telling us something about this Lydia in Philippi.

But what is most important is what is in the last part of the phrase, she worshiped God. She was a God fearer. She's probably gentile and she is a probably a God fearer. Maybe she began doing this in the synagogue in Thyatira, that's a speculation. But she continued in Philippi.

Acts 16:14 It says, “The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.”

And so she's already tuned into something of, you know, the God of Abraham, the Old Testament, the scriptures that she no doubt heard, very likely in synagogue in Thyatira. She brought that with her. And she listens.

Acts 16:15 Tells us, “When she and her household were baptized, she begged us saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.’ So, she persuaded us.”

So, she's got a house that's big enough for four people to stay in it, but she's also got a household, which means probably servants, and that's a euphemism for slaves, all right, that you probably owned. That was very common in the world. I'm not getting into the issue of slavery, as it pertains to the teachings of Paul. I think your epistles class probably gets into that with more time there. But as you see in the letter to Philemon, Philemon owned Onesimus, who becomes a member. So, you had this unique situation in the Church. You had two members, one owned the other. Is that right? No, not by our standards and not by God's standards, but it was the custom of the day and Paul didn't seek to change it.

So, her household probably included that, as well as her own people, maybe some of her own family. But they were baptized, and this is the custom. And we'll see that again. "And she begged us saying, 'If you judge me faithful, come to my house and stay.' And she persuaded us." So, we have Lydia who becomes the first convert, the first member in her household of the Church. It's going to be in Philippi. Very likely, they begin meeting in her house. We're not done. Let's continue on.

Acts 16:16-17 “It happened as we went to prayer that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us who brought her masters much profit by fortune telling. This girl followed Paul and us and cried out saying, ‘These men are the servants of the Most High God who proclaimed to us the way of salvation.’”

All right. Here's a, it's a girl. She's enslaved to a group of men that are exploiting her, but we'll call her a diviner. She's another woman, another female in the story. And she latches onto Paul here and says that, "These are servants of the Most High God," which is an inscription for the deity. It was even used in the Old Testament. The Greeks used the particular term for Zeus, but she was led by this spirit that she was in touch with to see something about Paul. And she did this for many days. In verse 18, she followed them around, popped up where Paul might have been teaching or engaging people to the point where Paul greatly annoyed after subsequent encounters with her.

Acts 16:18 “turned and said to the spirit, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And it came out of her that very hour.’”

And so this spirit of divination in the Greek here is telling us that she's got a spirit of what is called the Python. And it's connected with the Oracle at Delphi. And in the mythology, Delphi is over North of Corinth, in Greece Major. The Oracle at Delphi, there was a snake, a large python, that was connected with that killed by Apollo in the myth. And so when you see depictions of the God Apollo, he is often depicted killing this great python snake. But you can sense the immediate connection to the serpent, the great serpent Satan, who deceives the world, Revelation 12, and the evil spirit that is working in this woman, as she is making a great deal of money for her masters in her fortune telling. And so you look at this, and it's an unfortunate situation. I don't want to spend a whole lot of time on the details of the spirit and whatever else except to focus I think on what we're being told about this woman. I've dealt with people who've been bothered by demons, some who have had demon possession. I've dealt with one woman, in particular, who used to actually be a witch. She practiced witchcraft. We actually interviewed her for an early Beyond Today program. It's still up on the web. But she was in one of my congregations at one time.

And when you start to touch that world of black arts, black magic, fortune telling, you know, you want to stay away from it. But when you look at the impact on this woman, she has given herself over. She somehow got in touch or became possessed and she used it, allowed herself to be used, and then she becomes owned by her masters. This woman is abused. Let's just use the modern term. This is a very dysfunctional, problematic woman. And she's agitated by the spirit in her that's seeing Paul representing the Most High God. And she keeps coming back around because this demon wants to, again, attack Paul. We see a pattern. Remember the Jewish sorcerer in the city down in Cyprus who dealt with Paul and Barnabas at that time, and Paul rebuked him, Bar-Jesus, and Satan follows around the work of God. Satan hinders the work of God. That's one of his aims and desires is to hinder God's people or to hinder the work that God is doing through His Church. And in the book of Acts, we see, you know, close on the heels of the Church, in this case, Paul preaching the gospel, there is the demonic world, the spirit world. And so Paul cast out the demon that very hour.

Acts 16:19 “Her master saw that their hope of profit was gone. They seized Paul and Silas, and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities.”

You know, the cash cow's gone. I don't mean to say anything about her, but it's gone. Their income stream is over. And so they are up upset. They take him to court. They're going to sue Paul. Now, they don't care about the girl. They care about the money. They've abused her. They have exploited her. Now, the account doesn't say anything more about the girl, other than that Paul casts out the demon. Was she baptized? Did she become a member like Lydia? It doesn't say. Some commentators suppose that she possibly did. We can't say that she was, but she's the second person that we encounter here. And let's just say for the sake of discussion, as the way Luke writes it, that she did not just disappear from the story. What if, and it's a what if, what if she gets acquainted with Lydia? What if she begins to listen to Paul and his teaching while he's here in Philippi and becomes acquainted? What if Lydia takes pity on her, and Lydia is a prosperous woman and gives her a place to live, takes her into her household? What if?

