Acts 16 Commentary

 

 

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Acts 15:41

Strengthening () (episterizo from epí = intensifies + sterízo = strengthen, support) means literally to place firmly upon.

Acts 14:21 And after they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God."

Acts 15:32 And Judas and Si1las, also being prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message. (Second Missionary Journey)

Acts 18:23 And having spent some time there, he departed and passed successively through the Galatian region and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples. (Third Missionary Journey)
 

Acts 16
COMMENTARY

Acts 16:1

The first missionary journey had been about five years before the events of this chapter and Paul was eager to follow up the work of the Lord among these churches founded five years before.

In Derbe Paul had great success on his first missionary journey (Acts 14:20-21).

In Lystra, a crowd had tried to honor Paul and Barnabas as pagan gods on the first missionary journey (Acts 14:8-20) and then they stoned him (Acts 14:19)!
 

Certain disciple - Timothy was probably a convert of Paul's from his previous missionary trip to Derbe and Lystra (1Ti 1:2 "to Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord."). His mother and grandmother had trained him well in the Jewish Scriptures (see notes 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15), and evidently all three had accepted Christ. Timothy was no doubt aware of Paul's miraculous restoration after his stoning (Acts 14:20 "But while the disciples stood around him, he arose and entered the city. And the next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe."), and was ready and willing to go with Paul when asked. Since his father was a Greek (Christian or not is not known), he had never been circumcised, and Paul deemed it expedient though not required to have this done before taking him into the synagogues, to avoid giving unnecessary offense to the Jews.

Disciple (mathetes from manthano = intentional learning by inquiry and observation) is a person who learns from another by instruction, whether formal or informal. A disciple is an adherent who accepts instruction given to him and makes it his rule of conduct.

A believer (pistos
from peítho = to persuade) is something or someone who is worthy of faith or keeps promises and is applied to God, humans, His Word, etc

Vincent gives a nice summary (expanded in the discussion that follows) of the meaning of pistos, faithful, writing that it is used

(1), of one who shows Himself faithful in the discharge of a duty or the administration of a trust (Mt 24:45). Hence, trustworthy (see note 2 Ti 2:2). Of things that can be relied upon (see note 2 Ti 2:11).

(2) Confiding; trusting; a believer (Gal 3:9; Acts 16:1; 2Cor 6:15; 1Ti 5:16)" (Word Studies in the New Testament)

Webster says that Faithful means firm in adherence to whatever one owes allegiance and implies unswerving adherence to a person or thing or to the oath or promise by which a tie was contracted.

Pistos is used in two senses in the NT

1) An active meaning = trusting or believing

This is the less frequent usage. This sense speaks of a sinner exercising faith in the Lord Jesus. In the first NT use in this sense, Jesus "said to Thomas,

Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing. (Jn 20:27)

Paul instructs Timothy to

let those who have believers (pistos) as their masters not be disrespectful to them because they are brethren, but let them serve them all the more, because those who partake of the benefit are believers (pistos) and beloved. Teach and preach these principles. (1Ti 6:2)

When pistos is used in this active sense to refer to the faith which a lost sinner must place in the Lord Jesus in order to be saved, it includes the following ideas -- the act of considering the Lord Jesus worthy of trust as to His character and motives, the act of placing confidence in His ability to do just what He says He will do, the act of entrusting the salvation of his soul into the hands of the Lord Jesus, the act of committing the work of saving his soul to the care of the Lord. This means a definite taking of one’s self out of one’s own keeping and entrusting one’s self into the keeping of the Lord Jesus. Thus Paul says

So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer (pistos). (Gal 3:9)

Luke records that Paul

came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. (Acts 16:1)

Note also that with regard to believers, they are spoken of sometimes in the Active sense (as believers) and sometimes in the Passive (as faithful).

The New Testament concept of faith includes three main elements, mutually connected and requisite, though according to circumstances sometimes one and sometimes another may be more prominent

(1) a fully convinced acknowledgement of the revelation of grace;

(2) a self-surrendering fellowship (adhesion) and

(3) a fully assured and unswerving trust (and with this at the same time hope) in the God of salvation or in Christ. (Modified from Cremer)

Acts 16:2

Well spoken of (matureo) refers to a human declaration of ascertainable facts based on firsthand knowledge or experience and in the present context refers to a good report or having a good reputation.

This verb is used of Jesus in Luke...

And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, "Is this not Joseph's son?" (Luke 4:22)

It is also used of those who would lead in the church...

But select from among you, brethren, seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. (Acts 6:3)

Acts 16:3

Circumcised him - (see study of noun circumcision) The Jerusalem council had declared that circumcision was not necessary for salvation or for acceptance into the Christian church (See Acts 15 where Pharisees felt circumcision was necessary but the council concluded it was not), but because of Timothy's Jewish background it seemed expedient in his case in order to enlarge his local usefulness even as Paul declared in his letter to Corinth...

To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. And I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may become a fellow partaker of it. (1Cor 9:22-23)

In Acts 15, the Jerusalem council had declared that circumcision was not necessary for salvation (Acts 15:19), but because of Timothy's part-Jewish background Paul felt it was expedient in order to enlarge his usefulness in witnessing.

Nowhere does Luke state that Paul circumcised Timothy in order that he be saved, but simply because of the Jews who were in those parts.  It is a wise spiritual leader who knows how and when to apply the principles of the Word of God, when to stand firm and when to yield.

In the case of Gentile Titus, Paul insisted that he not be circumcised because the Judaizers insisted on circumcision as necessary for salvation, a false doctrine to which Paul would not acquiesce. Paul writes...

But not even Titus who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. But it was because of the false brethren who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you. (Galatians 2:3-5).

John MacArthur explains that...

Circumcision was the sine qua non of Judaism. Had Timothy not been circumcised, the Jews would have assumed he was renouncing his Jewish heritage and choosing to live as a Gentile. Paul's circumcision of Timothy had nothing to do with salvation; he did it for expediency's sake, to avoid placing an unnecessary stumbling block in the way of Jewish evangelism. Timothys circumcision granted him full access to the synagogues he would visit with Paul and Silas...From Paul's actions concerning his two companions an important principle becomes evident. Missionaries must be sensitive to the unique characteristics of the cultures in which they work. As Paul did in circumcising Timothy, they should avoid giving any unnecessary offense. But like Paul in refusing to circumcise Titus, they must not compromise any of the timeless truths of Scripture. (MacArthur, J: Acts 1-12;  Acts 13-28 Moody Press or Logos)

Bruce adds that...

By Jewish law Timothy was a Jew, because he was the son of Jewish mother, but because he was uncircumcised he was technically an apostate Jew. If Paul wished to maintain his links with the synagogue, he could not be seen to countenance apostasy. (Bruce)

Acts 16:4

Delivering the decrees - What decrees? The decrees which had been drawn up by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem which can be summarized (1) that salvation is by faith alone (God cleansed the Gentiles "hearts by faith." Acts 15:9) and does require circumcision or law-keeping, (2) that sexual immorality was forbidden for all believers for all time and (3) that meats offered to idols, from animals that had been strangled, and blood were all forbidden as food, not as matters essential to salvation, but to facilitate fellowship between Jewish and Gentile believers. Some of these instructions were revised 1 Cor. 8-10; 1 Ti 4:4, 5).

Acts 16:5

The churches (ekklesia from ek = out + kaleo = call) is literally the "called-out ones". Greeks used ekklesia for an assembly of citizens "called out" to transact city business. The church is not an organization but a living organism, Christ's body, composed of individual members (believers) joined together and in and through which Christ, the Head works, carries out His purposes and lives. These churches were composed of men and women who had received and believed the gospel Paul and Barnabas had proclaimed on the First Missionary Journey.

Strengthened (stereoo from stereos = solid, stable. Stereoo is used 3 times in the NT all in Acts ( Acts 3:7, 3:16, 16:5) means literally to make strong, stable, firm and figuratively to solidify, confirm or establish in the faith (cf see note 1Thessalonians 3:2 - sterizo)

The faith speaking of the Christian profession, the faith professed.

Increasing
(4052) (perisseuo from perissós = abundant) means  caused to superabound, to overflow, to be in affluence, to excel or to be in abundance with the implication of being considerably more than what would be expected.

Perisseuo carries the idea of exceeding the requirements, of overflowing or overdoing. It means to exceed a fixed number of measure, to be left over and above a certain number or measure. It means to have or to be more than enough, to be extremely rich or abundant. To exceed or remain over (as used in loaves left over after feeding the 5000 [Mt 14:20]! When Jesus supplies there is more than enough so that some is even left over! How quick we are to forget this basic principle!) The idea is to overflow like a river out of its banks!

Perisseuo is used 3 times in Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians and in two instances is translated "excel" (see notes ) referring not so much to growth in numbers but in their walk of faith (see notes 1Thessalonians 3:12;  4:1,  4:10)

Number (arithmos) The result was fruit from the witness of the believers so that the churches increased in number daily. We see a similar principle in Acts 2...

(The church was) praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:47).

Principle - strong (Biblically sound) churches will naturally increase in number daily, without relying on carnal, seeker oriented or manipulative ways. Sound expository preaching that matures believers in solid food (see note Hebrews 5:14) will build a strong church and God will add His people to an edifying, equipping body of believers.

Acts 16:6

Forbidden (Hindered, prevented) (2967) (koluo from kólos = docked, lopped, clipped, kolazo = curtail) means to cut off, to cut short, to weaken and generally to hinder, to prevent, to check, to restrain or to forbid by word or act. The idea is to cause something not to happen. To hinder means to make slow or difficult the progress of something by interfering in some way with the activity or progress thereof. In short koluo means to  make it difficult for someone to do something or for something to happen.

At times the Spirit says no so He can lead us to a greater ministry for Jesus. How He forbade Paul, Silas and Timothy is not specifically stated.

In Asia - Asia was an important region and there would later be churches in such cities as Ephesus, Smyrna, Philadelphia, Laodicea, Colossae, Sardis, Pergamum, and Thyatira but for now Paul was forbidden to speak there.

F B Meyer writes

Each believer has an appointed place in the great army of God. It is indicated by the voice of God, and by the circumstances of our life; and it should be jealously retained. Repeatedly the Apostle bade his converts abide in the calling wherein they were called. Yours may be towards the bleak north of difficulty, or the warm south of privilege — in the home, the country parish, or the difficult foreign post. But, on the whole, you should stay where you are; unless the Captain of our salvation moves you by some unmistakable indication of his will. The apostle Paul ever lived in such dependence on the Holy Spirit for guidance, and for the unfolding of the Divine purpose, that from some apparently trivial circumstance he would “gather” the movements of the pillar of cloud by day, and of fire by night. And interval there was none between his apprehension of the Divine purpose and his endeavor to strike his tent and follow wherever it might lead (Acts 16:6–7). (Meyer, F. B. Our Daily Homily)

Acts 16:7

The Spirit of Jesus did not permit them - Paul, beautifully responsive to the Holy Spirit, is willing to lay down his will and plans for the direction that the Holy Spirit brings. Paul is being guided by hindrance. The Holy Spirit guides as much by the closing of doors as He does by the opening of doors.

Acts 16:6-7 both clearly demonstrate the superintendence and guidance of the Holy Spirit in missionary strategy.

Charles Ryrie writes that...

Asia needed the Gospel, but this was not God's time. Need did not constitute their call. They had just come from the east; they had been forbidden to go south or north, but they did not presume that the Lord was leading them to the west --they waited His specific directions. Logic alone is not the basis for a call.

Discerning God's Will - move ahead and allow Him to close doors until the right opportunity presents itself.

The Lord's calling may become evident in different ways. One key principle is indicated here in the calling of Paul to Macedonia in Greece. Paul was already active, trying to preach in the province of Asia, then in Bithynia. He was not waiting idly at home, hoping to receive a call. The Holy Spirit in some very clear way closed the first two doors, but then opened another by this special vision. It is sobering to think that if Paul had not been redirected to Philippi and Greece, he might never have gone into Europe and Christianity might have remained primarily an Asian religion. But God had other purposes.

MacDonald summarizes how the early believers discerned the will of God and His guidance writing...

1. Through the Scriptures.

2. Through visions and prophecies.

3. Through circumstances.

4. Through the advice and initiative of other Christians.

5. Through direct communication, possibly in an inward, subjective manner.  (MacDonald, W & Farstad, A. Believer's Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson or Logos)

George Muller's (see bio)  thoughts on finding the will of God...

1. Surrender your own will

I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter. Nine-tenths of the trouble with people generally is just here. Nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the Lord's will, whatever it may be. When one is truly in this state it is usually but a little way to the knowledge of what His will is.

2. Do not depend on feelings.

Having done this, I do not leave the result to feeling or simple impression. If so, I make myself liable to great elusions.

3. Seek, the Spirit's will through God's Word.

I seek the will of the Spirit of God through, or in connection with, the Word of God. The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusion also. If the Holy Ghost guides us at all, He will do it according to the Scriptures and never contrary to them.

4. Note providential circumstances.

Next I take into account providential circumstances. These often plainly indicate God's will in connection with His Word and Spirit.

5. Pray.

I ask God in prayer to reveal His will to me aright.

6. Wait.

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F B Meyer - THE GUIDANCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT Acts 16:7-10.

THE SPIRIT of Jesus often shuts doors in the long corridors of life. We pass along, trying one after another, but find that they are all locked, in order that we may enter the one that He has opened for us (Rev 3:7-8). Sometimes in following the Spirit's guidance we seem to come to a blank wall. The little missionary band found themselves facing the sea. They had not contemplated crossing to Europe, but there seemed no other course open. They walked to and fro on the sea-wall or landing-stage, looking over the restless waves, and noticing the strange costumes of sailors and travellers who had gathered in the thriving sea-port, which bore the name famous to all the world for the Siege of Troy.

It was with such thoughts in his heart that St. Paul slept that night in his humble lodging, and in his dreams, a man from Macedonia, like one he had seen on the quay, stood and beckoned to him (Acts 16:10, R.V.).

Where it is possible for the judgment to arrive at a right conclusion, on the suggestions that may be supplied by the Divine Spirit, we are left to think out the problems of our career. Within your reach are the materials needed for formulating a correct judgment; use them, balance the pros and cons, and looking up to God to prevent you from making a mistake, act. When once you have come to a decision, in faith and prayer, go forward, not doubting or looking back.

A small door may lead to a vast opportunity. St. Paul might have been discouraged by his reception in Europe. He looked for the man whom he had seen in the vision, but the only trace they could find of the worship of God was the gathering together of a few women. How startled they must have been by the sudden appearance of these missionaries, but a mighty work for God began in the life of at least one of them "whose heart the Lord opened." Let us not despise the smallest opening, for we can never tell into what a wide place it may conduct us.

PRAYER - O God, since we know not what a day may bring forth, but only that the hour for serving Thee is always present, may we wake to the instant claims of Thy holy Will; not waiting for to-morrow, but yielding today. Consecrate with Thy presence the way our feet may go; and the humblest work will shine, and the roughest places be made plain. AMEN. (Our Daily Walk)

F. B. Meyer in his book Paul A Servant of Jesus Christ writes...

It is interesting to study the method of his guidance as it was extended towards these early heralds of the Cross. It consisted largely in prohibitions, when they attempted to take another course than the right. When they would turn to the left, to Asia, He stayed them; and when they sought to turn to the right, to Bithynia, again He stayed them. He shut all the doors along their route, and bolted them; so that they had no alternative but to go straight forward. In the absence of any prohibition, they were left to gather that they were treading the prepared path for which they had been created in Christ Jesus.

Whenever you are doubtful as to your course, submit your judgment absolutely to the Spirit of God, and ask Him to shut against you every door but the right one. Say, "Blessed Spirit, I cast on Thee the entire responsibility of closing against my steps any and every course which is not of God. Let me hear thy voice behind me whenever I turn to the right hand or the left. Put thine arrest on me. Do not suffer me."