See, if you were writing a story about the Church of Philippi, one of these fiction based on scriptural fact-type stories, you might take that particular approach to it. I've always said that if I ever retire, I might have the time to write such a story about the accounts here in Philippi and what happened and take a little bit of artistic license on that. But it's not unreasonable to assume something like that. Let's keep going because there's a point to this.

Acts 16:20-21 “They brought him before the magistrates. They said, ‘These men being Jews exceedingly trouble our city. And they teach customs, which are not lawful for us being Romans to receive or to observe.’”

That's a direct comment upon the gospel because the gospels we're going to see in Thessalonica when Paul goes down there, is a message that turns the world upside down. And it was designed to turn the world of the Romans upside down because Christ is king, not Caesar. And we'll see that more direct in the next chapter, but this has also got to be about what they're saying.

Acts 16:22 “And so the multitude rose up together against them. The magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods.”

There's this great tumult that erupts in the likely, right in the agora. And there would've been a place at the end of Agora, the archeological work there shows this location where, let's say, the court would've been. And so there would've been a lot of other people there. And so they're upset. They get agitated, kind of like they did down in Lystra. And they commanded them to be beaten with rods.

Acts 16:23 “When they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely.”

This is Paul and Silas. Now, this is a unique situation. Paul is beaten, he's a Roman citizen. You don't do that. And we're going to see that he'll claim his Roman citizenship later, but he didn't do it in this moment. Why? We don't know. It may have been that events happened so quickly that they couldn't do it. It may be that Paul did not consciously want to call out his Roman citizenship, which would've stopped the beating because you could not do that without a trial. And he may have wanted, in a sense to, because his others couldn't have done that, and the other members that would've been with him, probably caught up in this. And he may have wanted to be in solidarity with his own fellow travelers and other members there. That's one possibility. One commentator thinks that maybe he just didn't have his passport with him, his proof of citizenship. And in the Roman world, there was a proof of citizenship that you could carry to show that because that was a passport to good thing, to have that Roman citizenship. You'll see that later in the book of Acts. But he's thrown into prison and a jailer is to keep them securely. So, now Paul and Silas are in prison.

Acts 16:24 “And he puts them into the inner prison, and fastened their feet in the stocks.”

So they don't go in the outer prison. They go beyond that into the deepest part of it. And they're put in chains, blood coming out, beaten, sore. Are they embarrassed? I don't think Paul would've been the type to be embarrassed, but they were hurting. And now they're thrown in. And I don't think they were given a Swanson's TV dinner along with that, or whatever else. They probably didn't get anything. And here they're in prison verse 25.

Acts 16:25 “But at midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God.”

What do you do when you're upset, discouraged, under stress? You know a good thing to do? Sing the hymns. Sing the... What's your favorite hymn? There was a time I was kind of under a lot of stress and, “Oh, how love I thy law.” I would sing and that picked me up. Others can do the same for you.

Paul and Silas sang psalms and hymns to God, right out of the psalms, just like we do with our own hymnal. The prisoners were listening to them. So, instead of blaming God, Paul and Silas praised God, prayer and singing, to keep their spirits up, very powerful elements that are at work here.

Acts 16:26-27 “Suddenly, there was a great earthquake so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately, all the doors were open and everyone's chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, waking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself.”

So, here's a dramatic scene. Again, Peter was released from his jail that one night in Jerusalem by an angel. Here, it didn't matter how far they threw Paul and Silas into the prison. God can go wherever. In this case, he had a little earthquake there, which may or may not have been noticed by everybody else in the city. It could have been so localized in the area of the prison, or it could have been felt by the entire city. It shook the foundations where they were. And the doors came open, the jailer awakes and he comes and he's supposing, it says, that the prisoners had fled. He drew his sword and was about to kill himself when Paul said…

Acts 16:28-30 “‘Do yourself no harm for we are all here.’ He ran in with a light, fell down, trembling before Paul and Silas, and he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’”

Which tells you that he knew about the message of Paul. Maybe he had listened to him in the marketplace. Now, this jailer, very likely, was a retired Roman soldier, some speculate, and it's a sound plausible speculation. He would've been an Army veteran and he had the ability, he had a franchise on the prisons. Now, prisons are not nice places then and now. In my ministry, I've been into a lot of prisons to visit people who are already there, not that I've ever been thrown in prison or anything like that.

You know, the Indiana Women's prison in downtown Indianapolis, I made a lot of visits there over the years and other prisons in Indiana to visit with people who had written in for a request. Sometimes we had members there. I did one prison baptism. Remind me at another class at another time, I will tell you about that prison baptism that we did, it's a hoot. That was a fun day. But, you know, going into a prison yourself, they treat you like a prisoner going in, the way you have to be, you know, treated, frisked, and everything else. And it's an experience. It was even worse in the time of Rome.