In the meanwhile, continue along the path which you have been already treading. It lies in front of you; pursue it. Abide in the calling in which you were called. Keep on as you are, unless you are clearly told to do something else. Expect to have as clear a door out as you had in; and if there is no indication to the contrary, consider the absence of indication to be the indication of God's will that you are on his track.

The Spirit of Jesus waits to be to you, O pilgrim, what He was to Paul. Only be careful to obey his least prohibitions, and where, after believing prayer, there are no apparent hindrances, believe that you are on the way everlasting, and go forward with enlarged heart. "Teach me to do thy will, for Thou art my God: thy Spirit is good, lead me into the land of uprightness." Do not be surprised if the answer comes in closed doors. But when doors are shut right and left, an open road is sure to lead to Troas. There Luke awaits, and visions will point the way, where vast opportunities stand open, and faithful friends are waiting.

Acts 16:9

Although the man of Macedonia represented all the culture, intelligence, religion, and achievements of Greek civilization, he was spiritually bankrupt. Here the Gospel turns to Europe. So after two "no's", then a "go".

Guzik writes that...

God still calls people to the mission field. Perhaps many today will encounter a "Macedonia man" who will call them out to the mission field. Would to God that those who hear a "Macedonian man" today will respond the way Paul and his team responded!

Help (997) (boetheo  from boé = a cry, exclamation + theo = to run) (Click for study on boetheo) means to run on hearing a cry, to give assistance. Boethéo means to succor (KJV says God "is able to succour them that are tempted" - see note Hebrews 2:18) which is a word you may not be too familiar with, but which means literally to run to or run to support hence, to help or relieve when in difficulty, want or distress; to assist and deliver from suffering; as, to succor a besieged city; to succor prisoners. (succor is derived from Latin succurrere = to run up, run to help, from sub- = up + currere to run).

The greatest help we can bring anyone is the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ! It is good for us to bring help (social, medical needs, etc) but without the life changing gospel of Christ, what help of eternal value have you given them?

George MacDonald wrote that...

Nothing makes a man strong like a call for help

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Our Daily Bread - THE MAN FROM MACEDONIA - Acts 16:9

When the apostle Paul saw in a vision the man from Macedonia, it changed the history of the world. Heeding the man's plea to "come over to Macedonia," Paul altered his plans. It was in Macedonia he led Lydia to the Lord, and it was there that the evangelization of the Western world began.

All Christians should be on the lookout for "the man from Macedonia." That man or woman may be well-educated, or have no education at all. He may drive an expensive car, or he may be poor and eke out a living ransacking garbage cans. He may live next door, down the street, or across the sea. He may speak a different language. But wherever you find him, and whatever his situation, he has one pressing need -- to know Jesus Christ as his Savior.

Sometimes that need is expressed as a cry for help. At other times it is veiled in bitter hostility to the Savior and the gospel. Many times his sins and errors and crimes announce this desperate condition. Yet despite the thousand different ways he voices that need, the plea is always the same: "Come over...and help us" (Acts 16:9).

Sooner or later someone will call out to you for help. Will you be quick to answer?-- Haddon W. Robinson

O stir me, O stir me, Lord, till all my heart
Is filled with compassion for those who are lost,
Until Your compelling love drives me to pray
And follow Your leading, not counting the cost.-- Anon

If you've accepted Christ's invitation to come,
have you obeyed his commission to go?

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Acts 16:10

The first use here of we in the narrative, instead of "they," seems to indicate that Luke, the author of the book of Acts, joined the missionary party at Troas.  Then after Paul and Silas and Timothy left Philippi, Luke changed the pronoun from we to they in Acts 17:1, which suggests that he remained behind in Philippi to watch over the infant church after Paul left.

God wanted Paul and his team to go to Troas and pick up a doctor named Luke. If God wouldn't have said "no" to Paul two times, we might not have a gospel and a Book of Acts written by Luke!

It was some six to seven years later when Luke  rejoined Paul...

But these had gone on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas. (Acts 20:5 )

Finally, in the third we section, Luke is with Paul has they sail for Italy ...

And when it was decided that we should sail for Italy, they proceeded to deliver Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan cohort named Julius. (Acts 27:1)

Concluding (sumbibazo from sun = union + bibazo = to force) means to cause to come together, to bring together, to join together. It is used more literally and in a physical sense in (see notes Ephesians 4:16, cf Colossians 2:2 "knit together").

How did the facts "come together" and allow them to arrive at a conclusion? Two "no's" plus one "vision" added up to a directive to preach the gospel (to "help" cf Acts 16:9)

A T Robertson adds that sumbibazo is...

A very striking word, present active participle of sumbibazo, old verb to make go together, to coalesce or knit together, to make this and that agree and so to conclude. Already in Acts 9:22 of Paul’s preaching. This word here gives a good illustration of the proper use of the reason in connection with revelation, to decide whether it is a revelation from God, to find out what it means for us, and to see that we obey the revelation when understood. God had called them to preach to the Macedonians. They had to go.

Acts 16:11

A straight course to Samothrace - This phrase is a   nautical term which means "sailing before the wind".
They anchored for a night at Samothrace.

From the continent of Asia, to the continent of Europe. From Troas to Neapolis, the port of Philippi was a distance of about 150 miles, and it took them two days to make the journey. Later, the trip in the opposite direction would take five days, apparently because of contrary winds, Luke recording...

And we sailed from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and came to them at Troas within five days; and there we stayed seven days. (Acts 20:6).

The wisdom and greatness of God's sovereign plan of salvation begins to unfold. In Paul's mind as he traveled through Asia and tried to enter Bithynia, he sought to reach a few of the cities in this region. On the other hand, God had a much bigger plan for He wanted Paul to reach a continent for Jesus Christ!

Neapolis some 120 miles from Troas was the seaport for Philippi which was located about 10 miles inland as one treks along the
Via Egnatia (picture of road upon which Paul probably entered Philippi). This paved road extended some 530 miles from Dyrrachium (Modern day Albania) on the Adriatic coast across Macedonia to Neapolis on the Aegean Sea, traversing through major metropolitan centers such as Thessalonica.

Acts 16:12

Roman colony was like a piece of Rome transplanted abroad so that those who held citizenship in a colony enjoyed the same rights they would have had if they had lived in Italy. Other colonies mentioned in Acts are Pisidian Antioch, Lystra, Troas, Ptolemais, and Corinth.

Wiersbe adds that...

Philippi was a Roman colony, which meant that it was a "Rome away from Rome." The emperor organized "colonies" by ordering Roman citizens, especially retired military people, to live in selected places so there would be strong pro-Roman cities in these strategic areas. Though living on foreign soil, the citizens were expected to be loyal to Rome, to obey the laws of Rome, and to give honor to the Roman emperor. In return, they were given certain political privileges, not the least of which was exemption from taxes. This was their reward for leaving their homes in Italy and relocating elsewhere. (Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor or Logos)

Acts 16:13

Sabbath - (sabbaton from shabath - H7676 = to cease from work, intermission) Jewish Sabbath was the 7th day of week and was kept originally by a total cessation from all labor as even the kindling of a fire, but apparently without any public solemnities except an addition to the daily sacrifice in the tabernacle and the changing of the shewbread (Ex 20:8, 31:13; Lv 24:8; Nu 15:32, 28:9). The custom of reading the Scriptures in public assemblies and synagogues appears to have been introduced after the exile (cf. Neh 8; Lu 4:16).

Christians are to do what the New Testament says. Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial, sacrificial part of the Old Testament law when He died on the cross (Hebrews 10). He told Peter that the dietary laws no longer applied to the church (Acts 10). True believers keep the moral part of God’s laws as they live by His Spirit (see notes
Romans 8).

The sabbath was a sign between the Lord and the nation of Israel—the sign of the Old Covenant (the Law)—that they might know He is the Lord Who sanctifies them, sets them apart. Israel was to observe the sabbath because it was holy, set apart, for them. The one who profaned the sabbath, did not treat it as holy, was put to death. The sabbath, the seventh day, was to be a day of complete rest. Israel was to keep it throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.