Let me make a comment about this prisoner or the jailer who was about to kill himself. It says, “He drew his sword.” There's something behind this that you have to understand. Number one, several things. Number one, in the Roman world, if you had charge of a prisoner and you lost him, they escaped, you were killed. You would be killed. All right? Probably your head lopped off, which is what they did with Roman citizens.

They crucified Christ and outlaws and non-Romans. They didn't do that to Roman citizens. They would've cut their head off. But to save your honor, if you knew that you were headed for that, you could take your sword and you could fall on it and run it through yourself. That's where you get the phrase, “To fall on your sword.” You admit you own the problem, you take responsibility. This man was doing... He knew that he would've been killed. And to him, this was the honorable way to end his life. Strange to our ears, but this was a feature of the Roman system. Here's what's important. You were a Roman and for you, how you died was more important or as important, and in some cases, more important, than how you lived, how you died. A senator who may have fallen afoul of the Caesar was given the opportunity to run a sword through himself, so he wouldn't be beheaded and he'd take it or drug through the streets by a mob and his dead body thrown into the Tiber River. It was honorable for him to kill himself. And that's what this jailer is doing.

Now, take that, but we're going to a little diversion here. The story of Jesus at His death, you remember the Roman soldier that looked at Him when all the events happened, and he saw this, and he says, “This indeed was the Son of God?” It was a Roman soldier who said that. And he was saying it to a man that was hanging on a cross bloodied with all the other thieves, the most ignominious death in Rome that they could administer. And this Roman soldier said, “Indeed, this was the Son of God.” He was giving Christ the highest compliment he could give Him, hanging there treated like a criminal because no Romans, no self-respecting Roman, would've wanted to be subjected to the death by crucifixion. And for him to say that, and for it to be recorded in the gospels, is telling us something. But you understand the depth of his admiration for Jesus. When you understand the system of Roman honor that for a Roman, it was more important how you died than how you lived. Christ lived a perfect life. That's more important. His death is important, too, but He lived a sinless life to become the lamb of God and how we live is important. And so understanding that in the Roman system helps you to appreciate something that was said even at the death of Christ.

Acts 16:28-33 “Well, Paul calls out and he says, ‘Do yourself no harm. We're all here.’ He called for a light, ran in, and fell down, trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and he said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be saved, you and your household.’ And so they spoke the Word of the Lord to him. They taught him a period of time there, all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, washed their stripes, and immediately he, the jailer, and all his family were baptized.”

So, here's the third remember. It's a jailer and his family. He's quite a bit different from the diviner, if she was a member, and he's certainly different from Lydia, who was an upper-class businesswoman. These people would've never found themselves in the same social gathering in Philippi. But if, again, she is one, but just take even the jailer and Lydia. Now, they find themselves sitting in Church together, coming from two different worlds. Think about that here for a moment here.

Acts 16:34-38 “When they had brought them into his house, he set food before them. And he rejoiced having believed in God with all of his household. And when it was day, the magistrate sent the officer saying, ‘Let these men go.’ So, the keeper of the prison reported these words to Paul saying, ‘The magistrates have said to let you go. Depart, go in peace.’ But Paul said ‘They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed. Let them come themselves and get us out.’ And the soldiers told these words to the magistrates, took it back. And they were afraid when they heard they were Romans.”

Now they realize, “Uh-oh, we're in trouble. We have beaten Romans.” They came hat in hand, pleaded with them, brought them out, and said, “Will you guys do us all a favor and just depart from the city?”

Acts 16:40 “So, they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia, Paul and Silas. And when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and they departed.”

They move on down the road. We'll pick that up in Chapter 17. But one final comment to make here, and that is, this is the beginning of the Church in Philippi. This is going to be a very favored Church for Paul. When you read the letter to the Philippians, he says, “Nobody else communicated with me when I left Macedonia, but you. You gave me money.” And he speaks positively through the four chapters of the book of Philippians. It's a very positive, encouraging letter written from jail to this one Church with whom he had a very close relationship. And here we see the foundation of it in this chapter. And if you look at the two or possibly three types of people who we could speculate make up the foundation of that Church, people from different walks of life. That's what the Church is. That's what the Church is, people drawn by God from different walks of life into a spiritual fellowship. A gentile, a gentile, a gentile, but from different strata even of the gentile society.

Now, there's neither male nor female, neither Jew nor gentile in the Church and in the body of Christ. And when that is understood that the depth of every congregation and every one of us, you have the makings for a beginning of a Church like we read about here and in the letter to the Philippians, the Church of Philippi, that is a dynamic, spirit-led Church composed of people from different backgrounds, different ideas, different experiences, but God's spirit draws them all together. So, think about that and appreciate what is happening here. And with that, you see the beginning of a significant congregation that we are exposed to in the book of Acts and into the New Testament.


  • Larry and Rita Wilson
    Mr McNeely, THANK YOU so much for these wonderful lessons on Acts. The history that you weave into the story is so very interesting and make the book of Acts come alive. I hope and pray that other books will be brought to life during next year's classes. Again, Thanks Rita Wilson A 50 year member this year.
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