But after the captivity arose the school of the Pharisees, and by them the attractive character of the Sabbatical observances was destroyed. In place of the joy, they imposed upon the people the yoke of a scrupulous, slavish sabbatarianism which made the Sabbath an END instead of a MEANS, hampered the spirit of true worship, and laid greater stress upon a punctilious obedience to mere human regulations than upon God's commands in the Law. Some of the ridiculous prohibitions were as follows: walking in the grass on the Sabbath because its bruising effect would constitute a kind of threshing; wearing nailed shoes because they would be viewed as carrying a burden. It was against this perversion of the commandment that the Lord protested. He refused to sanction Pharisaical legalism and vigorously defended His Sabbath miracles.

Jesus kept the Sabbath in the highest sense of the term. He observed every jot and tittle of the Mosaic Law in the freedom of the spirit. He taught us that acts of necessity and mercy are to be performed always, even on the Sabbath, and worldly occupations are to be put as far as possible out of our thoughts. In the Christian church the first day of the week has been substituted for the last day as a day of worship and rest. This, however, is in commemoration of the resurrection of Christ.

We went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer - Paul normally went first to a local synagogue when he arrived in a new city, but apparently there was none in Philippi. Ten Jewish men who were heads of there household was required to constitute a synagogue, suggesting that Philippi must have had a small Jewish population.

The only religious activity on the weekly Sabbath was apparently the ladies' prayer meeting, so that was where Paul headed. This gathering became the nucleus of the first Christian church in Europe.

Wiersbe quips...

Paul had seen a man in the vision at Troas, but here he was ministering to a group of women!  'It is better that the words of the Law be burned than be delivered to a woman!" said the rabbis; but that was no longer Paul's philosophy. He had been obedient and the Lord had gone before to prepare the way.  (Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor or Logos)

Bruce adds that...

Had there been ten Jewish men, they would have sufficed to constitute a synagogue. No number of women would compensate for the absence of even one man necessary to make up the quorum of ten.

Acts 16:14

AND A CERTAIN WOMAN NAMED LYDIA: kai tis gune onomati Lydia: The first European Christian!

She may have been named after the land, though Lydia is a common female name. Lydia was itself a Macedonian colony. When Paul wrote the Philippians he did not mention Lydia who may have died meanwhile and who certainly was not Paul's wife.

FROM THE CITY OF THYATIRA A SELLER OF PURPLE FABRICS: porphuropolis poleos Thuateiron:

Thyatira (plural form like Philippi) was famous for its purple dyes as old as Homer (Iliad) and had a guild of dyers as inscriptions show. There was a great demand for purple fabric as it was used on the official toga at Rome and in Roman colonies.

A WORSHIPER OF GOD: sebomene (PMPFSN) ton theon:

Like Cornelius (Acts 10:2), she was a God-fearer or Gentile but was not a full Jewish proselyte. Nevertheless she openly worshiped with the Jews and clearly she was seeking truth.

WAS LISTENING: ekouen (3SIAI):

The imperfect tense pictures her as listening, really listening and she kept it up, listening to each of these new and strange preachers.

AND THE LORD OPENED HER HEART: es o kurios dienoixen (3SAAI) ten kardian:

The Lord thoroughly, totally opened her mind by dividing the mind was was previously closed and causing her to understand spiritual truths otherwise hidden to the natural mind. Lu 24:31, 45.

Repentance is a gift to undeserving sinners granted by a merciful, kind God [Ro 2:4 Acts 5:31 11:18]

This verse is clear proof of the sovereignty of God in salvation.

When Lydia heard the gospel, the Lord opened her heart and she believed--another example where divine election and human responsibility are naturally juxtaposed.

This is a work God must do in all who believe, because as Jesus said,

No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44).

TO RESPOND TO THE THINGS SPOKEN BY PAUL: prosechein (PAN) tois laloumenois (PPPNPD) hupo tou Paulou:

Respond is an interesting Greek picture - to continually hold her mind toward. She kept her mind centered on the things spoken by Paul whose words gripped her attention.

Spoken is not the word for official proclamation but here pictures a more personal conversation (rather than a sermon).

The Spirit of God used Paul as a vessel to win the heart of this woman to Christ. It is important to note that it was the Word which brought the sinner Lydia to the Savior Christ Jesus.

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. (John 5:24)

This event in which we see the power of God's word working in Lydia who believed is a beautiful illustration of 1Thessalonians 2:13; 2:14 (note).

An interesting observation is that here we see one solitary convert, a woman, already a seeker after God, and a native of the very area where they had been forbidden to preach! God's ways are so much higher than our ways. A new era had dawned for Europe and for women in the conversion of Lydia. PTL Who Alone can opened closed hearts.

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C H Spurgeon - Morning and Evening - In Lydia’s conversion there are many points of interest. It was brought about by providential circumstances. She was a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, but just at the right time for hearing Paul we find her at Philippi; providence, which is the handmaid of grace, led her to the right spot. Again, grace was preparing her soul for the blessing—grace preparing for grace. She did not know the Saviour, but as a Jewess (Ed note: most commentators feel she was not Jewish but was a Gentile seeker of God), she knew many truths which were excellent stepping-stones to a knowledge of Jesus. Her conversion took place in the use of the means. On the Sabbath she went when prayer was wont to be made, and there prayer was heard. Never neglect the means of grace; God may bless us when we are not in his house, but we have the greater reason to hope that he will when we are in communion with his saints.

Observe the words, “Whose heart the Lord opened.” She did not open her own heart. Her prayers did not do it; Paul did not do it. The Lord himself must open the heart, to receive the things which make for our peace. He alone can put the key into the hole of the door and open it, and get admittance for himself. He is the heart’s master as he is the heart’s maker.

The first outward evidence of the opened heart was obedience. As soon as Lydia had believed in Jesus, she was baptized. It is a sweet sign of a humble and broken heart, when the child of God is willing to obey a command which is not essential to his salvation, which is not forced upon him by a selfish fear of condemnation, but is a simple act of obedience and of communion with his Master.

The next evidence was love, manifesting itself in acts of grateful kindness to the apostles. Love to the saints has ever been a mark of the true convert. Those who do nothing for Christ or his church, give but sorry evidence of an “opened” heart. Lord, evermore give me an opened heart. (Morning and Evening - Evening Devotional, December 10)

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F B Meyer writes...Acts 16:14, 27 - A certain woman named Lydia…. The Keeper of the prison.

These are typical cases, put here in juxtaposition for the teaching and comfort of believers in every age. Each of them needed Christ, and each was brought into his true light; but each came in a different way. Lydia’s heart opened as a flower beneath the touch of the sun, so gradually and imperceptibly that it was impossible to say the precise moment of her new life. The jailer came to Christ suddenly, startlingly, amid the crash of an earthquake. The one was drawn by love; the other driven by fear. A distinguished missionary says, “The Lord awakened me with a kiss” — it was so that Lydia’s heart was won. Another tells us that the Lord sprang on him like a lion — it was thus with the jailer.

Lydia. — Do not always be looking out for signs and manifestations, for marked experiences. We do not notice the lines of longitude and latitude as we cross the ocean of life. Without knowing it, your character may be in the process of transfiguration. By insensible gradations the work of God may be proceeding in your heart. The tide is rising daily by tiny wavelets that appear to recede as fast as they advance. Do not measure progress by experiences; only be yielded to God, and let Him do his will.

The Jailer. — Do not undervalue the influence of fear. There are some natures that never will be awakened unless they are startled by being brought face to face with the consequences of sin. If men will not come by the highest motives, be thankful that they come by any. Remember it is not belief about Christ, about his death or resurrection, but trust in Him as a living Person, that saves from the power and penalty of sin. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.” He is a living Person. Trust Him now. (Meyer, F. B. Our Daily Homily).

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Acts 16:15

And her household - see similar descriptions of the household (John 4:53; Acts 11:14)

Lydia's household apparently consisted of her servants. There is no indication that she was either married or a widow.

Note two evidences of her conversion - She boldly identified herself with Christ by being baptized, and she insisted that the missionaries stay at her house. Clearly Lydia was not saved by her good works, but she was saved for good works (see note
Ephesians 2:10).

Acts 16:16

And it happened - More literally "And it came into being"

Wiersbe gives us a sage warning...

No sooner are lost people saved than Satan begins to hinder the work. In this case, he used a demonized girl who had made her masters wealthy by telling fortunes. (Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor or Logos)

Spirit of divination - is literally spirit of python.

Divination (puthon/python) in Greek mythology was the serpent that guarded the oracle of Delphi, lived at the foot of Mt. Parnassus, and was slain by Apollo. Later puthon/python came to designate a spirit of divination, then also of ventriloquists, who were believed to have such a spirit dwelling in their belly. About A.D. 50-100, Plutarch maintained that the term puthognes applied to ventriloquists, and earlier in the LXX those having demonic spirits were called ventriloquists (Lev. 19:31; 20:6, 27; including the witch of En Dor in 1 Sam. 28:7).

TDNT adds that...

Python/puthon is the name of the snake that guards the Delphic oracle, and it is also used from the early imperial period for a ventriloquist, through whom, as many think, a god is supposed to speak, and who is thus regarded as a soothsayer. How python comes to be equated with engastrimythos, the ventriloquist, is not certain. (Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W.  Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Eerdmans)

Acts 16:17

The Most High God - El Elyon, a name that connotes His sovereign control over all history. (See study El Elyon: Most High God - Sovereign Over All)

The continual harangue by the girl, referring to "the most high God," designed to produce ridicule and resentment against Paul, showed that her "spirit of divination" was actually a demonic spirit. Compare the experience of Jesus, whom they recognized as God, with such evil spirits (Mt 8:31,32 Mk 1:24,34).

Acts 16:18

Annoyed (diaponeo from dia = through or as intensifier + poneo = to labor from ponos = toil or pain) means literally to labor through, to work out with labor or to produce with labor. Figuratively, it means to feel burdened as the result of someone’s provocative activity, be greatly disturbed, or to be annoyed. To be grieved or to become wearied or grieved at the continuance of anything (Acts 4:2; 16:18). The slave girl with demonic spirit "wore Paul out".

Paul did not want either the Gospel or the name of God to be promoted by demons. Satan is a liar and will use truth one minute but in the next minute will speak a lie and the unsaved listener would not know the difference.

Jesus commanded the demons not to speak of Him...

The ability to cast out demons was a special ability of Christs apostles...

and to have authority to cast out the demons. (Mark 3:15).

Acts 16:19

But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone - They did not care for the girl but the money she brought in. This conflict between the gospel and money comes up repeatedly in Acts (see Acts 5:1-11, 8:18-24, 20:33-34).

In Ephesus, we see a similar conflict between Paul and the worshippers of the false idol Artemis, as the gospel had begun to negatively impact the sale of the lifeless shrines of Artemis. Luke records...

Acts 19:25-26 these he gathered together with the workmen of similar trades, and said, "Men, you know that our prosperity depends upon this business. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with hands are no gods at all.

Mark 5:16-17 And those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon possessed man, and all about the swine. And they began to entreat Him to depart from their region. (Comment: They did not care that the man was set free from the demon, but that their profit was gone.)

Hope (1680) (elpis) is used usually in Scripture to refer to an absolute certainty of future good (as the blessed hope of the Lord's sure return in Titus 2:13 - see note). However in this verse hope is used as it is by the secular world conveying the sense of "I hope so".

Profit (ergasia from ergázomai = to toil, work) refers here to their work in the sense of their business or trade (they "traded" in fortune telling) and in the sense of that which brings gain or income. (See this nuance in Acts 16:16, 19; Acts 19:24).

Seized (epilambanomai from epí = upon + lambáno = to take) means to make the motion of grasping or taking hold of something. To lay hold of or to seize upon anything with the hands, to take hold of or grasp, with focus upon the goal of motion seize for help, injury, attainment or any other purpose, catch, lay hold upon, take hold of.

Market place (agora) is the town-square where the people assembled in public. It can also refer to a market or thoroughfare or a broad street. Here it refers to a forum or a market place where things were exposed for sale and where assemblies and public trials were held (See similar use in Mk 7:4; Acts 16:19; 17:17)

Acts 16:20

Judaism was not a prohibited religion (the cult of the emperor being the official religion), but propagating it was regarded as a menace. Paul and Silas were regarded as Jews, since, at this time, the Romans considered Christianity to be a Jewish sect.

MacArthur adds this note...

Anti-Semitism was alive even then. The Emperor Claudius issued an order around that time expelling the Jews from Rome (Acts 18:2). This may explain why they apprehended only Paul and Silas, since Luke was a Gentile and Timothy half-Gentile. (MacArthur, J.: The MacArthur Study Bible Nashville: Word or Logos)

Acts 16:21

In the Roman Empire, there were two very different laws: one for citizens of the Roman Empire, and one for those who were not citizens. Roman citizens had specific civil rights which were zealously guarded. Non-citizens had no civil rights, and were subject to the whims of both the multitude and the magistrates.

Bruce comments that...

There was great indignation that Roman citizens should be molested by strolling peddlers of an outlandish religion. Such people had to be taught to know their proper place and not trouble their betters.

Acts 16:22

Rose up (sunephistemi from sún = together + ephistemi = stand upon, be at hand, stand before, by or over) means to join in an uprising or join in an attack. Here Luke adds the preposition katá which means against so the idea is that the crowd made an assault together against them. This same verb describes the assembly rises up against Moses also the servant of the Lord...

And they assembled together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, "You have gone far enough, for all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?" (Nu 16:3)

The chief magistrates tore their robes off them - Moved by the incited crowd and the false accusations, the magistrates acted rashly and did not investigate the matter fully as they should have. Their neglect later brought them embarrassment for it was imprison Roman citizens without a trial (and Paul was a Roman citizen).

Chief magistrates (strategos from stratos = an army + ágo = to lead) referred to the highest official in a Greco-Roman city. In other contexts strategos was used to describe a commander responsible for the temple in Jerusalem or captain of the temple (see Acts 4:1, 5:24). More generally it referred to the leader or commander of an army such as a general.

Every Roman colony had two of these men serving as judges. In this case, they did not uphold Roman justice: They did not investigate the charges, conduct a proper hearing, or give Paul and Silas the chance to defend themselves.

Tore off (perirrhegnumi from perí = about + rhegnumi = to break, tear) means literally to tear from around someone, as tearing off fetters or stripping off ones robe by tearing. This verb is used in the NT only of garments of Paul and Silas as the crowd tore off their clothes preparing them to be scourged. The Roman custom was to allow officers to tear off the clothes of criminals before being scourged.

Beaten with rods (rhabdizo from rhabdos = rod for scourging) means to beat with a rod or stick and in the NT is used only of Roman punishment by scourging. This punishment was referred to by the Latin term fustigatio and was distinguished from catigatio (a lashing) and verberatio (flogging with chains). As Paul records (see below) this punishment was inflicted on his body on three separate occasions although this is the only one the NT specifically records in detail.

It is interesting that in the Septuagint, rhabdizo is used of threshing wheat to remove the chaff from the grain...

So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. (see note Ruth 2:17)

Then the angel of the LORD came and sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press in order to save it from the Midianites. (see note
Judges 6:11)

The magistrates proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods - In Jewish legal tradition, there was a maximum number of blows that could be delivered when beating a person, but the Romans had no such limit. We can rest assured Paul and Silas were severely beaten.

Paul alluded to this (and possibly other similar events) as he defended his ministry to the saints at Corinth asking...

Are they (false apostles, deceitful workers who were disguising themselves as apostles of Christ) servants of Christ? (I speak as if insane) I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. (2 Corinthians 11:23-25)

Later in Acts Paul does in fact appeal to his Roman citizenship, once to avoid being scourged (Acts 22:25-29) and another time to force the officials to send him to Rome as he appealed to Caesar (Acts 25:11-12) Festus' suggestion that Paul appear in Jerusalem for trial (Acts 25:9) provoked his appeal to Caesar for he realized that the trial would not be impartial especially in Jerusalem, and that he would be in great danger if he was returned to the jurisdiction of the Sanhedrin. The right of appeal was one of the most ancient and cherished rights of a Roman citizen. And to whom ultimately did Paul appeal? To the infamous, nefarious Nero who was emperor at that time (A.D. 54-68)!

Acts 16:23

They threw them into prison - This event might at first glance seem to signal the end of Paul's ministry in Philippi, but in God's providence it would not be so but would lead to another conversion. God's ways are always higher than our ways. Dear believer, are you in a "dungeon" because of your witness? Take heart from the example of Paul and Silas and by the power of the Spirit, rejoice. And again I say rejoice in the Lord. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing and give thanks for all things (see notes 1Thess 5:16; 17; 18)

Paul alludes to these hindrances to sharing the gospel in his letter to the Thessalonians writing that...

after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition. (see note 1Thessalonians 2:2)

It is fascinating that here in Acts 16:23 we find the very one who had been throwing Christians into jail, now in jail himself. Luke records...

But Saul (later Paul) began ravaging the church, entering house after house; and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. (Acts 8:3)

Acts 16:24

Bruce commenting on the stocks writes that...

These stocks had more than two holes for legs, which could thus be forced apart in a such a way as to cause the utmost discomfort and cramping pain. (Bruce)

Stocks (xulon) means wood and in some contexts refers to a cross (Acts 5:30, 10:39, 13:29, 1Peter 2:24). In this context xulon describes an instrument that secured the feet (and sometimes the neck and hands) of a prisoner. Stocks were usually constructed of wood with holes to secure the feet. They could also be used as an instrument of torture by stretching the legs apart and causing the prisoner to sit in unnatural positions. The Romans often added chains along with the stocks. Stocks were much used in medieval and later times in the persecution of Christians.

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Our Daily Bread - "LED" INTO PRISON - In a vision, Paul saw a man of Macedonia who said, "Come over . . . and help us." Assured that the Lord Himself had thus called him to preach the Gospel in that area, he and Silas — and evidently Dr. Luke — set out at once for their new "mission field." But what a reception they received! The record tells us that the "multitude rose up together against them" and "beat them" and "thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks." If they would have reacted like many of us today, Paul would probably have complained, "Well, isn't this just fine: led by God into prison! Here we were obedient to the heavenly vision, and this is our reward!"

Was this Paul's attitude? I should say not! Listen to the story in Acts 16:25: "And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God." Singing in prison! Paul knew that "all things work together for good to them that love God." With the eye of faith he could see some future good, and in that confidence was happy even while enduring severe trial. When the Lord had accomplished His purpose, demonstrated His power, and saved the jailer and his family, then Paul and Silas were commanded to "depart and go in peace."

Sometimes we find ourselves in troubling situations as the re­sult of our service for the Lord. Doing that which we believe to be right and according to His will, we seem to end up in the "prison" of suffering, hardship, and loss, and are tempted to com­plain, "Lord, is this what I get for my faithfulness?" Then He comes and assures us that He "doeth all things well," and that Romans 8:28 is still in the Book! When all has been accom­plished, we shall be able to look back and clearly see His hand and purpose in it all. "Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator" (1 Pet. 4:19).

There's One who will journey beside me,
In weal, nor in woe, will forsake;
And this is my solace and comfort,
"He knoweth the way that I take!" —Anon.

Every lock of sorrow has a key of promise to fit it!

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Our Daily Bread - When Paul and Silas were imprisoned at Philippi and their backs were raw from beatings, they sang hymns (Acts 16:23-25). They chose the bright color of praise instead of the dark colors of depression, bitterness, and despair.

No matter what affliction or crisis we may face, we too can decide how we will respond. With the enablement of the Holy Spirit, we can refuse to paint our lives in the dull gray of grumbling and complaining. Instead, our chosen color can be the azure blue of contentment because God's help is always available. -- Vernon C. Grounds

He gives me joy in place of sorrow;
He gives me love that casts out fear;
He gives me sunshine for my shadow,
And "beauty for ashes" here. -- Crabbe

God chooses what we go through;
we choose how we go through it.

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One of the most important times to sing praise to God is when we feel imprisoned by the circumstances of life. Like the experience of Paul and Silas in the Roman prison, it is often uncanny how prayer and praise open the doors of our lives to new dimensions of opportunity and spiritual power.

Acts 16:25

Praying and singing - Beloved if I were unjustly treated like Paul and Silas, I am afraid that too often my first reaction would be to murmur or dispute the charges (see notes Philippians 2:14; 2:15). However instead of complaining to God or even calling on Him to avenge their unjust treatment (see notes Romans 12:17; 18;19;
20; 21; 1Thessalonians 5:15, 1 Peter 3:9) Paul and Silas prayed and praised God  (see notes 1Thess 5:16; 17; 18)

Paul explains how we can have a song in our heart writing to the saints in Colossae...

Let the word of Christ richly dwell (continually) within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (see note Colossians 3:16)

And to the saints at Ephesus he wrote...

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be (continually) filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father (see notes Ephesians 5:18; 19; 20)

How could they have done what is not natural? Clearly they were men so filled with and controlled by the Spirit that He strengthened their inner man to respond not naturally but supernaturally. When you are in pain, the midnight hour is not the easiest time for worship and praise, but we must remember the truth of what God says about Himself...

God gives songs in the night, Elihu declaring...

But no one says, 'Where is God my Maker, Who gives songs in the night" (Job 35:10)

The psalmist whose soul is like a deer panting for the water brooks (Ps 42:1 - Spurgeon note) testifies that...

The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime and His song will be with me in the night, a prayer to the God of my life. (Ps 42:8 - Spurgeon note).

George Müller once said that...

Trials are food for faith to feed on.

Spurgeon quipped...

Any fool can sing in the day. It is easy to sing when we can read the notes by daylight; but the skillful singer is he who can sing when there is not a ray of light to read by.... Songs in the night come only from God; they are not in the power of men." (Amen!)

G Campbell Morgan adds that...

Any man can sing when the prison doors are open, and he is set free. The Christian soul sings in prison. I think that Paul would probably have sung a solo had I been Silas: but I nevertheless see the glory and grandeur of the Spirit that rises superior to all the things of difficulty and limitation.

Dear downcast believer, please remember that the Word of God teaches that prayer and praise are powerful weapons (Read and be encouraged by the illustration of this principle in 2 Chr 20:1-22)

Singing (humneo from húmnos = hymn; English = hymn) means to celebrate or praise with a hymn.

Humnos (hymnos) is a song or hymn in honor of God. The word humnos also came to mean praise to men. Whereas a psalm is the story of man's deliverance or a commemoration of mercies received, a hymn is a magnificat, a declaration of how great someone or something is (Lu 1:46-55, 67-79; Acts 4:24; 16:25). A hymn is a direct address of praise and glory to God. According to Augustine a hymn has three characteristics: It must be sung; it must be praise; it must be to God. The word "hymn" nowhere occurs in the writings of the apostolic fathers because it was used as a praise to heathen deities and thus the early Christians instinctively shrank from it.

The prisoners and the guards undoubtedly heard much about Christ and His saving gospel through the hymns of Paul and Silas, as well as through their testimony of rejoicing in the midst of suffering.

John Stott quips that...

Instead of cursing men, they blessed God.

During Paul's second missionary journey, the apostle and his compatriot, Silas, found their ministry causing a riot, and they felt the brunt of it. Their clothes were torn from them, and they were beaten and thrown into prison. Stress? Yes! Anxiety? Every legitimate reason for it! How did Paul and Silas handle it? What kept them from breaking? Acts 16:25 gives us the answer, "But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God." They turned their focus from the present pressures of their lives to the throne of their sovereign Abba Father -- and the tension was relieved.

When sheep become tense, edgy, and restless, the shepherd will quietly move through the flock, and his very presence will release the tension of the sheep and quiet their anxieties. Their shepherd is there! And this is what happens when we begin to worship our God and our Lord in song. We move into a consciousness of His presence, and the tension begins to unravel, the tautness of the pressure eases, anxieties become meaningless, for we are reminded that He is there -- our Jehovah Shamah, our all-sufficient sovereign God. He inhabits the praises of His people.

Songs that stir your soul to worship…songs that bring tears of gratitude to your eyes…spiritual songs and making melody in your heart is God's way of delivering you from the stresses of the world.

Acts 16:26

Suddenly there came a great earthquake - This was no seismological quirk but a genuine miracle, for earthquakes don't cause fetters to drop off of hands and feet! Further there is no evidence that the building itself was demolished. So a most unusual earthquake!

Matthew records a similar even more magnificent opening caused by an earthquake...

And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. 3 And his appearance was like lightning, and his garment as white as snow; 4 and the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. 5 And the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. 6 "He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.7 "And go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going before you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you." (Mt 28:2-7)

John records another notable earthquake (yet future) which marks the midpoint of Daniel's Seventieth Week of Seven Years and the inception of the horrible time for earth called the Great Tribulation...

And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; and seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. 14 The second woe is past; behold, the third woe is coming quickly. 15 And the seventh angel sounded; and there arose loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever." (see notes Revelation 11:13; 11:14; 11:15)

Everyone's chains were unfastened - compare to similar supernatural releases from jail in Acts...

But an angel of the Lord during the night opened the gates of the prison, and taking them (Peter and the other apostles) out... (Acts 5:19)

And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared, and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter's side and roused him, saying, "Get up quickly." And his chains fell off his hands. (Acts 12:7)

Acts 16:27

The jailer was about to kill himself - Roman law stated that if a guard lost a prisoner, he was given the same punishment the prisoner would have received. It follows that the jailer knew that there were some men in the prison who had committed capital crimes and were being held for execution. The jailer would rather commit suicide than face shame and execution.

Luke records a similar fate to the guards who had "allowed" Peter to go free from jail...

And when Herod had searched for him and had not found him, he examined the guards and ordered that they be led away to execution (these words are added by the translators but the context justifies this interpretation). And he went down from Judea to Caesarea and was spending time there. (Acts 12:19)

Acts 16:28

Do yourself no harm - How paradoxical that it was the jailer who was the prisoner (spiritually speaking in bondage to sin, self and Satan), not Paul and so Paul not only saved the man's physical life (preventing him from committing suicide), but best of all pointed him to the freedom of an eternal life in Christ.

Guzik comments...

In not escaping, they showed tremendous discernment. The circumstances said, escape. But love said, Stay for the sake of this one soul. They were not guided merely by circumstances, but by what love compelled.

Acts 16:29

Trembling with fear (entromos from en = in + tromos = tremor or terror) means to be terrified, quaking or trembling with extreme fear. It pictures a person in a quivering condition because of exposure to an overwhelming or threatening circumstance.

Fell down before (propipto from pros = preposition expressing motion or direction as toward + pipto = to fall) means literally to fall towards or upon something and as here when referring to people means to fall down to or before someone (cf the healed woman in Luke 8:47, the demons before Jesus in Mk 3:11, Luke 8:28)

Acts 16:30

What must I do? - Is not this the question many ask? What works must I do? How good must I be? And every world religion and cult provides the answer which in one form or another is summed up in the answer you must do "good works" in order to merit heaven (or whatever they refer to as "heaven"). Only Christianity says the work of salvation has already been done by Jesus, the Savior of all mankind but to receive "credit" for His sacrifice in your place, you must receive His free gift by grace through faith (see notes Romans 10:9; 10:10). Trust in the Messiah's finished work on Calvary "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved."! That is the answer to all of mankind's deepest need and most profound question.

The story is told of a wealthy man who, although he was out­wardly religious, was not a Christian. He had in his employ an old gardener, a true believer, who tried to show him the emptiness of mere religion without Christ. Now it happened that there was one tree on the rich man's estate which never bore any fruit. However, one day as the owner was walking in his orchard, he saw some beautiful apples hanging on it. Imagine his surprise, especially when he went to pick some and found them to be tied on! The gardener by this simple illustration wanted to point out to his employer the difference between real Christianity and pious sham. Religion without Christ is like a barren tree on which the fruit is merely "tied on"!

Have you ever actually trusted Christ, or are you simply going through the motions? Are those so-called "good works" of yours just "tied on," or are they the genuine fruit of a new life?

W. P. Loveless says it well...

The only "works" of unsaved men that will endure in Heaven are the nail prints in Christ's hands!

MacDonald wisely comments that...

This question must precede every genuine case of conversion. A man must know he is lost before he can be saved. It is premature to tell a man how to be saved until first he can say from his heart, I truly deserve to go to hell...Many people today seem to have difficulty knowing what it means to believe. However, when a sinner realizes he is lost, helpless, hopeless, hell-bound, and when he is told to believe on Christ as Lord and Savior, he knows exactly what it means. It is the only thing left that he can do! (MacDonald, W & Farstad, A. Believer's Bible Commentary: Thomas Nelson or Logos)

Salvation comes when a person recognizes their personal state of sinfulness and certain judgment and thus their need for salvation.

David Guzik writes...

This is how God wants our lives to be: Natural magnets drawing people to Him. Our Christianity should make others want what we have with God.

Rome held a jailer responsible for his prisoners, and if any escaped, he forfeited his life. Thus, it is possible that the jailer's question is an expression of concern for his own physical life. However, he doubtless had heard Paul and Silas as they witnessed and sang. Paul, in v28, with a loud voice assured the jailer that his life was not in jeopardy. Significantly, it was after Paul's assurance that no one had escaped that the jailer asked the question.

Arthur Pink writes:

When the Philippian jailer asked “What must I do to be saved?” all the apostle answered was “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Waiving now the fact that that was not the idle inquiry of one who was still in love with the world and taking his fill of its pleasures, but instead the distressed cry of one who was desperate, let it be pointed out that while believing in Christ is a simple and easy act considered in itself, yet it becomes a very hard (see notes on Matthew 7:14 where the way is "narrow" = thlibo = trouble) and difficult thing to us by reason of the opposition made thereto by our inward corruptions and the temptations of Satan.

Morris commenting on the miraculous deliverance of the prisoners writes that...

In such a city as Philippi, so thoroughly committed to pantheistic occultism and so antipathetic to Jewish monotheism, it would take a notable testimonial miracle to provide a breakthrough for the gospel among its Greek citizenry. The jailer immediately recognized that such a miracle had occurred, and that these men were, indeed, as the evil spirit in the damsel had proclaimed, "servants of the Most High God" (Acts 16:16) who could show him "the way of salvation" (Acts 16:16). Hence his question.

Acts 16:31

Believe - Is in the  aorist imperative which conveys a sense of urgency = Do this now. These words must be connected with "believe" as well as "be saved."

You and your whole household - Luke is not advocating salvation by proxy. In other words, he is not saying the jailer's salvation automatically included everyone in his house and that they had no need to respond to the Gospel. The fact is that each member of the household had to personally believe in order to be saved. The example of the head of the household made it easier for them, but they, too, needed to believe to be saved, a salvation which they testified to by being baptized.

Guzik observes that in reading this passage...

Some have worried that Paul's invitation to salvation here is too easy, and would promote an easy-believism and a cheap grace. Others refuse to preach repentance, claiming that this text says that it is not necessary. Paul never specifically called the keeper of the prison to repent because he was already repenting. We see the humble repentance of the jailer in that he fell down trembling, in the full idea of the word believe (pistis, which means to trust in, rely on, and cling to), and in the command to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ).

Faith can be summarized in the acrostic

Forsaking
All
I
T
ake
Him

We are to forsake all (repent of our sins) and to take Him (by faith turn to God for our salvation) (Acts 20:21).

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Our Daily Bread - GOOD QUESTION! -"Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved."- Acts 16:30-31

Finding the right questions is as crucial as finding the right answers," says devotional writer Henri Nouwen. Yet how easy it is to run ahead of God's Spirit as we talk to nonbelievers about Christ, giving pre-packaged answers before we listen to their questions.

This tendency was highlighted several years ago when someone scrawled the words "Christ is the answer!" on the side of a building. A cynical passerby added these words: "What is the question?"

Paul and Silas, thrown into prison for the gospel's sake, provoked a deep spiritual question in the heart of their jailer. This wasn't achieved, however, by preaching a three-point sermon at him. Instead, they prayed and sang hymns to God. When an earthquake opened the prison doors and broke their chains, the jailer tried to kill himself, fearing that the would be put to death if his prisoners escaped. But Paul and Silas stopped him by choosing to stay in prison for his sake. At this he cried out, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30).

Today, as then, the Spirit will create the right questions in people's hearts and make them ready for the right answer -- Jesus Christ. -- Joanie E. Yoder

Tell the sweet story of Christ and His love,
Tell of His power to forgive;
Others will trust Him if only you prove
True, every moment you live.-- Wilson

Christians worth their salt
make others thirsty for the water of life.

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Our Daily Bread - THE BIGGEST DECISION -Decisions! Decisions! Decisions! We're constantly making decisions. Some are trivial, like, "Which outfit will I wear today?" Others are life-shaping, like, "Should I take that job and move my family clear across the country?" But common sense tells us that some are vastly more important than others.

A group of doctors ran an ad in a New York newspaper. Over the picture of an attractive woman, the caption read, "The most important decision I ever made was choosing my spouse. The second, my plastic surgeon." The text of the ad then suggested that the order of priorities could be reversed!

Choosing a spouse is immeasurably more important than choosing a plastic surgeon. But deciding to put your
trust in Jesus as your Savior is the most important decision you can make in life.

The apostle Peter told a group of unbelievers about Jesus and encouraged them to turn from their sin and trust Him (Acts 2). Peter's words speak to us today as well. If you haven't accepted Christ's free gift of forgiveness, pray to Him and ask Him to save you. And once you've done that, make the second most important decision: Determine to follow Christ's leading daily. -- Vernon C. Grounds

If you'd like to know the love of God the Father, Come to Him through Jesus Christ, His loving Son; He'll forgive your sins and save your soul forever, And you'll love forevermore this faithful One.-- Felten

Life's biggest decision is what you do with Jesus.

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C H Spurgeon - Faith's Checkbook - What of My House? - “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”—Acts 16:31

THIS gospel for a man with a sword at his throat is the gospel for me. This would suit me if I were dying, and it is all that I need while I am living. I look away from self and sin and all idea of personal merit, and I trust the Lord Jesus as the Saviour whom God has given. I believe in Him; I rest on Him; I accept Him to be my all in all. Lord I am saved, and I shall be saved to all eternity, for I believe in Jesus. Blessed be thy name for this. May I daily prove by my life that I am saved from selfishness and worldliness and every form of evil.

But those last words about my “house.” Lord, I would not run away with half a promise when thou dost give a whole one. I beseech thee, save all my family. Save the nearest and dearest. Convert the children, and the grandchildren, if I have any. Be gracious to my servants and all who dwell under my roof or work for me. Thou makest this promise to me personally if I believe in the Lord Jesus; I beseech thee to do as thou hast said.

I would go over in my prayer every day the names of all my brothers and sisters, parents, children, friends, relatives, and servants and give thee no rest till that word is fulfilled: “and thy house.”

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Acts 16:32

They spoke the Word of the Lord - This is why the jailer's household was saved. Sinners must be presented with the Gospel of God in order to respond and believe and be saved. As stated earlier no one becomes a saint (a believer) by proxy or by virtue of their parent's belief in Christ. Each person is called to make a definite, personal statement of belief in Christ's and His good news of salvation by grace through faith.

Acts 16:33

The jailer took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds -

This is the "about face" supernatural turnaround that one sees when a person is genuinely converted and has a true change in lifestyle. The change in the attitude of the jailer is clearly manifest in washing the wounds of these two prisoners for they were now his brothers in Christ, not his enemies. One evidence of genuine repentance is a desire to make restitution and reparation to those whom we have hurt. Jesus left us the perfect "template" to follow declaring...

If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. "For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. (John 13:14-15)

Wiersbe poses an interesting question...

What about the other prisoners? Luke doesn't give us the details, but it is possible that some of them were also born again through the witness of Paul and Silas and the jailer. Some of these prisoners may have been waiting for execution, so imagine their joy at hearing a message of salvation! Paul and Silas thought nothing of their own pains as they rejoiced in what God did in that Philippian jail! No doubt the jailer later joined with Lydia in the assembly.

Immediately he was baptized - Remember this must have been sometime between midnight and daylight! One wonders how many people have so desired to identify with Christ that they sought baptism irregardless of the hour or circumstances?

And so they were baptized just like Lydia and her household (Acts 16:15) and just like those men and women who responded to Phillip's proclamation of the Gospel...

But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike. (Acts 8:12)

Acts 16:34

The jailer rejoiced greatly - The very one who moments before was on the verge of committing suicide, was now rejoicing in his new found faith (and that of his family) in the living God.

Acts 16:37

Paul was born a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28), which gave him certain rights, including a public hearing. Scourging of any Roman citizen was prohibited by law; the rights of Paul and Silas, therefore, had already been violated.


The Roman forbade the binding or beating of a Roman citizen.

Cicero, in his celebrated Oration against Verres, asserts

It is a transgression of the law to bind a Roman citizen; it is wickedness to scourge him. Unheard, no man can be condemned

Wiersbe offers an excellent thought on why Paul did not wish to leave Philippi secretly writing...

Paul, however, was unwilling to sneak out of town, for that kind of exit would have left the new church under a cloud of suspicion. People would have asked, "Who were those men Were they guilty of some crime? Why did they leave so quickly? What do their followers believe?" Paul and his associates wanted to leave behind a strong witness of their own integrity as well as a good testimony for the infant church in Philippi. It was then that Paul made use of his Roman citizenship and boldly challenged the officials on the legality of their treatment. This was not personal revenge but a desire to give protection and respect for the church. (Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor or Logos)

Acts 16:38

They were afraid - Upon learning of Paul's Roman citizenship, the magistrates were filled with fear, because it was a grave offense to treat Roman citizens as Paul and Silas had been treated.

They are Romans - Paul's father in Tarsus evidently had been awarded Roman citizenship for services to the state, so Paul (and presumably Silas) had been born with such citizenship. Roman citizenship carried with it many privileges and protections established by Roman law.

An interesting question at this juncture is how did Paul and Silas prove their Roman citizenship? Luke is silent on this but the magistrates clearly are convinced.

Williams offers two possible explanations writing that...

They may each have carried a copy of his professio or registration of birth, in which his Roman status would have been recorded. These were convenient in size...To claim Roman citizenship falsely was punishable by death.

Acts 16:40

Wiersbe reviews this chapter writing that...

It is also worth noting that not every sinner comes to Christ in exactly the same manner. Timothy was saved partly through the influence of a godly mother and grandmother. Lydia was converted through a quiet conversation with Paul at a Jewish prayer meeting, while the jailer's conversion was dramatic. One minute he was a potential suicide, and the next minute he was a child of God! Different people with different experiences, and yet all of them changed by the grace of God. Others just like them are waiting to be told God's simple plan of salvation. Will you help them hear? In your own witness for Christ, will you be daring? (Wiersbe, W: Bible Exposition Commentary. 1989. Victor or Logos)

Guzik sums up the 2 radically different conversions...

Lydia was a churchgoer; the guard was not. Lydia was prospering in business; the guard was about to kill himself. Lydia's heart was gently opened; the guard's heart was violently confronted. The guard had a remarkable sign - an earthquake, but all Lydia had was the move of the Holy Spirit in her heart. Both heard the gospel and believed, and through each of them their whole families were touched!

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